The great weather continues in western Washington and my buddy and I decided to spend the day hiking rather than looking at the depressing walls of our cubicles. Desiring to stay away from snow, we headed up to Bellingham to hike around Blanchard Mountain. We had hiked up to the Oyster Dome in March of 2012 in wind, rain, clouds, and mud. Today we had the exact opposite conditions.
Our day didn't quite start out as planned. We had originally intended to drive up to the Samish Overlook and take the lazy man's route up to the Oyster Dome. We'd also intended to take a look at the bat caves that we'd skipped the year prior. Neither plan was meant to be. In the first picture below can be seen our view from the first parking area on the way up to the overlook. Road work thwarted our plan so we drove around the mountain to Chuckanut Drive to take the steep route from the road. The second picture below shows a map of the trails on the mountain. After driving around, we made surprisingly quick work of the trail up to the dome given our winter shaped bodies, but we found that access to the bat caves has been restricted (3rd picture below). Understandable but still at bit of a disappointment.
I just read over this after typing it up and I realize how negative it sounds. I'll leave it. I'm just in that kind of mood.
Today was the first hike of the year. Did you ever have a day on the trail where you just weren't feeling it? That was me today. The weather was slated to be perfect and I've been working long hours and I just needed a break. So I decided to take a vacation day. Unfortunately, my regular hiking buddy couldn't get away. So I was going solo and I just wasn't sure I really wanted to.
As per my normal procedure, I got up way too early and hit the road while the rest of society was still in bed. Things seemed to bode well as I was going north on Hwy 9 near Snohomish. The sun was coming up in a clear sky over the mountains to the east.
On Thursday, Sept 6th, my hiking buddy and I set out on our second annual end of summer backpacking trip. We are both lucky enough to have wives willing to take the kids and give us a few days each year to unplug, unwind, and get off the grid. No work. No internet. No phones. No stress. Well, a different kind of stress, at least. We enjoyed this trip even more than our trip last year. However, I am finding as my life stretches close to its 37th year that it's becoming harder and harder to recover from the exhaustion wrought by these types of trips. But it's a good, satisfying exhaustion, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
So where did we go, you ask? We did a loop trip from Salmon La Sac over Polallie Ridge, down the Quick Creek Trail to Waptus Lake, with a day hike up to Spade Lake and eventually a return via the Waptus River Trail. Roughly 30 miles of hiking and almost 8000 feet of climbing in 3 days with full packs.
On Thursday after work we headed over Snoqualmie Pass to the warm sun near Salmon La Sac, WA - just northwest of Cle Elum. Along the way we drove through Roslyn, WA which was the filming site of the television show Northern Exposure, for those of us old enough to remember. All of the lakes along the way (Keechelus and Cle Elum) appeared to be extremely low after an almost record length dry spell in Western Washington. That night we car camped near the trail head at the Salmon La Sac campground. The campground itself was very nice but damned near empty. We had a few beers and worked on lightening our packs which had been much too heavy last year. It wasn't long before a dark clear sky fell upon us and revealed a countless number of stars that we can never see from the city. "A good omen for the trip," I thought.
Our destination early this morning was the Mt. Dickerman summit. This is a fairly steep and strenuous 8.6 mile roundtrip hike with about 3800 feet of elevation gain. It's been described as extremely tough but honestly after a lot of the other climbs I've done this summer I thought it wasn't too bad. We just took it slow and steady. We never found ourselves so out of breath that we couldn't talk.
The trailhead can be found on the Mountain Loop Highway about 27 miles east of Granite Falls, WA. For those that don't know, there is no cell service along this fairly remote loop of road so be sure to bring the proper supplies. Water is especially scarce on the mountain this time of year. I carried 3 liters and had extra waiting for me in a cooler in the car. We hit the trail at 6:22 AM and arrived at the summit 2 hours 59 minutes later. Our return trip took just 1 hour 50 minutes.
Today my buddy and I climbed up Mt. Defiance via Mason Lake by starting at the Ira Spring trailhead. I have climbed Bandera Mountain from this trailhead on several occasions, most recently in June 2011, so driving instructions can be found on that trip report. It was a fantastic warm (sometimes very hot) day and the views were spectacular. Unfortunately we didn't quite prepare as well as we should have the night before the hike.
My wife and I last night found ourselves engrossed in a Breaking Bad (highly recommended) season 4 marathon and I couldn't make myself go to bed at a reasonable hour. At the same time, my buddy and his wife went to an outdoor concert and imbibed a bit more than one should before a hike like this. So at 5:30 AM when my buddy knocked on my door, he looked and felt terrible and I looked - well - I felt terrible, at least.
Like so many days before, my buddy and I attended to other commitments on a sunny day only to find ourselves hiking on the following, very cloudy day. Our path to the clouds this morning was the Beckler Peak Trail just east of Skykomish, WA off of Highway 2. The forest road is very narrow and the seemingly new parking area and privy are pretty small so arrive early.
The first and last pictures below the map show the parking area on our arrival and departure. There would really only be room for about 15 well parked cars. We left my buddy's house at 5:15 AM and were on the trail right at 7 AM. We were surprised to find another car there before ours, but we'd later meet two ladies who had camped on top the night before.
I could type up a paragraph describing the trail, but luckily a ranger already did that for me (5th picture below the map).
Until last summer I had never been on the Mountain Loop Highway east of Granite Falls. After climbing Mt. Pilchuck last year and hiking to Heather Lake and Lake 22 this year the area is really starting to grow on me. Today's trip up to Goat Lake did nothing but stoke my enthusiasm (even if we did get unexpectedly soaked). The lake itself is gorgeous and the trails to and from are a dream for anyone who loves waterfalls. Plus, it's nice and easy.
To get to the Goat Lake trailhead we drove way out the Mountain Loop from Granite Falls, beyond cell phone range, and even beyond the end of paved road. There are many fantastic views on this highway and great campgrounds that I didn't even know about. About 3 1/2 miles past the end of the pavement we found the road up to the trailhead (Northwest Forest Pass required).
My Wednesday day off really felt like a Saturday. So it really felt strange to be in the office on Thursday and it was pretty painful to look out the window from my desk and see warm sunshine. The mountains were calling. Since I'm ahead of schedule on my project at work I decided to take a vacation day on Friday to hike and luckily it didn't take too much peer pressure to convince my hiking buddy to do the same.
Very early Friday morning we headed up to Snoqualmie Pass to climb Mt. Washington. You can get there by taking Exit 38 off of I-90 and then a couple of quick right hand turns into Olallie State Park. Once again we were first to the parking area and first on the trail.
Sunshine! Sunshine! Sunshine! What a July the 4th! I was able to sleep late. I didn't have to go to work. On top of that, I woke up to warm and clear blue skies for the first time in several weeks. To celebrate I decided to take a quick hike up to Cherry Creek Falls near Duvall, WA. Also, since A-man has been begging me to take him hiking lately, I thought this would be a great starter for him.
This trail is pretty close to civilization and can be reached at the intersection of Cherry Valley and Mountain View just east of Duvall. Less than 30 minutes from my house. Another bonus!
Today's destination was Lake 22 off of the Mountain Loop Highway. This is a very popular hike and can get crowded on weekends. To avoid the crowds we hit the trail at about 7 AM in the rain with my buddy asking, "Are we crazy?" It does seem like this year we have hiked so much in clouds, rain, and snow. Today would be no different.
The trail itself is pretty easy and fantastically maintained. It's just 5.4 miles from car to lake to car and climbs just 1500 feet. There are many well built steps and several nice bridges. You can find the trailhead on the right hand side of the road just a couple miles past Verlot. The lake itself sits in the shadow of Mt. Pilchuck just over the ridge from Heather Lake, both of which I have hiked in the past.