Friday, August 28, 2009

The Mountain Gem of Lake Ingalls

Yes, I went backpacking again. With summer dwindling away up here in the Northwest, I must take advantage of all days off. This time we chose Lake Ingalls. The trail head is found by driving to Cle Elum off of I-90 and exiting at #85, and then some other pretty little roads that wind through farmlands of eastern Washington. We only had to drive 9 miles on a crappy dirt road this time as opposed to 20-something so that was a relief. When reaching the trailhead, you see a waterfall off to the left of the trail. Unfortunately that is the last bit of water you will see for a long time so take advantage to fill up. This is a warm one!


The weather was gorgeous, with highs in the 70s. The trail winds through a rocky valley with views of the Esmeralda Peaks and even Mt. Rainier when you get up a bit higher. The red rock of the surrounding peaks contrasted beautifully against the bright blue afternoon sky. We were even able to see Mt. Adams off in the distance.


Checking out some rocks on the trail. Wish I remembered Geology 101...

After reaching the top of the pass, we reached a junction. One was as an "alternative" route but was not listed on the map. We chose to stay on #1390. The higher trail skirts the outer rim of Headlight Basin, a diverse little backcountry playground filled with glacier cut rocks, grass, flowers, and larch. That's where we would end up camping, seeing as how camping at Lake Ingalls was prohibited. Looking across the basin provides spectacular views of Mt. Stuart.

The trail split. Stay left for the longer route.

Mt. Stuart and larches.

Since you can't see the lake from the trail, it seems like it takes forever, even though round trip distance from car to lake is only 9 miles. We kept thinking, "Oh it must be over the next ridge," which was frustrating. The last bit of the trail is very tricky. At the very last part I had to put my trekking poles down and climb with my hands.

Is this really the trail?
Yes, this is the trail.

I was leading at this time and let out a little yell and cheer when I saw the first tiny bit of clear blue water just around the corner. We made it! The water was ridiculously clear with a band of teal just around the edge. I forgot my bathing suit, and there were a few other people at the lake, otherwise I would have just jumped in! What a beautiful place this is! Views of Jack Ridge and Mt. Stuart accompany the crystal clear water, with Ingalls Peak towering above.




It was so beautiful. We spent some time just hanging out at the lake. David and I hiked around the whole thing, only to find ourselves right on top of a cliff. I became a bit frightened, but David scoped out a way down by following goat poop. It was everywhere. It was after easing ourselves down that "trail" that we noticed two mountain goats right above us! It wasn't the last that we would see of them.

We set up camp in Headlight Basin. It happened to get really cold that night, surprisingly. The next morning, we woke up to clouds. We had planned on going back to the lake that day and possibly fishing, but nobody was really motivated. There was a very cold breeze whipping through the basin which made it hard to even leave the tent. Eventually though, I had to eat, and the oatmeal and coffee helped. I walked around the trail nearby and found a little haven of wildflowers, including fresh huckleberries! They were a tasty addition to my breakfast.



I later saw David high up on top of one of the glacier carved rocks, so I decided to join him, in my pajamas and flip flops. This later proved to be a bit of a bad decision. Getting up was easy though. The views from the top were beautiful, and the sun was starting to make its appearance.

After the scramble, morning day 2

It was the part of getting down that was tough. It involved David providing a step for me with his knee while he eased me down the smooth surface of the rock. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure I would have slid all the way to the bottom. I definitely would have worn actual shoes had I known we would end up partially rock climbing! Oh well, I'm back home in my kitchen and alive, so I guess it turned out okay. We did end up going back to the lake for the rest of the afternoon. It was so relaxing and peaceful. We made some lunch, laid out in the sun, and I watched David scramble back up that goat path. Check out where he ended up!


We spent the rest of the evening watching marmots scramble around on the rocks nearby and enjoying the changing colors of the sunlight on Mt. Stuart.

The next morning was time for our return trip. We decided to try the "alternative" route back to the pass. It proved to be much shorter, yet much steeper. I was fine with that though. I'm always pretty anxious to get home on the last day. On our way up to the pass, we saw a few goats crossing the trail. There were two of them, and when I turned around again, I saw three more! What a treat this was. They didn't seem to be bothered by the fact that we were there and they went on about their business, eating every little plant they could find.


The views of Mt. Rainier were even clearer this time, and it was an easy hike back to the trail head. I'll leave you with this last photo I took of David. It kind of looks like the end of summer to me. The clouds are starting to roll in more often, and it's getting cooler (although I did spend the greater part of my day laying out at Magnusen Park yesterday). Summer is coming to an end quickly, but I'm equally excited for winter.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Return to Spider Meadow and more...

David's sister Lara is in town from Baltimore so we decided to take her on a little Northwest adventure. When choosing our destination and also considering the fact that Lara has never been backpacking, we decided on returning to Spider Meadow. The hike into the meadow is really pretty flat compared to other hikes we've done this season, perfect for a new backpacker.

After driving nearly 3 hours out to Phelps Creek Trailhead, we were greeted with an unpleasant site -- a full parking lot, with cars lining the dirt road nearby as well. It was disheartening, especially since it was a Monday. "Don't these people have to work?", was all I was thinking. David reminded me that this trailhead leads to a lot of different destinations in the area -- Spider Meadow, Carne Mountain, Seven Fingered Jack, Lyman Lake, Phelps Creek Basin, etc. We left reluctantly, hoping to find a place to sleep that night.

A couple of creek crossings later we reached the meadow, about 5 miles into our trek.
Lara and I in Spider Meadow

It looked a lot different from the last time we were here in June. The snow had completely melted off of the trail and the meadow was filled with big tall stalks of grass and wildflowers. It was a beautiful sight. We walked another mile to the other side of the meadow where we stopped to pump some water.

David pumping some fresh water.

Our new pump worked like a charm. Armed with fresh water, we continued up to our real destination, Spider Glacier. We reached a trail split after hiking through the trees on the opposite side of the meadow. We headed left towards the glacier and Lyman Lake.


The trail ascends very sharply from this point forward. It switchbacks up fields of scree, with majestic views into the valley. The trail through the meadow is just a tiny line piercing the valley below. The mountains get bigger, and you can see further. Parts of this trail brought me back to Peggy's Pond where I felt like I might fall right off of the mountain. It's tricky footing, but as long as you can walk, you can make it.

Spider Glacier trail
Lara and I on a steep part of the trail.

After reaching the top, our hearts sunk. There was a tent at the first campsite. As we kept exploring for more, we realized that it would be slim pickings. There were tents at nearly all campsites. We were tired, and the effort it took to hike around the knolls was draining. We had to cross the water coming from Spider Glacier, hike up another steep little hill, and then we finally found a place to camp. We set up our tents and had a delicious beef stew from the lovely Mountain House. I can't say that I was entirely disappointed with our campsite. In fact, it was one of the best. The views were stunning.

Not a shabby spot.

Seven Fingered Jack.

Spider Glacier, from our camp.

We huddled by the fire the rest of the evening, made s'mores and tried to rest up for the next day. Our goal was to hike up the glacier and make it to Spider Gap.

Me and Lara by the fire.

We woke up to yet another sunny day on Tuesday. While we were eating breakfast, we watched as a few other hikers made their way up Spider Glacier. It didn't seem too strenuous, and nobody was slipping around too bad. We lathered up our sunscreen and bug spray and headed out. The hike up the glacier was a little difficult on the steeper parts, but it really wasn't super hard. I think the worst part of it was the glare coming off of the snow. It reminded me of being up at Mt. Hood again. Lots of people were hiking that day and it was fun to talk to them and see where they all were going. Some were headed out to Lyman Lake, which we could see from the top of the glacier, a.k.a. Spider Gap.

Me and Lara hiking Spider Glacier.

A lunar landscape near the top of Spider Glacier.

When we reached the Gap, we were greeted with more stunning views. Lyman Glacier was off to our left, with Lyman Lake tucked away deep in the valley below underneath Sitting Bull Mountain and Dome Peak. It was another beautiful sight to see.

The view from Spider Gap.

Lyman Glacier. Dome Peak.

Me underneath Chiwawa Mountain.

As we were thinking about heading back, we saw a young couple slipping and sliding on the snow. We decided to take another route, which lined the ridge adjacent to our campsite on the other side of the glacier. There was a faint path that was never hard to lose because of these little rock formations that people had built to line the trail. The path took us right along the edge of Phelps Creek Basin which provided for some pretty sketchy views into the canyon. You wouldn't want to fall from here.

David, looking into Phelps Creek Basin.

We decided to stop and build our own rock formation, since the current one had fallen down and the trail was tough to follow at a certain point. It was the biggest and best in my opinion.


It didn't take us too long to get back to camp. We enjoyed a dinner of chicken pesto pasta, and s'mores for dessert. We headed out Wednesday morning. The hike down wasn't nearly as difficult as it seemed on the way up. The trip turned out to be a great success. Lara had a great time, and we will return to Spider Meadow again someday.

Me and Lara, almost back to the car.

When we got back to Seattle, we had Lara and her friend AJ over for a wine night. We got a pretty late start considering we were hiking and driving all day. Wine and tapas along with the movie "Bottleshock"was the perfect ending to a great week. Now it's back to the grind...until next Monday that is :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

David's New Camera

The G10

The last two times David and I went backpacking, he had a plethora of photographs and videos taken with his Casio Elixim. Nice little camera, but it has been corrupting his files, making it so they cannot be downloaded onto his computer. Lame. Time for a new camera! After getting inspired by watching Trevor Graves and Andy Wright run around with their little G10s (what they call the "photographer's point-and-shoot") down at High Cascade, I told David that if he wanted to get a new p&s to get the G10. It has very flexible manual aperture and shutter speed controls, allowing for a bit more creativity than the average p&s has to offer. I think I might just have to use it too ;)

I took the above photo with my new strobe and Pocket Wizards. A good chunk of cash, yes, but a necessity for the serious professional-hopeful photographer. Cheers.

Monday, August 10, 2009

First Appearance on Transworld! Haha

Photos of the High Cascade Photo/Video Workshop were posted on Transworld Snowboarding's website. I've made my first appearance!

Get the whole story: High Cascade Photo Workshop | Transworld Snowboarding

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I am officially part of the theater...

Although my main career focus is photography, I do have to find some way to pay the bills while I'm on my journey to becoming a professional. That's why I wait tables. I have spent many years in my young life in the service industry in a variety of jobs. I've refilled coffees on Sunday mornings and I've served endless trays of Jager Bombs to fraternity boys on Friday and Saturday nights. Honestly, I've learned a lot. I know how to interact with many walks of life. Old, young, friendly, rude, sober, drunk, you name it. I've dealt with it all. After becoming burned out with serving cocktails on weekend nights at the Red Door in Fremont, I decided to try my hand at something completely different. This leads me to my current job (quite an adventure might I add), Teatro Zinzanni.

Located in lower Queen Anne of Seattle, this dinner/theater show provides a magical night of a five course dinner (crafted by Tom Douglas himself), wine, celebration, and a cabaret style show. You will see feathers, sparkles, comedians, men in hot pants, contortionists, trapeze, dance, and all of the other highlights that this type of show might offer. It's like Vegas in Seattle.

I work as a server here. Different than any other serving job I've had, I'd compare it to working on a cruise ship. There are lots of pieces of silverware on the table, the food all comes out at the same time, and the menu is limited (although delicious). Other duties of a server at Teatro Zinzanni include dancing (sometimes while carrying food), talking about wine, and providing a celebratory and special evening for each and every guest. This all happens within specific time limits. 30 seconds off and you are behind for the night.

That brings me to tonight's incident. While carrying four large plates in my arms, my little heel-clad foot tragically slipped on a ramp that is temporarily added to the stage for the Vertical Tango act (you will see it if you go). Beef tenderloin and mashed potatoes went flying. My bum smashed right into the edge of the ramp, making it difficult to get up immediately. Although hurt and embarrassed, I was determined to finish my night. I poured the coffee, served Tiramisu, and tried so smile and act like nothing happened. One of the captains (of course after asking if I was okay) said, "Now you're officially part of the theater!"

More than anything, my pride was bruised much worse than my bum. Nobody likes to make mistakes, especially in front of a tent filled with over 250 people. But as I sit here with an ice pack, I don't regret my work. I have so many stories to tell, I've met so many interesting people, and I truly love making somebody's night special...even if it involves a slip here and there. Nobody's perfect right?

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Quick Jaunt to Blanca Lake

I usually try to make the best of my days off. Despite the fact that I returned from Mt. Hood on Sunday, David and I planned to head out to the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness on Monday morning for another backpacking trip. This time we chose Blanca Lake. We based this decision on the fact that the pictures on the Washington Trails Association website made this lake look like a little slice of heaven. The description boasted an alpine lake fed by a glacier, making the water a light teal color. This seemed hard to believe.


Two and a half hours past Seattle, we arrived at the trail head to Blanca Lake. This 3.5 mile hike didn't mess around. We hiked up over a dozen switchbacks to the top of the hill in front of us. At the top, we were greeted with delightful views of Glacier Peak in the distance. Soon after, we passed Virgin Lake. Campsites seemed abundant here, but I don't think I would recommend it. The lake was coated with an unpleasant scum, probably providing some really foul drinking water. We pressed on.

David and Glacier Peak

Disgusting Virgin Lake

The trail descended into a valley where we could a hear a river rushing deep below us. Parts of this trail involved seriously tricky footing, but nothing the average hiker shouldn't be able to handle. Soon we caught our first glimpse of Blanca Lake. Bright teal waters peaked through the spaces in the trees. We neared the lookout point where many day hikers stopped to take did I.


This lake is a true gem. Apparently glacial till is what gives it the surreal color. It is quite astonishing. We passed a couple of campsites on our way down to the shore, but were determined to find better ones. We stopped right at the edge of the lake around lunch time and set our camp in a prime location right next to the shore. It was nice, but busy. We saw at least eight day hikers who all stopped for lunch right next to our spot. Not cool. Camping is all about solitude in my opinion.

First campsite.

David quickly discovered that crossing the outlet of the lake was pretty easy. Across the river there were a few more campsites. Day hikers wouldn't find us here. We planned on moving the next day. That evening, we joined a few campers right up the trail from us for a night of s'mores, rum, and cheap whiskey. Turns out they are both seniors at UW and have a mutual friend with us...small world.

Not shy frogs...everywhere!

The next morning we packed up camp and headed across to the other shore. The water was cold but not unbearable. We made some freeze-dried mac & cheese for lunch. That stuff really isn't that bad! It's also light and cheap which is essential for backpacking. David actually decided to go for an afternoon swim. The thought crossed my mind, but I was sans bathing suit and there were too many day hikers across the way for skinny dipping ;)

Campsite #2. Solitude found.

Going for a swim.

We made the best of our evening with a nice pasta dinner and star gazing. This trip was a great follow up to the hellish experience we had at Deep Lake. As for bugs, there were only flies on this one which can be managed. Now I'm back to the grind. Stay tuned for more adventures and pictures using my new Pocket Wizards!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

High Cascade Photo Workshop


High Cascade Photo Workshop. I have so much to say about how amazing the last week was that I don't know what to say about it! What is High Cascade Photo Workshop? According to the website,

""The goal at the HCSC photo workshop is to expose our campers to a concentrated look at a professional career as a snowboard photographer. Students will learn about basic camera operation, flash photography, digital workflow, and the business of being a “photog”. The class includes a “night shoot” on the world class High Cascade facilities where students actual shoot the amazing shots they see in the magazines."

After sacrificing an arm and a leg to go to this thing, I was sure hoping that it would be worth my precious savings. It was worth every penny. We spent early mornings sitting in lectures about composition, Tim's impressive knowledge about Lightroom, and even how to submit proper packages to our favorite magazines for publishing. It didn't hurt that we were learning from the best of the best. Instructors included Trevor Graves, Andy Wright, Tim Zimmerman, Christy Chaloux, and guests Bud Fawcett and Cole Barash. There's a lot that goes into the business of being a snowboard photographer, and I was soaking up every moment of it.

The culmination of the workshop was a night shoot in which we spent an entire day on the hill at Mt. Hood, had a BBQ, and ended with a sunset shoot. We used ProFoto 7B kits (something I couldn't dream of having at the moment) for lighting, and watched riders shred into the alpenglow sky. It was truly an amazing experience. I feel so honored to have gotten to work with such professionals, and I'm so happy to have made connections with riders and photogs all over the country.

See my work from the workshop here.

Also, sponsor Studio Nemo was kind enough to post the final student slideshow on their blog. Check it out here.

Enjoy! :D