Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Little Disappointed in Leavenworth

Where to go in June when you really need some sun? In my experience, Leavenworth never disappoints. Until this time.
Not that it wasn't still a good time. Six people huddling under a canopy during a downpour trying to make scrambled eggs is strangely amusing; but thankfully, that was only part of the fun. 
This was a car camping experience at it's extreme. As we drove into the KOA with our girls and their friends, I could feel the spirit of disappointment in the air. I stayed at this campground years earlier, and didn't remember it being quite do I say it...congested. 
Driving past the rows of motor homes and swarms of children everywhere, I was pretty sure this whole trip was doomed. But once we got settled and made sure we faced the trees instead of the lot of RV's, it really wasn't all that bad. 
This is how we do it!! Who needs a fire pit!
We did our best to tolerate day 2, which we already knew called for rain, because day 3 had a promise of sun; and being it was Father's day, we thought a family hike was in order.
We did not expect to meet Ranger Rick!
Our friends popped over to join us (AFTER the rain passed...punks) so we packed up all our crap and headed to Ingalls Creek, which is only about 20 minutes from town.
Happy Father's Day!

What to say about Ingalls Creek? It is super easy to find, though you do need to remember to bring your NW Forest Pass. (or you can pay the $5 day pass at the trail head, while cursing the fact that you have TWO passes at home in another car) And it's a beautiful hike; although I do have to say I thought some of the trip reports I read had oversold it a bit. I personally would not call "ever changing scenery" a very accurate description. You hike along the creek, and that is pretty much the view you get from start to finish. Admittedly though, we did only go about 3 miles in. It was hard to convince the troupes to keep going when we didn't have a set destination as a goal; so when someone mentioned ice cream back in Leavenworth, any trace of perseverance was out the window. 
A good camping spot, if anyone is willing
Speaking of out the window, that's all I can figure happened to my Neoair X-therm inflatable mattress. (or in this case--out the tailgate) That is the one major disappointment that Leavenworth has left me with...the loss of the MOST WONDERFUL, MOST COMFORTABLE, BESTEST EVER sleeping apparatus on the planet. I know we weren't the most organized when we packed up camp (are we ever?) but there is no way we left anything behind. The dang thing is so compact and round and GREY (WHY make stuff you are using outside grey? Maybe so you can lose it and have to buy another?) that it rolling out the back of the truck and out of sight as we were pulling stuff out for our day hike is the only theory that makes any sense. 
Leavenworth...still a great place to seek the sun, possibly endure a little rain...or go hunting for a $200 sleeping pad in a trailhead parking lot. ;) If you find it, you know how to reach me. 
G'night y'all

Monday, June 13, 2016

Step Brother Ebey Steals the Show

If you live in the Northwest, chances are you have at least once in your life visited Fort Casey. It is quintessential Washington state; the perfect place to bring the kids to picnic, fly a kite, and explore. Though, if you are looking to hike...not so perfect. And who would expect it to be? The idea of a military fort does not exactly invoke imaginations of forested strolls. I'm guessing this is why I got such a skeptical reaction when I invited my co-workers to come with me to hike at nearby Fort Ebey; what I would describe as Fort Casey's less known and less loved step brother.
Fort Ebey may not have the notoriety that Fort Casey has, but it has it's charms. Even if you are only interested in the WWII history, the remains of the gun stations and especially the long dark bunkers are pretty cool. But of course, we are talking about hiking here, and I had seen several trip reports touting Ebey as having a spectacular 6 mile loop. So, even though I am mostly over my obsession with loop trails, this one has been on my list for some time.
Because I had convinced my newbie hiker friends from work to come with me, I read as much as I could about his hike so that MAYBE for once I could pull off the "expert hiker" image I've been working at for so long. I really need to just let that go; confusion is obviously my true expertise.

I want to say in my defense that the trail description on the WTA website is stupid. (in my very humble opinion, that is) So, for anyone thinking of doing this hike (and I highly recommend you do) let me try to make things a little more obvious. (in case you are also a pro at perplexity)
Wildflowers and wild woman!
Yes, as stated in the trail description, there are clearly marked signs at the Prairie Overlook trailhead. (you can also park in the "Ebey's Landing" parking lot for a shorter hike; just be sure to have a Discover Pass) The problem is, the signs aren't helpful.

Here is the huge sign announcing "Bluff Trail--.8"
Okay...usually a sign like this is letting you know how long the trail is; but in this case we had to assume that we were go to .8 miles to get to the start of the Bluff Trail. So we go on the strange garden type path and end up in another parking lot. No Bluff Trail. We see a sign directing us down a gravel road towards some weird history house thingy that the trail description said absolutely nothing about. Okay, I guess we'll go check it out; but I fully expected to have to double back and search for the trail we actually wanted. Thankfully we were curious enough about the house to not keep searching the perimeters of the lot for some sort of "clearly marked sign" to the Bluff Trail. 
Does my body language say "Where the hell are we going?"
Let me insert here that when I say I went with my co-workers, we also let Thomas tag along, even through he is an "ex". He left our work place nest to test his photography wings; and I must say, having a professional photographer on a hike is the best! And he didn't even make me pay for using his pics (every single one on here is his--because all mine looked like crap in comparison) so I will give him a shameless plug. HIRE THOMAS!! HE ROCKS!!!
(another copy and paste; ugh, I'm sorry!!)

Our album cover shot...time to learn to play an instrument ;)
So, after we had some fun photo shoot time at the Jacob Ebey House (it's actually not called "historical house thingy" ;)) we saw the small sign directing us down the side of a fence toward the actual start of the Bluff Trail, where you will find another clearly marked sign. (with so much signage; why not put one in the 2nd lot where it is actually needed? Just sayin') 
Thomas' pictures of me taking pictures destroy my actual pictures

Anyway, you should find the rest of the hike to be far less confusing. (especially if you grab a map from the house) One thing to note is there are a couple "short cuts" once you start the switchbacks down to the beach that I would avoid. The switchbacks are steep enough as it is; which is why you want to do this loop counter clockwise; unless you are looking for a serious thigh burn. 

Me instructing Kimberly on how to skip a rock.
I'm proud to say she did it for her first time!!

A much less burn is had when you finish up the hike on the rickety old stairs (yes Kimberly, we know how awesome Colorado's "Incline" is in comparison) then a bit more uphill and you are back to the start of the loop. There is a beautiful bathroom you can use back at the house, though better to do so on the way in than out because it closes early.
Guess who took this photo? I made one exception
to show you the difference. Maybe I need to start
hiring a photographer for every hike?
What I loved most about waiting so long to finally check this hike off my list is that I got to introduce three locals to a treasure they didn't even realize was in their backyard. I'm happy to say that two of the three have already made a return visit! So fret not, poor Fort Ebey--you will not be the shadow of big brother Casey for long!
Our pretend engagement photo...almost makes me want to propose!
But Thomas can get you an even better one if you're getting married!
CALL HIM!!! :)