Monday, August 8, 2016

Party of Two at Green Point

I love the idea of a big party on Ross Lake. The campsites there are so nice--I mean, it's not often can you backpack to a place with a boat dock! Even my non hiking friends could do the mere mile down the Ross Lake Trail to catch the boat taxi, which can ferry a group of 6 to any assortment of different spots along the lake. (I had my sights on Devil's Junction for my birthday bash in 2013...though the weather thought differently. Read all about it on my Ross Lake East Bank Trail post) 

In my illusory world, it would not be a problem to secure all the campsites the day of (because you cannot reserve in advance) and we would have the whole place to ourselves to have an extravagant blow out. And who knows, maybe someday that dream will come true. But this year, it was going to have to be a party of 2. 

My husband does not come with me very often, so don't get me wrong, I was absolutely grateful. And if this trip was a trial run for this grand future fantasy event, it did provide some lessons. Mainly I learned I need to lower my expectations, because scoring all the sites in any single location is not a very reasonable presumption. I failed to consider the boating community, which I can only assume usually snags their spots for several days at a time; making finding a window where all the spots are free a near impossibility. We barely got the last available site when we stopped to register at the Wilderness Center in Marblemount at just before noon on a Tuesday. 
Ken is taking a picture of moss. Gotta be a first.
As we pulled into the packed parking lot at the Ross Dam trail head, Ken seemed a bit concerned. (crowds are not really his thing) But surprisingly, the trail itself was fairly people free. Once we got going, he immediately commented on the smell, which reminded him of his mountain hometown of Idyllwild. Even though Ross Lake is only a 2 hour drive from Skagit Valley, and not even over the pass, it is notable how different the air feels there. 

Because my big party plans did not materialize, we opted to do the 2 easy miles to Greenpoint without bothering with any boat rides. One thing to keep in mind though--the shuttle over to Ross Lake Resort is different than the actual boat taxi you would reserve to take you to the camp destinations. Those taxis are not cheap, ($115 one way to Lightning Creek, although that is for the whole boat and not per person) but the shuttle to the resort is only $2 per person. So, if one wanted, they could cut this already short hike almost in half for very little cost. (Greenpoint is probably a quarter mile hike from the resort) Except then you would miss walking over the dam, which is kinda the best part. (BUT, it would make packing in a good amount of adult beverages a little easier-just sayin' ;))
Looking down on the boathouse where I had a wonderful picnic lunch with Kimberly.
(see "Washington Rules, Colorado Drools" post)
Behind Ken you can see Ross Lake Resort
Once we arrived at camp (warning: the incline after the dam is a bit more difficult than you might expect from a lake shore stroll) we found that the best sites by the water were already occupied. But no worries, the ones on the hillside were nice too, and I liked that they felt slightly more private. 
The best spot...maybe next time
Not bad. Each site has a two separate pads,
so you could fit a pretty large group on each one.
Sitting on the dock and watching the large group of kids play made me nostalgic for when ours were little. Ken reminded me of when they crafted their own raft, not too unlike this amazing pirate ship. These kind of memories are so precious, and even though I didn't know any of these people, it made me smile knowing this day was probably one they'd remember the rest of their lives. 
Land ho, matey!

Later embellishments; quite a piece of art
We considered hiking down to check out Ross Lake Resort on our way out the next day, but concluded the short but steep detour was not worth the effort. Besides, we wanted to make it to our favorite Birdsview Brewery right at the noon hour so we could have a leisurely lunch. 

We did decide one extra stop on the drive home was worth the effort, because there is always time for a wine tasting! Sadly, our go-to winery has closed it's doors (RIP Challenger Ridge) so we gave Glacier Peak a shot. It may be smaller and less cute, but I wasn't disappointed. That may be, though, because I'm learning to keep my expectations down a bit. And y'know, the truth is, things don't need to be grand or extravagant to be a good time. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

An Ode to Ira

I consider myself a big fan of Ira Spring...even if I thought he was a woman for years. The book I read that he co-authored with Harvey Manning had random pictures of a woman hiker; so it seemed logical. I didn't confess this to Mimi when she looked up to the threatening sky at the start of our hike and apologized to Ira for thinking he was a woman, and to please not punish us with a downpour. I did think to myself though, "you too?"

Of course, Mimi was being funny, because I'm sure Ira was not the type who would have minded being mistaken for a woman. What an awesome guy!! A Washingtonian who grew up in Shelton, his name is on 64 guidebooks (all royalties are donated to the "Family Trust for Trails") his photography has graced Time, Life, and National Geographic, and he co-founded the Washington Trails Association; so it's with good reason he has his very own trail.

I am the Vanna White of fungus!

But, I have to confess I didn't actually pick the Ira Spring Trail to honor this well lived life of his. I picked it because I had to do a drop off at Sea-Tac why not make the most of the trip and head to the nearest trail! I don't often do hikes in close proximity to Seattle because of the crowds, but it was a drizzly Thursday, so I thought I'd take my chances.
A glimpse of I-90
I have a thing for stone steps
I was so happy Mimi was willing to give me another chance after our last adventure together. (see "First Backpack of 2016" post) I felt like I had failed her with poor trip planning by pushing her too hard with a 14 mile hike on her first time back on the trail in years. I really wanted to make it up to her by choosing something with reasonable mileage...and without a blow down at every mile.(early season hikes can be such a mess!) And the Ira Spring Trail even has a fully functional bridge, so we were set. (I hope trail crews get around to Baker Lake trail soon, because that bridge at Anderson Creek is sketchy!)
Now, this is what I call a bridge!

When we were a little over half way up, with thighs and glutes a blazin', we started jokingly cursing under our breath..."Why you gotta be so mean, Ira?" ;) But I believe Mr. Spring's favor was actually upon us. We may have originally wanted a nice sunny day--but the foggy, misty weather was a real blessing in disguise. Besides keeping the crowds at bay, the clouds kept us from overheating on the last push up. When reading the trail description, I was fantasizing about basking on the "sun drenched" ridge-line, but in actuality those exposed switchbacks (which I'll confess were harder than I expected...sorry Mimi!) would have felt like an oven without some cloud cover. And truth be told, as much as I love the cheery feeling a clear day gives me, I think the mystical quality of the quiet fog is possibly more beautiful.

Just when we were starting to believe Ira was truly out to punish us with a never ending uphill climb, we crested the top and excitedly started the quarter mile drop down to Mason Lake. Although we were tempted to plop down at the first campsite we came to, we both agreed it was worth pushing on to find a more secluded spot. We were so thankful we did, because towards dusk a large group of guys came in, and the spot we left was a perfect fit for them. I know I have complained in the past about having a boisterous gang coming in and screwing up my serenity, but this time I honestly loved hearing their laughter throughout the night. It felt comforting; like I just fell asleep on someone's couch during a great party. ;)

We found a Pokemon! Gotta catch em' all!
One of the party goers, though, had suffered a tough night for being a newbie hiker. Mimi told me she was near the group as they were heading out, and the bedraggled straggler looked up at her and bemoaned, "I didn't think to bring a jacket...oh no...but I brought a chair!!" A tough lesson in packing priorities, indeed.
Chillin' with my "coffee"

A brave swimmer (the small dot in the middle)
The fog never lifted as promised by forecasters (I think we both were hoping for a dip in the lake; the water felt much warmer than I expected!) but it was all good. Even without the sun, the parking lot was overflowing when we made it down; so I would really warn everyone to stay away on a sunny weekend, because I can't even imagine what that looks like. We only had one more thing to check off our list to complete our adventure; find a burger and beer ASAP! We were lucky enough to find the Rogue Ales & Spirits Brewhouse in Issaquah, which I highly recommend. Just be sure to make a toast to Ira for us! 
Thanks for a great trail, Ira!! Cheers!