Monthly Archives: September 2008

Sat 27 Sep 08

I didn’t see a single second of the Michigan game. This is Pac-10 country, boy, so Fresno State/UCLA stole the fun on ABC. I spent the afternoon turning dirt and planting grass seed in our backyard, but had the TV sitting on the deck to keep me company (flipping between Auburn/Tennessee and the above-mentioned game). At one point the scrolling marquee told me Michigan was down 19-0 and I pretty much stopped paying attention until 20-19 caught my eye a while later. Huh? Then 27-25. Win. Wow. Where’d that come from?

I later checked out and read through the entire play-by-play of the game. That first half was atrocious. Three and out, punt. Three and out, punt. Fumble, fumble. Good grief. The only thing I can figure is that Michigan’s defense must have played out of its mind to fight off five turnovers in one half. Watching Threet lumber around during twenty seconds of highlights later during the Penn State/Illinois game, I couldn’t help but think how nice it would’ve been to pick up Pryor this year. Those RR recruits can’t get to Ann Arbor quick enough.

The first week of the college football season Mary cooked up some ridiculous loaded baked potato skins for the requisite in-game snacking. I immediately declared this to be our new Saturday tradition (declared by repeatedly bellowing, “Baked potato Saturday!”) We’ve had baked potatoes the past three Saturdays and had a good streak going until this week when Mary was busy judging a beer brewing contest for the Fresh Hop Ale Festival. I’m in withdrawal. Baked potato Saturday!

Fri 26 Sep 08

Two Fridays ago. After a leisurely start to the day, Dan and I headed out to Mount Rainier National Park at about noon. We gassed up at the Arco on 40th and swung into Fred Meyer for some hiking grub (Sour Patch Kids, for energy), then were on our way. No real hiking destination in mind, just something backcountry departing from the Sunrise trailhead.

At the White River entrance to Rainier we popped into the ranger station to locate a suitable campsite destination and pick up our backcountry permits. After disrupting the sole ranger from her chatty cell phone call, we ended up choosing Granite Creek (from a very small selection of options) as our goal for the day (about a five mile hike). The ranger gave us our safety pep talk. “Make sure you hang up your food. There are bears everywhere.” “Ok, thanks.” The rest of the trip was pretty much spent making bear jokes about bears everywhere, bears dressed up like rangers, best wrestling moves to defeat a wrestling bear with (always outside single leg sweeps, no double legs; sprawling bears are trouble), etc.

Back in the car for about fifteen more minutes to reach Sunrise. Sparkling day as we pulled into the sparsely populated parking lot. Lunch was eaten tail-gate style from the back of my car (“rotisserie-flavored” chicken and cheese sandwiches). We stopped into the ranger station to try to locate the proper trailhead for Granite Creek and were met by a ranger who seemed to know even less than we did about the trail system. After Dan and I looked over a trail map taped to the counter though, the way seemed clear enough. Packs were shouldered; let’s go.

We walked about thirty seconds up the paved walkway, hit our first fork, and decided not to follow path anymore (boy, it sure looks like we could just head off down this dirt path on the left here and end up in the same place). Wandering through some thickets brought us to an old campground road (and a group of apparently disoriented Japanese tourists) that we followed until it reconnected with the original trail that we earlier avoided. Shortcut successfully negotiated.

At this confluence of trails we stepped onto a stretch of the Wonderland Trail (a ninety-three mile loop around Mount Rainier) and enjoyed sweeping views of rolling meadows backdropped by Rainier and smaller peaks. Signs marked the way to Burroughs Mountain, Berkley Park, and Mystic Lake. We headed toward Mystic Lake. Pleasant hiking as we headed gently downward on a well-defined dirt path. No bears yet. Only a few others hikers on the path.

After crossing a couple of creeks the trail started to climb again and became rockier. We topped out on a rock-covered pass and promptly lost the path. Lost in the sense that we didn’t look for the path at all and only noticed a trail heading up a peak off to the right. Well that must be it. After a few switchbacks we turned around to check our progress and spotted a trail heading off the opposite direction, an obvious extension to the trail we had been travelling. The actual summit of the peak we had started to climb didn’t seem too far off, so we opted to continue up anyway. Make it a side trip. We dropped our heavy packs and scampered up to the top.

The peak turned out to be Skyscraper Mountain (elevation 7018 ft) and offered up some fine vistas, indeed. We relaxed and soaked in the views for about fifteen minutes then headed back down, retracing our steps. Once on the correct path, we followed four long switchbacks down through the tree canopy, eventually arriving at our shady well-marked campsite at Granite Creek. Here we purified some creek water, set up camp, and jetboiled some cheesy pasta for dinner. Neither of us had any source of artificial light so once the sun set, we talked for a little bit, then called it a night in our respective tents. Sleeping in shorts, a fleece, a hat, and gloves I was plenty warm and slept comfortably. Dan later said that he’d made the mistake of orienting himself with his feet elevated higher than his head and had been too lazy to rotate around and didn’t sleep quite as well.

The next morning we cooked instant oatmeal to warm up and fuel up (five packages each), broke camp, and set off just as the sun started to thread through the trees. Still no real itinerary. We headed back toward Sunrise but with plenty of time to scoop up a side trip if the opportunity presented. Back up the four long switchbacks, out of the trees, and into the sun and a superbly sunny and clear day. Rainier beamed and flocks of black swifts swirled.

Up and over Skyscraper Pass, into the valley overlooking Berkley Park. Here we ran into a group of three guys gesticulating toward the nearby trees. They said we’d just missed a bear. We waited for a few minutes hoping it would reappear. No luck. Bears everywhere. We kept hiking until we reached the trail junction for Burroughs Mountain near Frozen Lake. We stopped to snack and hydrate. The sign here said 1.5 miles back to Sunrise, but the sun above said “hey it’s not yet noon, lots of day left.” The sign also said “First Burroughs .6 miles” and “Second Burroughs 1.3 miles.” Something was said to the effect of “2.6 miles round trip, we’ll be back in an hour. Easy.” Looking up, Dan was skeptical, but off we went. I had roughly 12 ounces of water left, but figured with a bit of rationing, it was all good.

The trail traversed the rocky slopes up toward Mount Rainier, was obviously well-travelled, and topped out initially on a broad round summit (7200 ft elevation). I wrongly assumed this to be a speed bump on the way to First Burroughs and not actually First Burroughs, as it turned out to be. Here I talked with an older guy who was patiently looking through a pair of binoculars. He pointed out a black bear waaaaay down across the valley. Just a tiny black speck. He offered me the use of his binoculars and the bear, ambling up the slope of Skyscraper Mountain, popped into view. Bears everywhere.

Continuing up the trail brought us several hundred feet higher to the top of Second Burroughs (7400 ft elevation), which I was still wrongly assuming to be First Burroughs, just seemed too quick to have covered 1.3 miles. Superb views of Rainier’s northeast face. Emmons Glacier, Inter Glacier, Little Tahoma, and Steamboat Prow. Ridiculous expanses of peaks in every direction. We sat on chunks of rock, sipping water, watching chipmunks, and listening to foreign accents.

Another round peak loomed off to the west. Even though it seemed to be more than .7 miles away from our current location, I still assumed this was Second Burroughs. With a long drive to Oregon and a couple days of surfing waiting, Dan was ready to call it a day. I acquiesced, but just as we were getting ready to spin 180 and head back down, a gray-haired woman strolled up and loudly began extolling the magnificence of peak to the West. “Oh, you have to go see it. It’s like you’re standing on the glacier. I never miss it.” Then a big fat guy in a glowing neon yellow shirt responded with, “Oh yeah, I never stop here.” He lumbered toward the trail.

We stood up immediately, zipped past the huffing fat man, and headed toward summit number three. To get to Third Burroughs we dropped down into a sparsely vegetated valley, covered in strawberry-sized lava rock, and headed right back up topping out at elevation 7828 ft. And it was worth it. From the summit you can look down on the glacial moraine of Winthrop Glacier and Mount Rainier itself seems close enough to touch. From our lofty vantage we retraced our weekend’s hike and plotted alternate routes. Top left: looking south at Rainier. Top right: Looking east at Second Burroughs. Bottom left: Looking north at Skyscraper Mountain, we could also see many other prominent peaks in the distance (Baker, Stuart, Shuksan, etc). Bottom right:Looking west at Mystic Lake.

The return hike was a little less exiting and as I read sign posts along the way listing various mileages I finally realized that Third Burroughs was most definitely not Second Burroughs and that our 2.6 mile round trip was not 2.6 miles. All told, it turned into a 9 mile side trip. Easy. We hiked another mile and a half back to the car, refilled water bottles, stripped off soggy socks, and bid farewell to Mount Rainier.

The next day we headed for the Oregon coast, surf board on the roof, flip flops and Frisbees at the ready. Five hours of driving. Highway 12, to I-5, to Highway 30, to Highway 101. More Sour Patch Kids and some sandwiches with far too much dijon mustard. Band of Horses in the CD player. We stopped in Seaside so Dan could rent a board, then followed the coastline toward Oswald West State Park, my go-to easy surf spot. Oswald West was a mad house. Cars overflowing the overflow parking lot. It was late afternoon and I didn’t want to run around trying to find another beach, so we changed into wetsuits and carried our boards down to the cove. The beach wasn’t as busy as I thought it was going to be, but the waves were dead. Lake Michigan July afternoon dead. We stood for about three minutes sweating in our wetsuits and watching the crowd bobbing in the tame surf. We decided to find a campsite at Nehalem Bay State Park and surf from the state park. Sweating in our wetsuits, we huffed back up to the car. Sweating, we drove south to Nehalem. Sweat dripping from the neoprene around our ankles, we located a campsite and paid the ranger at the gate. Sweating, we parked the car and ran down to beach. Boards waxed. Boots on, gloves on. Ocean.

Nehalem Bay State Park reminded me a bit of surfing at Lake Michigan. Beach break over a sandbar, nothing real consistent, certainly not glassy. It was surprisingly very fun though. We paddled out to a large sandbar and then past and caught the surf as it rolled up into the shallows. Unlike Lake Michigan though, the ocean, as usual, brought some clout. Where Oswald West had been sheltered and calm, here we had head-high waves. Fun rides, fun wipeouts. One of those tumbles took me end over end and I popped up laughing and covering my head, hoping not to get smacked by my flailing board. No head injuries, but when I paddled over to my board I found a huge rip across the nose. Crap. I paddled to shore to inspect the damage and found a square foot chunk ready to fall off, broken stringer and all. So much for that. Dan came in a little later, having seen the wipeout but not knowing what had happened. He offered to share the rental, but I was a little jumpy from having just wrecked my board, and not wanting to mess up another, decided to go swimming instead. So Dan surfed for a while longer while I goofed around in the whitewater as the sun dropped.

For dinner we made a run up to Manzanita and grabbed brats from a grocery store. Back in camp we gathered firewood, built a fire, and impatiently charred the brats on the ends of improvised skewers. Then we fire-watched until the rest of the campground had turned in for the night.

The next day we finished the brats for breakfast then tossed a Frisbee on the beach and played an obstacle-filled game of Frisbee golf. Ok, under that log from the back side, then around the left side of the far stump, and then back to the stick. Rules made on the fly, Calvinball-style.

Dan wanted to be in Portland for his flight by about 1:45, so we returned his rental board and headed east a little after noon. Arrived at PDX just about spot on 1:45, then I made the long trek back to Yakima. Very thorough weekend. More pics here (click).

Thu 18 Sep 08

It’s been a hectic week so I haven’t had much time to recap some of the fun that was had over a five-day weekend last weekend. My friend Dan flew into Washington from Arizona and we put around 1000 miles on my car driving into the mountains and down to the Oregon coast during that time. Good stuff. I’ll post something more thorough soon, but in the meantime here’s a picture of the second bear that I’ve seen in the wild. Fearsome:

Mon 8 Sep 08

Itching for a hike, I spent Saturday morning scouting Google Maps terrain view of Washington for something of interest. I eventually settled on the Mt Daniel area in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, figuring it could be an aggressive day summit even with a bit of a late start. At the last minute though I decided to bring along some company and changed my plans to an overnight scenic hike with two of the dogs. I knew that meant not being able to scramble up the rocky upper portions of Mt Daniel, but figured it’d still be a fun outing (maybe more so). Nora’s a bit high strung and didn’t make the cut. Three dogs would’ve been a bit much anyway. Trammell and Taylor though happily clamored into the back of the Focus and off we went. After a two hour drive, including a horrendous twelve mile stretch down a washboard- and rock-filled forest service road, we arrived at the trailhead of the Cathedral Rock Trail 1345.

The dogs waited in the back of the car while I made some final adjustments to my far too heavy pack (ten cups of dog food didn’t help). Sniffing the air and cocking their heads at a few other hikers. I kept them leashed at the start of the hike hoping to contain some of the energy that they would need later in the day. They tugged for about ten minutes especially as we passed a couple other groups of hikers, but then relaxed to match my pace. I unleashed Trammell and he followed right at my heels. Very dog-friendly trail: dirt with patches of rock and a few boulders. We hammered away at an endless set of switchbacks, eventually (1500 feet of elevation gain later) breaking the monotony by popping into view of a small alpine lake with a few campsites scattered around its periphery. The dogs had lapped water from a few streams on the way up but happily slurped from the giant water dish and splashed around in the reeds. Not there yet though guys. Another 500 feet up and we enjoyed our first views of Cathedral Rock.

Up further still the trail cut through Spinola Meadows, a flowery flat area pocked with frog-filled mini ponds. Nearby ridges offered vistas to the East. Mount Stuart (climbed last October) pictured in the distance in the picture below-right.

A bit more climbing and we were through Cathedral Pass. We connected with Peggy’s Pond Trail 1375 and followed this around a rocky exposed stretch of trail skirting Cathedral Rock. I would not recommend this trail at all to anyone trying to keep track of two dogs. The dogs themselves didn’t seem overly concerned, but I played the role of spotter in three or four spots where they were skittering down a narrow ledge with a lot of slope below. The pictures below were taken from trail 1375, but not from the exposed sections.

Reaching the trees on the far side of the slope, we stopped for about fifteen minutes, looking out over the valley to Deep Lake below and refueling. The dogs both had a few handfuls of Canidae and shared some of my Ritz crackers. The dogs seemed more interested in continuing down the trail than enjoying the scenery so off we went. Five minutes of hopping over logs and ducking under pine trees and we emerged at Peggy’s Pond.

As we stepped into the meadows near Peggy’s Pond, the dogs, who had been dutifully walking behind me, jubilantly welcomed the change in terrain with sprints and bounds. They chased each other down the trail and splashed into Peggy’s Pond. Cathedral Rock loomed overhead. There were a few campsites set up in the area and just to avoid the chance of an overly-exuberant dog interrupting someone’s peace and quiet I ended up leashing both dogs again for a few minutes as we continued down the trail.

From Peggy’s Pond the trail turned toward Mt Daniel and became much rockier. The dogs picked their steps more carefully, but didn’t seem too bothered by the pointy footing. The slope was still fairly gradual at this point.

Trammell was bothered a bit, however, by the mosquito-net-wearing couple we passed on the way out of the meadow. Alien and ominous in their Back to the Future head regalia. He gave a low warning growl as we passed, warily glancing over his shoulder several times. Below: Looking back at Cathedral Rock and Trammell posing in front of Mt Daniel in the distance.

After Peggy’s Pond we had the backcountry entirely to ourselves. On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, crazy. I suppose anyone who had come this far was probably following the higher ridges toward the summit of Mt Daniel. The landscape shifted from trees and flowers to rock and glaciers. I love these locations that let me know I’m disconnected from the norm. Stark granite punctuated by vibrant blues and greens. The dogs sniffed and explored, perking up as the marmots serenaded us with their shrill cries from the cliffs.

Trammell galloped through a small glacial pool. Running laps on the beach and plucking objects from the bottom. Taylor chased briefly then was content to lap at the water and wander the shore.

Heading further up a somewhat steeper section Trammell was thrilled to discover snow. Snow in the summer! Woof! He ran and cut and crouched and burst again showering me in snow spray as he passed. Taylor gobbled down what she could.

At this point it was about 4:30 and I was starting to have second thoughts about camping. Given the surrounding steep slopes, hiking options would be limited for the next day and I still had enough daylight to get back to the trailhead. I’d basically just be hiking out in the morning anyway. Though catching a sunrise lighting up Cathedral Rock in the morning would almost certainly be mesmerizing. I fed the dogs from a Frisbee while I thought it over.

I decided to climb a little higher. The dogs had to do more scrambling as we headed up steeper rock and it was fun watching them route find as they trailed behind me. Occasionally Taylor would get stumped by a tricky boulder and I would backtrack to point out a dog-friendly route to her. We topped out at our high point of the hike (elevation 6500 ft) to find a sloping glacier and more turquoise pools (check out the depth of the one Trammell is looking at).

I’m used to seeing crevasses fissuring in horizontal planes. This one was spiraling and as Trammell and I peaked into the gap I was surprised to see how deep the crack went. Trammell backpedaled quickly.

I didn’t check the time, but with the light fading I knew it was probably time to turn back if we were going to make it back to the car before dark. No camping it is. Would’ve saved a good forty pounds of gear to have figured that out ahead of time. Oh well, at least it was a good workout. Looking up at the peak, I was a bit bummed to miss out on the vistas that would certainly accompany another hour of scrambling, but mostly I was happy to be able to romp through the wilderness with a couple of good companions.

We retraced our path back down the rock slope and I was surprised with how nimbly the dogs handled the descent. Trammell scampered down whatever looked easiest nearby and Taylor made traverses whenever she felt uncomfortable. All that city life and still lissome in the wild.

The dogs handled the slopes around Cathedral Rock again, but I had to give Taylor a boost a few times and I watched Trammell very closely. At Cathedral Pass we followed a side path higher on the ridge for a while before dropping back down to the main trail.

Below: A look down at Deep Lake from the slopes of Cathedral Rock. And a look back at Cathedral Rock from near Cathedral Pass.

I think the dogs were starting to feel the miles and they dropped into step behind me, occasionally trotting ahead, but never far off. Again the endless switchbacks and finally we reached the car at about 7:40. The dogs lay down immediately in the back and slept hard most of the way home. A few more photos can be found here.

Sat 6 Sep 08

I took Trammell and Taylor out hiking to Cathedral Rock (and Peggy’s Pond and Mt. Daniel) in the Alpine Lake Wilderness for much of the day today. This was the first real hike they’ve been on (we gained 3000 feet of elevation and hiked back down in the same day) and they both performed admirably. I’ll post more pictures and a proper trip report soon.