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This is yet another incarnation of my personal blog. Here's where you can read about what I do when I'm not at work: hiking, seeing plays and other shows, eating, traveling, etc.

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TR: Soaring Eagle Regional Park

Posted by gck Thursday, August 7, 2014 0 comments

Distance: varies (my hike: 2.6 miles)
Elevation gain: varies (my hike: ~180 ft)
Directions, map, and more information on the park website.

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Left: Pipeline trail
Right: signs to keep me from getting lost

I’m continuing my Hike-a-thon weekday hikes with Soaring Eagle Regional Park in Sammamish. This park offers miles of multi-use trails, and it’s perfect for me because they number all major trail intersections and have clear maps and arrows at each intersection! Even a hopeless navigator like me didn’t make any wrong turns. The Pipeline trail is the main trail that cuts diagonally through the park. It’s wide, smooth, and mostly flat and perfect for the casual walker. I took this trail most of the way before turning onto the smaller trails, and based on my experience, I think this park should be renamed “Soaring Eagle, Crawling Slug” because there were SO many slugs.

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Left: one of many slugs
Right: smaller trail

The smaller trails are still very well maintained, but there’s some minor elevation change. Walking on these trails felt more like hiking than the Pipeline. I saw some mountain bikers heading out when I started walking, and it looks like it’s a fun and popular mountain biking destination. I’m not sure if the walking experience on the narrower trails would be as pleasant on a busy biking day, but it wasn’t a problem tonight. The forest seems newer and more sparse than Bridle Trails, but you don’t end up looking into people’s backyards or hearing car noise.

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Barred owl 

I was on my way back to the entrance with sunset approaching when I heard a whoosh and saw large wings not far above my head. Looked around and saw a barred owl staring at me from a nearby tree. Pretty cool! Then I thought of the reports of barred owls clawing at ponytails in Bridle Trails awhile back and I was thankful that this guy left my head alone. I checked the internet later to see if the owl was commonly spotted at this park, and it turns out that this exact section of the park was closed 2 years ago when an aggressive barred owl was attacking people’s heads. Eek. Well, maybe he’s better behaved now. I only had the wide angle lens on my camera, so my pictures are really bad, but maybe I’ll go back and look for him sometime (with a helmet on?).

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Trail 


On my last leg of the trail, I stumbled upon two teenagers smoking weed. They immediately started heading out, and I followed, which freaked them out because they started walking faster and kept turning back and looking at me. But other than the teenagers at the end and the mountain bikers at the beginning, I saw no other people on the trail that evening. A nice escape into the woods!

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TR: Eagle Lake Backdoor

Posted by gck Sunday, August 3, 2014 0 comments

Distance: 5 miles
Elevation gain: 400 feet
Trailhead directions and more on WTA.

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Left: tree fungus
Right: fireweed

I couldn’t hike until the afternoon today, so I decided to try one of the shorter hikes that I normally don’t consider. I was originally going to do Barclay Lake, but I decided to save it for when I’m hiking with someone who wants an easy hike, so I decided instead to do the alternate route to Eagle Lake. The traditional route is supposed to be a painful upwards slog from Barclay, but the alternate route starts from a high trailhead, so it’s short and has little elevation gain. WTA refers to it as a fisherman’s trail, but the trail is in good shape and has gotten a bit of maintenance (cutting steps in blowdowns, etc.) so I think it’s more of a “backdoor” than a fisherman’s trail.

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Cliffy FR 6514

To get to the high trailhead, your car has to do the work for you. You turn off of Highway 2 onto Beckler River Road, a nice paved road, but soon, you turn onto another forest road and it gets interesting from there. Most of the ~6.5 mile forest road drive is on FR 6514, a rocky, cliffy, narrow road that gains quite a bit of elevation. Pretty rough on my Camry, but I made it. I’m not sure what I’d do if I encountered a car coming in the opposite direction because there are plenty of areas on the road where there isn’t room for two cars, and backing up doesn’t sound like fun, either. I didn’t see any cars on my way up, but I did see two dirt bikes coming down when I was on one of those “is my car going to make it?!” sections and that did not make me feel better about my chances! The forest road drive took me almost an hour, making it about a 2 hour drive each way. A beefier car would be able to go up faster. The views from the road were really beautiful, though, and I saw a camper vehicle parked in a turnout area with the intent to stay the night.

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Left: garter snake eating something?
Right: Mount Townsend and Paradise Meadow

The forest part of the trail (which is most of it) isn’t very interesting, but it also isn’t very hard and you can get through it quickly. I was startled by a garter snake early on and chose to go around it instead of over it on the trail. After about two miles, the trail enters Paradise Meadow, or as another trip report writer called it, Paradise Mudow. It’s scenic, with views of Mount Townsend and Merchant Peak, but there are all these muddy areas that are hard to avoid and hard to pass through. I was happy for my boots because my running shoes would have been swallowed up by one of those mud puddles for sure. The trail splits, one way going to Stone Lake and the other to Eagle Lake.

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Left: Merchant Peak
Right: Merchant Peak above Eagle Lake
 

Despite the 100% sunny forecast, it had been raining when I started driving to the hike, and I had been listening to thunder for awhile. Light rain started coming down, and I didn’t want to chance driving down the fun forest road in a downpour, so I didn’t spend much time at the lake before rushing back. Turns out I could have stayed longer, but it’s better to minimize risk when hiking alone. :) There was a group of adults and kids camped out at the main campsite and a guy in a raft fishing in the lake.

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The lake was very pretty, especially for how easy the hike was, and it would be even prettier on a sunny day. While the 2 hours of hiking wasn’t really worth the 4 hours of driving, I’d like to come back on a better day and do more exploration. There’s an old cabin on the side of the lake, the side trip to Stone Lake, and a possible scramble up Mount Townsend for even better views.

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TR: Bridle Trails

Posted by gck Friday, August 1, 2014 0 comments

Distance: varies (Raven trail – 1 mile)
Elevation gain: varies (Raven trail – 100 ft)
Map, directions, and more on the Bridle Trails website.

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Left: Cascade Classic horse show
Right: Beginning of Raven trail

What better way to kick off Hike-a-thon than a hike in my own backyard? Bridle Trails State Park is just a little ways down my street, and it’s part of my normal running route. They’ve got a fine series of trails that I haven’t explored much, so I hope to do more walking in the area this month. To park in the lot, you have to have a Discover Pass, but there’s plenty of parking near the park that doesn’t require it if you don’t have one. Tonight, the lot was full anyway – I happened to stumble upon day 1 of the Cascade Classic horse show. Riders were busy competing for high scores in the big ring. I watched a little and then headed for the trails.

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Trail

I normally run down the straight power line trail in the center of the park. The last two times I’ve attempted to incorporate any of the other trails into my run, I’ve ended up getting lost. There are three main trails in the park, but many smaller trails branch off of the main ones. This time, I had planned to hike the Trillium Trail, but I accidentally got on the shorter Raven Trail instead. The path was nice and it was easy to follow the main trail. Since this is an equestrian park, horses have the right of way and there’s definitely horse “evidence” on the trails. It’s common to see horses on the trail or in yards along the power line trail, which could be fun thing for kids. The forest was pretty and peaceful, but this specific trail runs pretty close to busy roads, so I could hear car noise while walking. The other trails go deeper into the park and don’t have that issue as much.

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Trail map

Next time I’ll have to find the Trillium Trail, which is supposed to have a few interpretive signs. I got back to the big ring, watched a little more of the horse show (they were moving to the “handy round” as I left), then walked back to my car. Great start to Hike-a-Thon! Now onto the weekend.

 

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TR: Crystal Peak

Posted by gck Wednesday, July 23, 2014 0 comments

Distance: 8 miles
Elevation gain: 3100 feet
Trailhead directions and more on WTA.

Four hikes so far this year, and I’ve used all four of my main hiking books – Snoqualmie, Central Cascades, North Cascades, and now Mt. Rainier. (I also own Olympic Peninsula, but I can’t find it!) I have an annual Rainier pass from last year and I’ve been itching to use it, so I looked for a trail in that book. Go figure, while the Crystal Peak trailhead is within the national park boundaries, it isn’t within the pay gates, so no permit is required.

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Crystal Creek

It was definitely going to be a scorching hot day, so we started out early, hitting the trailhead around 9:30. To my surprise, the lot was already close to full, and an abnormally large percentage of the people we encountered were already going down. Since this trailhead is so close to Enumclaw, I think it serves as the “Mt. Si” for that region, and many people do a quick & early up & down and then get on with their day. As we were getting our stuff ready to go, a car pulled up next to us, playing really loud club music with really powerful bass. And they kept it on as they were preparing for their hike! Daniel and I just stared at each other with “Whaaaa…” looks on our faces. Eventually, a lady came over to their car and told them sternly to turn their music off. I couldn’t really hear what she was saying other than “it’s painfully loud.”

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The trail 

It seems like a lot of trails follow this pattern: forest – creek – forest – creek – climb climb climb climb – views! – climb climb climb – SUMMIT OR LAKE! Well, this one starts off immediately with a nice creek view, then it’s a lot of somewhat unexciting forest (with a bridge over the creek somewhere in there) before the trail enters the sun/view section. We started off early to get as much of the hike done as possible before the heat of the afternoon set in. The forest section passed by pretty quickly, and the climb wasn’t too bad. We caught a glimpse of a pika in a boulderfield when we hit the sunny part (that’s 3 for 4 on my hikes for pika sightings so far!).

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Beargrass and Mt. Rainier

As soon as we cleared the woods, the views started. We had gotten peek-a-boo views at Mt. Rainier through the trees, but we got to stare at the mountain in all its glory for the entire last part of the hike. Photos of mountains can’t come close to showing the giant presence they have when you’re there looking at them in person. Daniel had the Peakfinder app on his phone, so we were able to see what the surrounding peaks were named (much better than my very helpful “uh, that’s Mt. Rainier” knowledge). From this direction, we could see some of the destinations accessible from Sunrise, like Burroughs and Dege.

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Beargrass

As is probably obvious from the pictures, the beargrass was also a highlight of the hike! I had considered doing Granite or Defiance instead because of spectacular beargrass reports from I-90, but I stuck with the plan, since someone else had reported that there was beargrass on this hike. When we first started seeing it, it was pretty sparse and unimpressive, and it was making me sad. But as we climbed up higher, we got more and more bushy beargrass! It hadn’t quite hit the peak, but it was still a pretty sight, and I kept stopping to take pictures, possibly spending more photo time than any other hike I’ve done that I can remember. Regular wildflowers were out, too, giving pretty bursts of color along the trail.

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Left: lupine along the trail
Right: more beargrass

As usual, I had no idea what Crystal Peak actually looked like, so we played the game of, “Is that it?” as we switchbacked up. Seriously, longest switchbacks ever. I’m not one for the straight-up fireman/fisherman trails, but I was ready for one of those by the end of this back-and-forth trail. I got my wish – the last little bit up to the summit was steep and direct.

We had views in all directions from the summit, but the mountain views weren’t better than what we had been seeing on the way there. Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens (barely) were in good view from the top, but we had glimpsed them before reaching the summit. And the view of Rainier wasn’t as good as it was below because there were trees blocking parts of the valley below. However, we did get to see the other side, where we had a nice view down to Upper and Lower Crystal Lakes. It was hazy looking northwards, so we didn’t get to see Glacier Peak and could barely make out the smaller mountains in that direction. I’ll have to go back and do Norse Peak, a similar hike that has a view of the Stuart Range.

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Left: Upper Crystal Lake from Crystal Peak
Right: Valley view from Crystal Peak

No real shade up at the summit (a woman was curled up in fetal position under some low branches to get out of the sun) so we ate and didn’t linger too long. By the time we were heading down, it was HOT. It was definitely an upper 90s day and it felt that way. Not nearly as many people were coming up as we went down, and I was glad I wasn’t one of them because I’m not sure I would have made it.

We were happy to finally make it back to the car (no club music this time). As we were getting ready to leave, a woman came up to me and asked what all the cars were there for. Must have been a Mt. Rainier tourist who thought there was some sort of viewpoint! Well, there is, you just have to climb up a bit to get to it. :)

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Mt. Rainier panorama (Photosynth)

WTA Hike-a-Thon

Posted by gck 0 comments

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Everyone loves a fundraiser, right? Over the years as I’ve read people’s hiking trip reports, I’d hear mentions of “Hike-a-Thon” and I wondered what it was. I liked the idea of trying to hike as many miles as possible while raising money to support the trails. Each year, I’d forget until it was too late, but not this year! I am officially signed up for Hike-a-Thon.

You can read more and/or SPONSOR ME on my fundraising page. I plan to hike as many weekend days as possible, including a backpacking trip to the Enchantments. But in order to try for more mileage, I’ll also be throwing in some weekday hikes, which means urban hiking! I recently scoped out St. Edwards Park (still owe a blog post for that one) and I’m looking forward to hiking those trails and more.

Many people here use and love the trails in our forests, and better maintenance makes for a better and more sustainable experience. I hope to contribute to this cause, and a goal of mine for next year is to participate in WTA work parties for trail maintenance. If you can and would like to, I hope you’ll help by sponsoring me for this year’s Hike-a-Thon! And look forward to more trip reports as I hike my way through August.

TR: Lake Twentytwo

Posted by gck Monday, July 7, 2014 0 comments

Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation: 1350 feet
Trailhead directions and more on WTA.

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Left: Twentytwo Creek
Right: The forest -- “the real treat on this hike” according to the book

“The view is just okay,” Daniel said. “There are too many trees.”
“You’ve become quite the view snob,” I replied.
“I learned from the best.”

Yep, that snobbery has made it so I still haven’t hiked Mount Si, and it took me many years before hiking Tiger Mountain. A similar sort of snobbery – not wanting to spend the time hiking without putting in at least a certain number of miles or feet of elevation gain – has kept me from very nice hikes like Rattlesnake Ridge, Twin Falls, and Lake Twentytwo. It was time for that to change.

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Left: fireweed
Right: a flower I can’t seem to identify

Things finally lined up right so that I hiked to Lake Twentytwo (and enjoyed it!). We had an out-of-town guest to take hiking, Rainier was still too snowy, and I had just done Lake Serene, so I suggested Heather or Twentytwo. Daniel picked Twentytwo. We got up to the trailhead a little before 10, fully expecting to park in an overflow area, but apparently people were still hungover from the 4th of July festivities, and we got a spot in the main lot without problem. Up we went.

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Lake Twentytwo from the outlet 

“Is there anything to see on this trail other than the lake?” Daniel asked as we walked through the forest that the book claimed was “the real treat on this hike.”

I’m not the biggest forest person, but fortunately, there was other stuff to see. Twentytwo Creek stayed pretty close to the trail most of the way up, and every so often, we’d get glimpses of some nice waterfalls. The trail also opened up to mountain views higher up, and ripe berries and flowers began to show up as well. It’s obvious that a lot of work has been put into maintaining this trail, and it was in very good condition. Only a few mud patches, and they weren’t bad enough for people to walk around them and start destroying vegetation. Nice to see, especially on a hike that gets so much traffic.

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Left: turquoise colored water, the boulderfield we climbed up
Right: Lake Twentytwo from the boulderfield

We finally reached the lake at the outlet and stood on the bridge, admiring the peaks in the background with waterfalls pouring down the cliff faces. Unfortunately, people have taken to carving their names and political statements into the bridge. Even nature isn’t immune to a dose of conspiracy theory! There were a few groups of people hanging out on that side of the lake, so we took our photos and started walking on the trail that went around the lake.

It’s hard to get good pictures of the lake because the trail is so close to the lakeside and so are the towering peaks around it. I wanted a better look, and I’m prone to “bad ideas” when I’m not completely exhausted, so I announced that I was climbing up a boulder field on the side of the lake. I told them they didn’t have to come along and I could meet up with them later, but they were up for it. So Kim got to do her first scramble! Nothing too tricky, just tiring. I found a somewhat flat, large boulder near the top of the field and sat down for lunch. The view from this point was definitely better – the color of the lake was prettier, and we could clearly make out the shallow sections of the lake and the deep center. From here, any people we could see were just faraway tiny specks.

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Left: Lakeside trail with pretty flowers
Right: Waterfalls coming down the cliffs

After eating and enjoying the view for awhile, we slowly made our way back down. Briefly encountered a pika who was probably happy that the humans were leaving his boulder field. We continued the walk around the lake, enjoying different angles of the lake. Turns out our timing was pretty good because we soon felt drops of rain. It stayed pretty light, and once we were back in the forest, we couldn’t feel anything at all, but the views definitely didn’t look as nice with the blue skies gone. Made it back to the parking lot and found all the car windows intact. We did notice a lot of people coming up as we went down, and there were many cars using the side of the Mountain Loop Highway as overflow parking for this hike. I can now fully understand why it’s so popular!

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TR: Lake Serene

Posted by gck Sunday, July 6, 2014 0 comments

Distance: 7.2 miles
Elevation gain: 2000 feet
Trailhead directions and more on WTA.

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Creek waterfalls

Lake Serene was my first “big hike” in the Pacific Northwest (I decided Wallace Falls didn’t qualify) and got me started on an addiction that now takes over my summer and fall months. So when I had two new hikers coming with me on a weekday hike, this one seemed like a natural choice. This was my third time doing this hike (2008 and 2010 were the others), and I’ve always gone during the early part of the summer, since this is one of the earlier hikes to become snow free. It’s a popular hike – on a weekday, we saw way more people than I encountered at Koppen the past weekend. I’ve heard that the lot overflows and becomes a parking nightmare on the weekends, so best to get an early start.

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Left: the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls
Right: Lake Serene’s turquoise water

There’s plenty to see on this hike. There are several nice mini waterfalls when the trail hits a creek, but the real star is Bridal Veil Falls, a towering waterfall that cascades down like… a bride’s veil. There’s a short side hike that gets you to the falls, but I’ve never taken it. Maybe next time. After the falls, the real climbing begins. Switchbacks and what I call the “stairs section.” I remember cursing the stairs the first time on this trail, but now I’m thankful for them, having experienced how difficult a rough uphill trail can be. A lot of people were struggling through this section, and I heard someone say that there were about 26 switchbacks and that we were still on the third. Hah!

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View from the trail

Fortunately, the rewards come before the lake. After climbing for awhile, we broke out of the forest and had nice views of the surrounding peaks. Then not long after, Mount Index came into view, and we knew we were near. Many people were content to sit by the lake at the closest access point, but a better place to sit and take in the view (if you can convince your legs to go up a few more stairs) is at Lunch Rock. There were also some people who crossed the boulderfield to the right of Lunch Rock and went part way around the lake for solitude, but we were content with Lunch Rock. We watched people jump in the lake and immediately regret it. I climbed down to the lakeside and dipped my feet in just to see – painfully cold! I hoped for sunnier weather, but the lake’s color was still as beautiful as ever.

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Lake Serene

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