Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Win Atlas Snowshoes!

The kind folks over at Wild Washington are giving you (and me) a chance to win an Atlas Snowshoe kit this month.

Visit their website or their forum to find out how!

If you win you'd better let me know and we'll schedule a date to go play in the snow!


In other news, my Dec 4th planned hike probably isn't going to happen due to conflicting family plans.

While I don't have a new date set yet, there should be lots of opportunities for me to play outside during the last two weeks of the month since I won't be in the office.

Check back later for updates or feel free to proactively call/email me for an outing proposal.

Also, the 2011 Hiking Dates haven't been determined yet. I'll let you know as soon as they're posted.

Happy Trails!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Raptor Ridge 11-10-2010

Finally, a combination of blue skies and a day off of work allowed for a half day hike with a friend.

Afternoon commitments kept us from enjoying fresh snow in the mountains, so we settled for an outing in the Chuckanuts to photograph some local views.

My friend is a long time resident of the pacific northwest and has previously been to Oyster Dome and Fragrance Lake, but when I learned that he had never hiked up the Pine/Cedar Lake trail there was no question about where we needed to go.

The trail to Pine/Cedar Lake is notoriously steep. Not impossibly steep, but unquestionably it is 'training steep'.

Our route was about 6.5 miles round trip and between 2,100 (topo software) to 2,500 (gps) feet of elevation gain. While that may not sound like serious elevation for that distance (at least, not to all the local North Cascade hikers), virtually all the elevation is gained in the first two miles of trail: about 850 feet of elevation gain for each of the first two miles. Yep, it's a thigh burner.

We hit the trail about 9:00am and steadily made our way up the trail to the junction with the Raptor Ridge trail. At the junction we decided to ascend directly to the viewpoints via the unmarked shortcut route (go left at the junction and then left again on the unsigned trail just 50 feet or so away). Taking this shortcut helped us to crank out all the serious elevation gain at the beginning to get it over with.

At the high point of the trail there are three viewpoints.

The first viewpoint looks over southern Bellingham: the Happy Valley neighborhood, Sehome High School, Sehome Hill and points northward. WWU and downtown are hidden by Sehome Hill and evergreens block the westward view toward Fairhaven and eastward views to whatever is to the east. It's a view... but not one that earned a photo spot in this trip report.

The second viewpoint allows you to peek over Lookout Mountain to enjoy a view of Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters peaks (provided the clouds are cooperative). Today we were lucky to have views of both.

Mount Baker: 30 miles away as the crow flies, at 10x zoom.

Twin Sisters Range: 21 miles away as the crow flies, at ~10x zoom.

A short distance away is the westward view looking over the San Juan Islands. I think this is Lummi Island on the right, with Orcas Island behind it (Mt Constitution is 17 miles away) and to the left might be Cypress and Guemes Islands.

After soaking up the sunshine, snapping a few photos and resting the quads, we continued along the trail, descending to Cedar Lake.

Eventually we completed the Loop back to the main trail and opted to visit Raptor Ridge instead of Pine Lake.

I had been to Raptor Ridge once before and couldn't recall what the ridge view encompassed. Well, it turns out to be just a Chuckanut territorial view. No water (salt or fresh) or mountains. Honestly, it was pretty much an anti-climatic viewpoint, at an exposed rock outcropping with a sizable drop off.

WAIT! Don't put this on your "Don't Bother" list. There is a good reason to hike your burning quads out here.

There are a couple of unique features within the final 500 yards of the Raptor Ridge trail.

This last part of the trail takes you along the base of some beautiful moss carpeted boulder-ish cliffs. These are really amazing cliffs/boulders. They are all moss carpeted, with numerous holes worn away in their massive sides from (presumably) years upon years of water wearing away at the rocks surface. What I can't figure out is how those holes were worn away in those particular locations.

Geologists: next time you are in the Chuckanuts and are looking for a hiking buddy, please let me know!

My point here is simply that the view isn't "all that", but the final part of this trail is absolutely worth the time and effort to see it. The problem is that all this good stuff is so close to the end of the trail that most people probably pass it right by, getting all giddy for the view and completely miss this wonderful setting.

Here is a cute little mushroom growing in some moss on the side of a tree next to the trail.

The other interesting thing I noted at the end of this trail were the markings on the Raptor Ridge rock. They look like fossils of bird feet... or maybe they are just the results of dissatisfied hikers vandalizing the natural rock to make other people think they are bird feet fossils.

I'm pretty sure it would be a good idea to have a geologist stationed out here to answer these questions.

Enough rambling... go visit Raptor Ridge and let me know what you think.

Happy Trails!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Howard Miller Steelhead Park

With the day off from work but limited time and a high likelihood of rain, this was a great opportunity to visit Howard Miller Steelhead Park (HMSP). This park is a Skagit County Park.

HMSP is located about 67 miles up the Skagit River, at the confluence of the Skagit and Sauk Rivers... and where the small town of Rockport is situated.

This is a popular fishing and eagle watching spot, so I hear. This trip was my first visit to this park. There are a lot of sites for camping - mostly geared toward those with RV's it seemed - but the grass was a healthy, vibrant green and the river is really only a stone's throw away.

As far as hiking goes, there are a few trails meandering along the river, but ultimately you'll end up on the old Sauk Road which will head west along the river for a few scenic miles.

The trail head is located at the west end of the park and is clearly marked, although it's not the typical trail head marker.

The first part of the trail meanders through some open meadows where quite a bit of planting has been performed in order to reclaim the shore and to encourage a vibrant, native, ecosystem. A number of signs provide some interesting reading about the local ecosystems.

Turning around presents you with a view of the lower flanks of Sauk Mountain.

Numerous short trail spurs lead you down to the river's edge, and hilly terrain beyond.

A short while later, the meadow trail connects with the Old Sauk Road, making for a nice quiet (and flat) walk through the forest.

Due to it's proximity to the river, there are a number of areas where the road has been washed out, but this is passable by most hikers who take their time and exercise necessary caution. In some cases, a side trail is being created up the hill to avoid the actual washout areas.

In addition to the beauty of the river and the forest, there were also eagles in the trees (but they'd fly away before I could capture an image of them) and the fish were literally jumping out of the water. Again, my best video and photo efforts failed to provide anything really useful to portray this experience.

A unique form of hanging moss could be seen hanging from the tree branches. These shots were all taken from the same location:

As you reach the western end of the road, a number of residential houses begin to appear above the road. At least one of these houses seems to have an aggressive dog who isn't kept chained up or in a fenced area. He quite surprised me with a charge and a barrage of vicious barks, but then retreated when I continued onward (not that he really gave me much choice at the moment).

Upon reaching a yellow gate I decided to turn around. It seems that, according to the map, there may have been an old cemetery a short ways beyond that gate. With the proximity to other houses, there is probably an alternative (and shorter) way to access the cemetery.

As I walked by the neighborhood of aggressive dogs, two more dogs began to head down the trail toward me while barking. They remained about 50 yards away, thank goodness, and didn't get a chance to experience a dose of pepper spray.

Here is an unusual piece of construction up near some of the houses. Not sure if it's a left over elaborate Halloween decoration or just some eccentric backwoods artwork.

The return trek was uneventful.

Instead of returning via the meadows, I remained on the road/trail which finally looped back to the campsites at the park.

Only encountered one other person on the trail on this wet day, but this place is probably a zoo in the summer.

All in all, it was about 7.5 miles round trip with almost zero elevation gain.

Truly a beautiful area for a dark, dreary and wet day.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hiking with Kevin at Cedar Lake

Pine and Cedar Lakes today

Blue Skies and picture perfect day... what better conditions for a snowshoe in fresh powder on Mount Baker?

The trouble is that we just realized Alexia only has a half day of school today which necessitates an early return time.

That means the morning will be spent along the beautiful Pine and Cedar lakes trail in the Chuckanuts. A great consolation destination for sure!

Our family calendar is pretty booked for the short term, so it may be a while before I get around to posting trip reports or Monday's Rockport trip or today's hike. Hopefully I'll get a phone pic uploaded from the trail to tide you over until then.

Happy Trail!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Heading to Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport today.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Next Hike is...

Next hike is supposed to be this coming Saturday, but there may be a family schedule conflict that trumps the outing.

Give me a call if you already have hiking on your calendar and were thinking about coming along and lets see what we can work out.

Anyone open to taking a day off work early next week to go play in the snow? Might be a reality M, T or W since my trip to AZ has been canceled but the days off have not! Artist Point? Higgins? Pilchuck? Mtn Loop Lakes? C'mon, you know you want to!