Diann & I just returned from our first-ever trip to the slopes on skis. It's a lot harder work than it should be! We wore way too many layers of clothes (wait, it's supposed to be cold up there, right?). We'll try again on Saturday to see if we can improve our style any.

I'm fairly certain that getting off the ski-lift should be classified as at least a black diamond.

Randomly, on the drive home, NPR had a story about polygamy in Utah. Diann asked a good question: how do these people file their taxes? Married filing Jointly? Married filing separately? What goes on with that?

Lake Elizabeth

Hiked On: December 31, 2005
Weather Conditions: Approximately 30°F-34°F, overcast, some snow
Elevation: 2150-2750'
Distance from Seattle: Just over 90 miles
Pictures: None
US Forest Service: Lake Elizabeth, Trail 1071

Even though the USFS page says this one is easy, it wasn't. We couldn't drive all the way to the trailhead (snow), so had to park it a good ways down at 2150', with the lake actually being at 2900'. We don't know how far we hiked, because of this. The hike was walking along a USFS road primarily, uphill. The first mile or so was occasional snow, and after that, we had to throw on the snowshoes for the rest of the hike. We did this hike after relaxing with Jeff and Misty at a cabin up in Skykomish. We got a bit of a late start (it sure is nice to sleep in every once in a while), and didn't have much information about the trail beforehand. We had no idea what elevation the lake was at, or how far it was! Never again… 🙂

Once the afternoon moved on, we decided to turn around so we could get back down before the sun set. After sitting here doing some research, it seems we were only about 150' vertical away from our goal.

Side note: snowshoe hiking is hard work!

Total distance hiked: Unknown, total elevation gain: 600' (400' of which were in snowshoes).

New Pictures!

After a long hiatus of posting pictures in the gallery, I've spent a large chunk of this morning and afternoon processing and uploading pictures. In no particular order:

  • Fishermen's Terminal – Pictures taken by Diann while she was at a weeklong training course at Fishermen's Terminal
  • North Cascades Highway Loop – On Diann's birthday, we drove the 431 mile North Cascades Highway Loop. Didn't even have to refill the Prius once, and still made it home with a 1/4 tank left!
  • A few new pictures of Pixel and Bryn
  • Magnusson Park – A park in Seattle alongside Lake Washington that is formerly a military base. There are fins from decommissioned nuclear submarines along a walkway at Magnusson.
  • Montlake Crewing Races & Opening Day of Yachting Season – Crewing is a huge sport up here in Seattle, and then after the races the rich folks cruise by in their mammoth yachts.
  • Deception Pass, which I previously wrote about here
  • Forbidden Gardens in Texas, where we were for Memorial Day.
  • Lower Skyline Loop at Mt. Rainier – we did this hike before the snow had melted enough to conclude it, and had to turn back at 6000' when the snow hid the trail and it also started raining/hailing.
  • Golden Gardens Park at low tide – an awesome couple of mornings with an extremely low tide which uncovered a plethora of sealife: anemone, sea cucumbers, starfish, clams, and — of course — seagulls.
  • Guemes Island – A trip up to Guemes Island, with Jeff & Misty and Dylan & Micha
  • The Museum of Flight – A trip to the Museum of Flight with Rick & Rosanne in town

In other photography news, I have my D70 back in hand. After suffering the Green Blinking LED of Death (GBLOD) much talked about on the DPReview forums, I sent it in to Nikon service. Much kudos to Nikon for taking care of the problem gratis even though my camera was out of warranty!

Mt. Rainier – Dege Peak

Hiked On: August 6, 2005
Weather Conditions: Approximately 70°F-80°F, clear and sunny skies
Elevation: 6400-7016'
Distance from Seattle: Just over 90 miles
Pictures: Here
National Park Service: Mt. Rainier National Park

Another sunny weekend, and another trip up to Rainier. Micah was up in the PNW this weekend for work, and he came up to Seattle to spend the weekend visiting. We made him pay for it with a hike at elevation! After spending the last few weeks at Paradise, we decided to visit the trails that Sunrise offered. To get an early start, we rented a cabin just outside of the park and were driving through the gates at about 9:30am as opposed to our usual 11:15am arrival time. The hike is detailed in the book Day Hike! Mount Rainier , ISBN 1570613141). We started at the Sunrise Visitor's center, at 6400'. We hiked up the Sourdough Ridge trail to Dege Peak where we had a really good view of Rainier and Mt. Adams to the south, and Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, and the Cascade range to the north. The hike up to Dege Peak was pretty calm, with around a mile of flat ridge running at 6800'. The last 0.3 miles was a quick shot up to 7016' at Dege Peak.

Total distance hiked: 4.4 miles, total elevation gain: 616', total accumulated elevation: unknown (pesky watch said 3500', but I'm thinking that's way off – it was far closer to around 1000' by my estimate).

Mt. Rainier – Alta Vista

Hiked On: July 24, 2005
Weather Conditions: Approximately 70°F, partly-clear skies
Elevation: 5480-5950' at Paradise, 6400' at Sunrise
Distance from Seattle: Just over 90 miles
Pictures: Here
National Park Service: Mt. Rainier National Park

When it's sunny in Seattle in the summertime, you head to Mt. Rainier. We had a new batch of folks start at work this week, and some of them aren't from western Washington, so I invited them to Rainier for a day of easy hiking. One of them actually took me up on the offer, while the others carried on with apartment hunting, etc. We decided to take a quick jaunt down to Paradise and hit up the Alta Vista trail. 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 (really steep!) Alta Vista trail to the Alta Vista summit where we had a really good view of Rainier and Mt. Adams to the south.

We hiked down the backside of Alta Vista trail and intersected with a portion of the Skyline Loop that we hadn't hit yet. The flowers were still out, but we could tell that they are already fading this year – far fewer wildflowers out this week than there were when we hiked last week.

On the way down, we were able to spot a little bit of wildlife – two fawns (I think they were mule deer) munching on wildflowers. Nice to see. Total distance hiked: 1.6 miles, total elevation gain: 670'.

After having a quick lunch, we hopped in the car and drove around to the Grove of the Patriarchs, an easy 1 mile loop (at 2200' elevation) into an old growth forest, where we were met by huge Western Red Cedars that were easily 20' in diameter. According to the signage on the trail, some of these trees were over 1,000 years old. If trees could talk, they would make good history teachers.

Our last journey took us around to the other side of the park to Sunrise, where we mostly enjoyed the view from 6,400' at the parking lot and visitor center.

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.

Snowshoeing in Snoqualmie Pass

Diann & I went snowshoeing up at Snoqualmie Pass this past Saturday at the Winter Trails Day event sponsored by the Seattle Mountaineers branch. It was pretty fun, actually, considering neither of us had ever been snowshoeing. Several snowshoe manufacturers were on-hand to let people try out their snowshoes ( MSR, Tubbs, Atlas and Red Feather ) so we got to check out a variety of types and brands of snowshoes. REI was on-hand to give how-to lessons and little 30 minute tours throughout the forest in Snoqualmie. While there, it was lightly snowing and we were snowshoeing through a good 18-24″ of very dry powder. Turnout was mentioned to be not as good in years past, but there was a Seahawks playoff game happening at the same time (which they, of course, couldn?t hold on to the lead again and subsequently lost).

All in all, an enjoyable experience that pretty much seals the deal on us paying for membership in the Mountaineers. Oh, Washington Trails Association ( WTA ) was also on-hand too.

UPDATE: Some pictures from the area are available here ; however, there are no actual snowshoeing pictures. 🙁