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      Posting these cat-cartoons-without-the-cartoon was a long journey that I don’t know if I’ll repeat soon again. A daily blog is tough … even when you have your material handed to you! But, I couldn’t have done it without the artwork … Continue reading →
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Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

Yet another climbing post

Posted by joeabbott on May 28, 2018

I have a couple problems with being a blogger: I don’t do it regularly enough, I don’t write in a style that’s easy to quickly consume (I’m too verbose), I’m probably not entertaining enough (HERE ARE SEVEN THINGS THAT MIGHT KILL YOU IN THE MOUNTAINS … NUMBER FIVE WILL SHOCK YOU!), and I jump around to too many topics. Is this a gaming blog? A travel blog? A hiking blog? Woodworking? Home projects? Just too many to draw a consistent audience.

But I have been writing a lot about hiking … and today you get another. There’ll likely only be a couple more this year: one for Rainier, another for the annual Test Lab Hike, and maybe something I do solo or with Suzy. But I’d be remiss to fail to post about Mt. Adams last weekend.

DSCF1923ImageMt. Adams was our chance to do a “big mountain” and really test out our gear, figure out what works, and use it as a practice run for Mt. Rainier. I was hoping the whole team could make it, but Tim had pressing matters and it was just five of us. Still a good number.

Our early beta on the climb suggested we’d need to hike an additional 3 miles to the trailhead; snow was still heavy and while days had been nice, no one had been able to drive to Cold Springs campground. Also, I had zero time for planning and was getting frustrated leading up to the outing as I felt everyone was doing a little (well, everyone but me) but no one was pulling a complete plan together. Heath heard my petulant whining, stepped up, and a couple days before we headed out I knew what to bring, who was driving, who was tenting with whom, what fees we’d incur, which route we’d be on, etc. Just the whole shebang like I like it.

Off we went.

Part of the problem with hiking Mt. Adams is that it’s a 4.5 hour trip from Seattle. It went reasonably quickly and before you knew it we were at the Ranger Station dropping off our fees and picking up our blue bags … and for those of you who do not know what a blue bag is, you’re lucky. Essentially it’s your toilet when on a glacier or other heavily traveled path without a latrine. You either poop on the snow or on a provided “target”, use the resources in the kit to scoop your waste into a bag, and then seal all the yucky stuff in another bag. After that, you carry it out and dispose at the trailhead in special containers. It’s nasty but keeps the mountain from being so.

We dropped Dan’s car off at a nearby campground and then all piled into Ron’s truck for the trip as close to Cold Springs campground as we could get. I rode in the bed with Heath, and Cy and Dan rounded out the crew in the cab, and on a rut-pocked road we made it to within about a quarter mile of Cold Springs! I’m not sure if the Ranger Station has bad information or old information, but the sun had melted away a bunch of snow and it saved our feet a long walk.image

Those of us not driving jumped out and moved a few fallen limbs and stones so Ron could park his truck on the shoulder and we then grabbed our gear and started the hike to camp.

The trip in was uneventful. We started around 4700’ and planned to camp at the Lunch Counter: a flattish area on the southern side of Mt. Adams around 9100’. It’s a bit less elevation than the Paradise-to-Camp Muir trip, but similar enough to provide a good test. As we approached the Lunch Counter, rocks started poking out and when that happens, the snow tends to be thinner … I think the dark volcanic stone picks up the heat from sunlight and draws it under the snow to melt things below the surface. Anyhow, we were prepared and donned our snowshoes and avoided a lot of frustration as we walk on the snow, rather than post-holing and punching through (like a number of other hikers who passed us by later, when we were at camp).

DSCF1947imageIt was chilly and the skies were overcast but we setup camp quickly. Heath and I shared a tent, Cy and Ron shared an identical tent, and Dan sheltered his bivy between the two; we had a rising rock formation behind us, a snow slope between us and the summit, and were generally well shielded from any winds. Nice camp.

After setting up we ate our freeze dried meals and then started melting water. I was concerned that this would take all night but with five guys, we got a good setup going. Two people would tend the stoves, keeping them going and continually filling the pots with snow; one person manned the pump filter, continually cranking while a stove-tender moved the end to whichever stove had liquid water; another person would hold a water bottle that was being filled and he’d pass it to the remaining person to dump into whichever water reservoir needed it. Good system.

And then we slept.

Ron awoke us at 4AM and under headlamps we ate our cold breakfasts, strapped on our crampons, and in the chill morning, headed the two miles and 3000’+ to the summit. I kicked steps out of camp, enjoying that the now crusty snow was holding my weight. Previous hikers had stomped a trail into the snow but warm weather and overnight cold, snow, and wind partially obscured it, so there was a little work in re-establishing the trail. We pretty much headed straight to the summit, up over a feature called Piker’s Peak: the false summit. Or, more accurately, the near side of the caldera that just happens to be a bit lower than what is considered the true summit.DSCF1955

At one point I stepped out of lead, letting others kick steps. By the time we started hitting really steep terrain, Ron was in the lead. I felt badly for him as the snow had so little moisture in it, that his steps would break apart. The adage: two steps forward, one step back was never more apt.

DSCF1949DSCF1954I will note that around this time I remembered something about mountaineering I’d all but forgotten: the amount of willpower it takes to keep on. Somewhere on the steep slow to the false summit I got the lead again through the poor quality snow: I was laboring, chilled by a shrill wind that was getting to my neck, still groggy, my water tube had frozen so I couldn’t drink, and feeling taxed overall. I wanted to be about anywhere else and being in the lead again was making me grumpy. And that’s when I remembered to stop talking to myself that way and get on with getting to the top. Anyone can summit a mountain … I truly believe anyone can. You just have to keep going. And that’s what separates those who do from those who don’t.

That notion is stupidly simplistic and falls apart in many situations, but getting to the top was hard, it was not going to get easier, and I just needed to keep moving to be one of those who made it. And so I kept stepping and remembered that mental toughness is as important as physical toughness.

At the false summit we took a small break, admired the distant true summit, and then I headed out. I kicked across the top of the mountain and started to the summit but stepped out to let Ron finish us off. It wasn’t hard climbing but there’s a tiny tiny thrill at being the first on top of a mountain. Even if it’s the first of your team … that day, Ron was first of anyone. It was his first volcano and first big mountain. Nice.DSCF1962

Low clouds still covered the surrounding area but we got a great view of Rainier. Pictures were taken and before another crew hit the summit, we were on our way down.image

The trip back was equally uneventful: just a lotta steps. At camp we put on the snowshoes as the snow was getting soft and ambled down under heavy packs. I was clearly “in a zone” on the way up as I didn’t remember much about the trail in. Hard to miss the way back to the cars, though, as many steps had carved a deep rut.image

And that’s about it. Unmitigated success, a wonderful trip, and some good company … everything you could want in an overnighter in the mountains. DSCF1985

Apologies for an overly long story and thanks for getting this far.

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A new day, fresh batteries, and am I a misanthrope?

Posted by joeabbott on May 13, 2018

Well, I returned to Mt. Rainier to hike to Camp Muir again and it was quite a day. A bit of a spoiler here but the weather was fantastic (evidenced by the awesome v-shaped sunburn I have on my neck), my SPOT appeared to perform flawlessly, and there were so many people on the mountain that most of my inner dialog involved saying rude things to them … fortunately, I keep my mouth shut a lot.

Time to take that trip along with me again!

A new day

DSCF1864DSCF1859I’ve been to Rainier 5 times in the past two months: once I was stopped at Longmire due to road closures (avalanche danger), once we had brilliant weather but only hiked to 9000’ due to time constraints, another time we hiked to 8000’ due to whiteout conditions, and twice we’ve now made it to Camp Muir. We did it in fine time and felt good, but it still takes a toll: the extra effort of hiking in mushy snow where you might post-hole (sink to your knee) in, being under a hot sun for 10 hours, and carrying a lot of weight all wear you down.

But, if you’re going to be worn down, this is the place for it!

Yesterday the weather was gorgeous and we were doing well. Tim felt it took him a while to find his stride and I struggled most of the time but we kept moving. An important part of hiking that many hours is hydration and food management … keep sipping that water and when you stop, make sure you replace those salts as well as keep the carb-train rolling; being on the mountain is no time to practice your diet! I eat like a garbage scow continually pulling in calories and have lost weight over the hiking season while making no other effort to trim down. You burn some calories on the trail!

What do I eat? Well, I have a little hip-belt pouch (had been intended to keep a one-quart water bottle but I use a hydration pouch) in which I carry a small baggie of nuts, some crackers or something crunchy, and I found something called a Stroopwafel

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They’re thin, light, and pretty tasty … they have 120 calories per “wafel”: with a caramel filling it’s not a diet snack. I noticed a new product in the REI power bar selection that looks a lot like these; I’ve tried them and they were good, but at over a dollar each, I didn’t get that many. When I came across a package of three dozen for (let’s call it $7 because I’m not sure at all what I paid but that’s what I saw on the Internet), I grabbed then, toss a few into a baggie, and they’re great on the trail.

But, I’m losing track of my point … the day was so clear you could see where we were heading from the parking lot!

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It looked a long way away but we had all day. Our only goal was to get there in 6 hours … not a hard goal or one we’d pain ourselves to meet, but it’s what we wanted. Time to head out!

Fresh batteries

Another issue I wanted to address on this hike was my SPOT. As I’d noted, I was having very poor performance from it; so poor, I had contacted the company and they were sending a replacement on generous financial terms. As my model was no longer manufactured, out of warranty and I didn’t have their loss\replacement program, it wouldn’t be free … but, as a customer since 2008, they offered me a new unit for quite a bit off. I accepted their offer.

But, while waiting for the new unit, I put fresh batteries into my current SPOT and tried again. Every season I replace batteries so this would be the second time replacing three lithium AAA batteries in just a few months. But it made the difference! I got dozens of locations marked!

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Ultimately it just says that I had discharged batteries, and for that I’m disappointed. While I like the new technology that will be in the new model, I’m not one to replace something that’s working just fine. Looks like I’ll have a backup.

Am I a misanthrope?

We got to the Park at 8AM, not a climbers’ start time, but respectable considering it’s an hour and a half drive for us. But, upon turning into the parking lot we were stunned … dozens! hundreds of people! We ended up parking in the last row and navigated past dozens of groups of people. If you weren’t skiing, you were in the minority and I had to laugh as the trail to the top of Panorama Point looked like the classic Chilkoot Trail image during the gold rush:

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And while I’m super comfortable around folks who aren’t from the States, there has to be a cultural thing where others are a lot more comfortable dogging someone else’s heels. We’re on this huge mountain and people continually marched up right behind me and settled in. I would step aside, they’d look up a bit surprised, and march on. This happened a dozen times or so! It was super-frustrating. Partially I was self-conscious about being slow, but who marches right behind someone?

A couple times I’d see the line of people and, knowing that I enjoyed being out to be with Nature and just my thoughts, I’d talk to Tim and we’d create a path across new snow where no one else was marching … and, within minutes, someone would be right on my tail! It was quite disappointing. And I also suffer from the frustration that comes when you are amid other languages and don’t understand what’s being said … it’s off-putting for me. Kinda like hearing a loud-talker on the phone when you can just hear one side of the conversation … similarly annoying. Perhaps I’m just sensitive that I can’t keep up a conversation at that altitude under that physical exertion. Regardless, the outing was less a balm than it normally is when walking along the flanks of this giant.

I will try to redeem myself a little. When we got to the parking lot I noticed a middle aged Indian man helping a very aged woman down the snow-covered, slick slope that’s the final 20’ to the lot. Seeing her concern and his care, I asked if it would be helpful to use my trekking poles and they readily accepted. I walked to the lot, sat down, and tried to regain some energy. After Tim came by and said he’d meet me at the car, I looked around for my poles … and, for a second thought the couple may have confused my offer of a loan for a gift! Then I saw they were still on the slope, slowly working their way down. It was touching and I was glad I could help. When they got to the lot, they happily returned the poles and thanked me, I told her she looked great and that would be all she needed to climb the mountain! And, with smiles and a somewhat lighter spirit, I headed to the car and toward home.

Coda

I’m working up to a summit bid in the first week in June. I’m not at the point I’d like to be, physically, but I know I can do it. It’ll just be tougher than I’d like. Heavens knows I’m putting in the time, so I’m not sure what more I should be doing. Perhaps even more time. With just three weeks left, that’s a resource I don’t believe I have, so I’ll make do with where I’m at.

In spite of the pain, discomfort, and continually go-go-going I’ve been living with, it’ll be fun to summit Rainier again. Thanks for joining me as I prepare for this journey.

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A day in pictures (and some words)

Posted by joeabbott on May 8, 2018

I was going to use this post to talk about getting stronger … how I feel broken down all the time but I’m more capable and faster … but, it got depressing. So I hit restart and will just be sharing my past weekend … I’ll let the pics do most of the talking.

imageI got out with Ron and Tim … the picture along the right side bar is our journey from the bottom (Paradise) to the top (Camp Muir) and back. It started in a solid rain, got gloriously clear, then a whiteout, and by the time we got back to the car, we’d just spent 45 minutes in driving rain. It was that sorta day … come along!

Ron’s face isn’t melting … that’s just the rain. We’re barely out of the lot and you can see his Gore-Tex jacket is already showing signs of waterlogging.

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Destination … that little spec waaay up there. You’ll likely need to look at the blow-up photo, figure out where that lines up in the first photo, and then try to spot the little square buildings marking Camp Muir. And, yes, they’re pretty hard to spot!

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Aside from that, the slog was the same as the slog usually is … sloggy. I was fairing poorly after a strenuous Saturday and struggled under the 50# pack. As you can see, this was my view most of the way: dead last in our pack of 3 hikers!

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But then things cleared and it’s GLORIOUS out there! I really love it. This is from somewhere just below Anvil Rock … you can find it on the map to the right.

DSCF1822 Stitch

But, before long, the clouds settled in, I started lagging, and we were back to slogging. But, as you can see in the last picture, we spotted the rectangular buildings of Camp Muir … we were there!

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Evidence I made it … but, I felt a whole lot worse than I look!

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On the far side of Camp Muir, the trail goes something like this (the green line) … but that will be a trip for another day.

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But, the weather being what it was, it cleared a bit before going into total whiteout mode. Here we are saying farewell to Camp Muir and heading back to the cars … on the way down, I made a little better time than Tim and Ron as I was willing to glissade some of the steeper slopes.

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And then Paradise was in sight. I’d never seen the parking lot so empty but happy for the one car there that I was looking for … the one containing my dry clothing and that would take me home. As much as it’s nice to get out, when you’ve been walking 10 hours under a heavy pack through driving rain and whiteout conditions, getting somewhere you can relax in comfort is priceless.

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Thanks for tromping a long with me and I hope your days have less rain and now whiteouts!

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Climbing in a whiteout

Posted by joeabbott on April 29, 2018

I’m not sure what’s changed, but climbing in a whiteout is pretty disconcerting and I don’t remember it always being that way. Yes, I’m out less than I used to be but yesterday messed with my head in ways that have me pondering my capabilities in the mountains. Even with the GPS and all the right gear, the day wore on me in a taxing way. But, I was out, enjoyed the beauty of Mt. Rainier on one of her moodier days, and will share a little of that day with you.

Here are some pictures just out of the parking lot … we’d just strapped on our traction footwear and were ready to head in. The picture on the left is looking up at the Mountain … in the lower elevation we had about 500’ of visibility; not enough for route finding, but enough to get one’s bearings. The picture on the right is looking back to the parking lot. On sunnier days the Tatoosh Ranges is prominent and glorious from this vantage. See my On a clear day post for a little juxtaposition.

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A bit later we arrived at Panorama Point; a spot so-named because you get great views all around. On this day, it was just Tim and me, posing for posterity:

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A couple things to note … first, my GPS is pretty handy, because we were using it nonstop. Because I wasn’t able to take a step without knowing if the slope was up or down, I’d just pop it on to determine if we were on the same line we’d put in last weekend. Also note that you can’t see a thing in the pictures other than us. Even looking at the snow around our feet, you quickly lose the ability to discern details beyond 10’ or so and there’s no “horizon” in a whiteout.

After getting just beyond Panorama Point, we stopped. Most other people had turned around by this time and we were breaking trail. I was questioning my ability to get us safely up and down so we broke for lunch, enjoying a few nibbles while waiting to see if the weather would lift. About that time, a group of nine folks in high spirits tromped by us, happily chatting and moving as if they had zero cares. Tim and I shrugged and after about 5 minutes, we followed.

We made it about 1000’ in elevation beyond Panorama Point, just above McCure Rock and The Sugarloaf (we were about 7800’) when I expressed concern. As long as we were right on these folks’ trail, we were doing fine, but on our own, I was reduced to looking at the GPS, taking a dozen steps, and looking again. And while I had spare batteries, I noticed the cold was sapping the lithium batteries I’d installed just the prior weekend; I was already down to the last bar.

So, we turned back.

It was a shame as we were feeling strong, the day was a joy without anyone else (within sight) on the mountain, and we were making good time: we felt like we could have easily made our objective of Camp Muir. While the weather was actually kinda bad, it wasn’t terribly uncomfortable and I’d trade a little inclement weather for solitude any day. It was cold but not so cold our hydration tubes were freezing … it was cold enough that Tim’s spare water bottle shattered, though!

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After turning back, we went about 10 minutes before the trail was completely lost. In addition to being in a whiteout, there was a slow pelting of snow and a good wind, leaving the trail to fill fill with snow quickly. So, I started marching us our dozen steps, checking the GPS, and continuing on. At one point Tim became convinced we’d come from the right, which sends alarms off in my mind. Of all the dangers that people fall into on this route, heading off onto the Nisqually Glacier (which is “off to the right” as you descend this route) is the main one that gets people hurt or worse. So while the whiteout was confusing me enough to question whether he was correct, I was adamant not to head too far to the right. So we stumbled on to the left.

DSCF1812In about 15 minutes after that, our troupe of nine high-spirited climbers were descending and marched past us. It seems a ranger heading down from Camp Muir had met them and stated conditions at Muir were just as bad; no better weather up high on the mountain. Once again we were swept up in their wake.

They stopped often, which was an annoyance, as I like to find a pace and just march on, but it appears they were having trouble with navigation themselves. The price of being able to march down the hill on autopilot was to allow those piloting the time needed to find a safe path back. Fair enough.

On the way down we hit two signs that things were going well … first, an actual sign and the second was more climbers. The climbers were hard to see, but you could hear them off in the fog. The thing I liked most about seeing them, is they were the first objects we could make out that weren’t within about 10’ of us. In the below picture, the few people you can see in the lower right are our “guides” on the way down; the new climbers are in the middle of the image, faint and in the distance.

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So, as our visibility was extending a bit beyond our immediate circle, we knew we were getting closer to the parking lot. Soon we saw trees … another sign we were getting lower down … but I wasn’t able to spot Paradise yet. Our group of nine had stopped and we’d marched past them, so I was hoping we were still on track; funny how quickly you can question your own confidence. But, when I heard the distance scream of children I knew we were approaching the area where families will sled and frolic in the snow … it was only minutes before we popped out at the parking lot.

It was a good day from the point of getting out, putting in about 5 miles and 3000’ of elevation, but in the four times I’ve been to Rainier this season, I have yet to get to Camp Muir. There may be another try next weekend … let’s hope for better weather.

Thanks for dropping by.

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On a clear day

Posted by joeabbott on April 25, 2018

imageLast Saturday a friend of mine and I planned to hike to Camp Muir high on the flanks of Mt. Rainier as our goal. We also had a 2PM turn-around time and the gates into the Park didn’t open until 9AM, so we knew it was a stretch. We managed to get to 9000’, an hour or so below Camp Muir at 10,000’, so we missed our target, but enjoyed the day all the same.

We hiked about 4000’ (Paradise, our starting location is at ~5000’) in 4+ hours, not bad, and we enjoyed some spectacular weather. The views were phenomenal and the crowds were commensurate; a lot of people were on the trail. Let’s enjoy a few pics from the outing.

From the Paradise parking lot, the day promised to be gorgeous: the mountain was clear and crisp. Our destination was just below and to the right of the big blocky exposed rock above the trees in the foreground.

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I saw a lot of Tim’s back, initially. Tim joined me and went without wearing snowshoes. The snow quality was fantastic and held his weight just fine, so he was able to make better time than I was, as I was wearing snowshoes. I didn’t want to break through the crust, and as a Fatty McFat-Fat, that’s a real concern, especially with my heavy, training weight pack on.

There was one slope that reminded me of the classic Chilkoot Pass image, where gold rush prospectors are lined up to climb the Golden Stairs on a final push into the Yukon. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture that captured that view well enough … as there are far fewer people in my picture and the ground doesn’t nearly capture the sharp rise it felt we were heading up. But, the many footsteps and paths beaten into the snow tell the tale of a popular winter thoroughfare.

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At the top of this rise, there were opportunities for the two of us to have our proper pictures taken. Tim’s picture has the Tatoosh Range and a distant Mt. Adams in the background, whereas mine shows the summit of Mt. Rainier just up there … we should be able to get to it easily!

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Few times train you to just put your head down and find a slow pace than when you’re on a snowfield or glacier: the scenery doesn’t change all that much and it’s just you and your thoughts as you plod along. Heading to Muir is one of those times.

And then I got to this slope, just below an area named Moon Rocks. While the entirety of the trip is mostly even without a lot of steeper sections, this one feels steeper. Call it imagination but I cobbled together a few pics to help paint the grade:

DSCF1796 Stitch

And here I was looking up:

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It holds this grade for some 300’. I’ve tried counting steps, I’ve tried finding a rhythm of breathing, and I’ve tried ignoring everything but putting one foot in front of the others, and still I find myself looking upwards, many times, wondering when I’ll be over the hump. But the reward for keeping at it is commensurate and then some for the pains:

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There were far too many people about for me to revel in the silence and solitude I usually enjoy when I get out in the mountains, but they were welcome companions, kindred spirits who would stretch themselves to find a greater truth … if not of the world in which we live, than a truth of just themselves and what they might achieve if put to a test. But for Tim and I, it was 2PM and time for our return to the car. Someone in the group suggested the gate wasn’t going to be locked at 5PM but the best he could offer was “A ranger named Darby told me.” Setting that against seeing the sign at the bottom stating the contrary, we weren’t convinced and we headed down.

The trip down was far quicker (as one might imagine), but our legs were wobbly and the snow was now of a consistency that made it somewhat treacherous on the few steep places. And, before we got to the parking lot, Tim had put his snowshoes on as the snow’s crust was now sun-warmed and broke through on each step. A final looked back also suggested our fairy tale day was at an end and Mt. Rainier was calling clouds to help welcome the evening.

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In many times like this, on leaving the mountains, I’ve thought, “I’ll be back,” without serious consideration for when, but with Mt. Rainier just an hour and a half south of us, I will be back and it’ll be this coming weekend. While the gate had been posted as closing at 5PM when we entered the Park, that sign was removed when we came down. Additionally, we didn’t get to Camp Muir and we’ll need to in 5 weeks or so: we have a summit window of June 4-6. So, the training continues.

Thanks for dropping by and sharing a few snippets of my time out on this hike, and I hope your time out on whatever adventure you choose has been just as grand!

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Annual Test Lab Hike–North Olympic Peninsula Beaches

Posted by joeabbott on September 17, 2017

I look forward to one hike all year: our annual Test Lab Hike. It’s an odd name, but a group of four of us then young-ish engineers who worked for Boeing in their Test Labs and started taking strolls in the great outdoors, enjoying what the wilds of Washington state would afford us. Now, twenty-four years later, we still get out for that stroll.Olympic Peninsula

The plan was for a five-day, four-night outing with travel to and from Seattle on the first and last days. While we’d move our camp each of the days, the tides dictated that we’d have to leave relatively early in the day and arrive at our next camp well before noon; a somewhat odd situation. Additionally, the weather was forecast to be mild with one day seeing potential drizzle and another at 20% chance of rain … which is a pretty decent prediction when heading to a rain forest for a camping trip!

In the above map, the four named locations are the places we pitched our tents. While I’ll try to be brief, this is me … and it may get long-ish.

Thursday – drive to the peninsula, camp at the trailhead

No matter how you look at things, getting to the coast is little more than driving from Seattle. We met up around 7AM at Tim’s house, he made us breakfast, we packed the SUV we’d be taking, and started the 5-hour drive. Rush hour traffic and road construction got the best of us, but we likely only lost a half hour or so to that. We headed south to Tacoma and then west, following the northern coast of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

At Port Angeles we stopped at the Olympic National Park Ranger Station for current weather, tide, and camp site information; they informed us that Seafield Creek and Yellow Banks were “dry”, meaning they had no running water. Bummer. Also, due mainly to raccoon troubles, we were required to carry the provided “bear-proof food canisters”. These are hard plastic caches roughly 18” high and 10” in diameter and can only be considered to hold a lot of food if you ram your food in pretty tightly.

But, after getting some gas and snacks, we continued on to Lake Ozette where we got one of three final camp sites, ate our freeze-dried dinners, pitched our tent, and got in an evening game of Hearts before the mist started falling. By the time we’d made our final bedtime accommodations, the mist was pretty thick. And sometime late that evening, it was unequivocally raining.

Friday – get onto the beach, camp at Seafield Creek

DSCF1186We arose around 6AM and had stricken camp, did our final packing, moved the car, and were on the trail before 8AM. Not bad for a bunch of codgers looking for the loo, needing hot breakfasts, and wondering just how the heck one packed a bear-proof food canisters into an already-full pack. And then it was walking … I chose to not wear my rain slicker, in spite of the heavy mist, because it was warm enough that I’d be sweating furiously if I did. Wet is wet, and rain feels cleaner than sweat.DSCF1187_stitch

The trail from Lake Ozette to the coast has two paths: a northerly route to Cape Alava, and a southerly one to Sand Point. We took the northern leg and marched the three miles at a modest clip, making it to the beach around 9:30AM. By that time, the mist had slackened and we all became silent as the crashing surf aroused our senses. On top of the distinct sounds of the ocean, dozens and dozens of sea lion voices could be heard barking from some far-off rocky isle. The tide was heading out and we had a camp some seven miles to the north; and so we turned our attention that way and continued our march.

DSCF1506DSCF1191Somewhere just before the Ozette River, Tim lost his footing and took a tumble, painfully damaging his side; as if in commiseration, I shortly thereafter took my own slide. I fell forward and unfortunately had my hand pinned between the rock and my trekking pole … getting a cheese-grater greeting by the myriad sharp barnacles. Upon inspection I saw a bloodless wound and attempted to rip off the hanging flesh with my teeth. I had a faint sickening sensation as the tug was substantial and wasn’t sufficient to part the skin from the thumb: that was a deep wound. I cupped my hand to my chest and made my way bank-side on the Ozette in order to shed my pack and bandage my hand. By the time I had a wrap on it, the blood was profuse. I worried a lot about infection as we all crossed the river and took a small break.

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Tim rested his side, Ron and I headed upstream into the Ozette River to filter water for camp, hoping low tide and a plentiful current would provide salt-free water. Unfortunately, the water was still brackish and only really good for use as cooking water or with heavily flavored powders. But, we brought what we could with us and, after our short rest, continued marching the two and a half miles north to Seafield Creek.

We setup camp and Tim realized he had forgotten his sandals back at the Ozette River just after the crossing. Without truly hoping we could get them (the tide was now coming in) … and without a lot of worry if we didn’t … we headed south and while we were unable to make it past the final headwall safely (the tide had risen beyond a safe height to pass), returned to camp happy for a chance to stretch our legs without a pack and enjoying good company.DSCF1201_stitch

DSCF1249A short time later Ron showed interest in heading north toward Shi Shi and, game for most any stroll, I joined him much to the same result as my walk with Tim: we got a couple miles in but were ultimately stopped by impassible terrain and so we walked back.

I figure I added roughly 10 miles to my day but enjoyed the beach walk and company. And, I had slept somewhat poorly the prior night and looked forward to fatigue doing what it does best: providing me a deep and excellent night’s sleep.

Our camp was set about 15’ up a bluffy wall, accessible via two trails: one with a hand-line strung down it, and the other a scampery little path that took one over a jumble of driftwood logs. The platforms were generous and Dan opted to setup his own tent a short distance away. In spite of the fact that we carry a 6-man tent on these trips (we all like our space and room for gear), Dan continues to carry his own 2-man tent for the evening’s sleep. He’ll socialize, play cards, and whatnot, but when it’s time for lights-out, he heads to his own little suite.

The clouds had long-since parted and as we settled into dinner (and, later, Hearts), we hoped the “20% chance of rain” that had been forecast for the next day had happened and was over. And, yes, I slept well.

Saturday – head back south, camp at Cape Alava

DSCF1253We awoke to a fairly good rain coming down. It sounded worse from inside the tent than it felt when one was outside, but it was coming down steadily. I was in a cross mood. I’d have rather waited out the rain but we were low on enjoyable water, had a camp site 7-miles to the south that night, and needed to cross the Ozette River at low tide … which would happen at around 10:30AM. To get there on time, we needed to break camp around 8AM. It was 6AM and I wanted to roll over.

But, I got up (grudgingly) and got going.

Breakfast for me is a Costco muffin … these little darlings are around 700 calories and it’s hard to have what is essentially cake for breakfast and still be annoyed. I managed, but only because the rain was continuing to come down. As we cleared our gear, packed our pack, and made the tent ready, I asked Tim if he wanted to put the tent body (his share for this leg), into a bag. He declined, later stating that he thought the rain would break soon, and so when we got to camp (and it was still raining), we had a fairly soaked sleeping quarters.

I’m getting ahead of myself, but not by much.

The trip south was quick, as are most hikes on the beach, as the sand just above the wave-line tends to be firmly packed and gives you a dead flat, cushioned trail each step. Tim’s sandals were where we thought they’d be, the headwalls were passed over without incident, and we soon arrived at Cape Alava … I believe it was about 10:30AM.DSCF1272

I was still grumpy and after we setup the tent, I tossed a small emergency blanket (it’s a tarp with a reflective surface) inside the tent, dumped my stuff on it, and took a nap for a few hours.

Upon waking up, the world was a nicer place. My mood had dissipated, the rain had ceased, and we had a clean supply of water to refill our bottles. I strung a couple of lines between trees and we quickly filled them with wet gear, hoping to catch the last of the westering sun. As with the other days, we ate our separate dinners together and then got in a game of Hearts to finish the day. DSCF1286_stitch

Unfortunately, I celebrated the clean water a bit more than I should have, and had to arise a couple of times in the evening to relieve myself. Upon exiting the tent around 3AM, I started what I imagine was a large crane. Ron later reported hearing it and he chuckled a bit … I absolutely was not chuckling. That bird has a terrifying scream and to hear it in the dark when one scarcely has his senses … well, it certainly had my attention.

DSCF1322Sunday – continue south, camp at Yellow Banks

Sunday was the sort of day one comes to the beach to enjoy; it was marvelous. As Ron would say: blue skies, sunshine. And it had both of those in spades.

The march to camp would be about 7 miles this day, following the beach from Cape Alava, past Sandy Point, and on around a few headwalls to Yellow Banks. We bumped into a few people but far fewer than you would think you’d see given the phenomenal sights and beautiful crashing surf.DSCF1319

DSCF1344While the seaweed beds were thickly piled on these beaches, and the sand fleas particularly plentiful, the rhythmic crash of waves, the lapping water, and that gently yielding, dead flat “trail” to hike on made the miles zip by. Upon several beaches we crossed rich troves of rocks of a myriad color and patterns. They were so beautiful, upon the return trip, I filled one of my water bottles full of agates, jasper, jet black and pure white stones. A wonder of beauty.

But, as with the other days, our day started early to accommodate the tides and before noon we arrived at the eponymous Yellow Banks. Vegetation has overgrown much of the bluff but it was a very fine sight and we were excited to be there as the tide rose and we were the only ones on the beach. While it wouldn’t hold, we had the entire expanse to ourselves for the afternoon.

DSCF1367After looking over most of the sites, we returned to the camp at the head of the beach and called that home. The camp was pretty cool: another 15’ climb up a bluffy face, but at the top were two balconies made from various drift woods (one balcony complete with a hammock!), and room for our tent amongst the trees to the rear. If we could have spent another night, that would have been the place.

But, rather than setup shop right away, we all spread out our gear in the sun and set it to drying. And while it was doing that, Ron found a few floats lost from various ships and set us all onto a game of bocce ball. In this game, the leader (typically the person who won the last round) would toss a smaller float out several yards; thereafter, all participants would take turns tossing their floats after it. The person closest to the small float won a point … unless his toss ended up touching the small float, and then he would get two points. No one in our games would ever win the two points.DSCF1412

It was a very fun event and I’m pretty happy Ron suggested it and found the floats\bocce balls. At one time I gave my ball toss a bit too much arc and the float cracked upon landing. After a few more tosses it broke in two. No problems, says Ron … and off he ran past the high tide mark and returned a short time later with another whole float. “They’re all over here,” he reported. Amazing.

After dinner we returned to the beach for another game and then our nightly ritual of Hearts. As we played, several other groups entered the beach, taking advantage of the lowering tide. No matters … we had the best camp on the beach.DSCF1439_stitch

DSCF1373Monday – pack up and head home

While our day was driven by the tide, we had great grips to go, needing to drive the many hours back to Seattle this day. And again, arise, eat breakfast, pull down the tent, and pack up. Our practiced routine was made efficient by the now, our fifth packing this trip, and the dry weather helped. I’d taken a small “cave” (a man-made opening in the wall that allowed one to avoid crossing on seaweed-slickened rocks) on the way into the Banks and did so again on the way out, and then trudged north across the wonderfully pebbled beaches to the south part of Sand Point.

Here we stopped, snapped a few final shots, enjoyed a light lunch of whatever we each had left, and then marched along the boardwalk to Lake Ozette. The three miles went quickly and, as usual, I was glad to see the car and enjoy the dry, clean clothing. This was the end of our twenty-fourth Test Lab Hike, and it was a beauty.

Thanks for reading all this. As usual, it got long and reminiscing as I typed this made it longer. May your trails be under blue skies and full of sunshine.

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Lotta planning, little hike

Posted by joeabbott on September 4, 2017

2017-08-18_100846Over the course of the summer I’ve been itching to hike from Steven’s Pass to Snoqualmie Pass. The original plan was to use the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) the entire way but when we calculated the time and distance for some old bones like ours to make the trip, we agreed to use the Trail 1060 cut-off, allowing us to still hike Pass to Pass, but cut off about 8.5 miles from the route … exchanging that for about 2000’ of elevation gain!

The image to the right shows a couple of early trail options we considered … one for Trail 1061 cut off a bit less distance but commensurately started us 1000’ higher. Ultimately we chose Trail 1060, the Surprise Lake trail and were happy for the savings in distance, which we deemed to be our worst enemy.

The “we” in the prior sentence were two of my hiking buddies from the summer; the three of us are desk jockeys and going five-days of 12-15 mile days would be a challenge. We convinced ourselves of the lie that elevation would be challenging, but at a slow pace we could make it happen without too much problem. I say “lie” because the elevation was going to hurt a bunch, but it comes with hiking this part of the PCT so we would just have to find a way.

In preparation for the trip we reviewed books, web resources, and chatted with friends and coworkers who’d been on this part of the trail. We watched the weather, picked up gear that would be lightweight, and mentally (and physically) prepared for the outing. While more time would always be helpful, I felt ready.

While I note we prepared lightweight packs, we clearly don’t know how to do it very well. In spite of all of us prepping our 5-day packs (with emergency sixth day rations) independently, we all showed up at the trailhead with roughly the same weight packs: about 40#. Which is a startlingly heavy pack to carry for 70 miles. I carried a few items I wouldn’t consider “required” but would very much miss over 5 days without … including reading materials and some down\fleece gear that would be sorely wanted if the weather turned for the worse.

In all, my gear weight was just over half the overall weight and included the items in the following list.

imageKnowing what I do now about the weather and the trail conditions, I could have saved probably 5# in weight or more … I would have left home glasses and reading, fleece and my puffy jacket, tarp and knife. It would feel foolish to start paring back my first aid kit more but I could. Same with leaving home the map … but it was less for finding our way and more for knowing what it was that was around us. Admittedly, it was duplicative of the GPS. Still, weather in the Pacific Northwest turns quickly so having the right emergency gear is both smart and will keep you alive.

Other “luxuries” include my “camp cotton”, which is an extra shirt and briefs I only wear in camp. It’s nice to get out of the sweaty clothing and for ten ounces, I’m OK with bringing it. Still, I acknowledge it as a luxury. Same with my second set of clothing … while I’d accepted I’d be stinky (and my “vital pack” included a packet of scent-free wet wipes for toweling off at the end of day), I could have gone uber-stinky and saved about a pound and a quarter by omitting the extra shirt, Lycra shorts, and liner\outer socks. But I can’t recall ever going 5 days without bathing, much less wearing the same clothing … and especially with as much sweating as we’d be doing. Calling this a luxury feels odd.

Finally, there are things like “shoes”, which were actually skelly\neoprene toe-shoes for fording rivers that were less luxuries than “smart gear”. Yes, I could ford barefooted, but it seems stupid given my tender little feets. And so, this is my list. While I was happy that it was about 20#, that was just the half of it.

The other half was the backpack itself (a bit over 3#), food (about 14#), water (about 4#) and group gear … not to mention the stray carabiner attached to the outside and whatnot. I’ve had friends comment surprisingly at my food weight, but at roughly 2.5# per day, I didn’t feel I was going overboard. I could start to shave weight here and, in future efforts might, but this was not a place I wanted to start with saving on the load. Additionally, each day I’d be losing a couple pounds and reasoned that by the start of the last day, my pack would be over 10# lighter! I liked the sound of that!

As I noted in the title, we’d put a lotta planning into this trip. I’d come home from work, busy myself at the computer to continue research, run to the garage where I was prepping gear to weigh out options, and swing into REI with Suzy after errands to consider one or two other options for gear. I eventually bought myself the lighter sleeping bag noted in the weights above (it saved about 2# in weight in my pack and was only about $70 … still a lot of money, but not bad for a sleeping bag), and some carbon-fiber poles. I’m embarrassed at the cost of those so I won’t share that here, but they saved about the same sort of weight as the sleeping bag … and considering I’d be carrying that weight, I called it an easy decision.

DSCF1129And then the trip itself … spoilers: we turned back after the first day, about 14 miles in.

As we headed out of the car, my pack was biting into the top of my butt. Not just an annoyance, but a deeply aching, brutal pressure that threatened to immobilize me by the end of the first day. It was mean. I’m not sure what adjustment I made to get it sorted out, but I was finding myself reaching back to lift and support the pack with my hands at some points. It was really painful and so, I was surprised to find that, at some point, it just worked itself out and I was moving a lot more comfortably, albeit slowly.

DSCF1180One of my friends, however, was just struggling from the get-go. At every stop we’d wait longer and longer for him to catch up, eventually waiting about 15 minutes by the time we hit the 4.5 mile mark, Surprise Lake. While we’d done over 2000’ of elevation gain, he showed up with shaking legs and a pained expression; it was clear he was hurting. We found a place to sit by the lake and after about 10 minutes he confided that his legs were shot, he’d vomited on the way in, and he just didn’t see a way for him to make it without jeopardizing the outing. He was turning back.

While we cajoled and talked about options and generally stalled another half hour, it was clear something wasn’t right when he went to the water’s edge to pump some water and, upon scampering the 8’ up to the rocks we were sitting on, showed his legs were quivering and he’d lost his breath. He was mad, frustrated, and contrite … shaking his head and asking aloud what could be going on. I’ve felt like he has in the past, and I’m not sure what causes it, but I hoped he’d struggle on to camp, rest it up, and have a better day two. He, however, was done.

So, I gave him my bivy so he could sleep out alone, and I took his place in the tent and we parted. It was hard but he felt it was the right call.

My other friend and I continued to the end of the day, making it to the camp we’d targeted and were happy with the distance we made. That said, upon arriving he noted that his foot was taking on an aching that suggested he had a serious problem and he wasn’t sure he should continue.

Earlier in the summer he was in a walking cast and felt he’d made a full recovery, but upon getting up the next morning, he didn’t believe going on was the right call. I didn’t cajole this time, as a serious physical problem isn’t something you should just ignore, and as we left camp, he headed back toward the trailhead we’d left from the day before.

It was an early and disappointing end to a long-planned outing, but it was the right call. Had I not handed off my solo-bivy , I wonder if I’d have continued south. I might, but I also think it could have caused my partner to continue on, and later doctors’ reports suggest turning back was ultimately the right call. The one thing that gets me through is a oft-repeated phrase that has always been true: there’ll be another time, another year.

Thanks for looking in and here’s hoping your outings have been more successful.

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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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Where has the time gone?

Posted by joeabbott on September 5, 2015

I used to delight in replying to this question with the nonsensical statement: it’s gone to a small town in rural Ohio. Not sure why I chose Ohio, but it seems diminutive and out of the way, so it felt like a safe place for time to go when it needs a timeout.

But, more importantly, where did I go and what have I been doing?

Mostly, I needed my own timeout; a chance to recharge my batteries, avoid the routines, and just take a break. My life is one of relative leisure, but I felt I needed just a bit more nonetheless. And so I woke up on the weekends, played games or got on with the day, and completely neglected my blog. For a month. I’m back now … not with a vengeance but I’m back. Let’s get on with the stories.

imageAnother hike

When we last parted, my family had been out and I’d strolled up Skyscraper Mountain; my first “summit” in a very long time. Well, that subsequent weekend an old friend of mine took me on a jaunt up Dog Mountain.

It’s a small summit about an hour’s drive from North Bend, WA on forestry roads and of little repute. As the trail is no longer maintained, we had the peak to ourselves that very fine day and, while we didn’t reach the very tip-top, we had gentle sun, gorgeous views, and a good workout.

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It’s a nice outing and one made nicer yet by joining Syd and her pooch, Roxy.

Paddling on

For the last 22 years I’ve been getting out each summer with a group of guys. I’d say we’re all relatively young but the truth is, that statement only made sense 22 years ago and by now, we’re all getting a bit grey; even the spritest of us.

At one point in our journey I was behind Dan, who doffed his cap and exposed his short-cropped, fairly white/grey hair. I then exclaimed, “what? I’m going to be following a Q-Tip the rest of the trip?!” Dan let me know that cut deeply … and so it became an oft refrain the rest of the day.

But, because I wasn’t sure my legs would hold up to a heavy pack, I chose another kayaking trip; and while it played out similarly to our 2011 outing, we put in a lot of miles on the water and saw a lot of new things.

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Leaving from Friday Harbor, we stopped at Jones Island for a night. And, as we saw the clouds moving in and listened to the weather reports announcing small craft advisories, we stayed a second night. Dan and I paddled over to Shaw Island that next day, sheltered from most of the wind by the many islands thereabouts, but we got rained on as we moved along. It’s actually not bad and maybe even a little nice.

The following day we were eager to be on our way so, rather than wait for the tides to change in our favor, we paddled against the current and got to Sucia Island just after noon … 4.5 hours in the boat. On the island we staked a campsite and then walked the trails until dark, where we sat shore-side for dinner and played cards until the moon and owls were out. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful spot.

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We had another day on the water before heading home and we spent that getting close to Friday Harbor. We’d never stayed on Shaw Island, so we paddled over to Indian Cove and put up the tent for the last time this year. As it was high summer we had a lot of daylight left, so we walked the beach a couple times, tossed rocks, read books, and yucked it up before calling it a day.

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And that last day we returned to San Juan Island paddling slowly, going the short distance in as long a time as leisure would permit. The madrona trees were particularly beautiful, their red-brown trunk and branches reaching out from the islands; the tide pools teeming with life, the morning waves gently lapping at the hull. It’s a good time to be on the water. But, we beached soon enough, got home early, and I felt vibrant with no aches or pains to speak of. Good trip.

The rain returns

After a half year of pain in my ankles and knee, the past few weekends felt wonderful; so good I didn’t want to stop my weekend hikes. And so, when my other yearly hike was canceled due to fires in the area we wanted to wander, Pete and I took a much shorter hike just to stay in touch. The rain, however, had returned.

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It returned to the degree that we sat atop Rattlesnake Ledge for a short break, enjoying a small droplet of rain here and there, and before we knew it, everything closed up and we got dumped on. We were completely soaked by the time we got to the car … Gore-Tex or not!

Coda

And that’s about it. I’m sure a thing or two of merit happened in there that I’m missing, but those are some of the highlights. I did manage to finish an August shop project, but I’ll write about that later.

Thanks for dropping in and apologies for the delays. I’d promise better going forward but I’m not sure I can keep up to that commitment. The timeout I took felt good and I’m not sure the leisurely life is done with me yet! Let’s see what tomorrow holds!

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Another outing with Pete: Mt. Adams

Posted by joeabbott on August 10, 2014

IMG_2710imageAbout 10 years ago I started to do a bit more hiking and a bit less climbing\mountaineering; at that time, I found a great partner for annual hikes in the person of Pete, a friend from work.

We don’t pal around but he and his wife have done a few things with Suzy and I (mostly enjoy Cirque du Soleil shows when they’re in town); we work relatively close to each other at work, but we don’t “do lunch”; we have common friends and yet, we don’t bump into each other often at gatherings.

So, it’s either a little odd or perfectly natural that at our annual outings, things just go smoothly and we share a harmonious time together in the great outdoors. I look forward to getting out with Pete every year.

2014 marked our eighth annual outing. I was surprised because it seemed like we’d done this a bit, but I wasn’t ready to hear eight … that’s a biggish number. Our past trips have taken us to:

P7250007Last year was a bit of a death march; in part for the rain, in part of the elevation gain, but mostly because our desk jobs aren’t letting us get the workout we need to be in shape for lugging a bunch of weight up the hill! So, for this year, we wanted an easier hike so I chose Mt. Adams as our destination.

I remembered this area from years ago: as other friends and I were out, we had found a wonderful campsite on a small knoll in the middle of an open field. The site was sheltered by a tree and a happy nearby creek provided clean water. I wanted to find that spot and the relatively flat trails to it for my outing with Pete.

Unfortunately, I was last there in 2001 or something like that and couldn’t remember exactly how to get there. So, in our planning, Pete and I picked a  trail and figured we’d find somewhere to flop when we got there.

Friday

Pete got to my house sometime after 8:30AM, we had a big breakfast, and then hit the road. The time to trailhead was about 3+ hours, but we suffered from “navigation failure” and it took almost 4 hours. By the time we left the trailhead it was past 2PM but with only 5-ish miles to where we would start looking for a campsite, I wasn’t worried.

The trip in was pretty normal for us: we’d head down the trail, sometimes talking, sometimes taking solace alone in a sweaty, slow grind up the hill. The temps were supposed to be moderate, in the 60s, but it felt much hotter; the bugs were merciless. They’d leave you alone for the most part when you walked but, upon stopping, they’d descend in a cloud. It made the weekend tough but you could always flop in your tent or keep walking to avoid them.

P7250016Sometime around 3 miles the mountain opens up and you’re walking literally on the north flank of Mt. Adams. Absolutely glorious and, looking to the north, you’d get peekaboo views of Mt. Rainier. It’s just a phenomenal place to put in a few miles.

While alone on the trail for the most part, at about 4 miles or so we bumped into a guy who noted a marvelous campsite was just a half mile or so up the trail. While his sense of distance was a bit shaky (we’d only gone a couple hundred yards when we spotted it), he was spot-on with his assessment. This would be “home” for the next few days.

The trail crosses a fast-running creek at one point and then descends into a small flat in a wide circuit; the creek takes a shorter route, rushing over a 20’ waterfall where it circles a spot of land, nearly creating a moat around it. At the center of the small island-like spot is a campsite complete with leaning trees for easy food-hanging, access to the creek for water-pumping, and generous flat spots for your tent. We certainly weren’t the first ones to spot this place as a rather established campfire ring and log benches noted this to be a popular campsite, but for the next few days it was ours.

As we’d started from the trailhead late, we wouldn’t get in much of an evening hike. We setup camp, pumped water, and then escaped the heat and bugs by heading into the tent. I took a bit of a snooze before waking and asking what time it was … about 8PM! Guess the hike in took more out of me than I thought!

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We made dinner and then took a quarter-mile stroll to a nearby lake that had some nice views of Mt. Rainier and the setting sun. And, with that, we noted it had clouded up so we headed to the tent, read a bit, and then I drifted off to the sound of the crashing falls and gentle hiss of the quick running stream.

I awoke a couple times that night to address the fact that I’d rehydrated a bit aggressively, and marveled at the night sky; the clouds had cleared and the bajillion stars of a remote sky outlined mountains, displayed the Milky Way, and generally bedazzled my senses. I found the loud waterfall to be a bit unnerving as the usual silent outings I enjoy when camping were replaced with lots of noise. I’m not sure why I was uneasy, but I was, and before I tired of seeing that sky, I headed back into the tent for the rest of the night’s sleep.

Saturday

The next morning I got out before Pete and headed “uphill” to take a look at the surroundings. I didn’t get far but liked what I saw: a high ridgeline of volcanic detritus that led to what I imagined would be amazing views. But, upon getting back to camp and talking over our options, staying on the flat northern trails seemed more to our mutual liking, so we ate breakfast and then headed around to Foggy Flats and the lava fields on Mt. Adams’ NE flank.

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While the SPOT map doesn’t show a trail where we walked, there assuredly was one. Marker #2 was my early morning survey and the markers around #13 and #14 were where we lunched out at the lava fields. In all, we probably hiked four miles out to the fields and that amount back, leaving camp sometime after 8AM and hitting our lunch spot sometime around 11AM.

But, the location was wonderful, the skies a peerless blue, and we found some shade adjacent to a few scrappy trees and friable boulders, where we took lunch and looked over Mt. Adams, the flowing lava fields, and nearby Red Butte (a small dome left by an eruption in the distant past).IMG_2798

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After our quick meal, we took our pics and then headed back. I picking a careful route down the loose and dirty slopes we’d ascended until we met up again with the trail. The miles back to camp went quickly but the uneven footing of the trail left us with sore feet and the bugs and heat were reaching the daily crescendo … and so we escaped to the security of the inner tent.

I dozed on and off a bit fitful in my sweat, while it seemed Pete read for most of the afternoon. At about 5PM I arose for another short hike. Pete declined to join me but my early morning jaunt to look “uphill” left me wanting more, and so I grabbed my gear and headed to the crest that stood between our campsite and Mt. Adams.

The way was mostly easy: from the trail just before the bridge over the creek that ran by our campsite, you wander across a flat meadow to a horse camp sheltered by a stand of young poplar trees. Cut through that to yet another waterfall and ascend the climbers’ trail on the north side. From there, you negotiate the gentle slopes of scree and hard snow to the slabby tops of pyroclastic debris. After that, enjoy the views.

I stopped around 6PM, using time over distance or destination for telling me when to turn around. But, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot. And the “it” here is the being in the mountains, being solo in a great expanse, having worked hard and feeling the strain of travels but still being able to look up and enjoy the day. It was good in a way that’s both deep and personal. I have missed hiking alone in the mountains.

Looking back toward Mt. Rainier

But, the bugs were getting to know me even at these elevations and I hadn’t exactly given Pete my intended destination in the event something went amiss, so I chose to head back.

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Around 7:30PM or so I got back in and, as the bugs were fewer now, we chose to have dinner, catch a few more views of this grand area, and then to call it a day. It was time for a long long restful sleep.

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Sunday

IMG_2839P7270109I didn’t get up that night and the morning saw us both at our usual efficiencies. Breakfast tea and eats were quickly dispensed with, the various trappings of our campsite were gathered and distributed between us, and we took turns moving our gear from the tent to our packs until there was nothing left but to put our boots to the trail and start walking.

And the way out was both quick and uneventful. It’s a mystery how the temperatures on the trail felt so intensely hot while, when we got to his truck, the inside was air conditioning-cold! But it was … and so I put on chilled but clean cotton clothing and prepared for the ride home.

We unfortunately followed his GPS that put us on a very rutted mountain road. It was long and dirty and full of objective hazards. I had the better time of it, as a passenger, but even at that I was tossed about and very much looking for the end to this unkempt thoroughfare. Other than that, the trip was a bit long but held no real challenges.

Upon arriving at my house, my gear was disgorged from his truck, I tossed it into the garage for later cleaning, and Pete and I parted with a handshake as we do after all hikes. Another good year with a good partner at a great location. The bugs and heat were a bit much, but I’d go back to that spot in an instant. And yet, for next year, I’m already thinking, “we haven’t hiked out on the peninsula yet, have we?”

Thanks for dropping in!

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