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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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Meadow Roving at Mount Rainier

Posted by gck Saturday, January 27, 2018 0 comments

Lupine and other wildflowers

I had a busy summer and fall in 2017 and have done a poor job maintaining this blog. I’m hoping that during these winter months I can do a little catch up with photo processing and blogging.

I’ve made a number of trips to Mount Rainier National Park over the past few years. One particularly memorable trip was in 2016, when I took some interns to the park to convince them that Washington was awesome, and we saw a bear! On that trip, as well as several others, I talked to a person in uniform who identified herself as a “meadow rover.” These people were always friendly, enjoying their hiking, and talking to visitors about the park. They also told me about the meadow roving program and encouraged me to sign up. I had considered it for 2016 but had my Mountaineers class already, so 2017 was the year!

Meadow rovers (+a hiker) at Sunrise

So what exactly does a meadow rover do? I jokingly refer to it as being a “fake ranger.” We wear khaki hats and shirts with badges that say “National Park Service Volunteer,” but to the untrained eye, we’re often mistaken for rangers. This is by design. One of the duties of the meadow rover is to encourage visitors to follow park rules. Because we aren’t actually rangers, we can’t directly enforce anything, but the uniform makes people a lot more receptive to feedback. I’ve been with non-uniformed people who ask people to follow the rules on trails (“leash your dogs”) and generally the response is a dismissal (“yeah whatever”) or occasionally aggressive (“mind your own business”). The interaction is very different when I’m roving and I ask someone to stay on the trail (“oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t notice I was stomping all over the flowers!”).


Being trail cop is not my favorite thing. But as a rover, we not only want compliance, but also to be able to educate people about why the rules exist and what human impact does to the beautiful scenery that people are there to see. I feel very strongly about keeping these beautiful places beautiful for future visitors, and it makes me sad when I see fragile flower meadows turn into bare patches of dirt because people wanted to get a better photo. Did you know that one step off the trail tramples on average more than 15 plants?

A family of marmots at Paradise

Another responsibility of the meadow rover is to talk to visitors and answer questions. This is my favorite part of roving! My hiking buddies are already used to me pointing out the lupine, paintbrush, penstemon, pasqueflower, etc. and then quizzing them on it later. It’s a lot of fun to talk to visitors about what they’re seeing and what their experiences have been, and it helps me learn more, too. (I’m so bad with trees) I know that when I’m out hiking, I enjoy having the opportunity to talk to rangers. Since forest service budgets make it impossible to have as many rangers out there as we’d like, meadow rovers attempt to fill that gap. One of the most well known (and one of my favorite) meadow rovers is an 80+ year old woman named Anne Marie  who’s at Paradise almost every day, rain or shine. She still hikes up to Panorama Point in the snow! I hope I can be like that at that age.

Showing visitors how to plunge step down a snowy slope

The last major duty of a meadow rover is to carry a radio and use it as needed. We had one incident over the summer where a parent approached us and said her children were missing, and we called in, started, and participated in the search and rescue operation. Everything ended up fine, fortunately, and it was good to be able to help out. There are often enough rovers spread out on the popular trails that someone in need could find a rover instead of having to hike down to the visitor center.

Fremont Lookout

I hope to continue as a meadow rover in years to come! If you are interested, there is more information here about this and other volunteer opportunities. Citizen scientist? Trail maintenance? Lots of great ways to help out in this beautiful national park.

IMG_5099  Gleaming Lights of the Souls, Yayoi Kusama

A few years ago, I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen. It’s a wonderful museum, and I’d spent a few hours walking through the galleries and enjoying the sea view outside. Happy with what I’d seen and almost ready to make the journey back to the city, I chatted with a stranger about my favorite parts of the museum. He said his favorite was a room with lots of lights, something that I’d managed to skip on my way through. It sounded like it was worth walking back for. It was so easy to miss because it was just a door, and there wasn’t a line of people to get in. I walked in with one other person and enjoyed this beautiful cosmic view of color-changing lights stretching into infinity. It was described as looking into a sea of city lights. I had forever to experience this universe and take all the photos I wanted (though I only took a few), and it ended up being my favorite part of the museum and one of the highlights of the entire trip.

Life (Repetitive Vision)

I noticed that Louisiana had a Yayoi Kusama exhibit for awhile, and I briefly considered flying back to Copenhagen to see it, but it didn’t end up making sense logistically. Then I noticed that an exhibit was scheduled to be at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and I got really excited. The Asian Art Museum is currently closed for renovations, so it ended up being at the main Seattle Art Museum. I saw all the advertisements and figured I’d catch the exhibit some Thursday while they were open for later hours… then I found out that all advance tickets had already sold out. The only way to get tickets was to wait in line to get some of the limited day of tickets.

Infinity Dots

So of course, I did that. The exhibit has been immensely popular, but it seems like there have been enough day of tickets so that everyone in line early has been able to get in at some point in the day. The experience ends up being about infinity lines: line to get in the door when the museum opens, line to buy a ticket, line for your ticket time to get into the exhibit, and line at each of the infinity rooms. Of the hour or two you spend in the exhibit, the vast majority of it ends up being in line, with only 20-30 seconds allowed in each infinity room before an employee knocks on the door and kicks you out. The 20-30 seconds seems short, especially in Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, which has lanterns that change brightness – 30 seconds isn’t enough to experience one cycle of change. And you can go in more than once, but it might be another half hour wait in line. There were other pieces of Kusama’s art to look at while waiting in line, but they weren’t nearly as interesting as the rooms.

Phalli’s Field

It might not be apparent to all viewers, since they’re so cleverly disguised in pop patterns, that those tentacles all over the place are actually phalli. Apparently back in the 60s, Kusama was busy making all sorts of phallic art, lots and lots of tentacles! She was working on Phalli’s Field, and she wanted more penises, but she got tired of having to sew them all. So she did some experimentation with mirrors and discovered that she could multiply the penises this way… and the infinity rooms were born. The infinity rooms in this exhibit are mostly full of whimsy: dotted phalli, pumpkins, and polka dot balloons. Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity stands out as more mystical, with its brightening and dimming lanterns echoing into infinity. It was the most similar in aesthetic and tone to Gleaming Lights of the Souls that I’d seen in Copenhagen, and it was my favorite in this exhibit. It also had the longest line.

The Obliteration Room

Kusama’s art isn’t for everyone. Critics might say that it isn’t anything groundbreaking, it just looks kind of cool and makes for cool internet selfies, etc. What I like about it is the way it invites the viewer to participate. In the infinity rooms, the door closes you into this small physical space, but the mirrors make you feel completely immersed in an expansive and beautiful world with a very pronounced mood. In The Obliteration Room, the participation is defined: each visitor is given a page of dot stickers, and each sticker must be placed somewhere in this previously white room. Together, they interact with the room to create the art.

Dots Obsession – Love Transformed into Dots

With such short time in each room, I tried to minimize the photo taking (but couldn’t force myself to abstain completely, except in the pumpkin room where photos are prohibited), and most of the rooms are not captured in the photos on this post. For me, the photos will help bring back the memories, but they can’t capture the real feeling of being there. Even though I griped about the lines and the short amount of time allocated for experiencing the art, I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience this unique exhibit. (Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors @ Seattle Art Museum from June 30, 2017 – September 10, 2017)

TR: Stan’s Overlook–Signs of Spring

Posted by gck Wednesday, April 19, 2017 0 comments

Distance: 4 miles
Elevation gain: 1000 ft
Trailhead directions and more on WTA.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on this blog and even longer since I’ve done a trip report! With so many hikes in the summer and raw images that require extra processing, it feels like I barely got through any photosets last year. Will have to do better this year.

red-flowering currant, of the gooseberry family

About a year ago, I started doing weekday hikes. Nope, I didn’t quit my job or suddenly get super flexible hours. Instead, I used mornings and evenings (when there was adequate sunlight) to do some of those shorter, closer hikes that are usually mobbed on weekends. It’s been a great way to start off a day with a dose of lovely scenery and take advantage of the rare good weather winter days.

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Viewpoint on the way to Stan’s Overlook

Most people access the Rattlesnake Ledge side of Rattlesnake Mountain for its lovely view down towards Rattlesnake Lake. However, the other side is nice and quiet, with some pretty views of its own. Though the signs of mankind are not far away – the trail passes power lines and constantly intersects with a road – they aren’t intrusive.

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Left: arctic sweet coltsfoot
Center: salmonberry
Right: trillium

The weather was gloomier than I’d hoped for this day, though we were fortunate to be able to get some mountain views instead of a whiteout. I was happiest about all of the flowers, though! Spring is here. At first, it was lots of salmonberry flowers, which transitioned into a good amount of red-flowering currant, flowers I don’t remember seeing much of before.


I’m not fantastic with names, whether they’re flowers, mountains, people, etc. After posting enough photos with captions like “pretty pink flower” and having friends inform me of the flower’s real name, I decided that I should make an effort to learn some names. The Washington Wildflowers app is probably the most expensive app on my phone, but I’ve found it incredibly useful in helping me identify flowers during hikes. Now I get to say things like, “This is a red-flowering currant, of the gooseberry family! It turns into a blue-black berry that is tasteless!”

Stan’s Overlook

The last time I was at Stan’s Overlook, a few months back, there was snow up to the benches. Now there are flowers. Looking forward to the upcoming summer!

Hike-a-thon wrap up

Posted by gck Tuesday, October 4, 2016 2 comments

This August, for my second Hike-a-thon, I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself – to hike 100 miles. It required me to use all of my weekend days for hiking as well as quite a few weekdays, including trail runs, workday park walks, and backpacking trips.

Unsurprisingly, many of the hikes were closer to home, since that’s what made the most sense on weekdays. Highway 2, Mountain Loop, and Rainier were noticeably missing from the hiking map, but I’d done hikes in all of those areas in July.

Highlight: Mount Baker family trip

My love for nature’s beauty is a trait that is shared by my other family members, and most of our family trips now tend to revolve around hiking. My dad was in Washington for a few weeks in August, and we decided to take a weekend trip up to Mt. Baker, where we rented a co-worker’s condo and did some hikes in the area.

Chain Lakes

Highlight: Hiking with friends

I haven’t had as much time to do group hikes with my friends this year because of Mountaineers requirements and other commitments, but Hike-a-thon pushed me to do more of this. I finally walked through the Snoqualmie Tunnel (aka “Creepy Tunnel”) with a group of friends. I also did a nice weekday evening hike to Talapus Lake with some friends, where we were rewarded by a close up sighting of a barred owl right after sunset.

14079814_10106740898701898_6085569202044966331_n  into the light!
Left: Talapus Lake at sunset
Right: John Wayne Trail – Tunnel

Highlight: Local parks

I do plenty of hiking trips where I’ll drive 3 hours each way to the trailhead, but I tend to neglect things closer to home. Exploring local parks was a highlight of Hike-a-thon 2014 for me. This year, I didn’t aim to hike new local parks, but I spent a lot of time in familiar parks closer to home. I went through all of the main trails in Bridle Trails, what I consider my “home park,” and I finally made it through the Coyote trail without getting lost!

Trying to make use of all available time, I pulled some co-workers out during the workday for short hikes in parks close to work. We got to see some beautiful scenery, and it was a really nice break from sitting in front of a computer screen.

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Left: Bridle Trails State Park
Right: Juanita Bay Park

Highlight: Scrambling

I had one more scramble to do to complete my graduation requirements for the Alpine Scrambling course I’ve been taking, and I did it during Hike-a-thon on a brutally hot but lovely summer day. We scrambled up a lesser travel part of North Bend and had nice view with lots of wildflowers.

MMM Ridge

Highlight: Backpacking

I did two backpacking trips during Hike-a-thon. The second one was at the end of the month, a somewhat last minute solo trip to the Enchantments using Snow Lakes permits that someone else had canceled. This is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever hiked in, and it was perfect that I crossed the 100 mile mark for the month in the Core Enchantments, on my way up to Enchantment Peak.

Camping near Glacier Lake

Thanks to everyone who hiked with me and/or sponsored my Hike-a-thon!

The Enchantments

Hike-a-thon + Data

Posted by gck Monday, August 8, 2016 0 comments

I’ve been making steady progress with my hiking for Hike-a-thon, and I’m still a little behind with my photos and trip reports, but I did make a Tableau Public viz to show my progress!

Hike-a-thon - Sponsor me!

Tableau trail maintenance day

Posted by gck Sunday, July 31, 2016 0 comments

As I’ve gotten more and more into hiking, I’ve wanted to contribute back to the efforts that make it possible for me to do what I love. I’ve donated money and participated in WTA’s Hike-a-thon (and am participating again this year), but I also wanted to do volunteer trail maintenance. I got as far as buying work gloves last year, but I never signed up for a shift, since it’s so hard to prioritize that on prime hiking days.

Photo credit: Richard Shelmerdine

This year, I knew I would get my trail maintenance day in because it is one of the graduation requirements for my Mountaineers course. I’m fortunate enough enough to work for a company that gives all employees one paid day off to do volunteer work, which was a perfect way to do this without struggling with giving up hiking days. Other people in our Hikers Hipchat room had a similar idea, so one member decided to contact the right people to get our own company trail maintenance day set up with WTA.

My subgroup with the piece of trail we worked on

Our project site was Denny Creek, most of us on trail before the waterslide. Even though it was a weekday, there was a lot of traffic going up. My group was working on a segment of trail where water running over the trail was starting to wash away parts of the trail, leaving exposed roots as trip hazards. We cut dead roots, dug proper drainage to direct the water away from the trail, put rocks and mineral soil down around the remaining roots to create a smooth trail, and replanted some ferns to discourage people from walking in the drainage. It was a hot day and the work involved a good amount of physical effort, but we had time to take some breaks, and it was a fun experience.

The Tableau crew

In addition to making a positive difference on the trail, the experience was an educational one as well. Before, I figured I understood the impact of trail maintenance after hiking trails with lots of blowdowns. I’ve certainly done my share of complaining when a trail is muddy or rooty, and I’ve hiked with a lot of people who have done the same. However, after experiencing how much work has to be done to make trails look like beautiful, shining examples, I have far more appreciation for the them. I’ll certainly continue to put in my trail maintenance hours in the future, and if more people do the same, then maybe we can have less mud and more lovely trail!

I’m a Mountaineer!

Posted by gck Thursday, July 7, 2016 0 comments

I’ve kept this blog going in some form for many years, but it seems like I’ve really neglected it over the past year, which is something I’ve been lamenting recently. I’m hoping to step up my posting activity this summer and maintain it moving forward. (P.S. Thanks to Google and Microsoft for working against each other to make it so Windows Live Writer no longer works with Blogger. That wasn’t annoying at all.)

Over the years, I’ve gotten more and more into hiking and backpacking, and I’ve also found that I enjoy both as solo pursuits. I take reasonable safety precautions when going out alone, but I also knew that I was sorely lacking in knowledge in areas like navigation (obvious to anyone who reads my trip reports), which was becoming more of a blocker as more and more off-trail travel ideas found their way onto my list.

A number of my friends have taken alpine climbing classes and recommended them, but I haven’t (yet) had the desire to do anything technical. But when I saw that the Mountaineers also offered an alpine scrambling course, I started seriously considering it. After waffling over the commitment for awhile, I finally signed up for alpine scrambling through the Everett branch, which was slightly further than the Seattle branch but was recommended because of its smaller group size and closer community. As a bonus, the field trip dates all lined up so none of them fell during SIFF.

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Practicing ice axe arrest skills

The course seemed like a small commitment – just 5 classes and 3 field trips – but the extra requirements made it a bigger thing. I also needed to complete basic navigation, wilderness first aid, a stewardship day, and three additional scrambles (one rock, one snow, and a third of my choice) to graduate. At this point, I’ve done everything except stewardship (which I have scheduled for later this month with a group at work) and two of the additional scrambles.

Basic Navigation
This was the first out-of-the-classroom thing I did, and I felt like I learned a lot. We first had a few hours of lecture, where we went over things that I’d already read in Freedom of the Hills, with a few paper exercises. My math brain took to all of it really well. The remainder of the class was practicing in the woods with map and compass, and it felt like an accomplishment to reach our planned destinations. I still think I lack some general intuition/common sense when it comes to where I’m going, but after this class, I feel a lot more confident in my ability to get there.

Wilderness First Aid
This was a tough one. Two full weekend days in a classroom, then an evening of scenarios practice. Good information, though, and I feel like I know some things that might be useful in an emergency situation. The tough part will be remembering everything over time, and I plan to return as a volunteer patient for future scenarios sessions to get a refresher.

13147781_10207894042862200_4408893854606778009_o (1)Awesome leaders and fellow students at the top of Huntoon Point

Field Trips
We had three field trips, a rock field trip near Leavenworth, a weekend snow field trip at Mt. Baker, and an experience field trip at Alpental. All of them were fun, but the snow field trip was by far the best experience for me, both in terms of interacting with the group and gaining knowledge. I’ve always been really tentative on snow, going out of my way to active avoid running into it. After learning snow travel techniques and ice axe arrest, I feel more confident now, and I even did a few early season hiking trips where I traveled through significant amounts of snow. I really did not want to throw myself down a snow slope head first for ice axe arrest practice, though! We had sunny, gorgeous days so the views were magnificent, and staying at the Mountaineers Lodge was nice and cozy. After that trip, we felt more closer as a group, and I hope I’ll have the chance to hike or scramble with other people from the class again.

Shuksan and Baker from Artist Point

My first priority after SIFF ended was to try to get my snow scramble out of the way before too much snow melted. I joined a scramble to Buell and Barrier Peaks (near Mount Rainier) with a leader from the Tacoma branch. It was great to meet some new people and successfully summit two peaks in one trip!

Coming back from Buell & Barrier Peaks, trip report here

I’m looking forward to a summer and fall full of more hiking adventures. Stay tuned for August Hike-a-thon, when I’ll be hiking like crazy and trying to raise some money for the trails!