Mt. Rainier – Paradise

Hiked On: July 17, 2005
Weather Conditions: Approximately 75°F, clear skies
Elevation: 5480-6430'
Distance from Seattle: Just over 90 miles
Pictures: Here
National Park Service: Mt. Rainier National Park

With the sun shining, we decided to put down the latest Harry Potter and head towards Rainier. Diann wanted to see the wildflowers at Paradise, so we decided we'd take a second attack at the Paradise Glacier (we had a failed attempt just a month before when we started getting hailed upon and the trail was covered in snow crossing the 6000' mark, pictures from that are here ). The hike is detailed in the book Day Hike! Mount Rainier , ISBN 1570613141). We started at the Paradise Visitor's center, at 5480'. We hiked up the east side of the Skyline loop until the Paradise Glacier trail split off to the northeast. The early part of the hike brought us tons of wildflowers and the occasional Marmot sighting.

Overall, the hike was pretty tough on us; hiking in elevation without being accustomed to doing so took a lot out of us, and I suspect my Indian food dinner the night before wasn't helping, as I had some serious stomach discomfort on the way up. Took many more breaks (rest breaks, not those kinds of breaks) and drank a lot more water than usual (thanks to new hydration packs, see below). Just before we split off towards Paradise Glacier, we turned around and I forgot about my stomach pains. Visible to our south were Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams, both 50 miles away. Both were clearly visible, and we were able to see the periodic steam plumes coming from Mt. St. Helens. Definitely an amazing view, but better was coming up.

We continued our hike up to the glacier (peaking at 6230'), and then headed back down towards the Skyline Loop. Rather than hit the Upper Skyline, we cut across the Golden Gate Trail to the west side of the Lower Skyline Loop. At our high point here we crossed 6430', we could clearly see Mt. Hood, 100 miles south in Oregon.

All told, we hiked total elevation gains of 1991' (yes, I know the peak of 6430' minus the start of 5480' is less than 1991'. But, when you're hiking, you go up and down. A lot.) The total length of the hike was 5.42 miles, according to Rainier maps. Definitely a serious workout at elevation.

Incidentally, on this hike we were using some new gear for the first time. We had gone to REI the day before to get new daypacks with integrated hydration (a la Camelbak). I got one from The North Face called Megamouth. I really enjoyed it, it's definitely worth have a backpack that correctly distributes the weight of your load. Diann ended up with the REI Runoff. Having the hydration packs is also changing the way we re-hydrate – we used to carry a total of 2L of water for the both of us, but now each of our packs holds around 1.5L. Before we ended up back at the bottom with about .75L of water left over, but this time we drank almost the whole amount. Pretty amazing what difference just having the water handy makes.

I also had some new convertible pants that were a little more problematic, purely due to my own stupidity. About 30-45 minutes into the hike, I decided I could convert them to shorts, which wasn't a problem. The fact that I forgot to put sunblock on my legs, however, was. I've spent the majority of the week in serious pain because of the sunburn on the backs of my knees. Ouch.

Deception Pass State Park

Hiked On: May 21, 2005
Weather Conditions: Approximately 60°F, overcast, no wind
Elevation: 0-300'
Distance from Seattle: 80 miles
Pictures: Here
State Park: Deception Pass State Park

We've seen so many amazing pictures of Deception Pass that we decided to head out there to take a peek for ourselves. I decided to make a driving loop of the trip, heading north to Mukilteo and taking a ferry over to Whidbey Island and driving up the island to the park. Very nice drive, stopped at a little deli in Coupeville for lunch, and proceeded to hit some of the trails in Deception Pass.

The park itself wasn't too crowded for a Saturday, and we hiked three out of the ~11 trails that are on-site.

The first hike was hoofing it up to Goose Rock Summit, a 0.5 mile loop to the highest point in Whidbey Island, for an elevation gain of around 300 ft. Wasn't much to see on the trail, but the view from the top was stunning – awesome views of the Puget Sound, Olympic Mountain Range and the Cascade Mountain Range.

The second walk we did was about half-way out to the West Point Amphitheater; the total round-trip would've been 1.8 miles over a rocky beach (no elevation gain), but we only made it about halfway — while taking pictures of the Deception Pass Bridge, a wave hit my shoe and soaked my foot. Note to self: water resistant shoes don't help when the water comes over the top. Second note to self: bring spare socks on these trips.

After letting my foot and sock dry off, we went to the other side on Fidalgo Island. Deception Pass is named for the approximately 0.2 mile pass between Whidbey and Fidalgo islands. On Fidalgo island, we did a 1.25 mile loop to Rosario Head. This trail claimed to have good close-up views of the bridge, but we were pretty disappointed – the views of the bridge were all blocked by thick forest. (I'm not saying forest is a bad thing – but we wanted to see the bridge) I suspect that the Lighthouse Point Loop would've given us the view we wanted, but by this point we were in the mood for a milkshake and figured we should head home.

After leaving, we drove up into Anacortes, which is a quaint little town on the sound that is used by several oil companies for refining and oil terminals. Anacortes is also a touristy spot due to it's being a hopping point to the San Juan Islands and it's Orca sightseeing tours. Interestingly enough, the Prius navigation system didn't show a single road above 12th Avenue in town – really weird. We left Anacortes and headed east through Mount Vernon and then back south to Seattle.

Alas, we didn't find any good places to stop for milkshakes on the way back.

Denny Creek Slippery Slab

Hiked On: April 24, 2005
Weather Conditions: Approximately 65°F, clear skies
Elevation: 2300-2800'
Distance from Seattle: Just shy of 50 miles
Pictures: Here
Forest Service: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, part of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area

After a 3 month or so hiking hiatus, we've started up again, and decided that we should take it easy from the beginning. Diann & I picked up this hike based on a recommendation from a book that is published by the Mountaineers ( 55 Hikes Around Snoqualmie Pass Mountains-to-Sound Greenway , ISBN 0898867770). The hike was approximately 2.5 miles round trip. The weather for today's hike couldn't have been better. The trail was in good condition. It took us approximately 45 minutes to get to the trailhead from Seattle and about 2 hours of hiking (including taking pictures at the slippery slab, enjoying the view and snacks) to do the round-trip. The slippery slab is a large slab of granite that Denny Creek travels on top of and erodes to make nice and smooth.

There were several families up at the top of the slab complete with kids ranging in age from around 7-10 years old. Definitely a pretty simple and relaxing hike.

Little Si

Hiked On: January 9, 2005
Weather Conditions: Approximately 35-40°F, clear skies with occasional high-level fog
Elevation: 480-1576'
Distance from Seattle: 30 miles
Pictures: Here
Forest Service: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Diann & I picked up this hike based on a recommendation from a new book we picked up received as an xmas gift (Thanks CK and MK!) that is published by the Mountaineers ( 55 Hikes Around Snoqualmie Pass Mountains-to-Sound Greenway , ISBN 0898867770). The hike was approximately 5 miles round trip. The weather for today's hike was about as good as you can expect in the heart of winter in the Pacific Northwest, and we were glad to have some company on the trail in the form of our friends Micha and Dylan. The trail was in good condition, but as mentioned several places online gets pretty steep for the last 15-20 minutes of the climb. It took us approximately 30 minutes to get to the trailhead from Seattle and about 3 hours of hiking (and an hour at the top enjoying the view and snacks) to do the round-trip.

Heather Lake Trail

Hiked On: January 2, 2005
Weather Conditions: Approximately 15-30°F, beautifully clear skies
Elevation: 1600-2450'
Distance from Seattle: 70 miles
Pictures: Here
Forest Service: Trail #701, Darrington Ranger District

Diann & I picked up this hike also based on a recommendation from the same book as we used in the last several weeks' hikes ( Winter Hikes in Puget Sound & the Olympic Foothills: Mostly Snow-Free Trails from Lowland Forests to Summit Views , ISBN 1570611491). The hike was approximately 4 miles round trip with an additional 0.75 mile loop around the lake. We couldn't have asked for better weather for today's hike — the temperatures were low, but the skies were clear without a cloud in the sky. The trail was in good condition for the most part, but did show some signs of erosion at several points above the 2000' line. At several spots along the trail, there was proof that winter is upon us in the northwest — frozen mud, icy rocks and icy tree roots. Approximately 0.25 miles from the lake, packed snow started to show up occasionally. At the lake itself, approximately 1-2″ of snow surrounded the entire landscape and the lake was frozen over, seemingly solid. The ice over the lake looked approximately 1.5-2″ thick at the lake edges. While we saw sunshine, we were always in the shade of Mount Pilchuck that surrounds the lake on three sides. It took us approximately 1 hour to get to the trailhead from Seattle and about 4 hours of hiking to do the round-trip and the lake loop. Sadly, the Verlot Public Service Center has been closed the last three times we've been up in the Darrington Ranger District — I haven't been able to buy the Green Trails topo maps.

Boulder River

Hiked On: December 31, 2004
Weather Conditions: Approximately 40°F
Elevation: 1000-1400'
Distance from Seattle: 70 miles
Pictures: Here
Forest Service: Trail #734, Darrington Ranger District

Diann & I picked up this hike also based on a recommendation from the same book as we used in the last several weeks' hikes ( Winter Hikes in Puget Sound & the Olympic Foothills: Mostly Snow-Free Trails from Lowland Forests to Summit Views , ISBN 1570611491). The hike was approximately 4 miles round trip on a relatively easy hiking trail. The trail follows the Boulder River up and has two amazing views of waterfalls feeding the river. It took us approximately 1.5 hours to get to the trailhead from Seattle and about 2 hours of hiking to do the round-trip. On arrival at the trailhead, we were surprised to see a pair of (what appeared to be) Bald Eagles flying overhead.

Wallace Falls

Hiked On: December 29, 2004
Weather Conditions: Rain and approximately 40°F
Elevation: 650-1500'
Distance from Seattle: 46 miles
Pictures: Too much rain for the camera
State Park: Wallace Falls State Park

Diann & I picked up this hike also based on a recommendation from the same book as we used in the last two weeks' hikes ( Winter Hikes in Puget Sound & the Olympic Foothills: Mostly Snow-Free Trails from Lowland Forests to Summit Views , ISBN 1570611491). The hike was approximately 6.6 miles round trip on a moderately difficult hiking trail and a very level and easy former rail grade. The trail splits about a mile in and allows you to choose to follow the more difficult hiking trail or the rail grade. The rail grade is quite a bit longer than the hiking trail, but is a very light walk. We walked the hiking trail up to the falls, and followed the rail grade down. The trail follows the river up and has three awesome views of the various bits of Wallace Falls — Lower Falls, Middle Falls and Upper Falls (obviously creative waterfall namers here). It took us approximately 1 hour to get to the trailhead from Seattle and about 3 hours of hiking to do the round-trip.

Lake Twenty-Two

Hiked On: December 26, 2004
Weather Conditions: Fog in Higher Elevations, approximately 43°F
Elevation: 1000-2460'
Distance from Seattle: 60 miles
Pictures: Here
Forest Service: Trail #702, Darrington Ranger District

Diann & I picked up this hike also based on a recommendation from the same book as we used in the last two weeks' hikes ( Winter Hikes in Puget Sound & the Olympic Foothills: Mostly Snow-Free Trails from Lowland Forests to Summit Views , ISBN 1570611491). The hike was approximately 5.4 miles round trip on some improved trails. The aforementioned book claims it is a “moderate” difficulty hike (compared to last weeks “easy / moderate”), but I disagree. Compared to this hike, the last week's hike was a cake-walk. The USFS claims it is a “More Difficult” hike. The elevation change (approx. 1400' in 2.7 miles) doesn't seem like much, but I'd guess that about 25% or more of this hike was flat. The slopes were relatively steep, with the most difficult being several switchbacks up and across a talus slope. Thankfully, Diann & I picked up new hiking boots and other miscellaneous keep-yourself-warm gear at REI last week. This hike also demonstrated to us the wonders of layering clothes. At the trailhead, we started in gloves, hats, jackets, sweaters and scarves. By the time we hit the top, only the sweaters were left (well, and pants/socks/shoes/etc., of course). Lake Twenty-Two is a bit of an experiment for the US Forest Service — in January 1947, it was deemed off-limits for logging/development/touching to study the long-term effects of unmanaged vs. managed forests. Going to Lake Twenty-Two is definitely a step back in time — old growth forest, tons of huge Western Red Cedars, beautiful waterfalls throughout the climb, etc. — and proves to me that managed forests (managed by logging companies with interests that fly against the concept of a forest) have nothing on unmanaged ones. The trail follows Twenty-Two Creek the entire way up from the trailhead to the lake. Unfortunately, when we got to the lake (at the top), it was fogged in where we couldn't see beyond 10' or so. The climb down made the entire trip worth it — the fog cleared and we saw several peaks in a nearby range (maybe this will teach me to pick up some of topo maps soon so I can identify these peaks, but I believe it's Three Fingers and Liberty Mountain). This was the first hike that we've actually encountered other hikers on the trail — we even encountered a few heading up as we were reaching the trailhead as dusk fell; several websites claim that the trail is extremely popular in the summer, and it looks as though it gets its share of use in the winter as well. It took us approximately 1 hour to get to the trailhead from Seattle and about 3.5 hours of solid (and exhausting) hiking to do the round-trip.

Big Four Ice Caves

Hiked On: December 19, 2004
Weather Conditions: Low Fog, Occasional Rain & Sleet, approximately 40°F
Elevation: 800-1000'
Distance from Seattle: 70 miles
Pictures: Here
Forest Service: Trail #723, Darrington Ranger District

Diann & I picked up this hike also based on a recommendation from the same book as we used from last week's hike ( Winter Hikes in Puget Sound & the Olympic Foothills: Mostly Snow-Free Trails from Lowland Forests to Summit Views , ISBN 1570611491). The hike was approximately 2.5 miles round trip on all improved trails (approximately 0.5 miles of wooden-plank boardwalks and occasional bridges, the remainder was pebbled). There was a long footbridge going over the Stillaguamish River, which is a beautiful (and presumably glacially-fed, based on the color of it) river. The actual ice caves themselves are formed by snow/ice debris falling off the rock face of the Big Four Mountain and packing at the bottom; the waterfalls flowing under then melt out the bottoms and create the caves. The US Forest Service indicates that entering the caves or climbing on the ice pack is subject to extreme danger, so we didn't do that… yet. It took us approximately 1.25 hours to get to the trailhead and about 1.5 hours of easy hiking to do the round-trip.

Deception Falls

Hiked On: December 12, 2004
Weather Conditions: Overcast, approximately 40°F
Elevation: 2200'
Pictures: Here
Forest Service: Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Diann & I picked up this hike based on a recommendation from a book ( Winter Hikes in Puget Sound & the Olympic Foothills: Mostly Snow-Free Trails from Lowland Forests to Summit Views , ISBN 1570611491) that said this was a short hike, approximately 0.5 miles round-trip. The hike was nice, with obvious trails to follow and a great helping of old-growth forest. Just before the hike, we drove up through Steven's Pass to introduce the car to it's first bit of snow and below-freezing temperatures. Took us about 2 hours to get out to Deception Falls from Seattle, and only about an hour of slow walking through the half-mile looking at the sights.