Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mount Constitution

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray" is a quote from Robert Burns, and I think it's a good way to begin the rundown of my last hike.  A side-note before I begin; I looked up this quote because I never knew the full version. I would always say, "the best laid plans, right?", knowing it meant no matter how well you plans things, you can never guarantee a good outcome.  I had no idea the quote is from a poem, where Robert is apologizing to a mouse for accidentally plowing up his nest, and is the source for the title of the famous John Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men. So, thank you Google for that little history lesson.

This hike took some extra "best laid plans", because two of my girlfriends were coming, and we had to catch a ferry.  "Herding cats" is how we always describe trying to co-ordinate an outing together, therefore I was so proud that even though I picked up each gal at her house (two opportunities for plans to go awry) we were ahead of schedule.  I didn't read anywhere that we needed to be at the ferry terminal any earlier than an hour prior to loading--so we were golden...NOT. 
The Cats
The ferry to Orcas Island is a popular one--apparently even on a Thursday.  Indeed, it's so popular that people who wanted to catch the 12:30 ferry couldn't get on and had to wait for the 2:00...which meant no room for the people thinking they were good for the 2:00.  This problem compounded to the tune of a four hour wait for poor us.  Since we didn't happen to bring night vision goggles along, (heck, we didn't even have a decent flashlight between the three of us) we knew our 6 mile hike up Mount Constitution was a bust.
Killing time at the ferry terminal...Jewell is getting a snack.
Not really...just a bust for that day.  Luckily, we had reservations at Moran Sate Park, so we still had Friday to do our hike.  The unlucky part was knowing clouds were coming in the next day, and would obscure the amazing view on top--which was kind of the whole point.  Plus, we were hoping to spend Friday exploring the cute little really don't want to mess with a girl's shopping time!
Not exactly sure what 'two drews' are...but you may be looking at them.

Since our itinerary was shot to hell (and trust me, I had one written's my one area of OCD, and I'm ok with that) we couldn't decide what we should do.  Stop in town even though most the shops are closed? Why not! Eat dinner at a restaurant because it's so late and who wants to bother cooking camp food? Hard to argue with that.
Finding our 'center' in the middle of town.
But again...any attempt at 'best laid plans' were immediately going astray as we found each restaurant packed to the gills. (another expression I use with no idea as to where it came from, but I'm sure it would be interesting to Google it)  Should we cheat, and drive to the top of Mount Constitution to get good pictures before actually hiking it? (I like the word 'improvise' better)  As you can see from the pictures, we all decided improvising was the way to go.
Mt Baker barely in view

Something magical happened when we were up top and the light was almost gone...the 'night hawks' came out.  Here is a quote from Wikipedia:

"A night hawk is a nocturnal bird...the flight of the Common Nighthawk is erratic and jerky, as it attempts to prey on various flying insects. The white bands on its underwings are easily seen as it flies in the evening, at an altitude that is often well above the treetops. Also of note is nighthawks' mating ritual. Males will gain considerable altitude, then perform a power dive; as they pull up from the dive, the wings make a sudden, low sound that is called "booming".

A nocturnal bird...who knew? (besides owls, of course) But one thing's for sure, they were amazing to watch. I wish I would have tried to record it on my new camera, but I was too caught up in the moment. We did have some fun teasing our friend, Jewell, who is known for some flatulence issues. (she owns it, and I love her for it) "You have that mating call down!"...and she agreed, it was her chance to commune with nature. 

We were true to our word, and did the hike the next day even with our preview the night before.  I worried that it would seem anti-climactic, but it wasn't.  Every part of the hike up was amazing, and I loved every second.  

Hilary's husband commented "You can't call it a hike if there is a store at the end".  Maybe, but we still bought commemorative tee shirts. 
And so I come to a very substantial hiking lesson, and appropriately it's the big #20...when plans go awry, there is no need to worry.  Sometimes the very best of plans are the ones you make on the fly.

A small clearing of sky on Friday

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Park Butte, or Baker Lake?

This last weekend was one of those times when it seems like no matter how much housework you do, everything is still a disaster.  My oldest son moved back home this summer for a couple months...but I'm sure that has nothing to do with it. ;)  Which reminds me of a story my sister used to tell after her son moved out and into Grandma's house.  He comes home for a visit and says, "Wow, the house sure seems a lot cleaner than usual", and then pauses while the wheels are turning and adds, "and come to think of it, Grandma's house is a lot messier than it used to be".  Hummm...what an odd coincidence! Anyhow, I kept trying to get ahead of things enough to justify going on a hike when I finally realized I was never going to feel that way--but I did know I needed to get the heck out of there before I lost my mind.  Unfortunately, I didn't wave the white flag until about 1:30 in the afternoon, which limited my options quite a bit.

I thought I should bring my youngest daughter (Summer) and her friend (Sydney) along with me.  Summer is not a huge fan of hiking, which I've mentioned on here before; but her friend Sydney is another story.  I took her with us to hike Mount Finlayson a couple years ago, and she fell immediately in love with hiking.  I knew Sydney would LOVE the hike I had my eye on, (Park Butte) but I also knew Summer would not be up for it. After hemming and hawing for far too long, we finally left for Park Butte at about 2:30--though I had serious doubts we would be able to finish the whole thing. (it's 7.5 miles...definitely in the 'whine zone' for Summer)

Park Butte is what I would call a destination hike, meaning the best part is getting to the end.  In this case, it's a lookout tower.  I kept thinking about the fact that it was really going to bug me not to finish this hike and see the tower. (I've never done it before--it's "on the list")  Driving through Sedro Woolley I decided to pull over at the Ranger Station/Visitor Center to see if they could give me some advise.  Why I don't do this more often is a mystery, because it's a really great place with awesome people who know everything about the area and have all kinds of maps and stuff.  And the very helpful information they gave me is that Park Butte is still covered in snow.  (no wonder I couldn't find a trip report....lesson #18, if a popular hike hasn't gotten a trip report in awhile, there is probably a good reason)
Good times at the ranger station
Baker Lake trail has been on my list too, but on the 'overnight' list because it's long.  If you look it up, you'll most likely come up with "East Baker Lake Trail" which is way at the end of the road along with the Baker River Trail. (I will never forget how to get there--you can read about that experience on my "Baker River" post)  The lady at the ranger station pointed out there is a trail head on the other end of the hike, which is less of a drive. She gave me great directions and we got there without a problem.
Cross Baker dam and go about a mile, the trail head is on your left

We did pretty minimal hiking, but it was pleasant.  The sign at the beginning let us know it was only a mile to "Noisy Creek"...and you better believe Summer noticed it and gave her 'vote' indicating that to be the optimal destination.

And it was, actually.  The girls felt pretty adventurous going over this log bridge.  It doesn't look very scary, but the water underneath was more terrifying in person.

At this point we were able to go down to where the creek emptied into the lake--which was a great place to swim, if it wasn't ice cold.

Sydney got Summer to get in with an offer of five bucks...she was out in about 2 seconds.  I got Summer to hike more of the trail with an offer of milkshakes on the way home...which lasted about 20 minutes. (in her defense, she stubbed her toe badly; lesson #19, make your kid wear shoes, even if she thinks she's Pocahontas)  I know Sydney was thoroughly disappointed...I swear that kid could've gone another 10 miles if she wasn't hiking with "slow and slower".
Cool lightning tree

Heading back I realized I wasn't just "slower", but quite possibly "slowest" maybe ever.  Here I am with a kid who doesn't even like hiking and has an injured foot, and she's still a hundred feet ahead of me at all times.  Sheesh!  When the girls got distracted with a dead shrew, (and a slug headed towards it...will it eat it?! Oh the wonders of nature) I thought it would be my opportunity to get a good lead and maybe even beat them to the car.  Not a chance--even with Sydney taking half the pictures you see in this blog, they still kicked by butt.   If there is anyone out there that wants to prove they are the slowest hiker ever, I welcome the challenge.  It's a title I wouldn't mind giving up. 

P.S. Did you notice I changed my blog title?  I was sick of people thinking I was fifty. (and not even commenting on how awesome I look for 50!)  If anyone's curious, I'm actually 44.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sauk Mountain

I've had Sauk Mountain on my hiking list for over seven years...even longer than Icicle Gorge. (last week's hike) Back then a friend told me she would take her little kids on it (like, really little--barely walking little) and so I figured it was a hike even I could do. (this was before I hiked at all...though, I can't really say seven years later I'm any better at it)  I realize now that my friend is not your ordinary person with ordinary kids.  She's your up at dawn, makes everything from scratch, pioneer type person...and so of course she'd take her toddlers on this hike. Honestly though, after doing it, I can't even imagine taking anyone under 10...but, I'm sort of ordinary that way. ;) So, all that to say, last Saturday (post 4th of July and wonderfully sunny) I thought maybe it was time to finally cross this one off my list as well. When I told my husband I was seriously considering it, he said he'd like to come along--so that sealed the deal.

My husband (the "naughty boyscout" in my July 2011 post) can always be trusted to be prepared by printing out the directions, packing surplus water, making sure the tires in the car are properly inflated...all the things I would have failed to do. (and yes, one of the tires was dangerously low. Lesson #17, check tire pressure before leaving!) Although, this time I was the one to remember the bug spray. (which we didn't even need...figures)

I was extra glad to have Ken along when we pulled onto the mountain road and saw the gigantic sign announcing that a female hiker went missing two years ago and has never been found.  Another woman was mistaken as a bear and shot and killed in this is not a hike I would recommend doing alone. 

Reading the trail reports before leaving, we were aware that there was still some snow that would prevent us from driving all the way to the trail head.  I had foolishly thought that now that we had a SUV with four wheel drive, this might not apply to us...but trust me, there is no car that's getting past that snow block for at least a few weeks.
Looking good next to our sporty SUV ;)

We took a little short cut to get to the upper parking area by huffing it straight up. It was at this time I realized I forgot my brand new trekking pole my daughter bought me for my birthday. Dang it, I've been so excited to try it out, and this was the perfect hike to have one!  Oh well, at least we remembered lunch--and so we sat down at the picnic table to eat half of it before starting.  Ken pointed out the hang gliding launch at the end of the lot and told a story about his friend who was in such a hurry to get flying, he forgot to clip in.  Can you even imagine jumping off this (picture below) only to realize you are just dangling from your hang-glider bar? (he lived, but messed up his ankle severely when he crash landed)  It puts knots in my stomach just thinking about it! After eating, I took advantage of the bathroom facility (thank you lesson #14) and we began. 

Ready, set, die!...uh, I mean go!

Cutest outhouse ever, right? Still stinky though.

Right away we came to some big snow patches.  These were not a big deal at first, but the farther up we got, the sketchier it got to cross them.  In fact, we passed a woman coming down with a huge fat lip and quite a few bumps and scrapes.  She told us she had slipped when crossing one, and had barely stopped herself before sliding right off the edge and down the hill.  There's not a lot to stop you from tumbling a very long way if this happened, which is obvious when a rock gets dislodged and comes hurdling down. (it happened twice while we were hiking...kind of freaky because you do NOT want to get nailed with one)  Needless to say, I was a little edgy the rest of the way up...but not as bad as the woman we passed who was just laying down in a grassy spot.  Ken commented, "looks like you found a nice place to rest", but she explained she was not great with heights and had just witnessed the other woman's fall, therefore she decided she'd just lay down for a little while before getting the heck back down.  It's too bad, because the top view is not something to be missed. 
We went along the ridge as far as we dared...easy bouldering which normally wouldn't have affected me, but I'll confess I was flipping out a little.  I was glad when we found a nice flat spot to eat the rest of our lunch...what a glorious view! 
Eating my brownie on Chocolate Day.  Seriously, look it up.
The view from our lunch ledge...see the switchbacks?
Boyscout Ken taking a picture for the nice ladies.

On the way back down I took some pictures of the beautiful wildflowers, though I could tell there were MANY more to bloom soon.  I think I'll come back in a couple weeks to see the you think I'd look funny wearing a helmet? ;)

Just a preview of what's to come!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Essence of Pleasure is Sponteneity (Germaine Greer)

I know that I have already complained a lot on here about our crappy western Washington weather...but "June gloom" month has been true to form--so brace yourself for some more whining. I think everyone has been gearing up for an awesome summer because May was better than usual. (which was still not great, by the way) That's why I think this June has been particularly depressing, because normally we have low expectations. Why do we do this to ourselves; don't we know by now not to expect any sun until after the 4th of July? It's just so hard not to get your hopes up, because after so much rain everyone is SO ready for it to feel like summer. 

This is why last Thursday, when I saw the forecast of gray clouds and rain for yet another weekend, I decided I was out of here. If summer was not going to come to me, I was going to go to it. So on Friday I packed up the car and headed to Leavenworth for an impromptu camping trip of one night.  

Leavenworth is one of the first towns you come to when heading for the 'other' Washington. (the hot Washington...everyone who lives here knows what I'm talking about) It's about a three hour drive from where I live, which is a little far to drive for just one day. (though I have done it on other occasions when facing the same kind of sun deprivation)
Beautiful wildflowers on the hike
I've had "Icicle Gorge Loop Trail" on my list of hikes to do for years now. Problem is, every time I finally get my butt to Leavenworth, all I feel like doing is sitting on the deck of Los Camperos with a sangria. But this time was serious...this time I was going to drive all the way up Icicle Creek Road, find a campsite and do this hike once and for all.

There are seven campgrounds along Icicle Creek Road, none of which you can make a reservation for. But this trip was all about spontaneity and living in the moment--I was not going to let the fact I couldn't guarantee a campsite stop me. Only, it wasn't just me that was going to be crushed if this throw it together camping trip was a fail...I had both my daughters and two of their friends along for the adventure as well. 

So, when we got to the first campground at 8 miles in and it was completely packed, I'll confess I started to get a little worried. I got a little more worried when the next one was full, and by the time we reached the 5th one with a "no campsites available" sign up, I was pretty desperate. (I thought this was our last chance--I didn't know about the other two campgrounds...more about that later)

I don't have to explain that a 3 hour drive (more like 4 when you count the drive up Icicle Creek) with a packed car that included two preteens who make up songs about pooping (not kidding) is a heluva long drive. The thought of driving all the way back down that road (much of it unpaved) to who knows where to find a place to spend the night...well, it just wasn't an option. On the second drive around the full campground,  I spotted a site that was very large with one little tent on it. Years ago we had let someone in this same predicament share our campsite (at Wallace Falls--another beautiful hike, btw) so I figured I had some good karma coming my way. My 11 year old daughter just about had a heart attack when I stopped to ask (does anything I do not embarrass her?) but THANK GOD I did, because they had no problem with it. In fact, they decided they didn't even really need the site because they were with a large group and could easily fit that little tent in with their friends--so we got it all to ourselves. And it was gorgeous...honestly, I think it was the prettiest campsite I've ever had.
Chatter Creek went right through out campsite

When we were all set up, I took a walk around and ended up back at the road. I spotted a lovely bridge crossing Icicle Creek. (some creek, right?)
The mother of all creeks!

I figured I stumbled upon a different hike. (I never saw the Icicle Gorge trail head sign on the way up, and thought we'd look for it the next day)  When I came back and asked the kids, everyone was up for a nice little hike before making dinner, so off we went.  Before even crossing the bridge, look what I found:

And why not just do it now--spontaneity, remember? (maybe you could even call it 'yolo'...but let's not. If you don't know what I'm talking about, take a four hour drive with some tweens--they have a way of keeping us old folks current, whether we like it or not) It's only four miles, and it's a loop; so it's impossible to get lost. (ummm...remember who's talking here)
One of several access points to the trail...the main one is just up the road

creeks everywhere!

So, we get to the end of this hike and find ourselves at a campground. Huh? It's not our campground (though, it's packed as well) I figured we must have looped around and back down to the previous campground. But, I know my navigational abilities can't be trusted, so I found a ranger. I'm not even going to try to recreate our conversation...let's just say he couldn't quite wrap his head around how I could be lost. He pointed us back down the road--another 2 miles. Ugh. This didn't seem right...why would we be going down the road? (remember, I didn't know there were more campgrounds past ours...this was campground #6...campground 7 is a horse camp, if anyone is curious. I bet it was full too) But thankfully, I didn't need to learn hiking lesson # 16 the hard way (trust the rangers--they know more than you) because after much debating we all decided to just do what he said--even though everything in me wanted to go up the road instead.

So, albeit unconventionally done, I finally have Icicle Gorge Loop under my belt. Plus, I got my first real weekend of summer sun, when everyone back at home just got a bunch more rain. I'm not positive if spontaneity is actually the essence of pleasure, but I'm sure glad it worked out this time.