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Showing posts with label Hiking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hiking. Show all posts

Hiking Mt Washington

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Last weekend the temperature was in high 80'... 

Hiking in that heat was the last option on my "things to do" list, and my original plan was to go rock climbing at a small climbing area called "Amazonoia". 

It's a steep crag hidden "somewhere " in the trees along the Mt Washington trail with routes between 5.9 and 5.11c.

Long story short, the climbing area is so "hidden ", that I somehow missed it...and hiked all the way to the top of Mt Washington.

Since I was pretty pissed off, I can't really tell much about the hike. One thing for sure, if you don't know about this trail, it's kind of hard to find ( you can visit WTA site to get more details ).

The difficulty level, I'd say moderately difficult ( probably because it was the first time I was hiking with 20 lbs backpack). The scenery ? Not a whole lot. Unlike hikes like Mailbox or Granite Mountain, Mt Washington doesn't offer those beautiful 360 degree views.

Half way to the top, the trail splits: one way - to Mt Washington, another-to Great Wall ( which I didn't really have enough energy to explore).

If you are looking for more hikes along I-90 corridor, check out "Day Hiking: Snoqualmie Region" by A. Nelson

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Hiking Lake Ingalls In Alpine Lakes Wilderness

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There are a few great hikes that go to Lake Ingalls. The 31 mile out and back, Ingalls Creek trail is one of the most strenuous, longest ( and loneliest ) in the whole Alpine Lake Wilderness. Few hikers complete the entire trail.
Lake Ann- Ingalls Peak loop is shorter ( 19 miles).

But even more hikers ( including me ) plan a short ( 10.8 miles round trip) and easy day hike straight to Lake Ingalls.

I hear that Lake Ingalls is a popular destination and draws crowds of people in summer time. Though, parking lot was full, we didn't meet too many people along the way or even by the lake.

A couple cool features of the trail :

Ingalls Pass is dotted with many great camping spots ( official with toilets and ...."less official" ).

Mountain goats roam around the lake as if they owe the place ( one particular goat struck a pose and practically told me : " It's time for you to go").

Ingalls Lake is beautiful, inviting and...freezingly cold. Yet, a few "brave" hikers reward themselves with a cool dip ( or a cold plunge ) in the lake.

If you happen to have "hiking fishing gear" among your "10 essentials" ( fish hooks, line and some artificial lures ), try your luck fishing for trout. Want to have more "fish fun" ? Try "trout tickling" :)

One piece of gear I would recommend - insect repellent.

For a guide book, check out Backpacking Washington's Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Gear review : Zippo Emergency Fire Starter Kit

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I have to admit, I am not a "survivalist ", next Les Stroud or Bear Grylls, and my longest backpack trip has been for 3 days. But I still consider myself " the Last Boy Scout" : I am always ready. Even on day hikes I have my ....essentials. And my most important essential is a " fire starter kit" that includes waterproof/windproof matches, plumber's candles, cotton balls covered with melted paraffin, and a light plastic BIC lighter.

But, honestly, my most favorite " fire starter " is a bottle of camping fuel. Gather some dry wood, pour a few drops of fuel, and Voilà ! - you have a huge camp fire.

Huge disadvantage- even the lightest aluminium bottle filled with fuel adds some significant weight to my average 40 + lbs backpack.

So, recently I was introduced to a pretty cool emergency fire starter kit released by Zippo : a lighter that looks almost like a regular Zippo lighter with standard Zippo flint/wheel ignition, but when you open it up there are four waxed ‘tinder sticks’. An o-ring seal for the hinged cover keeps water out of the fire starter kit and the tinder sticks are water resistant.

With my kit, I also got Campfire Starter cedar puck, which is basically compressed cedar sawdust and wax. The puck is very light, the back of it is scored so it can be used to start four fires, it’s made from 100% all-natural recycled materials, and it gives off a Western Red Cedar aroma.

In this video you can see the new outdoor line of products by Zippo. One of my favorite here is hand warmer ( just curious how different it is from popular Grabber handwarmer packs ?):

Zippo lighters were for decades known as the most reliable cigarette lighters. But remember Quentin Tarantino's movie " Four Rooms ", when Bruce Willis' character makes a bet that he can get a Zippo lighter to light ten times in a row, with his finger at stake if he loses ?

I really hope that Zippo Emergency Fire Starter will prove to be ...a bit more reliable.

Exploring the Olympic Peninsula : Hiking Dungeness Spit

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Having ADD ( at least I suspect I have it :)) I am unable to focus on just one outdoor activity or stay at one place for a long time. So, after a nice , relaxing day at Port Townsend, I decided to head out to do something outdoorsy.

Dungeness Spit is considered to be one of Washington's best saltwater hikes.

Just 30 minutes drive from Port Townsend, The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge can be found along the Dungeness Scenic Loop between Sequim and Port Angeles.

Sequim is a quaint little place to visit, and if it wasn't for this beautiful sign that welcomes you, I would just have missed it.

( Google images)

I heard about the Sequim Lavender Festival before ( though, never been a fan of " agricultural tourism " ) but didn't know that Sequim was the "Lavender Capital of North America" ( rivaled only in France).

I took the Dungeness Scenic Loop, but, honestly, didn't see much "scenery ". Got lost , and " found myself" at another Sequim' famous attraction - the Olympic Game Farm. As usual, pressed with time, I grabbed a souvenir ( " been there, done that "), and continued my trip to the Refuge ( which is only 10 minutes away !).

I read somewhere that this hike was " ideal for novice hikers...because it has no elevation gain...close to civilization with good restaurants nearby (?) ".

5 miles one way, hiking in sand, strong wind, non-hiking clothes ( who the hell hikes in jeans and cotton sweatshirts ? ) and on empty stomach ( damn those first timers !)...We didn't make it to the lighthouse...So sad. The day was gorgeous, and I was looking forward to taking a picture of me standing at the end of the spit.

One of the signs indicated that horseback riding was allowed on the designated horse trail through the uplands and the beach west of Dungeness Spit base. If you have any information about guided trips, please share with me ( I really love what they do at Ocean Shores ).

Later, I also found out that the waters of Sequim Bay were ideal for kayaking. Not sure, but may be it will be more fun kayaking those 5 miles rather than hiking.

And finally, have you ever wanted to live the life of a Lighthouse Keeper for a week ? For $ $260 - 350 a week you can. Visit The New Dungeness Light Station Association to find out more details.

Mt St Helens : hiking, mountain biking, caving, camping.

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This weekend was my second time at Mt St Helens area ( ex 21 off I-5 ). Last year I made a short trip to Ape Caves, and ,frankly, wasn't impressed neither with the caves nor with the area. I blame two factors : weather and the lack of time. The latter is the crucial one. If you are planing a trip down there ( assuming you are coming from Seattle area ), make sure you give yourself at least a couple days to explore that area, because there are just too many things to do in one day.

If this is your first time in the area, make sure you stop by the Woodland Chamber of Commerce's Tourist Information Center just west off I-5 on your way to HWY 503. Here you can get the latest updates on road conditions, campgrounds, free maps and area information.

Next - where to camp ? While there is abundant number of campgrounds along the Lewis River Road (HWY 503), there is one that remains a hidden jewel of the area - Lake Merril Campground. On a hot, sunny summer weekend ( like the one we just had) it's hard to find a vacant spot even at a major 45-tents campground like Cougar Camp, but when I arrived at Lake Merril Campground ( which has only 8 spots ( meaning- less crowd, quieter )), I found a spot ! by the lake ! And the surroundings were breathtaking. The most amazing perk ? It was FREE !

Camping at Lake Merril Campground

The area's two most visited attractions are - Ape Caves and ... well.. Mt St Helens ,of course !

The Crater

Sitting on Volcano

80% who made it to the top.

Climbing a volcano ! Exciting ? It was OK for me...According to the statistics:
In past years ,between 11,000 and 12,000 people have received climbing permits ( yes, you need one -$ 22 ). More than 80% make it to the summit ( where the hell the other 20% go?), making it one of the most- climbed peaks in the world !


For me the hardest part of the climb was getting to the trailhead ( Climber's Bivouac ), the gravel road was horrible. I really got scared for my car suspension system ( though I am driving Subaru Forester ). Once at 3,700 feet (Climber's Bivouac ) I found a cool thing - Climber's Bivouac is also a campground ( official), so if you want to get a good night sleep ( instead of driving for 2 hours and then hiking), come here the night before. As usual I am not gonna describe the hike and ruin it for you, just will say that it's a lot of fun scrambling on big andesite boulders and hiking in the smooth, sandy lava ash.

One funny fact about "climbing" Mt St Helens:
Though USGS scientists believe that "climbing" is safe...rangers suggest carrying goggles, a hamlet and an ash mask.

And I did see somebody wearing a helmet ! Not sure if it was a safety concern or something a doctor prescribed.

Mt St Helens is a great mountain biking destination ( according to the authors of
" Mountain Biking Washington ". I swear, I use this book for the last time. It's the worst guidebook I've ever used). Two trails ( from that book) I wanted to try: Plains of Abraham and Kalama Loop.

Note to myself ( and others) - don't hike Mt St Helens and mountain bike the same mountain on the same day. Tha's what I did. After my hike, I drove to the Lava Canyon and tried to MB Plains of Abraham.
Needless to say I didn't make too far. And it wasn't even the difficulty of the trail. Late in the afternoon, those flies become notorious. If your insect repellent doesn't work, you are done.

Mountain Biking on Plains of Abraham

Back at the camp, I took a nice relaxing sunset paddle around the beautiful Lake Merril and called it a day.

Next morning I decided to give MB here another chance. Kalama Loop Trailhead at the Kalama Horse Campgrounds is about 6 miles away. According to the book:
The popular route skirts the base on the southwest side of Mt St Helens and is frequently used by horseback riders.

My description: Do you like riding your bike in horse crap? Do I need to continue?

All in all, I really like the area. It's a great family destination as well as for those interested in multi sport outdoor activities.

Hiking Granite Mountain

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Hiking Granite Mountain WA

Do you have a favorite hike? 

By favorite hike, I mean the one you've done 2-3 and more times? 

What keeps you going back to the same place ? Is it the scenery? The challenge ? The proximity to your home? 

And while I understand you might have your own reasons, my reason to hike Granite Mountain for the second time was.. well ( it's kinda embarrassing ), I couldn't find it the first time 😥

That brings me to my first word of advice - read the description of the hike before you leave your house. And read it thoroughly !

Though I did have my favorite book "75 Great Hikes Seattle" the first time, all I bothered to read was the directions to the trailhead ( shame on me ). I missed the turn to Granite Mt trail, and I paid my dues...

For the first mile or so, Granite Mountain and Pratt Lake share the same trail, but at about 1.2 miles, a SIGNED intersection points you to the right in the direction of the Granite Mountain Lookout.You miss it , and you are in for a treat for a pretty long hike to the ( no less picturesque) Annette Lake or Pratt Lake ( that's the beauty of this trailhead- multiple destinations).

This time, I did see the sign, turned right and started a slow but steady ascent to the top.
I am not going to describe the trail ( you can find it in the book ), just will say that the book grades this hike:

Difficulty level- Extreme

Which brings me to my second advice- assess your fitness/hiking level before you leave your house. And one more thing - be honest about it.

Here is the reason : though this time I read about the hike ( and number one reason I chose it, was because of the difficulty level ), I doubt many people, who were hiking that morning, did the same.

I mean, I saw grandparents on the trail, families with a bunch of toddlers, dog owners and my favorite- two hikers with a map and a compass.

Let me first start with THE LATTER - LEASHED DOGS, people !!! ( that's what the trail sign says ). Don't get me wrong, I love dogs, just don't feel like being humped by them.

At about 4.3 miles, just below the final push to the top...THE BOULDER FIELD

Boulder field Granite Mountain hiking

On my way back down, a grandma, hiking to the top, asked me :" Are the boulders still there ? Will I have to scramble to the top ?" " Ahh...."

Well, actually, there is a snow trail to the right of the boulders, that goes up.
But scrambling? 
That's THE BEST PART of the hike, grandma.

Finally, families with little kids ? Seriously?

Last piece of advice. Or should I say- MY SECRET. TO AVOID ALL THAT - GO EARLY IN THE MORNING.

Happy trails !

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Family- friendly hiking in the Olallie State Park

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In my opinion,hiking offers a great alternative to those expensive family outings of "movie and a dinner". It is not only cheaper, but it is healthier,informative and a great way to introduce your kids to the outdoors.

When you choose your destination for a family hike, you take into consideration such facts as : travel time to a trailhead,the length of a trail, the difficulty level of a trail,elevation gain,best season to go and ,of course, your family members physical ability.Those facts will vary. How often have you seen a father travelling with a one year old ( sometimes younger ) behind his back, or a a two year old walking on a trail, making his first ascent.

Thanks to Mike McQuade and his book " Day Hike!" the choice was abundant. My choice would have to be: less than an hour drive from my home, relatively short hiking time, difficulty level- none to easy. There is another very important criterion (for many hikers, including me) for picking a hike - popularity level.But if you go on a family-friendly hike - expect crowds.After looking through the book , I chose the Twin Falls hike in Olallie State Park.

The 2.6 round-trip hike starts in the Twins Falls Natural Area in Olallie State Park.
The best features of this hike- easy to find, the trailhead is right there, no switchbacks, no confusing signs , zero chances to get lost ( if you want to feel really adventurous, don't forget your 10 essentials).

For the first 0.5 miles the trail parallels the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River with plenty of spots to enjoy this beautiful river.My advice -don't stop ( once your little ones start throwing rocks into the river,it's hard to tear them away from that fun ), proceed for another mile or so, to the wooden stairs leading you to your first viewing deck of the jaw-dropping Lower Twin Falls.That's where you need to be patient:the deck is quite small and ,for some people ,it takes forever to take a picture. After you are done, go back to the trail and continue for another couple hundred feet to the wooden bridge. That's your second "viewing spot".Got enough pictures? Beyond the bridge, more wooden stairs lead to your last spot to enjoy this nature wonder and may be to have a lunch.
The trail continues climbing for about half-mile, eventually hooking up with the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, but unless your family is planning to visit Ellensburg ( that's where it goes), it is time to head back home.

For more adventurous and hard core photographers,there is a tiny trail that leads to the bank of the river, just before you are about to reach the Lower Falls.Along the river ,if you jump from one rock to another, you can ,actually, reach the bottom of the Lower Falls to take the best picture, not available to the "general public".

Hiking To Olympic Hot Springs

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 The beginning of the trail

The actual trailhead
 Crossing a bridge ( you are almost there )

One of the "cleanest " hot springs

One more pool with the "view"

The scenic Lake Davis
The last time I was soaking in hot springs was 6 years ago in Oregon. It was winter time: the hike, the scenery, the hot springs - everything was gorgeous.
Since then I've always wanted to go back there. And recently I've discovered that we have not one , but dozens of hot springs , right here in our own backyard. I made some research, and the Olympic Hot Springs looked like the best choice.
The hike to Olympic Hot Springs is 2.5 miles from the trailhead during warmer months. When there is snow, road barricades are erected, and it increases the hike from 2.5 to 6.5 miles during winter. As you can see from the pics, the trail was not that bad. The snow covered part of it was icy, but passable. The hike itself was very easy.

As for the hot springs pools, well , I guess you will be the judge. To me, they looked quite shallow, somewhat dirty, and not that hot :) But I guess the combination of hiking, camping, and relaxing in the pools would make the trip worthwhile.

Personally, I had fun and really enjoyed the trip. I wish I had more time to explore the area a little bit more.

Hiking Mailbox Peak in winter and summer

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The trail to middle fork Snoqualmie river
Mt Rainier

Besides the actual mailbox there is another ''sight''

Couldn't help not taking such a cliche picture

Downtown Seattle

The Snoqualmie river

As Mike McQuaide wrote in his book ''Day Hike! Central Cascades'' : " everybody should do mailbox peak once-and maybe just once." And i would agree with him. 

This is a very strenuous hike-straight up from about 1,000 feet to about 4,900 feet in 2.5 miles.
And as Mike wrote in his book "at the top, the rewards are big". 
But you will be the one to judge...

Attention: this is the trailhead for both-mailbox peak and the middle fork Snoqualmie river. 

The Mailbox Peak trail is to your left ( if you cross the creek,you've gone too far). 
There is no actual sign, but rather a big post warning you about the difficulty of the trail.

What is it like hiking Mailbox Peak in winter ?

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Hiking ( Tiger Mountain)

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Choose your way
Mt Rainier from south end of Tiger mountain

Eastside view

Paragliding from Tiger mountain

Before i have already wrote about the Issaquah Alps as a great hiking destination just miles away from Seattle.But Tiger mountain is not only a great hiking ( and mountain biking) place , but also a paragliding mecca of NW.On a good sunny day you can observe dozens of paragliders taking off from the top.If you want to try, many pilots offer tandem flights. Check out one of our friends sites.

Hiking ( the Enchantment Lakes)

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Every year hundreds of people head out for the Enchantments lake- one of the most beautiful places in Washington. Because of the popularity of that place , it is very difficult to get a permit for camping in that area.Usually all the permits are sold from June 15th- till October 15th. I took my trip on June 7th. As it turned out ,it was a little bit too early to go camping in that area.There was lots of snow in the upper lakes ( past Lake Vivian), besides there had been snow fall the day before.