Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wallace Falls 02/19/11

Wallace Falls State Park is located off Hwy 2 in the little hamlet of Gold Bar, WA.

This was my second visit to Wallace Falls. The first visit was back in January 2007 (trip report available here on nwhikers) and was done in a bit of a rush to avoid risking my car being locked in the parking lot for the night.

Rob and I arrived in the parking lot at just after the leisurely time of 11:00am.

Perfect blue skies. A very nice change of scenery from the dreary wet we've been living in for the last few weeks. Can you believe that the weather forecast was actually holding true?

There are a number of trails at Wallace Falls State Park. We chose to take the route along the river to take photos of the locally well known waterfalls.

We started out with a visit to Little Wallace Creek where there is a very scenic section of the creek with very photogenic cascading falls. This little side trail is a product of someone's Eagle Scout project.

Shortly thereafter we took a short break for some river pictures where the trail crosses on a stable and solid bridge.

The trail continues onward, and upward, to a viewpoint above the lower falls and also a distant view of the middle falls.

Due to the time of day and the extreme sun vs. shade conditions, photographs of the lower falls aren't worth sharing (hey, a good excuse for you to make a visit there yourself). The middle falls puts on an impressive show (but also difficult to photograph today).

One shot with the camera, another with the cell phone:

Zooming out shows a high point above the Middle falls with a light dusting of snow. What isn't captured in this image is the bottom of the falls or the cascading river down below. The absence of these portions of the actual view means this picture doesn't do proper justice to the reality of a visit to this scenic spot in person.

At the base of Middle Falls, the river cascades and temporarily gathers in the beautiful pool of circling aqua.

Finally we continued along the trail, passing a couple other scenic vantage points of the river, the falls and also the Hwy 2 valley and peaks beyond before returning to the parking lot.

Our route was an out and back hike, involving about six miles of hiking and about 1,500 feet of elevation gain.

With more time (or less pictures), trails will lead you deeper into the park to Wallace Lake or other destinations.

GPS route map and elevation profile:

This area is very popular in nice weather and there are State Park camping options available at the trail head.

We returned to the car at about 3:00pm, ready to continue our adventure further east on Hwy 2 with a night-time snowshoe trip up Skyline Ridge at Steven's Pass. (Click here for that Trip report).

Happy Trails!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Itinerary for 2-19-11

Generic plan, currently:

Meeting Rob at the Monroe Park & Ride on Hwy 2 at 10:30am-ish.

We'll make our way east with possible stops for a little hiking and photographing at Wallace Falls and Deception Creek. Might also do a little exploring in the town of Index or walk up the destroyed Index-Galena road (all with hopes of finding something photo-worthy).

Eventually, we'll end up at Steven's Pass. Depending on our arrival time at the pass we might head out toward Lanham Lake, but the real destination is Skyline Lake, or possibly the high point beyond it. After dark.

The almost-full moon will hopefully coincide with clear skies and provide a unique perspective of the area (for our eyes and the camera of course).

Will NOT be home before dark. Will be in cell phone range by curfew.

Will try to post itinerary changes from the cell phone if reception allows.

Happy Trails!


EDITED TO ADD: Trip Reports for Wallace Falls and Skyline Ridge at Steven's Pass (coming soon).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wait! What? Really?

It's not very often that the weather forecast turns from poor weather to great weather just for one of my planned excursions.

With the windy, stormy and blustery weather that's been hanging around here, it took me by surprise when I pulled up the forecast for this coming Saturday.

Now, we all know from past experience that the weather forecast on the computer doesn't always match the weather at the trail head... but sometimes it does.

Even more unusual is that the moon will be in a waning gibbous phase (meaning it's just past the full moon phase)... so there is a chance that the moonlight snowshoe outing might get to happen this weekend! Moonrise isn't until just after 8:00pm (it will be much earlier next month) so it would be a late night return home.

Thank goodness for late curfews!

Planning is in progress. Please contact me if you are interested in tagging along for the day (or night I guess).

More details to come later this week.

Happy Trails!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

By The Light Of The Full Moon

An unusual sequence of events transpired which led to my discovery that my planned March outing coincides with a full moon.

So, I'm seriously considering making a night-time snowshoe outing part of the itinerary for that day. This is something I've been wanting to do for a few years but just never got around to really planning it.

The most likely destination would be Heather Meadows/Artist Point at the end of the Mount Baker Highway due to it's awesome location, ease of access and lack of light pollution (since the ski area doesn't operate at night). Secondary choice would be Skyline Lake (because a night time pic of the Steven's Pass Ski area would be a fun photo shoot).

Here is a sunrise photo from Artist Point (sans snow) from a few years ago. That was a fun trip and you can read that trip report (on right here. It's the same pic that is on the back cover of my book. (What book? This one.)

As usual, it's all dependent on the weather and the avalanche conditions. Also TBD would be whether this would occur on Friday night, Saturday night or Sunday night.

Either way, I'll be playing outside during the day... just like always.

Stay tuned... and drop me a note if you're interested in tagging along (March 19th or thereabouts).

Click here for my always tentative 2011 Hiking Calendar.

Happy Trails!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Artist Point with Friends

The views from Artist Point are legendary. Unforgettable. Absolutely unbelievable. You just won't believe how incredibly jaw dropping they are!

With scenery like this, it's a prime snowshoe destination.

Unfortunately, you're never guaranteed that Mother Nature will cooperate with your grand plans to WOW your snowshoe partners.

That was the case when I met up with Andrea, Beau and Kevin last Saturday.

We met up in the far corner of the Heather Meadows parking lot where it was snowing lightly.

Despite the lack of potential for views, all four of us were excited to make the snowshoe trek.

We skirted the ski area boundaries, tromped through an avalanche class search-practice area and began ascending the first of two sizable hills. After a few rest breaks to adjust clothing layers and catch our breath we gradually climbed above Austin Pass where we could look down to the Bagley Lakes valley.

Avalanche risk was 'moderate' at the time of our visit.

After a brief explanation about why we should tackle Assburn hill instead of taking the longer and more gradual road route (to avoid more avalanche prone areas if you didn't know) we started the ascent.

Here is a view looking up Assburn hill as other snowshoers traverse their way upward:

After a little huffing and puffing (and a lot of sweating) we finally approached the top - although it was hard to tell due to the flat lighting. Very difficult to tell where the ground ended and the sky began - as evident in the first picture of this post.

Despite the burning asses muscles, we were still smiling and still having fun.

Due to our early start from the parking lot, we were the first snowshoers up the mountain this day. For the most part, we simply followed a preexisting snowshoe track up the mountain and all the way to the buried Artist Point parking lot.

Since we literally couldn't see anything except the single track we were following it was mutually decided that we'd turn around at that point instead of trying to navigate our way through a white out to Huntoon Point... only to have the same view of nothing.

It's not uncommon to hear about winter visitors getting turned around in such conditions - and Artist Point is a prime location of where that could happen. We felt lucky that there was only one snowshoe track that we had been following and were glad there weren't snowshoe prints heading in every direction.

As we began our descent of Assburn hill, a large group of snowshoers were beginning their ascent (the group in the 2nd picture above). Rather than waiting for them to clear off the existing path, we made a new path a short distance down the hill from them and then enjoyed a short glissade down the 'chute'.

Here is Andrea Buella contemplating how to gracefully descend without ending up in a video on someone's blog.

We observed how the wind painted the right half of this tree trunk white. What a great winter snowshoe scene!

As we approached Austin Pass, we decided to take a diversion around the Austin Pass lodge. We found a group of snowshoers enjoying the covered patio as we passed by.

We found ourselves back at the parking lot just before noon. Andrea and Beau departed to have lunch in the lodge and then head out snowboarding for the afternoon.

Kevin and I opted for a Starbucks visit instead.

While the views didn't offer much, it was still a great (half) day on the mountain.

Our route for the day:

Trip Stats and picture downloads available here: Trip 133

If you are interested, here is a link to my trip report from a snowshoe to Artist Point when Mother Nature was in a better mood: Trip #106 from March 10, 2010

Next outing is scheduled for February 19th.