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Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

Experimentation is the key

Posted by joeabbott on August 13, 2017

DSCF1114While I’ve complained about my SPOT device the past few weeks, I’ve also continued taking it on every hike; learning what works and what doesn’t. This past weekend, I learned in explicit terms what doesn’t work. My most recent attempt was to put the SPOT on a lanyard and wear it around my neck. Yup, it bounced against my sternum as I gasped breaths, the cord chafed at my neck in the heat and sweat of the day (although, there wasn’t that much heat), and it was a general nuisance, but to get better performance from my SPOT, I’d give anything a try.

imageAnd it failed. Big time.

Aspiring to the best qualities of Thomas Edison, I know what doesn’t work. And, I’ll keep trying to figure out what does, but to the left is my 17 mile hiking profile from my trip along Rattlesnake Ridge and back from Snoqualmie Point.

While you can’t see it from the picture, there are actually four points showing and, yes, the checkmark means those are the places I checked in. And, yes again, I did have the Track setting enabled. Which means that I didn’t capture a single location from the tracking software. Not a single one.

The way across the ridge is pretty straightforward on good trails with, admittedly, a bit of tree cover. However, across the entire back of the mountain we were on gravel roads walking through clear cuts. Not only weren’t we under trees, there were no trees!

And yet it’s very sad that the only times I was able to get a signal through was when we’d stop, position the SPOT to lay back down on the ground (face up to the sky) and let it sit like that for 10 minutes or so.

DSCF1019The antenna in the SPOT is located in the front, so that’s the desired positioning of it to give it the best chance at sending and receiving signals, but I was very surprised that not a single event was captured while worn as a necklace. Maybe it was the positional aspect or maybe the bouncing about, but it didn’t register a single location when worn as a necklace.

As I continue to find out what doesn’t work with this device, my next effort will be to find a way to position it on the top of my pack facing the sky. That should be my last, best chance to get this thing working reliably. And, I suppose, find hikes that are less tree-covered.

Here are a few pics from the trail:

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The trail is just over 10 miles from Snoqualmie Point to Rattlesnake Lake; we planned to stop at Rattlesnake Ledge and head back the way we came … making it about an 18 mile day. Heath’s GPS said we made it just under 17 miles as we stopped at an upper ledge\viewpoint and didn’t head to the Ledge proper. That was fine by me. As you can see in the final picture, the trail was under maintenance in one section so it was detoured to the back of the mountain … right through a clear cut. Not the sort of scenery you want when making a little hike.

We had full trail packs on as we are training for a stint along the Pacific Crest Trail, planning to travel roughly 75 miles from Steven’s Pass to Snoqualmie Pass. We’ll average 15 miles days and this was our trek to see how we felt after a single day with 35# packs. My feet were killing me! The trip will be a real test of endurance, strength and pain avoidance. Anyone out there interested in a similar challenge: don’t wait until you’re over 50 year old (like I am) before trying this!! It may not be “fun” but it will be rewarding.

Well, thanks for dropping in; may your trails be maintenance free and, if they aren’t, I hope you can avoid the clear cuts.

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Mt Teneriffe–a morning hike

Posted by joeabbott on July 29, 2017

I hiked Teneriffe today and that trail is a bear … I’d use stronger language, and feel like I should to convey just how challenging it is, but I think you get the picture. Rocky, steep, and winding straight up a ridgeline, it worked me hard and just didn’t let up. Let me tell you about it.

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The listing above notes 14 miles but that’s using some old logging roads; you can cut that down considerably if you use the old climbing trail and so we did; while I’m not a distance hiker, I can see the appeal of using the old roadbeds to get to the top.

We missed using the new parking lot by what appeared to be minutes. They just opened it to climbers’ parking but there was a maintenance vehicle at the gate (which was opened), so we headed to the old parking spot: a school bus turn-around. It’s marked for hiking, so the parking is legit, and it lends itself to heading up the old trail.

The first part of the trail appears maintained for hikers to get to Teneriffe Falls; what would be a spectacular cascade if water had been present. As of today, it’s a mere trickle that drips from moss and old lichen, pooling beneath the lower stones and running away nearly silently. We paused briefly here and, had we known it, we could have bade farewell to the best part of the trail. What followed was steep, nasty, and filled with ankle-breaking broken fist-sized rocks. A terrible hiking bed.

I’d guess we cut a couple miles off the hike by heading up that route, ultimately putting in something like 11 miles, as opposed to the posted 14 miles. I wouldn’t say it was worth it, but I did enjoy the challenge and the direct-line ascent. At the top you break tree line and can stop at a rocky outcrop, or continue another 100’ to the summit and get commanding views in 360° with Glacier Peak, Mount Baker, the North Bend valley, and Mount Rainier all playing prominent roles. It was stunning.

Here’s my friend Heath with a view to the south: Rainier on the horizon and Rattlesnake Lake in the mid-ground; North Bend and I-90 are mid-screen.

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On the way down we took the logging roads and while it was longer and the roads aren’t anywhere near as nice as the early parts of the trail, they were serviceable. About 3/4 the way down we took an unmaintained trail between the logging roads and the climbing trail to get us more quickly to our car … and when we got to the climbers’ trail, I remembered immediately why I hated it.

Anyhow, it as a great day with good friends and a wonderful mountaintop … I just wish I didn’t have to tolerate those trails to get there. I will note that I had my SPOT on again, 100% of the time from leaving the car to getting back. How did it do? Well, here’s my map from about 6-hours of being on the trail:

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I’ll just say … <sigh>.

But, thanks for dropping by and seeing where my boots have taken me this weekend. I hope you had a chance to get out yourself!

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I’ll let the SPOT track speak for itself

Posted by joeabbott on July 25, 2017

Here’s the latest track from a little hike up Mt. Pugh … a 5.5-mile (one-way), 5380’ gain peak in the middle Cascades:

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About 20 locations on a roughly 8-hour outing with well over half of the trail well-above tree line.

Regardless how the SPOT performed, it was a wonderful outing.

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SPOT apologies … sort of

Posted by joeabbott on July 16, 2017

Well, I got out on a hike yesterday with the SPOT using lithium batteries … and, yes, while installing them I saw the printed notice to use only lithium batteries in this unit. And, I think I got better results. First, here’s the map from my wanderings:

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We started and ended at the far left … at Rattlesnake Lake or, more properly, Cedar Falls Trailhead. Our route took us east about 10 miles on our bikes to the McClellan Butte trail intersection (we cut off about a quarter- to half-mile of the trail by riding in) and then up the hill to the summit. Due to there being a Mountaineers climbing party on the trail, as well as about a half-dozen couples or small groups, we omitted the scramble to the true summit. I find the thrill of being on top of something is diminished by crowds and the danger added with over a dozen others up top just wasn’t worth the risk.

Anyhow, the SPOT did a lot better … it signaled nearly all of the “I’m OK” messages (the checkmarks) but was again pretty spotty (hehe … lame pun intended) on the parts of the trail with even modest tree cover. The ride in took about a leisurely hour and we only got a few tracks marked … interestingly, the coming and going signals were in the same locations (2 and 12, 3 and 11). The trail didn’t appear heavily treed but the route up McClellan’s Butte was … and, as you see, we only got signals out at the summit.

I continue to be hopeful and disappointed by the SPOT performance but the improvement I saw this week was heartening. As you can see, I’m an optimist in these sort of things. I’ll keep dragging it about in hopes of better tracking on my trails to come.

I’ll end with the view I got from the top … a picture-perfect Seattle day with rolling green hills, multiple ridgelines to the horizon and Mt. Rainier above it all. Hard to get much better than this.

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Thanks for dropping by and taking a look at my doings.

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Still exercising that demon: SPOT

Posted by joeabbott on July 3, 2017

I was sure I was done with complaining about the SPOT. Hard to feel like you’re rational when you carp about an inanimate object, but as I’ve said before, the promise of how great this device could be has me frustrated.

imageAs I was putting away my gear from last weekend, I noticed the SPOT was still on; earlier I’d reported that it had turned itself off or drained the batteries. So, I figured I had just missed the “on” light and decided to try it with the batteries it has. SPOILER: the machine just doesn’t appear to like alkaline batteries. On my outing yesterday, I saw the same behavior: the unit didn’t send many messages, it appeared off when I got done with the bike ride, but the batteries appear to have juice. My solution was to order lithium batteries from Amazon when I got home … they’ll be here before next weekend.

Also, I was worried that I hadn’t oriented the SPOT correctly. It has an antenna in the body and works best when it’s face is up, pointing toward the sky. I don’t intend on wearing it on the top of my bike helmet, so I have a cord around it that I lash to the haul strap of my pack, and I adjust the body under some lashing cords on the back of the pack to ensure it doesn’t turn and face into my pack. It seems like a good setup, but I’m still not getting good results.

imageIn prior years when I wore it on a arm band, the unit worked much better. Again, those were days when I was mountaineering more and my trails were all above tree line, but whether on my arm and facing to the side, or on my back facing behind me, I’d expect similar results.

What were the results? Well, yesterday’s bike ride was a bit over 40 miles on old railroad grade beds, with a lot of it under trees but I passed through several towns in open parks and along roadways. The tracks captured by SPOT are in the map to the right.

It did a bit better. I managed to get a dozen tracks laid in and a single OK response. That’s 12 blips over 20 miles (it only seemed to capture blips in one direction) and a couple hours. Not great.

From the map, it appears that all locations are sequential from Duvall to Snoqualmie … as we’d done a round trip, this says that I didn’t get a single blip on our northward leg (we left from Snoqualmie, hit Duvall, and returned). Odd. I didn’t send a lot of “I’m OK” blips but I probably launched 5 of them and I did those while off the bike in some part of open land.

The end result is pretty modest in terms of a reliable, emergency response device. I’ll continue to play around with how I orient it and will be using lithium batteries going forward but this is downright disappointing in terms of value for the dollars I spend on the service.

I know a SPOT has the challenge of pushing data to the satellites for my location; a GPS merely has to pull in the signal from the satellites and do a bit of math (well, the SPOT does this, too, but it has to register or signal the satellites with “I’m OK” and to capture my progress for real-time display). How much easier does this make the job for the GPS? Well, here is the track my GPS captured:

image   image

Each tiny dot is a separate instance recorded where the GPS was talking to at least three satellites and the figuring out my exact location.

The elevation profile on the right has us starting in Snoqualmie at ~725’ in elevation, dropping to ~300’ at Duvall, and then returning on the same trail. News flash: it’s way harder to send information to satellites than read the data they’re transmitting.

So, while I look like Inspector Gadget as I head down the trail with my SPOT, my GPS, and often a dedicated camera attached to various straps, it appears I need (or desperately want) this sort of redundancy in functionality. Expect that I’ll continue to play with my SPOT to get the best results … the promise of it working well really is worth it … and I’ll keep my GPS so I will reliably know where I’ve been.

And thank you for finding your way to this site and the end of this post. I hope your trails are less ambiguous!

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SPOT–love it, hate it

Posted by joeabbott on June 30, 2017

I have a SPOT device that tracks my movement by relaying my locations to a satellite that then stores the data. When I’m on a long hike, I can setup a page for Suzy to view and track my progress. The SPOT has only a couple buttons: one to turn it on, another to start tracking regular movement, a third button will send an “I’m OK” message, and a final button can be configured to send a custom message … this could be anything from “come look for me but don’t send authorities” (sending in a search team can cost big dollars!), “drop food at the agreed on stash”, or “I’m getting close to our pick up spot … bring the car to get me!” Again, it could be anything but I’m only allowed a single custom message.

The SPOT also comes with a hotline straight to authorities that will trigger a search and rescue action, and it’s the main selling point of the system. I hike alone far less these days than I did in my youth, but I’ve agreed with Suzy to carry this most anytime I leave home.

When it’s working, I love it. A couple years back I was on a kayaking trip and at the end of the outing, I had a line of dots on the map that showed nearly my every paddle stroke. But when you get under even superficial tree cover or the unit isn’t positioned “correctly”, you get what I got during the ~10 hours I was out last Saturday: a few points the entire day. Here’s the map:

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While some of this trip was under trees … the start, as you can tell … most was only moderately covered and I should have picked up more than 8 points. And that includes both those initiated by me as “I’m OK” messages, as well as those that tracked my regular movement. Oh, and when I got back, the three brand new alkaline batteries (yes, I should be using lithium) were completely drained … or the system had turned itself off. And that might be a good feature: for the unit to realize it’s useless and to try saving a little battery or something!

It’s just darned disappointing because when it works, it’s a wonder.

I’ll keep trying to use it, as I have the service for another year, but I’m sure hoping something happens to make this a more reliable tool.

Sorry for the bummer post … believe me, I would have liked something a bit more upbeat!

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Carbon Glacier–a hiking classic

Posted by joeabbott on June 25, 2017

Today I feel drained. Well, that’s not the right word … there’s not less of me; perhaps sated is closer. It’s true I’m fatigued and my feet are tender, but we could have a conversation and I’d fill it with words: I would paint pictures of graphite-colored ice, of soaring blades of stone, of trails piercing the greenery of a new summer, and the massive bulk of Mt. Rainier over-watching it all.

P6240002But, I’ll try fewer words and a few more pictures than usual. if you find yourself around Mt. Rainer and have a strong trekking gait (or, better yet, a mountain bike), I recommend you retrace my steps. Yesterday’s was a beautiful outing.

P6240007Tim and I headed into the Mt. Rainier National Park via the Carbon River entrance. The road in has been washed out and allowed to remain closed to motor vehicle traffic, but that appears to increase the allure of those on foot and bike. We chose to bike in the first 5 miles to the end of the road; the Ipsut Creek Campground and Trailhead. From there we locked up the bikes and headed out on foot.P6240004

The road in is solid but one section was greatly reduced and eroded; we even had to walk our bikes over that section. And while the trail seemed reasonably flat, we were huffing and puffing to get in and up. I chalked it up to our eagerness to start the hike proper, but would later learn (as we coasted back to the cars at high speed) that the way in was deceptively steep.

At Ipsut Creek Campground we locked out bikes and helmets, grabbed a little something to eat, marveled at the number of people we’d already seen around, and headed out at a modestly respectable 8AM departure from the trailhead.

Ipsut Falls    P6240014

P6240016In less than a quarter mile you hit Ipsut Falls. A lovely cascade that I’d never spent much time appreciating. As we had nothing but time and an itinerary of our choosing, we paused for some snaps before heading on. After a short bit of uphill through some heavy forest, you break out into a washout area that is a spillway for the Carbon River when waters crest and flood a low valley section. We traversed this, stopping for a snack and pics.

After a few foot bridges, we crossed to the far forest and headed upslope toward the Carbon Glacier and points beyond!

The streams were high but nearly all bridges were easily passable. One bridge was under water but the park service had created another, identical bridge just upstream from it. Not sure why it didn’t make sense to salvage this one, but they hadn’t consulted me!

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Just before the Carbon Glacier there’s a turn-off that crosses a suspension bridge. Our initial plans hadn’t included trails on the far side, but Tim couldn’t pass up a chance to cross it and investigate. As we had all afternoon, I was game.

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We crossed, headed up the trail to the Carbon Creek Campground, and then sat by a small tributary and enjoyed a small break; the cool air coming off the glacial waters was heavenly on this hot day. Soon enough, it was time to get to the titular Carbon Glacier itself.

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I’d been by this glacier several times in the past and find it more than a little sad to see it so degraded. As with nearly all glaciers, it’s in decline with its icy snoot receding toward the mountain. But, since I’d last seen it, the terminus had collapsed and water no longer issued from the ice caves at the forefront, now they skirt the old glacier itself and stream from the sides. But, it was a very fine day and enjoyable to see one of the wonders of the Pacific Northwest: might Mt. Rainier lording benevolently over the Park on a simply gorgeous day.

With encouragement from Tim, we continued up the trail some 1500’ in elevation gain to near the saddle. While we weren’t able to get the singular views of Mt. Rainier that were constantly promised (but never delivered) after “just the next turn in the trail”, we got some needed training and enjoyed a final snack next to a stream coming off the higher basin.P6240050

And with that …foot sore and soaked in sweat, we tramped down the trail seeing every passerby on their way up looking far fresher than we had felt on the way in. Past the suspension bridge, past the valley of foot bridges and cairns, down past Ipsut Falls and into the campground. We paused momentarily before hopping aboard our bikes and nearly flying to the car. So ended a phenomenal day, a simple walk in the Park.

Thanks for looking in and I hope your weekends are as rewards.

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Where’d I go last weekend? Good question!

Posted by joeabbott on June 19, 2017

I headed up to Mt. Dickerman.

Mt. Dickerman is a moderate hike on moderately good trials that ends in excellent views in a phenomenal area. It’s about 85 miles from my front door, making it about 20 miles from the property we own up in Granite Falls. As a matter of fact, you’d be hard pressed not to go through Granite Falls to get to the trailhead! That’s where I found myself going with my buddies Tim and Heath, two guys who are training with me to do the Snoqualmie-to-Steven’s Pass hike later this summer.

The Mt. Dickerman trail runs about 4 miles … one sign indicated 4.3 miles … and gains some 4000’ in elevation. Due to its location, from the top, you are given commanding views of mountains in all directions: Forgotten, Pugh, Glacier, Sloan, Columbia, and Big Four to name a few … unfortunately for us, low clouds kept most of the more distant peaks from us but what we could see made the hike worth it.

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It took 2.5-3 hours to get to the summit, with about a third of the going through moderate snow. The more icy, hard-packed slopes had me wishing I’d brought a boot with a firmer sole, but my Keen hikers treated me well on the trail. The best part about the outing is that, after it was over, I was a little sore if my leg muscles were rubbed but, for the most part, didn’t have any problems with stiffness and could easily get up and down the stairs. While that’s a pretty low bar to be proud about, it’s showing good progress and giving me hope that I’ll be ready for the summer hiking when it starts in earnest!

Thanks for looking in!

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Last week’s outing

Posted by joeabbott on June 18, 2017

I mentioned I was getting in shape for the hiking season but, aside from “banged up”, I haven’t went into details about how or what I’m doing. Let’s take a look at last week’s outing.

The trip was a bike ride, from west to east, along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, an old reclaimed railroad bed, from Rattlesnake Lake to Snoqualmie Pass. For those less familiar with the area, here’s a little diagram:

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The trail starts around 1000’ and ends roughly 25 miles later at a hair over 3000’; but the grade is level as can be, so you really don’t notice that you’re heading uphill. At least not in a fatiguing fashion.

While the Trail heads through some historic areas, there’s little left; a few signs from old depot stops (ostensibly for mining or forestry purposes), a few trestles that have been rebuilt, and the tunnel at the pass which is in great shape. Our timing was a bit unfortunate as we found out (after starting) that a marathon had been planned for that day on the JWP Trail, but we tried to avoid being a problem for the runners and, for the most part, they stayed to their side of the trail.

Here are a few snaps from the trip:

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And, aside from my spill not 10-minutes away from getting back to the cars, it was an uneventful trip. A bit of a sore tuckas from the long ride but the weather was great, the company was very fine, and I can now check-off “rode my bike to the Pass and through the tunnel at the top” from my list.

Thanks for dropping in.

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Oops … that wasn’t supposed to happen

Posted by joeabbott on June 11, 2017

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So I’ve been trying to get into hiking shape for the season with the goal of hiking a ~70 mile trip later this fall. Other than the distance and a bit of up and down, it’s not a challenging outing; we plan on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Snoqualmie Pass to Steven’s Pass … Section K, in the parlance of section-hikers. To get ready, I’m doing weekend outings, a smattering of this and that. Last weekend it was Mt. Si, this weekend I biked about 25 miles uphill from Rattlesnake Ledge to Snoqualmie Pass. I came back, but that was downhill and a lot easier.

However, there was an oopsie that makes it hard to feel confident and proud of my abilities.

I was about 10 minutes out of the parking lot and came up behind a couple of hikers. As we were both on the right and wanting to pass, I made a quick juke to the left side … at exactly the same time there was a big dip in the trail! And so my tire hit the far side of the dip and I hit the trail. It was a glorious mess: my face, arm, and shoulder hit the gravel trail, I crumpled over the handle bars, and everything came to an abrupt stop.

Ouch.

Here are a few of the souvenirs I came away with:

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I took a knock to the ribs that I’m going to keep an eye on but it’s not too bad right now. Suzy took a look and asked if I’d managed to get all the dirt out of my wounds … I’m not sure. But, it’s a bit tender now to dig into it … I’ll save that treat for before I go to bed.

I’m not terribly disappointed … but maybe a little. And certainly not interested in doing it again. So what am I going to do? Well, get back on the bike, improve my biking skills, and avoid face-smashing the trail again. Fortunately, I was wearing a helmet that took most of the damage. Tomorrow I’ll give the bike and my gear a good look over. Tonight? Well, I’ll give everything a rest and get to bed early.

Sorry for being away for so long and thanks for looking in.

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