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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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Book Review: Mozart’s Last Aria

Posted by gck Saturday, February 22, 2014 0 comments

mozartMozart's Last Aria by Matt Rees

Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller
Rating: *** (out of 5)
Recommended for: Dan Brown fans, music lovers
Received ARC copy through a GoodReads giveaway.

Back-cover summary:
The news arrives in a letter to his sister, Nannerl, in December 1791. But the message carries more than word of Nannerl’s brother’s demise. Two months earlier, Mozart confided to his wife that his life was rapidly drawing to a close… and that he knew he had been poisoned.

In Vienna to pay her final respects, Nannerl soon finds herself ensnared in a web of suspicion and intrigue—as the actions of jealous lovers, sinister creditors, rival composers, and Mozart’s Masonic brothers suggest that dark secrets hastened the genius to his grave. As Nannerl digs deeper into the mystery surrounding her brother’s passing, Mozart’s black fate threatens to overtake her as well.

My review:
Beautiful cover, intriguing premise… maybe this was too much for this book to live up to. My main issue was that there’s way too much fiction in this historical fiction novel, so much that I spent a lot of my reading time thinking that there was no way this story could be true. This probably wouldn’t have been as much of a problem if it wasn’t about someone as famous as Mozart, but I’m not sure I would have been as interested in that case. It’s a no-win situation, I guess.

Nannerl receives word of her brother Mozart’s death and the suggestion that it might have been a murder. She rushes off to Austria to investigate Mozart’s connections with politics and the Masons that might have led to his death. Along the way, she rediscovers her own talent and love for music. While the Mason stuff screamed “conspiracy theory” to me, Nannerl’s personal journey was more interesting, and the book would have been a better read for me if it had focused more on this part than on solving the mystery.

Book Review: Defy

Posted by gck Sunday, February 16, 2014 4 comments

17406847Defy by Sara B. Larson

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Recommended for: Fans of Kristin Cashore
Received ARC copy through NetGalley.

Back-cover summary:
Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

My review:
Book reviewers seem to be having a field day skewering this one, and while thinking about what to write for this review, I have to admit that it’s easy to come up with things to criticize. However, despite my slight predisposition to dislike this novel and its very apparent flaws, I still found myself enjoying it. There’s plenty of action, and Alexa and Damian are characters that I wanted to cheer for. It’s probably better for potential readers to skip all the overanalysis and criticism and just dive into the book.

There are two criticisms that keep my rating of this book from being higher. The first is the love triangle. I don’t understand why it was included because it is the lamest love triangle ever. It doesn’t destroy the book or anything, but it just feels unnecessary. However, I’m seeing that there is a sequel planned, and I suspect that the triangle will be drawn out further in that book. That’s too bad. I think Defy was good as a standalone novel, and I don’t think adding more to the saga will improve it.

That takes me to the second criticism – usually the reason why fantasy series work well is because the world is built up so well that you want to see more out of it. Well, this world is not built well. There’s not a whole lot of background on the history, politics, races, etc. of this world. It’s forgivable for a light YA read, but it makes some of the aspects not hit as hard as they could. I think this is also why the “breeding houses” seem like such a harsh and random inclusion.

Many people seem to expect Defy to be some sort of feminism poster child, but I disagree. Alexa is a teenage girl and acts like one. So she has silly thoughts about boys. I don’t feel like that takes away from her actions and experiences. In fact, it’s probably more realistic and relatable that she has these struggles in her mind while trying to save the world.

Disneyland Tinker Bell Inaugural 10k

Posted by gck Sunday, January 26, 2014 0 comments

I haven’t been the best blogger lately, but it’s a new year, and maybe I’ll actually post more! Jenni, Sandy, and I went to Disneyland over MLK Jr. weekend to run the inaugural Tinker Bell 10k. Sandy wanted her first event to be a Disney one, and we were all ready to sign up for the half marathon when we saw that they added a 10k option. Still a great shirt and medal, a cheaper event, a shorter distance to run, and a higher percentage of the run inside the parks. It made perfect sense!

Paradise Pier at night

After our arrival in Los Angeles and a quick stop at In-n-Out, we headed for packet pickup. The whole process was pretty easy and we had our shirts and bibs in no time. We checked out the merch section, but it was crowded and most of the items were for the half marathon, so none of us got anything. Maybe I’ve been spoiled with the other runs I’ve done, but I’m used to getting a lot more free stuff in my bag and at the expo, but that wasn’t the case with this event.

Left: People waiting in the corral for the run to start
Right: Characters in the park for pictures

After packet pickup, we spent an eventful day in the California Adventure park, ending the evening with World of Color. Since we were there too late to get Fastpasses, we did the lunch dining package at the Wine Country Trattoria to get preferred section passes for the show. The food wasn’t spectacular (it was edible), but it was definitely worth it. We managed to get the rides in that we wanted: Soarin’ Over California, Radiator Springs Racers, Toy Story Midway Mania, and California Screamin’ (twice). Also caught the Aladdin show, which had great singers and was a lot of fun. We did the Ariel ride when we were nearby, and we ended up stopped for awhile (probably because someone needed extra time to load or unload) at Ursula, who kept singing “Pour Unfortunate Souls.” From that point on, anytime we got stopped at a ride, we’d start singing that as well. The lines for World of Color formed way before they were supposed to, but we still managed to squeeze in some space in the very front. I also discovered that you’re allowed to buy alcohol and drink it anywhere in the park. The World of Color show was really amazing, but it did stop in the middle with technical difficulties (poor unfortunate souls…). I loved the lighting effects, the fountains, all the Disney characters, etc. We didn’t get wet, but I can see how people would if there was even the slightest bit of rain.

Right: Photo ops at the castle
Left: Running past the Tower of Terror

The next day, we were up bright and early to make the 6am start time. We started in Corral B, crossing the start line almost 10 minutes after the clock started. It was a lot of fun running through the parks because there was so much to see! We got to run through areas that were typically behind-the-scenes, and crew members were standing outside the buildings and cheering us on. There were some character photo ops (which we didn’t stop for because we wanted to make sure we’d finish before they started sweeping) and they had a few of the rides turned on. And of course all the costumes that people were wearing were fun to see as well. I think next time, we’ll try to coordinate some costumes as well.

Left: Running as the sun rises
Right: Inaugural medal and shirt

The last part of the run was outside of the park. We even passed by our hotel, and it was tempting to run back to bed! But we made it to the finish line with one final sprint and got our fancy inaugural medals! The medals are pretty and solid, and I noted that if Disney sold them in stores, they’d probably cost almost $50, so maybe that helps justify the steep race cost. We wore them proudly around the park for the first part of the day, and a few people asked us about them. The half marathon medal is really cute as well, but I’m glad we did the 10k this year because both the shirt and medal say “inaugural” on them. We also got a bottle of water (worth $3 inside the park… hah!) and a small box of snack food (which we took into the park later). Again, I’m used to there being more freebies at the finish line, but oh well… There wasn’t anything else to do, so we headed back to the hotel to shower.

Left: Monte Cristo sandwich from Café Orleans
Right: Desserts from Wine Country Trattoria

We made it to Disneyland not long after the park opened and quickly got in two rides at Space Mountain, Star Tours, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Indiana Jones. We stuffed ourselves with fried chicken and mashed potatoes at Plaza Inn, grabbed Fastpasses for Indiana Jones for the evening, then went back to the hotel for NAP TIME. After two days in a row of waking up around 5am, all of us were exhausted. When we returned in the afternoon, the park was noticeably more crowded, but we still got quite a lot in: Haunted Mansion, two rides at Matterhorn (one on each side), Buzz Lightyear, and Winnie the Pooh (which seemed more like Pooh on acid). The line finally got short enough for It’s a Small World for us to ride it, but near the end, the ride stopped for quite a long time. Unfortunately, this version of the Small World ride is a Small World + Christmas ride, so we had to listen to Deck the Halls and It’s a Small World over and over and over until we were about to go crazy (poor unfortunate souls). Dinner was at Café Orleans, which was very tasty. I got a bowl of gumbo and a salad for a very reasonable price – something that doesn’t usually happen at Disney! We stumbled upon the fireworks (and a very nice viewing spot for the fireworks) by accident, so we got to watch most of the show, which featured Tinkerbell and many of the rides in the park. For our last ride, we stood in the long line for Peter Pan (still 30 minutes at 11pm!) and enjoyed our short flight through Neverland.

Me in front of the castle!

We didn’t do a Disney day on Sunday and slept in instead. Had a brief panic moment when the car wouldn’t start, but we got some jumper cables from the hotel and the guy parked next to us gave us a jump start, so we were good to go. We did continue the Disney theme by seeing Frozen, which we loved. Sandy promptly got the “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” song stuck in her head, but she only knew the first line, so she sang that over and over again. I think it’s been awhile since a Disney song has been so catchy!

Great weekend, and maybe we’ll repeat this (with a longer distance) next year!

TR: Iceline (Yoho National Park)

Posted by gck Tuesday, November 5, 2013 0 comments

Distance: 8 miles
Elevation gain: 2265 feet

Here’s the beginning of my catch-up trip reports for the summer, beginning with three hikes from the Canadian Rockies. I was pretty bad about completing my trip reports for my two trips last year (did I really not post any? Looks like I’m further behind than I thought!). For now, I’m starting with the last hike of the trip because it was also the last hike I did (and did not write about) on my previous trip.


A lot of the hikes I do sell themselves pretty well through pictures. Iceline is not one of them. Last year when I was doing my hike research, I noticed that many people raved about Iceline. But when I looked at photos, I saw this barren wasteland with big chunks of ice and thought, "Seriously?!" On my Cirque Peak hike, I talked to a couple who had been going hiking in the area for many years, and they said Iceline was their favorite. So on my last day in town, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. It didn’t end up being my favorite, but I did like it a lot, especially for its uniqueness. On this trip, having already done a summit hike and a lake hike, Mike and I settled on Iceline for the last day.

IMG_2721  IMG_2710
left: Takkakaw Falls, right: moraine and interesting imprints in the rock

There are different trailheads that can be used to access this hike. We chose probably the most popular one, at the Whiskyjack Hostel. Many people park along the road, but we parked in the nearby Takkakaw Falls lot for a closer look at the massive falls before walking to the real trailhead. The falls are a popular drive-up destination.

Indian paintbrush  IMG_2633
left: paintbrush, right: trail sign with many options

People who love the Rockies tend to be mountain and glacier people, not forest people. A lot of trails in Washington will sit in the forest, maybe next to a babbling creek, for about two miles before starting the serious climbing. In Banff and Yoho, the beginning of the hike is switchback after switchback until you’re over the treeline. Fortunately, on this hike, there are views of Takkakaw Falls and surrounding mountains to look at as you go upwards (and Daly Glacier, which feeds the falls, quickly comes into view).

Emerald Glacier, waterfalls, tarn

Finally, the elevation gain calms down when you hit a moraine. (A moraine is an area of debris left behind by a glacier – in this case, the entire trail is moraine) Here, the Presidential Range is right next to the trail, the glaciers are practically at trail level, and the name Iceline makes sense. It’s impossible to convey the scale and presence of these things from pictures. From a distance or from pictures, all of the debris looks pretty boring. But there’s a lot to see up close. There’s actually quite a variety of rocks, and some of it had interesting imprints. (The Burgess Shale, one of the greatest fossil fields in the world, is located in Yoho National Park.) And even though the moraine looks all rocky and barren, some flowers still manage to grow up there.

IMG_2670_stitchYoho Valley, mountains (more detail)

One reason the Iceline isn’t a typical trail is that there is no destination. Not only is there no single standout sight, there isn’t even an obvious end. You can just keep on walking. The trail forks early on to head over to Yoho Pass and Emerald Lake, then forks later on to go to Lake Celeste and Laughing Falls. There are options to continue on into Little Yoho Valley and the Whaleback, and there’s even a backcountry hut out there for people to stay overnight. But most dayhikers do what we did – walk until it’s time to turn around. It seems like each section of the trail is separated by a small ridge, and when you climb over it, there’s a new surprise to see: waterfalls, a tarn, a view of a new mountain, etc.

Ground squirrel, waterfalls, panoramic views

I was surprised by how many people were hiking the trail this time (there weren’t nearly as many last year in early September). However, since there’s so much open space, it didn’t feel crowded. Hopefully this is a convincing description of the hike that makes it sound more interesting than barren wasteland! More to follow.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Posted by gck Sunday, November 3, 2013 0 comments

…NOT. People always think that rain is the worst part about Seattle weather, but it’s not true. Lack of sunlight is the worst part. During daylight hours, we already get a measly amount of sunlight coming through the thick layer of clouds that blankets the sky from October until June. It’s just rubbing salt in the wound to see complete darkness when we leave work each day. So while I was happy to get an extra hour of sleep today, I am more unhappy about this:


Oh well.

Snow and low temperatures in the mountains also means I’m done hiking for the year. I’ve been pretty behind on my blog entries, but I’ll have some catch up trip reports coming soon.

In other news, I finally got a new camera! The Canon EOS M dropped low enough in price to make it worth buying. I might regret it once I see all the Black Friday deals, but I didn’t want to wait that long because I need to figure out how to use the camera properly before my trip in December. Sadly, I didn’t get the camera before my last hike, so instead, I’ve been practicing on my cat, who hates it.


He’s an attractive subject to photograph, though! And trickier than hiking scenery because he doesn’t want to stay still.

IMG_0006  IMG_0039

Yeah, I guess this was just an excuse to post cat pictures. More content coming up soon!

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TR: Cascade Pass/Cascade River Road Washout

Posted by gck Tuesday, August 13, 2013 0 comments

I still owe trip reports from the Canada trip, but this weekend was so exciting that it seems like I need to get to this one first.

IMG_3255  IMG_3261
left: North Cascades National Park sign
right: hike options from Cascade Pass trailhead

We chose a really bad weather weekend to camp in the North Cascades. Thursday night was fine, but thunderstorms started while we were sleeping Friday night and were intermittent through the rest of the weekend. As of Sunday morning, these storms were just annoyances that got our stuff wet and interrupted dinner, but that was about to change really quickly…

IMG_3270  IMG_3276
left: rocks and low clouds above
right: rocks and low clouds below

We got off to a late start because of rain in the morning and breaking down camp. Getting to the trailhead took longer than I expected. We had to head back west about 30 miles to Marblemount, then there was another 23 mile drive east on Cascade River Road. The road was pleasantly paved for 10 miles, then the rest was primitive road, but it was in better condition than other forest roads I’ve experienced. It’s a very pretty drive, full of beautiful trees framing the road, creeks and waterfalls, and at the end of the road (and the trailhead for our hike), a great view of Johannesburg Mountain and its glaciers. There’s a picnic area there, which is a nice stop for people driving up for the views.

IMG_3277  IMG_3291
left: USGS marker at Cascade Pass
right: Cascade Pass

Cascade Pass/Sahale Arm is supposed to be an amazing hike. On a nice weather day, it’s easy to see how it would be. However, we got hit with low clouds that didn’t let up at all on the way up, only affording us brief glances at Johannesburg Mountain and Cascade Pass. Monotonous switchbacks with nothing to look at are really boring! It’s just switchback after switchback heading up to the pass, but they’re pretty long and not that steep. Cascade Pass was very pretty (prettier than my camera could capture). We ate there and listened to a ranger talking to people. It didn’t feel like this was enough and there was still time in the day, so I suggested that we press on towards Sahale Arm and just hike as far as we had time for, hoping that we’d hit the views down towards Doubtful Lake. The name should have tipped me off.

IMG_3297  IMG_3300
left: pretty pink flowers
right: pika!!!!

We started climbing what the book promised would be “800 feet in one mile” when things started to look ominous. A group of people came back towards us, making it pretty clear that they had turned around before their destination because of weather conditions ahead. At first I thought that they might have been mistaken, since we’d been seeing the low cloud layer all day, but the thunder put an end to that thought. I did get a glimpse of a pika (also checking out the weather?) before we turned around. It didn’t take long for the rain to follow the thunder. We had three pieces of rain gear for four people, and one of my brothers was in cotton, so I gave him my poncho and immediately got drenched. Then lots of hail started falling and probably pieces of ice with it because all of my exposed skin was stinging from the assault. I had to keep reminding myself that this hike was my idea. Fortunately, the lightning was pretty far away, as it had been during our camping nights.

IMG_3317  IMG_3341_stitch
left: brothers on the trail after the first thunderstorm
right: Johannesburg Mountain with glaciers and waterfalls

Once we made it to Cascade Pass, the rain had stopped and we were even seeing some blue sky. I wondered if we should have just continued, since we would have gotten wet no matter what. But the second thunderstorm followed not long afterwards, this time with a heavy downpour. The switchbacks section had many trees, but they were tall and thin and useless for sheltering us from the rain. Finally, a bolt of lightening immediately followed by a clap of thunder so loud that I covered my ears got me pretty scared, and I told my brothers to descend as quickly as possible without injury.

IMG_3366  IMG_3417
left: hourly ranger meeting
right: supply-bearing helicopter

We made it back to the trailhead without incident, and I was waiting in line for the bathroom to change into dry clothes when someone casually mentioned that a bridge washed out on the road and we might be here for many days. Uh, what?! We changed and decided to see what was going on, but we didn’t even make it out of the parking lot before being stopped by someone who told us the same thing. So we went back to our parking spots and stayed in the car, stepping out during breaks in the rain to see if anyone had any updates. It became clear that we had no evidence that anyone on the other side of the washout had knowledge that it had happened. Later in the evening, someone figured it out and radioed two rangers we had seen on the hike that day, and they rushed down to take care of things. They got people counts and phone numbers of contacts who needed to know that we were stranded, and they also made sure that everyone had enough food and water to make it through the night. Only one group didn’t, though many people had no dry clothes or sleeping bags/blankets. Our food supply was pretty meager, but it was enough to get us through, and we were well equipped otherwise.

IMG_3453  IMG_3369
left: Cascade River Road Refugee Station
right: waterfall along the side of the road

Once it got dark, we pulled out chairs and sleeping bags and looked up at the stars. It was way colder here than at the campsite the nights before, but the view was amazing. So many stars, Milky Way visible, and we spotted some stunning meteors from the Perseid shower. Sadly, clouds coming in didn’t let us keep the view for as long as we wanted. We waited in our (warm) cars for the first round of clouds to pass, but the second round came in pretty quickly, accompanied by a few drops of rain, so we called it a night and settled in for some quality car sleeping. We had two cars because David couldn’t come up until Friday night, which seemed wasteful before but came in handy for sleeping because we each got a front seat.

IMG_3397  IMG_3458
left: culvert and washout before repair
right: temporary road a few hours later

The next morning, the rangers started holding an hourly meeting on the half hour to give us any updates and answer questions. These guys were really great about taking care of things and keeping everyone calm. However, the morning news wasn’t great. They knew we’d be here for at least the first half of the day, and it was possible that they’d figure out a way to shuttle people out but not cars. Daniel and I took a hike down to the site to check it out. It was a little over a mile from the parking lot, but it was pretty steep downhill, which made it unfun coming back. There were people on the other side examining the situation, and they also threw over some crucial supplies – toilet paper. All of the rolls made it across! You can see one roll toss in my video below. When we got back, the ranger gave us a positive update: the ETA of getting us out WITH our cars was 5-7pm! Still looked like the twins were going to miss their flights, but at least we wouldn’t have to spend another night out there.

Video: washout site, supply transfer, and washout repair

After lunch (and by lunch, I mean some BBQ chips and half of an energy bar), all four of us walked down to the washout site again, since we’d heard they had started construction around noon. The walk was a pretty one, with several waterfalls and creeks and views of Johannesburg Mountain. Some people had started harvesting salmonberries and huckleberries along the side of the road, too. We missed seeing the supply helicopter land at the parking lot with a drop of food, water, and medicine, but we did see it circle the washout site a few times. We watched the construction vehicle pick up logs and debris and dump it in the washout, and a dump truck full of rocks also filled in some of the area. By the time we started walking back, the vehicle was able to drive over to our side, and by the time we made it back to the parking lot, we were being told to pack our cars because they’d be ready for us in 15 minutes. The temporary road probably took only a little over 3 hours to complete, which is amazing. The helicopter drop included sandwiches, which tasted like the best thing ever.

more pictures from the washout

And now we’re all home, safe and sound. Sounds like storms were pretty crazy all through the Cascades, and we heard about the mudslides that took out a section of Highway 20 where we had just driven the day before! This weekend was a lot more adventure than any of us had bargained for or care to repeat in the near future, but at least there were high points and a good story to tell. Thanks to the amazing rangers and other people involved in getting us out of there! I was really impressed by how well things came together.

TR: Thorp Mountain

Posted by gck Monday, July 15, 2013 0 comments

Distance: ~8 miles
Elevation gain: 2300 feet
Trailhead directions and more on WTA.

With lots of sun forecast for the weekend, I was tempted to do another Teanaway summit hike (remember Bean Peak from last year?). But because I’m not in great shape right now, I opted for an easier, slightly more shaded option from my list so we could be pan fried instead of deep fried.

It would have been easy to drive right by the “trailhead” for this hike if other cars hadn’t been parked there already. You have to look closely for a small gated road off to the right where the road widens a little. However, if you miss it and drive all the way to the end of the road, there is a shorter, steeper fisherman’s trail that takes you to Thorp Lake. It’s not a bad option, as the first part of the trail isn’t incredibly interesting anyway.

IMG_0643  IMG_0705
left: Thorp Creek
right: Mount Rainier

The first part of the trail is old undriveable forest road, with a crossing of Thorp Creek that is the most significant (but not problematic) crossing of the hike. The real trailhead forks from the road, with signage that could be easy to miss. I would like to point out that despite my track record, we did NOT get lost on this hike. There were many points where I could have made a mistake, but all of the decisions were right this time! For the most part, I followed the advice from another report I read: “When in doubt, go left.” The real trail is pretty flat for about a mile and overgrown in spots. I’m so traumatized by my experience in Northrup Canyon that I now associate “Eastern Washington” and “lots of green stuff” with rattlesnakes, but I don’t think this is one of those places, thank goodness.

Kachess Lake and wildflowers

It would be easy to dismiss the bottom part of the hike as boring. However, there were butterflies and flowers around us and sounds of birds chirping and the creek trickling. The trail was in great condition, not too rocky and not rooty at all, so it was a pleasant, almost magical walk down. All of the flowers in the world couldn’t mask the heat on the way up, and we found ourselves stopping at each shaded area for a drink of water. Also, a horse died by one of the creek crossings in 2011 (and they closed the trail for the rest of the year). One couple we passed had seen the bones, but we missed them.

upland larkspur  IMG_0807
left: upland larkspur
right: trail with lots of wildflowers

After a bit of going upwards, we found ourselves at the junction to Thorp Lake. We decided to save this for the return trip, and I falsely assumed that we were close to the top. In fact, there was still quite a bit of climbing to do. Past the lake, there’s a junction for the Kachess Ridge trail that can be taken for a longer loop hike. We also hit a few minor snowfields. Nothing dangerous, but one guy in front of us got a little too relaxed and slipped and fell into a big puddle. A short distance pass the Kachess junction, there’s a viewpoint with views down to Thorp Lake. At this point, there’s also a small trail on the right that heads upwards, which is what the guidebook says to take. The puddle guy went up for awhile and decided that it was too minor of a trail to be the right one, so he continued on the main trail. We followed, which was the right decision. The side trail is probably shorter, but we saw some people coming up where it met with the main trail again, and they said it was really steep and hard to follow at times. The main trail isn’t easy by any means, but it’s well-maintained and gives gorgeous views of Mount Rainier, Kachess Lake, and tons of wildflowers – we saw lots of paintbrush, lupine, daisies, etc.

Thorp Mountain fire lookout

Of course, the views got better with every switchback we climbed (convenient excuse to stop for a photo break) so we were in decent spirits when we finally saw the lookout. There weren’t many cars at the trailhead when we started and finished, but it seemed like we met everyone at the top. It’s a reasonably large summit area, but good seating is limited. We did get a nice lunch spot when a couple conveniently vacated. The fire lookout wasn’t open, but you can stand on its balcony and take in the views. Mountains all around! One of the distinct ones is Mount Stuart… the naming of the rest is left as an exercise to the reader. You can see in greater detail in a Photosynth I created. Beautiful 360° views!

Thorp Lake

It was hard to pry ourselves from the views, but we eventually made our way down. There was a bit of confusion at the Kachess Ridge trail junction – “Thorp Lake” is the right way to go, but the actual turnoff for the lake comes at a later junction. The lake is a short detour off the trail, so short that it doesn’t make sense to skip it. There are a bunch of campsites near the lake, including a few group sites, one of them massive enough to hold a few boy scout troops. The sites on the other side of the lake looked really nice, and there were people swimming and floating in their own personal sections. For a holiday weekend, it did not seem too busy. It’s also reputed to be a decent fishing lake, and one person mentioned that they’d caught a small trout. The lake itself reminds me of Mason Lake – pretty in the right lighting, average-looking otherwise, warm enough for swimming.

IMG_1032  IMG_0660
left: catpacking
right: Western blue flax

We were standing around and getting ready to leave when my brothers both said, “Cat.” “What?” I said, confused. They repeated, “Cat!” and pointed behind me. There was a backpacker… with a cat in his pack. Most awesome thing EVER. Of course, I had to get a picture and ask a few questions. The cat is leashed, but he doesn’t run off without it (which is amazing!). He was asking other campers about fish, so maybe the cat gets fresh fish for dinner. Not sure about the pooping situation, though! At that point, we knew we weren’t going to see anything more awesome that day, so it was time to head down and get to dinner. Great day, and this hike is highly recommended as a good early season option!

View from the top of Thorp Mountain (more detail)