Mt. WA 9/20/15

They are making a new trail
They are making a new trail

Imagine my surprise to meet this monster at the junction of the main trail and the north trail – ‘the pond’ as we refer to it.

But it isn’t a logging disaster, they are making a new trail, this one from Cedar Butte 4.5 miles west to (at least) McClellan Butte 5.5 miles east.  From the looks of what I saw today, I would say it is going to be targeted at horseback riders and bikers more than hikers.

But when it is open we will find an off day and time to do it and we will check it out.

In the meantime, I got totally soaked today.  It was a nice workout, 2:15 up and 1:50 down for a time car-to-car of 4:05.

Not much in the way of views today,  it was just a tough slog.

It was that kind of day
It was that kind of day

Adventures in Forest Ecology – 9/19/15

Rolf Gersonde (l) and Bill Richards our forest ecology teachers
Rolf Gersonde (l) and Bill Richards our forest ecology teachers

I signed up for this weeks ago and have been looking forward to it.  I was not disappointed.

The Cedar River Watershed Education Center – officially in North Bend – is a marvelous complex devoted to educating anyone who stops by in what the Cedar River Watershed is (it the water source for 1.4 million Puget Sound residents), its history, its ecology, how the forest is managed, the flora and fauna and – I will stop right there.  You get the idea.

Water drums
Water drums

Just outside the room where we all met at 9am is a court with water drums.  The drums are played by dripping water and the sound is interesting and soothing.

There were, I believe, 14 of us tourists, Rolf and Bill, our teachers/guides, and another Cedar River Watershed Education Center employee who took photos and drove one of the two vans in which we traveled into the very back country.

Much of the territory surrounding our hikes is strictly off-limits, as it is part of the watershed.  Today, we got to go backstage and it sure is terrific.

Nice view from the Cedar River watershed
Nice view from the Cedar River watershed

We stopped at four different locations, each one carefully chosen to illustrate an important ecology and restoration-related point.  The ‘restoration’ has to do with the fact that most of this region was clear-cut in the past and the forest is now growing back.

But how to help the forest be as robust and healthy as possible?  That is not an easy question to answer, but Rolf and Bill are integral parts of a large team of scientists, students, and assorted super-persons (like the contractors who come in with huge chainsaws to thin selected areas) trying to find the best answers.

Along the way we stopped at a stand of trees that are among the oldest in the Pacific Northwest, in the range of 700 years old.  There was a massive fire 300 years ago that destroyed most of the forest from the Cascades to the Olympics, which is why most of the old growth forest around here is 300 years old.

But this little stand survived that fire and survived the logging companies and we were hiking through it today.

Old growth forest
Old growth forest
A stream in the old growth
A stream in the old growth

Rolf and Bill are gold mines of fascinating information about trees and ecology and – and pretty much everything you might want to know about forests and their flora and fauna and management.  They pointed out a number of Mountain Beaver holes (but we did not see any of the little critters).

In The Hall of the Mountain Beaver
In The Hall of the Mountain Beaver

On the way back we stopped and inspected an area where they had cut down enough trees to allow the survivors to flourish, and to encourage a variety of trees to survive.  Some trees are better than others at pushing through relatively dark conditions (left alone, the new growth is really thick, allowing around 5% of the light from the top of the canopy through) and thinning helps keep the forest healthy and happy.

Second growth thinned stand
Second growth thinned stand

You can see from the photo above that they leave the felled trees on the forest floor, there to go back to the earth and provide shelter and food and minerals to various bugs and other critters.

One rather interesting relationship is between squirrels and truffles.  Truffles!  They are essentially mushrooms that grow underground.  Because they are underground their spores cannot spread as other plant spores spread, on the wind.

So the truffles rely upon squirrels to find them, dig them up, eat them, and deposit them somewhere else.  How do they find them?  The truffles have a distinctive citrusy odor (some people use pigs to sniff them out) – perfect!

And it was a perfect day.  Many thanks and kudos to Rolf and Bill and the entire Cedar River Watershed Educational Center.  I totally urge anyone in this area to check them out, take one of their tours, or just visit their beautiful facilities right next to Rattlesnake Lake.

http://www.seattle.gov/util/EnvironmentConservation/OurWatersheds/CedarRiverWatershed/CedarRiverEducationCenter/index.htm

 

Teneriffe continued

The grey line is the hike
The grey line is the hike

As of today we were able to download all of our Garmin gps data to my laptop and I am learning how to work with the data.

This will help us put our hikes into context for our future reference.  Above is Google Earth with our route overlaid on the map, and our real-time labels for various points along the hike.

What distinguishes this hike for us is the extreme steepness of the section we call the Kamikaze Trail.  We think this trail actually starts earlier than our own start, which is labeled Kamikaze Lookout on the map on top, but that’s OK.

The point is that the Kamikaze Trail, as mapped by us yesterday, is only the section from Kamikaze Lookout to Teneriffe Summit.  Here is a close-up of that route:

Kamikaze Trail
Kamikaze Trail

You can sort of tell from the photo, but compare the relative straight line to the summit on this route vs. the much longer official trail and note that the Kamikaze Trail is essentially a trail along one of the mountain’s spines.  The official trail is the grey line that represents our route down, it goes west (to the left) from the summit.

Derek and I stopped quite a few times on the Kamikaze trail because our legs – particularly mine, the old man – were burning up from the steepness.  But at one point it was level enough to catch our breath and Derek documented what this spiny trail looks like when you are on it:

The trail (a rare semi-level section) from ground level
The trail (a rare semi-level section) from ground level

Now that we know how to download the data from the device to the laptop we are all set to be able to create the detailed maps we have been working on.  We have done so many hikes in the vicinity of Mt. Washington, Change Peak, the Great Wall that we are going to focus some energy on getting that all organized.

Already we noticed that our eternal question at one point on the Great Wall – where does ‘left’ go at this junction? – is answered via Google Earth.  And the answer is: a long way down a tangled network of logging roads.

Cool!  We will be exploring and mapping those and sooner or later we will have the most detailed hiking maps of the mountains around here that you have ever seen.  But you won’t see the complete versions as we plan to keep some of our discoveries private.

Mount Teneriffe via Kamikaze Trail – 9/12/15

Panorama from Teneriffe summit
Panorama from Teneriffe summit

We have been to the Teneriffe summit but not via this route.  We looked at the Kamikaze Trail before but passed on it because we were not sure where it came out and how much time it would take.  We had a hard stop to attend Finley’s kindergarten class so at what we thought was the beginning of the trail we turned around.

Not today.  Today we mapped our distance from the car to the Kamikaze Trail as 2.8m and our elevation at 2,800 feet.  When we got to the summit we were at 3.7m and 4760 feet which means that stretch of trail is steep.  1,960 feet of elevation gain in .9 miles.  Yikes!  Our legs were beat by the time we hit the top but what views from up there!

Rattlesnake Lake and Ledge
Rattlesnake Lake and Ledge
It's all mountains all the time
It’s all mountains all the time
Mailbox Peak
Mailbox Peak
Watch your step right here
Watch your step right here

There is one last test before you hit the actual summit.

Teneriffe summit scramble
Teneriffe summit scramble

We took the main trail down.  It has a side trail that takes you up to the Mt. Si summit but we skipped that side trip today.

approaching Mt Si on the way down
approaching Mt Si on the way down

And a nicely framed view of the area behemoth.

Ranier through the trees
Ranier through the trees

Kind of a gentle descent down the main trail, with plenty of interesting sights.

Pretty spot on Teneriffe trail
Pretty spot on Teneriffe trail

Here is the summit disc:

Summit disc
Summit disc

We may do a hike next weekend, but we are definitely on for a hike on the 24th.  The plan is to hike with Darrell and George but George might have a conflict and if so, we will see if Darrell (who has been rehabbing a knee) is still on and if so, perhaps we can persuade him to try Vesper Peak again.

 

McClellan Butte/”Salmon Lake” – 9/7/15

McClellan Butte scramble
McClellan Butte scramble

We made it up to the scramble in just about 3 hours but left it at that.  Parking lot was 1550 ft, the base of the scramble was 5016 feet, so 3466 feet of elevation gain – 4.5m from car, but the first mile and a quarter at least has very little gain – some of it is on the John Wayne Trail – so most of the elevation gain is packed into about 3.3 miles or so.  No matter.

This is a wonderful hike.  When last we were here we were hiking through deep snow.  It was tough.  Today, all the sections that gave me the willies (steep little paths over sharp drop offs) were nothing-burgers.  Fun.

We got a little rain for part of the hike and the wet trees and the fact that we had hiked into the clouds made for some awesome scenes.

When the hike was over we missed the mist
When the hike was over we missed the mist
Looking east
Looking east
We were in the clouds
We were in the clouds
Misty Mountain view
Misty Mountain view

When we were here in the spring we discovered a really cool-looking lake in the shape of a salmon.  But today, even with the rain we have had recently, the water was too low for this little mountain lake to look like much of anything.

"Salmon" Lake
“Salmon” Lake
"Salmon Lake" up close
“Salmon Lake” up close

And, naturally, we got to share some space with a mellifluous little waterfall.

Waterfall on the mountain
Waterfall on the mountain

Finally, I was emailing with George and Darell about the talus field – we confirm it starts at 2.2m from the parking lot but it is only about .2m in extent.

Start of talus section
Start of talus section

We are talking about doing something this Saturday – let’s hope!

This was a wonderful hike, muscles not sore, great workout, we are mighty lucky people.

Update 9/16: Our Garmin recorded the hike and here it is on Google Earth.  I love this stuff!

This is the hike as seen on Google Earth
This is the hike as seen on Google Earth

Rattlesnake Mountain 8/29/15

Luxurious trail
Luxurious trail

Our goal was to use our Garmin eTrex 20 to map Rattlesnake Mountain.  Alas, between the two of us we did not have the foresight to bring extra batteries so when it died, the mapping function did as well.  We had to settle for following our progress on the Green Map we brought.

Rattlesnake Mountain
Rattlesnake Mountain

That’s what the mountain looks like from the other side of the freeway, and on a nice, sunny day.  Yesterday – not so much.

We were absolutely drenched, harking back to our very first hikes and to our first hike across Rattlesnake.  Rain ended eventually, as did the high winds (power at our house out most of yesterday and last night, with Cam and Fin over we had an adventurous evening) and we eventually found ourselves back in civilization.

A nice hike, physically just what I needed after so little hiking following the July 4 calf blow-out.

View through the trees
View through the trees

The wind storm yesterday was very un-August-like and gave us a few anxious moments, particularly when we passed by some trees that looked like they were saving up their final fall for the moment when hated humans were passing beneath on the trail.

Next weekend is a long weekend and we expect to do some kind of hike, probably on Labor Day.  I am thinking of an afternoon Mt. Wa conditioning hike during the week but I will have to play that by ear.

Our last two hikes – 8/16 and 8/21/15

Great Wall
This way to the Great Wall

Alas, there is no way to the Great Wall right now, it is shut down for either logging or some kind of maintenance.

We learned that on the hike we did on Sunday, 8/16.  No photos since then because I somehow left the camera on the hike.  I have a new one but we did lose a bunch of pictures.

Anyway, we got to the trailhead and started at 5:05 AM.  I was wearing a headlamp, it was dark.  We planned to go up Change Creek to the Great Wall and wing it from there – perhaps go to Change Peak, perhaps explore some side trails – but we hit a sign that told us the Great Wall was closed.  And I don’t have the photo we took of the sign.

All was not lost, though, as our original plan included side trips to explore the vicinity of J’s Landing and Hall’s Point, which we did.  We went down to the little pond as well.

All told it was about 8 miles, a bit less than 3,000 feet of elevation gain, and a nice day.

The 8/21 hike was last Friday.  I was in the area of Derek’s house because I was scheduled to be a marshal at the pro golf tournament around there (The Boeing Classic, won by Billy Andrade by the way) so I stopped at Derek’s house about 6.  We hiked the trails around his house for a couple of hours, probably covered six miles and then he had to get ready for work.

I was going to do a solo hike last Sunday but I wussed out.  This is fire season, the area is reeking from the smoke of the out-of-control fires east of us, and I decided not to risk being in the middle of the woods with such a fire danger.

We are planning a hike this Saturday (rain forecast for Friday and Saturday, which is actually good news, as rain never stops us from hiking and it does reduce the fire hazard) and following that I will be driving Fin and Cam home for a stayover visit.

So – great weekend planned.  And I will take better care of our new camera.

Random Wanderings – solo 8/5/15

My new trail buddy
My new trail buddy

I met a little cutie this morning on the trail.  I kept a respectful distance and she was kind enough not to immediately run away.

I drove to my usual Rattlesnake Lake upper parking lot and, after going up and down Cedar Butte again (trying to get back in shape after 5 weeks of very little hiking) I decided to check out a side trail – it is on the north side of Iron Horse just a bit west of the western end of the Boxley Creek  bridge – and I had a fun time from there.

This trail led north and west and meandered through the forest past a nice pond. It was a great alternative way to and from Cedar Butte.  It hit the Sno Valley trail a bit north of Rattlesnake Lake so I walked down to the Cedar River Interpretive Center (http://www.seattle.gov/util/EnvironmentConservation/Education/CedarRiverWatershed/CedarRiverEducationCenter/index.htm).  I headed back north via the Lake Trail for awhile and then cut over to Rattlesnake Lake.  From there I decided to walk all the way around:

The place looks different on a Wednesday
The place looks different on a Wednesday

I was there and there were two kayakers but the place was otherwise empty.  I did encounter a family of geese on the trail so I slithered by to the sound of hissing and skated away.

Along the way around I noticed a stark reminder of what we humans do vs. what nature does.  We don’t look good.

Rattlesnake Lake is man-made.  Where the lake is there used to be forest.  Right now the water is low and look at all the stumps; and notice the beautiful mountain view beyond the stumps:

Man vs. Nature
Man vs. Nature

But if you look in the right place around there it is nice:

A tranquil scene
A tranquil scene

And back by the interpretive center I noticed they are doing a project to replace intrusive weeds with native growth.  How nice for this area!

A local project
A local project
New native species
New native species

Finally, back at the car I noticed I had the lot to myself.  A first time for coming back – a slightly cool summer weekday is what it takes, I guess – but it was a very nice and pleasant ramble.

Now this is a rare scene
Now this is a rare scene

Cedar Butte & Rattlesnake Lake w/Dennis M 8/1/2015

Dennis at Cedar Butte trailhead
Dennis at Cedar Butte trail head

Dennis Matthews, fairly freshly back from five weeks in Germany has had a bum knee – knee surgery a few months ago – so he needed a fairly mild hike.

So did I.  My last hike, July 4, was terrific but that night my left calf more or less blew up (pulled muscle and muscle spasms) so this is the first hike I have done since then.

And I was so careful today – stretching before and after the hike, lots of electrolyte replacement (think: Gatorade/G2), compression sleeves on my calves, and not straining too much.

So we did Cedar Butte, as I had done on 7/3 with Derek and Rick.  On the way down we investigated the Southside Trail but didn’t go too far, since we were without GPS or map.  Something for me and Derek and the Garmin to check out.

On the way back we checked out Rattlesnake Lake:

Rattlesnake Ridge from Rattlesnake Lake
Rattlesnake Ridge from Rattlesnake Lake

And the lake, in spite of the rocky shore (no beach, sadly) is very popular:

Rattlesnake Lake is popular
Rattlesnake Lake is popular

And as we left we noticed a cool stump, a remnant of the logging back in the day (as are all the stumps now visible due to low water level in the lake itself):

Awesome stump
Awesome stump

So that’s it – not sure how far we went, maybe 7 miles or so, we were not exactly making record time, plenty of long breaks, about 5h 15 minutes.  But lots of fun.

Dennis wants our next hike to be Mason Lake and that sounds good to me.  As for me, next weekend I will see about doing something like Mt Washington again, as I am planning a hike with my friend Bruce Stobie and his pals up McClellan Butte on 8/16.

I definitely need to get back in shape for that one.

I’ve grown accustomed to its face – Mt Wa/Great Wall Fourth of July 2015

The Maestro
The Maestro

Today I did another ‘conditioning’ hike up the Mt. WA main trail and down the Great Wall.  And about halfway up, huffing and puffing and trudging along the steep trail I thought: why treat this like an open-air gym, just a great way to get into better condition?  I have grown so accustomed to this hike I had stopped appreciating just how awesome it is.

Furthermore, it occurred to me that hiking can be like training a dog.  Just as you reward a dog with a treat for doing the right thing, a hike like this (familiar trails, solo) is doing the right thing because the ascent is a vigorous workout, and the reward – well, just look ahead a bit.

But first, here is the view north from the junction of the North Trail and the Main Trail:

Mount Si from North
Mount Si from almost due North

Actually, this is not just Mt. Si, the sharp point that the tallest nearby tree is pointing to is Mt. Teneriffe.  And here are Mt. Si and Mt. Teneriffe from the Great Wall, that is, from the other side of the mountain:

Mt. Si and Mt. Teneriffe from east side of Mt. Wa
Mt. Si and Mt. Teneriffe from east side of Mt. Wa

Just a slight change of perspective, but the difference is fun.

Anyway, today I did not take stuff like this for granted:

Looking south from just below summit
Looking south from just below summit

Or this:

On the Great Wall
On the Great Wall

Or this:

Neighborhood from top of Great Wall trail
Neighborhood from top of Great Wall trail

You get the idea.  I am thinking like a dog and had a terrific start to my Fourth.

For the record, I made it from car to summit in 1h 54min, a new personal record.  Not sure how quickly I can shave that time, that was about as fast as I can go right now.

And, my only break on the way up was at the junction with the North Trail – I pushed past our old break spot and the new break spot beyond that.  My next hike there I will go maybe 50 yards farther and try to extend it from there.

But I’m telling you, Mt. Washington has a last trick for you.  After 3 or so miles of really tough and steep hiking, you get almost a mile of (relatively) moderate effort.  But you can look up and see there is more in store.

And how – the section just past the junction with the North Trail – I now call it ‘the final exam’ – is steep.  At the top of that section the trail hits an old logging road and moderates a bit from there to almost the summit.

Anyway, I was thinking about how lucky I am to live where I live and be able to do this stuff.  The Great Wall trail rocks!

I admit it: I am a lucky guy
I admit it: I am a lucky guy

Just imagine being able to reward yourself for doing the right thing and hiking up a mountain by being able to hike down on a trail like this.

Happy Fourth!