Friday, January 28, 2011

Itinerary for 1-29-2011

Planning on a day of snowshoeing with some back-country cohorts (Kevin, Andrea & Beau) at Mount Baker's Heather Meadows while the(ir) kids ski the slopes.

Hopefully the weather cooperates and provides us a few scenic views as we ascend to Artist Point / Huntoon Point before the six inches of fresh snow drops on us.

Might scout around to try and find the much-whispered-about-but-seldomly-shared Heather Meadows Loop if conditions are right.

This will be a nice change of pace from the 10+ mile Saturday runs of December.

Carpooling with Kevin from the Bow Hill exit area and anticipate being home by dinner time.

Check back next week for the trip report and pics.

Happy Trails!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fort Ebey - Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

Part 3 (of 3)

Stepping away from the main bunker at Fort Ebey provides a nice outlook over the Paraglider Landing area and the Radio-Controlled Airplane area. Nearby is an informative kiosk showing the intended take-off and landing areas.

The bluff trail continues onward to the south, with a great view toward Ebey's Landing.

"Ebey's landing" is actually around the corner a ways. In April 2006 the kids and I found ourselves out there on a hike (trip report on nwhikers). The Ebey's Landing trail follows the bluff northward to the corner visible in the below picture. The trail then heads down to the beach and you can enjoy the return trip walking around the lagoon.

The girls really enjoyed that trip (good weather and good friends helped).

The bluff trail continues for a ways, dead-ending at the Vista Group Camp Site.

Some mountains from across the sound became slightly visible while I was touring the campsite.

The trail peters out here, although there is probably some primitive boot path following the bluff. Then again, maybe I'm bluffing.

Eventually I turned around to head back.

Once back at the picnic area near the main bunker I decided to walk down to the paraglider field. I'm glad I did... for two reasons.

First, the sun decided to come out, lightening up the almost-gloomy lighting.

Second, I unexpectedly came across this hole in the ground.

Another hidden bunker! The only way in is to climb down here.

Here is the view from the water side. The metal fence at the top surrounds the hatch/ladder to help prevent unaware people from falling in.

I didn't climb down there... figured I'd better save that adventure for a day when the kids decide to tag along.

In the background of the above picture you can see a hill behind the metal fence. That hill is the main bunker discussed in Part 2. Impossible to tell that it's a bunker from down here. Very tricky.

Eventually I continued back along the bluff trail toward the car.

Along the way I made another visit to the beach where there happened to be a body surfer and his 'very patient but it's freezing cold and my patience is running out' girlfriend making the most of the swollen waves and the view.

The waves were really large, but I didn't really notice it at the time. I took the waves for granted - only remembering after the fact that Puget Sound doesn't usually have crashing waves. The storm's a comin'.

Luckily, the scene was both memorable and beautiful so I spent a little time taking some photos... until the batteries died. Captured a few worthwhile images.

The sun illuminating the rocks and sand, with the waves turning from cold green to fierce white as they crashed onto each other made for a beautiful shot (in my humble opinion).

Ended the hike with a trek along the beach to my starting point.

Uneventful drive back to the mainland with a stop at Starbucks in Oak Harbor and made it home in time to enjoy dinner at Red Robin with the family.

Next up: Possibly snowshoeing on 1/29/11 and then the next scheduled outing isn't until Feb 19th.

Happy Trails!


Did you miss the beginning of this trip? It was a long (awesome) day!
It all started at Heart Lake before heading off to Fort Ebey.
Fort Ebey Part 1
Fort Ebey Part 2

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nookachamps Half Marathon

After 12 weeks of training I'm proud to announce that I've completed my first half marathon. The Nookachamps 2011 Half Marathon was held on January 15, 2011.

Thanks, Erik H., for providing me with the incentive to actually accept this goal. I never would have considered it if you weren't there to suffer enjoy it with me. In addition, my friends at DailyMile also played a key role in helping me track my results and chime in with suggestions and motivation along the way.

Prior to training for this race, the furthest distance I had ever run was about 7 1/2 miles. That was more than two decades ago.

Facing a training schedule with Saturday runs that grew steadily from 6 miles to 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and finally 13 miles seemed like an insane voluntary undertaking.

Week by week, mile by mile. Wind. Rain. Snow. Ice. More snow and ice. Each run was both a challenge and an adventure. And yes, fun.

Now it's over.
It WAS fun. Actually, it was a BLAST.

My time was about 1hr 52minutes ~ about 8:30 per mile on average. Pretty close to what I was expecting. I finished #156 our of about 450 finishers.

A week before the race, weather forecasts were predicting heavy snow on Friday and further dropping temperatures for Saturday. As is commonplace, they were completely wrong. Weather was overcast and about 50 degrees. The rain held off until a few hours after the race was over.

Whether or not I do another race of this distance remains to be seen, but it's clear to me that having a race on the calendar is definitely in my future (provided it's not on a scheduled hike day of course).

Maybe just a 10k. Maybe just a 5k. Maybe a Warrior Dash ("3.55 hellish miles"). How about a Ragnar relay (187 mile relay with a team of 12)? Lots to think about.

Time to replace the batteries in the headlamp (summer is a LONG ways off) and start shopping for a new pair of shoes. My Brooks Glycerin's now have more than 700 miles on them and the tread is quickly disappearing (quite the issue in the snow, believe me).

Enough of all that, I need to finish up that Fort Ebey trip report!

Happy Running!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fort Ebey's Battery 248 (Part 2)

This is Part 2. Click here for Part 1 of the Fort Ebey trip report. Don't skip ahead to Part 3 yet.

Welcome to Fort Ebey Battery 248.

So, did you bring your flashlight? You might want to have one handy.


The light helps you to see your way around - but it doesn't do a lot to increase your comfort zone.

Not quite 'home sweet home' is it?

In the above room there was a bat flying around, periodically flying right by me. Despite repeated efforts, I was unable to capture an image of it in motion.

This place is dark -even in the daytime. Imagine exploring this place at night!

Did I mention there is a campground here at Fort Ebey?

Enjoy this short video I made while visiting. It's a bit light on commentary, but if you turn the volume up you can hear some echo's. Just ignore the heavy breathing. It's probably your imagination playing tricks on you.

Come back later for Part 3 with some more scenic above-ground pictures and one more surprise!


Link to Part 1 or Part 3.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fort Ebey - Part 1 Jan 8, 2011

After a short 8 mile trail run at Heart Lake in the ACFL, the sun beckoned me further south on Whidbey Island.

Between Oak Harbor and Coupeville is a sign for Fort Ebey... a destination on my "Need To Visit" list. My excitement about finally having an opportunity to explore this park at leisure kept me from paying attention to the route. That caused a minor bit of trouble when it came time to head home.

Upon arrival at the park entrance I turned to the right and continued to the end of the road, parked, grabbed my fleece, gloves and headband for wind protection and then set off to explore.

With only the basic knowledge of the park (it's on an island and there should be a beach somewhere nearby) my "Hikey Sense" (similar to Peter Parker's Spidey Sense, but less useful for picking up women) kicked in and I found a trail that led directly to a ridge top overlooking Puget Sound.

Walked down to the beach. Looked up at the nearby bluff (possibly Point Partridge) being eroded by mother nature and then backtracked to get a peek at Lake Pondilla.

With a name like that it's obviously a pond trying to make itself sound bigger. Godzilla. Pondzilla. Pondilla. Nice try - I'm not falling for it.

Lake Pondilla is more like a pond than a lake, with some residential houses on the ridge top of the far shore. The sun was shining its golden rays on the marsh grass in the shallow water.

The trail looped back toward the beach and the road where a visitor kiosk had been erected containing some info about the park. Included with the postings was this Wanted DEAD NOT ALIVE poster for Mitten Crabs (which are a non-native species to the pacific northwest).

After hiding my mittens in my pocket (wouldn't want to be mistaken for a Mitten Crab), the unforgettable hike along the Bluff Trail began.

Only a couple minutes from the parking lot you'll find this thing. Is this really a lighthouse? (Scratching head)

Be careful - the bluff is eroding away - one step in the wrong direction can send you into a nonstop fall to the beach below. It's a LONG ways. This was a nice spot to enjoy the view and ponder about its history.

Just around the next corner is yet another unexpected surprise: an underground gun battery! Walk right on in! Be amazed at the view!

Since this park is Fort Ebey, I was expecting to find such a structure, but not so well hidden and not quite this small. Would there be more? I suspected there would be another structure somewhere in the park. My mission was to find it.

While contemplating such important life objectives in this dark bunker, movement in the sky caught my attention. WE'RE UNDER ATTACK! Oh, wait, no we aren't. Those aren't planes... they are paragliders! Woo Hoo! My Hikey Sense gave way to my Super Zoom sense. x10!

Continuing onward... after leaving the bunker there is a view spot that allows you to see the bunker to see how hard it might be to spot if you were on a boat.

The bluff trail continues on and deposits you at the main part of the park. Here you will find a flat field which is the landing/takeoff zone for paragliders and also radio-controlled airplanes.

Here at the picnic site you will also stumble across Battery 248. A main attraction at Fort Ebey.

Did you bring your flashlight? You're absolutely going to want it for Part 2!


Part 2: Fort Ebey's Battery 248 Link
Part 3 Link

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Heart Lake Trail Run 01-08-2011

Dumb TV Weather forecasts... all the hype about rain and snow coming kept me out of the mountains for the day.

Woke up to blue skies in Mt. Vernon and could see cloudless blue all the way to the western horizon.

Decided to make a first visit to the Anacortes Community Forest Land (ACFL) area because 1) no one ever says a disparaging word about it and 2) I haven't been there before.

That turned out to be a good decision.
The weather was favorable all day AND I turned my hike into an 8 mile Trail Run.

Why would someone want to do that? Well, let me tell you.

Next weekend I'm running in my first half marathon. My training schedule calls for a long run on Saturdays... today's run was supposed to be 8 miles.

You can imagine that I wasn't too excited to spend the day hiking and then have to come home and pump out 8 miles in the dark.

Other people do trail runs, I used to trail run all the time with the cross country team in my younger years... so why not give it a shot today?

Brought all my hiking stuff that I thought I might need for a hike in the ACFL, but also brought my running clothes & shoes... just in case.

Upon arriving at the Heart Lake main parking area the weather was beautiful, albeit cold, and there were only two other cars in the lot.

Unsure of the trail conditions but the immediate area around the lake looked pretty tame for elevation changes... so I chose to don the running gear and give it a go.

The primary disadvantage of trail running is that you don't take nearly as many photos as you might while hiking. I took a total of four pics. With my phone camera.

The miles took almost 50% longer than my regular jogging pace which really surprised me. I was expecting 1 or 2 minutes longer per mile, not 4 minutes longer.

Back to the trail info:
The trails were very nice, but as you really need to have the ACFL Maps to know where you are. Their trails are numbered and pretty well signed... but you don't know where where your trail leads to unless you have the secret map. They don't have map signs along the trails - only the trail #'s.

My route went like this: Trail #210 to #212 (a full loop clockwise and then continued) to #220 to #249, then reverse (but doing #212 clockwise again back to #210 with a diversion out and back on #213).

The 212 loop was done twice so I could reach my needed 8 mile distance.

Part of the cause of my slow running pace was that I had to keep stopping to look at the map to determine where I was and where I wanted to go.

The viewpoint over Lake Erie (trail #249) was nice and worth the effort (although I tripped just after that and came inches from landing on my arm - certainly would have broken it - but managed to get my footing back (awkwardly) and spared that drama).

The viewpoint midway between Heart Lake and Lake Erie (Trail 213) had no view at all. It was a high point, but the person who claimed there was a view must have been visiting at night. While drunk.

Saw a total of about 10 people during my 2 hour visit.

Maps of the area can be purchased at the Lake Erie store (as others reported) but you can download pdf versions for free from the Pacific Northwest Trail Association website. Go do it now so you have them before you jump in the car.

Route (courtesy of the Garmin that Santa brought!):

Finished up just after noon. Way too early to head home, so opted to make a first visit to Fort Ebey, located further south on Whidbey Island. No more running... a bit of walking and lots of pics. Coming soon to a TR near you.

Happy Trails!


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sunshine at Fort Ebey!

The Hwy 20 Dilemma

Another destination dilemma.

It's hike day. Forecasted rain below 500 feet. Forecasted snow above 500 feet. Solo.

It's also 'long run day'. Prescription = 8 miles.

Option #1: Head east on Hwy 20 for a possible adventure into a world of snow (or possibly just rain) in the Newhalem neighborhood provided I endure a long tedious uphill forested slog and lots of driving. Then back home for a long run.

The only sure things are that there would be a lot of hiking miles on a new trail (or two), a lot of driving miles and then a lot of running miles.

Option #2: Head west on Hwy 20 to the Anacortes Community Forest Land (ACFL) trails around Mt. Erie, Heart Lake and Cranberry Lake where it appears that the forecast is constant rain. The upside to this is that no one ever says a disparaging word about the ACFL area and I've never been there before. The other upside is that it might make for a good 8 mile trail run.

Of course, is that really fair if my 'hike' turns out to be a 'trail run'?

So... what will it be?

In the name of simplicity I'll likely opt to leave the snow gear at home and head out Hwy 20 West. Probably start at the ACFL, may also/alternatively visit the March Point trestle trail or continue on Hwy 20 to Ebey's Landing or Fort Ebey and play around the bunkers.

Ideally, I'll find 8 miles of lake-level trails to run, then ascend to a high point where I'll find fresh snow to enjoy lunch before heading back to warm up in the car and consider what to do with the afternoon. (Bingo anyone?)

Happy Trails!


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Heather Lake on New Year's Eve


Met up with Kris and Kevin in Mount Vernon on Friday morning to attempt a snowshoe trek from the Mountain Loop Highway up to Heather Lake at the base of Mount Pilchuck.

The weather proved to be perfectly glorious. Blue skies. No wind. Cold temps... kept the fresh snow on the trees instead of forcing us to dodge snow bombs all day.

The trail to Heather Lake is a popular route in all four seasons and today was no different. The icy conditions between Granite Falls and Verlot didn't keep the diehards away.

Upon our arrival at the trail head, it was surprising to see the gate for the Pilchuck road was wide open. Generally it's closed by this point in the year. More on that topic later.

After figuring out how to attach three pairs of snowshoes to two backpacks (yippee for zip ties) we began our 1.5 mile ascent toward the lake.

There was only a small amount of snow on the ground at the trail head - no need for snowshoes, yet. We brought them anyway because we weren't sure if they would be needed as we reached the lake. Rumor has it that they are necessary to circumnavigate the lake.

We made slow progress on the trail. While the route isn't steep, there tends to be a lot of water flowing over the trail and down the trail throughout most of the year. In winter, the water turns to ice but is generally covered by snowfall - protecting you from the slick ice lurking beneath.

At the time of our visit we found most of the trail to be covered with a solid sheet of ice. These were perfect conditions for your MICROspikes, Yak Trax or Stabilicers but unfortunately we didn't have either of those with us. Hiking poles and a good sense of humor were our preferred methods of defense against a fall or an injury.

Here is a sample of the trail ice we encountered. Water has frozen in waves as it tried to continue flowing down this rock. Very slick indeed.

The snow finally deepened as we approached the lake. A boot path has been created by all the previous visitors so snowshoes are not currently required - as long as you remain on the established route.

View across the Lake:

There were huge icicles hanging from the cliffs across the lake. Here I've circled such a cliff section... and then zoomed in to 10x to get some detail:

Once at the lake we took a break for some pictures and lunch. Crackers and cheese seemed to be the topic of interest.

Tree branches near the lake were covered with ice crystals resembling rock candy:

The sheer size of the cliffs and the size of the lake make it almost impossible to capture the whole dramatic scene with a regular camera. You really need a good wide angle lens to get all of it. I don't have one of those. There is a 'panorama' mode on the camera, so I gave it a shot. Next time it would be wise to actually use the tripod that was in my backpack. Maybe this is what you would see if you lived in a bubble and hiked to Heather Lake:

We agreed that we'd leave a circumnavigation of the lake for a future date. Really, we just didn't want to deal with having to zip-tie the snowshoes back onto the pack and wanted to save some energy to carefully navigate the ice during the descent.

As we descended back toward the parking lot we came across a couple unique scenes that we missed during the ascent (too busy trying to watch our footing I guess).

Here is a creek that we crossed. There is a small waterfall with ice at the top and the bottom but water flowing through the middle. A fast blink at the picture might look a little like some kind of one-eyed ice monster with an open mouth... with a severe drooling problem. Or maybe I read too many Stephen King novels in the last two weeks.


Next up: The towering wall of icicles. You probably wouldn't want to venture into these trees when the temperature starts to rise!

Trail route as per GPS:

Upon our return to the trail head, we observed that the gate on the Mt. Pilchuck road was now closed -- with four vehicles parked on the locked side of the gate. Whoops!

Reminder to everyone that a NW Forest Pass is required for parking at the Heather Lake trail head. Even in winter.

Thank you, Kevin and Kris, for putting up with the terrible trail ice. It's not normal - I promise. Next time we head out we'll be sure the snowshoes are actually necessary.

My next outing is scheduled for January 8, 2011.
Here is a link to the (always tentative and subject to change) 2011 Hiking Calendar.

Happy Trails!