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.

life: an update

Well, it's been a while since my last “real” post (around August 19 or so, neglecting a happy b-day to Diann and a random quote by Trey). And people keep telling me to update this thing… Well, I say people, but I really mean Jeff, who just soloed (yay congrats!)!

At any rate, a lot has happened that most of you out there on that-there Internet know about, but some of you don't. So this long-ish post is my attempt at filling people in.

Well, let's see — to recap — I finished school up this past June. Finally. Graduation (holy crap, where are my pictures of my graduation?! [ note to self: must find them at some point and post them ]) happened in mid-August and all was well.

Well, indeed. Before that, just after school finished up, Diann & I up and moved. We had decided several months before that we were tired of being in College Station, and with us both graduating school and not being firmly attached to the area, we figured we would only have one really good opportunity in life to move. We're young, we're stupid (some people tell us), so the decision was made.

With the both of us having shiny, new college degrees (well, mine wouldn't come until August, but you-know-what-I-mean), we figured it would be difficult for both of us to do ye olde job search across the entire US and hopefully end up with opportunities in the same spot. So we decided to pick a spot that we were both interested in and focus our efforts there. We picked Seattle.

The decision made, we started sending out r{e'}sum{e'}s to tons of places throughout Seattle. We planned on moving, job or no job, and hired movers and put the house on the market in February, hoping for a late summer closing date. Luckily, the house sold in a few weeks and the people who bought it were willing to let us rent it back from them until July, which worked out exceedingly well for us.

So March through May came and went, with school and work keeping us both busy. June blew by, and I took my last three classes during summer school: Tech Writing, Speech, and my last kinesiology — Billiards! Around the end of June, the old “it's not what you know, it's who you know” line came through for me in the form of a job prospect in Seattle by way of an old friend. I did a pair of phone interviews, they flew me up to Seattle on June 30th, and I had the unofficial phone job offer the next day!

With the movers scheduled, July 13th would be the day we drove off of Trace Meadows one last time. With the dog in the car and the car loaded down, we headed northwest.

Our first day's travel took us NNW to Childress, TX, which according to Mapquest is just shy of 400 miles. I think we drove a bit over 6 hours the first day.

Next day's itinerary took us west into New Mexico where we made a brief pit stop at Capulin National Monument (NPS Website, Pictures). We continued north through Colorado and on into Wyoming. We overnighted in Cheyenne, WY, which according to Mapquest is another 651 miles. I think on Day 2 we racked up approximately 11 hours behind the wheel.

Day three took us across the southern part of Wyoming and then north up western Wyoming, and on into Grand Teton National Park (NPS Website, Pictures). We went this route at the urging of Forrest who said that standing at the bottom of Grand Teton was an amazing experience. He definitely did not lie. We stopped for some pictures along the drive through Grand Teton and on up through Yellowstone National Park into West Yellowstone, MT. Another 500 miles down (according to Mapquest, but we went the long route, so it should actually be longer than that. Another 10 hours down the pipe.

No, we didn't drive on. We stopped in Yellowstone National Park (NPS Website, Pictures) for two days. Yellowstone NP is an absolutely amazing place that I can't even begin to put into words. If you've not yet hit Yellowstone, you absolutely must go sometime before you die. I can't explain it more clearly than that.

Enough has been written on the web about Yellowstone, so I'll forego that for the moment. The next day we drove out of Montana and onward, through Idaho and into Washington. We stopped for the night in Cle Elum, WA, another 675 miles behind us.

The last day brought us to Seattle, only a brief 83 mile drive away. We pulled in the morning of July 19th, and began the long process of getting situated in our new apartment. Total amount traveled: 2309 miles according to Mapquest, but in reality it was probably about 2500 miles courtesy of taking the long way in Wyoming. We completed the trek in just over 40 hours of driving time, which gives us an average speed of about 63 MPH.

Maybe I'll follow up to this blog entry later this week with what's happened since we actually got here, but now everyone knows. The cat's out of the bag, so to speak. Off to bed now!