Sunday, August 30, 2009
Hiking/walking on urban trails has it's advantages and disadvantages. The advantages (as I see it) are 1) I can listen to my music while I walk. While I typically hike alone (I know a bad thing to do!) in the woods, I don't listen to music for safety reasons, but on a busy urban trail I feel I can listen as much as I like. I do keep the volume low so I can hear people and cyclists coming up behind me. 2) Urban trails are easily accessible for many people and offer a chance for a greater amount of people to get out and move. People who might not otherwise be able to get to a mountain trail head or don't feel comfortable in the woods can hike along an urban trail. 3) They can be a great resource for testing out new gear. Want to find out just how waterproof that new jacket is? Take it out on an urban trail some rainy day after work. Want to know if those new wool socks have enough cushion, but can't make it to a mountain trail? Walk a few miles on an urban trail. Wondering how that new pack will feel on your shoulders and back for this weekend's backpacking trip? Load it up and give a test run on an urban trail. Those are just a few advantages I thought of while hiking this morning. I'm sure others can think up dozens more reasons why these trails are a valuable asset to our communities.
Ok, so what are the disadvantages? 1) Urban trails can be crowded. Often they are used by walkers, joggers/runners, cyclists and sometimes even equestrian riders. With so many people using a relatively narrow strip of path, there are bound to be bumps and close calls. 2) I've discovered urban trails often lack the friendliness and sense of community found on a traditional hiking trail. When I hike, I greet nearly everyone I meet on the trail and sometimes end up in conversation with folks on the trail. I've met some really nice people hiking on Washington trails and view a simple "'Morning" or "Hello" as an important part of the hiking experience. You don't find that on most urban trails. Maybe this is because so many people are running past or cycling past, it's just plain difficult to make that simple connection with people. Whatever the reason, I had very few people return any "Hello's" or simple head nods this morning. 3) You won't likely find too much stunning scenery on urban trails. That's not to say there is nothing to look at, you just won't find stunning peaks or deep valleys. But sometimes, you're not looking for that on your hike and if that's the case, the urban trail is perfect.
Miles Hiked Today: 12
Miles Hiked this Month: 72.44
Total Falls this Month: 2 (This is really a small miracle! I feel so proud of myself)
Friday, August 28, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
As the title suggests I headed back to the Olympic Peninsula late last week accompanied by my dad for some hiking and camping. The plan was always changing, so that explains the lack of a earlier post outlining the hiking I would be doing. So with only a loose plan in place my dad and I headed for the Kingston ferry early Thursday morning. It was nice to have someone along to talk to on the long ride out to the coast for the first hike of the trip at Kalaloch. The weather was a bit foggy and windy when we got to the coast at about noon, and after a quick lunch in the parking lot of the day-use area at the Kalaloch campground, we started the first hike, which was an 8 mile round trip 'hike' (I feel guilty calling it a hike since it was entirely on the beach, but it is listed as a hike in my 'Day Hike Olympic Peninsula' book) south on the beach down to the South Beach Campground and back. We had a strong headwind to deal with heading down, but the sun came out and the wind diminished on the way back. Once back where we started my dad went to get some snacks at the Kalaloch store while I started the second hike of the day Kalaloch North, a 4.8 mile round trip trek on the beach up to Browns Point. Beach hiking I've decided has it's merits and drawbacks. The lack of elevation gain is one nice thing if your legs are tired from previous weeks of hiking, but on the other hand the scenery can get well...a bit boring. The ocean is wonderful and beautiful but after 12.8 miles of it, I was a bit tired of seeing it!
The hiking portion of the day done, we headed to the campsite we had claimed earlier up at the Hoh Rain forest Campground (advantage to arriving late morning on a Thursday is you pretty much can pick any spot you want!). Both my dad an I had been up very early that morning, so it was an early night with me in my tent by 6:30 or 7. After a less than restful night (I love camping, but have serious issues getting comfortable enough to sleep soundly) and a quick breakfast, we embarked on the next hike up to Happy Four Shelter on the Hoh Rain forest trail. Initially I had planned on going on up to the Olympus Guard Station (my dad was going to wait at Happy Four while I went up to the guard station), but my feet were sore/tired/in pain from the previous day's miles (and probably from the pounding I've put them through the past 6 months), so we both turned around at Happy Four making it a nice 11.6 mile round trip hike. I really liked this trail, you get to see the river, but you also get to see plenty of the forest and meadow areas as well. My dad and I spent the time on the trail pointing out really big trees, marveling at the huge blow-downs and speculating that the 'big spruce tree' advertised on the road to the campground might have some challengers lurking in the woods.
Initially the plan for Saturday was to do the Dungeness Spit hike on the way home. However, the thought of 10 miles of beach walking made me bored just thinking about it. Then the plan was to do the 8 mile Spruce Railroad Trail, but I really wanted to get more miles in. A flip through the hiking book, turned up 3.6 mile Third Beach. With the plan being to do Third Beach first and then stop at the Spruce Railroad, we packed up camp Saturday morning and headed off. Third Beach turned out to be a popular place! The parking area was nearly full, and as we found out later most of those cars belonged to campers on the beach. The walk through the woods was nice, a bit cool, but nice. My guide book talked about plank stairs leading down to the beach, but no such stairs exist. The short, less than one mile, beach walk portion of the hike was perfect. Just enough crashing waves and shore birds, but not too much. When we got to the end of Strawberry Bay we discovered dozens of orange and purple starfish along with turquoise sea anenomes clinging to the rocks. My dad took lots and lots of pictures of these (he was also snapping away at the crashing waves). As we headed back to the forest, my feet were starting to hurt and by the time we got back to the car, my feet were killing me making the possibility of any more miles that day an impossibility.
With the days hiking cut short we made our way back to Kingston and the ferry home. All in all a great trip. The weather was great, having the company of my dad was fantastic and even though the miles weren't as many as I had hoped for, the hiking was great (even the boring bits along the Kalaloch beaches). I'm down to about 15 more miles to go to meet my goal of 75...I guess this weekend will be a busy hiking one!
Total Miles for Trip: 28
Total Miles for Month: 60.44
Total Falls: 2 (miraculous this hasn't gone up yet!)
Ps. photos will be posted soon! My little old lap top has run out of space for any more pictures, so I need to shuffle things around a bit, then I'll be able to post photos from this trip)
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Hello! Jaime typing - I'm honored to guest-post for Angella's second Hike-a-Thon season. I'll quickly echo Angella's comments about Mt. Rainier on Saturday. . .it felt more like a fall hike than a summer one, but it was still beautiful! Now back to my regularly scheduled topic: Hiking With Your Dogs. Though I completely understand why, dogs aren't allowed on trails in Mt. Rainier and I'm sad I didn't get to take them last weekend.
I have two dogs that I love to take hiking and walking. I love them. I love all dogs. I'd love your dog(s) too - if they were leashed. I do not love unleashed dogs when I'm hiking with leashed dogs in areas where dogs need to be leashed (this means you, Mom).
You simply can't expect your domesticated pampered pal to behave appropriately in the wilderness. Also, it's the law. Please don't ruin it for the rest of us.
The most important thing to remember about hiking with your unleashed dog is that it's not about you or your dog. It's about the other people on the trail and respect for the environment that you are out there to enjoy. You will ruin a significant number of people's days with your furry friend off-leash. And they will complain about you and your off-leash ways. And dogs will subsequently be banned from those trails. I can't count the number of times that a strange dog has gotten far too close to me (with or without my dogs). If I didn't love dogs and was afraid of them, a few of those encounters would have had me in tears. So, in a nutshell: don't be a selfish jerk - leash your dogs as the law requires. There are plenty of safe off-leash areas in the Seattle area where everyone's on the same page about how much they love watching their "canine co-habitators" go wild off-leash.
If you still think your dog is behaved enough to be off-leash, like the people in this picture from a recent hike, read this local article.
I'm thankful that it ended well for Arlo and his owner - because as the ranger says, for five in the last year, it didn't.
Please, keep your pets safe and show respect for others and the environment - leash them or leave them home. Thank you!
Monday, August 17, 2009
Our main goal for the day was to do two hikes: Comet Falls/Van Trump Park and Pinnacle Saddle. We decided to do some shorter and easier hikes along the way as we felt up to it. To get us warmed up and stretch our legs after the long drive, we decided to start with the short 2mile round trip hike on Kautz Creek. It took us a bit to get everything organized at the trail head. There were boots to put on, signs to tape to my informing people about the hike-a-thon and finally, Jaime and I's bug spray videos to make. We had the grand idea to field test various bug sprays and video tape ourselves throughout the day reporting back on their effectiveness and then posting the videos here for you all to review. However, as it turns out Saturday was the one day the bugs were not out on Mount Rainier, making our reviews a bit null and void. Oh well it was a good idea.
We did Kautz Creek in about an hour and hopped back in the car and headed to the next trail, Comet Falls. The parking area for Comet Falls was packed, as were both sides of the road leading up to and just past the trail head. We ended up parking at the Christine Falls viewpoint, thereby adding a total of .6 more miles to our hiking for this trail. The trail was definitely busy (if the parking situation wasn't proof enough), but we never felt crowded by others on the trail. The weather can best be described as heavy fog and mist, which was nice as it kept us cool on the steep climb up. My legs were feeling the effect of the two previous weeks of hiking and I generally lagged several yards behind Jaime. There were still wildflowers blooming along the trail and the views of the smaller falls and the rushing creek in the canyon below were fantastic, despite the fog and mist (in my opinion, the fog made everything look a bit more mysterious and mystical). We finally broke out to Comet Falls. The view of the falls can only be described as amazing. Initially the fog was so heavy we only saw the lower part of the falls, then as we looked harder we could see more water falling through the fog. (Photo is of Comet Falls)
It really looked as though the water was just falling in a column from the sky. The fog was so thick you couldn't see the top of the cliffs, even standing right at the base of the falls. It was eerie, fantastic and amazing. We ate lunch at the falls (while our fingers froze) and made the decision to head back down instead of pressing on to Van Trump Park. Seeing as the fog was not lifting and in fact getting heavier there would be no views from the top. So we made our way carefully down the steep trail.
Back at the car, with tired legs and rumbling stomachs we decided to head up to Paradise and see what the weather was like up there and then make a decision on Pinnacle Saddle. We arrived at Paradise in even thicker fog than was at Comet Falls. After finding a spot to park(the park was very busy as it was the free weekend) we sat in the car consuming the homemade blueberry pie slices which had been brought and other pieces of lunch. The decision was made to forgo Pinnacle Saddle. The point of hiking up there was for the views and there would be no views today. Instead we decided to head over to the Visitor Center (neither of us had been to the new Jackson Visitor Center yet) and check out some of the trails in the area behind the center. We lucked out and were able to catch a shuttle to the visitor center (we were parked a good mile or so away).
At the center we decided to head out on the Nisqually Vista trail and then possibly do the Alta Vista trail. With food in our stomachs and legs that had been rested for almost an hour we were in good spirits. When we came across a field of wildflowers with a bolder near the path we decided this was exactly the kind of set up that people use for their Senior Pictures in high school. The only logical thing to do would be for us to do our best 'Senior Picture' poses on the rock. (Photo: My "thoughtful" Senior Picture)This resulted in much laughter and at least one snort on my part. After the photo shoot we continued on our way, the fog and mist getting a bit heavier. As we turned onto the Nisqually Vista trail (we had been on the Avalanche Lily trail first), we were gabbing loudly when I suddenly looked up and was stunned. There not 20 feet in front of us about 6 feet off the trail was a large doe, just staring at us. I couldn't speak, I just put my arm out and stopped Jaime, who was still talking looking down at the trail. We both just stood there for a moment, amazed that the deer let us get so close and didn't seem concerned by our noise or our presence. Slowly the deer moved off into a small meadow by the trail and we moved a few steps up the trail. It was then that we saw the fawn, hanging out down by a small stream. Jaime and I stood there quietly snapping pictures. After a few minutes we heard voices coming through the fog. A little ways back we had passed a mother and her young daughter, guessing it was their voices we were hearing, Jaime quickly (and quietly) ran back up the trail to them to let them know about the doe and fawn and to tell them to come quickly (and quietly) if they wanted to see them. We stayed a couple minutes longer then left the mother and her daughter quietly watching the doe and fawn snacking in the meadow. (Photo: Doe and Fawn, checking out something in the bushes)
Upon completing the Nisqually Vista we returned to the visitor center. At this point the fog was even thicker. Seeing more than a dozen yards or so in front of you was difficult. Our legs tired (or at least mine were) we decided not to do the steep Alta Vista trail and headed back to the car. In consultation with the guidebook we decided we'd stop at Longmire on the way down and do the Trail of Shadows and Twin Firs loops. The Trail of Shadows was fun. We had done Rampart Ridge last year and walked a short portion of this trail, but didn't explore all of it. The bubbling 'soda' water was I think my favorite spot on the trail. When we finished the loop it was about 5pm and my stomach was rumbling. The decision was made to skip Twin Firs and head to Sidetrack Restaurant in Elbe (a restaurant we stumbled upon a few years ago on our way back from a from a snowshoeing trip). On the way to the restaurant we calmed our rumbling stomachs with some of the homemade zucchini chocolate spice cake that Jaime and brought along. (Photo: Somewhere out there is the "Nisqually Vista")
We finally made it back to Kirkland at about 9:30ish. A long but fun day. It was wonderful to see so many families with children out on the trails and exploring the mountain. I don't know if there were so many families because of the free day or not, but it was fun to see little toddlers navigating their way around roots and rocks on the trails. We joked that the mountain is plotting against us when it comes to weather. Last year when we went up in late July to see the wildflowers everything was still under snow, but the day was crystal clear and sunny and views of the mountain were fantastic. Saturday, the wildflowers were out, but if I hadn't known better I would never have guessed that there was a 14,000 foot peak right in front of me. But the fog didn't dampen our day. In fact I love the way my pictures turned out (I really think I like pictures with fog), even if the deer are a bit hard to spot amid the fog and mist. We've decided to come back on a clearer day and go up to Van Trump Park and do Pinnacle Saddle...as long as the mountain decides to go along with our plans and give us good weather!
Total Miles Hiked Today: 8.64
Total Miles Hiked this Month: 32.44
Total Falls: 2 (surprising considering the steep, rocky, rooty and wet Comet Falls Trail)
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Beyond being ingrained in me at a very young age by my parents as a fun, healthy and relatively cheap form of entertainment, I've come to realize that for me an enjoyable hiking trip isn't solely about the hike at all. I believe the old saying goes "It's not the destination but the journey" and in a very literal sense part of what I love most about hiking is the journey to the trail head.
I love the fact that hiking takes you to places you might not otherwise visit, both on the trail and on the way to it. No matter the weather I can find joy in a mountain drive, passing through small towns some fallen on hard times others thriving. Some of the best food I've had has been found in restaurants and greasy spoons in these small towns (59er Diner on Hwy 2 is a fantastic example!) on my to or from a hike. Another example of this is my side trip to Forks last Saturday after my hike. Forks was not on my list of places to visit, but it was nearby and as I have several friends who are fans of the 'Twilight' series, I thought I'd stop in and check the place out (and buy a few souvenirs for my 'Twilight' loving friends at the Dazzled by Twilight shop. I myself have not read the books nor seen the movie, so it was all a bit lost on me).
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sundays kid friendly hike will be the Asahel Curtis Interpretive Nature Walk just off of I-90. The trail is one mile long. Nice and easy. After Saturday this is going to be heavenly. Depending on how folks are feeling, after the Asahel Curtis trail, the Franklin Falls trail head is nearby. This is a 2 mile hike gaining 250ft. If you're interested let me know by Friday so we can coordinate meeting up at the trail head (probably around 11am).