Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Goat Lake

Summer is coming to an abrupt ending up here in Washington. It's bad news for our backpacking, but good news for snowboarding. Since this past week is the only stretch of more than two days I have off before we leave for Jackson Hole (don't even get me started on my upcoming work schedule...overtime anyone?), we decided to make one last trip for the summer. We had originally planned for Gothic Basin, but looking at the weather forecast, we would have definitely been snowed in at those elevations. David found Goat Lake on the WTA website, which sits at about 3,000 feet. We would be safe from snow, but probably not rain.

Goat Lake is located in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness off of the Mountain Loop Highway up north. I've never driven on this highway before. It was quite an adventure. I personally enjoyed the adorable little po-dunk towns along the way, Granite Falls, Silverton, etc. The road winds and winds through the forest, turns into dirt, and then turns right up to the Goat Lake Trailhead. This trail was especially interesting due to the fact that it used to be access to a mining town. The Penn Mining Co. opened up at Goat Lake in 1895 and a seven mile wagon road was built. We could even see traces of that road. There was a hotel built on the shores of Elliot Creek by the McIntosh family that was open from 1927-1935. The beautiful waterfalls that flow from Goat Lake were named after them. Read more about the history here.

Old Wagon Road
Old Wagon Road.

McIntosh Falls
McIntosh Falls.

The trail to the lake was easy. There was very little grade, and it wove through beautiful little patches of alder trees. The weather stayed nice the whole way there. We chose a private little place to camp on the side of the lake. It started to get cold. We went down to the water's edge to make some dinner - Mountain House Beef Stroganoff and Natural High Cinnamon Apple Crisp for dessert...yum! We oohed and aahed at the mighty Cadet Peak and it's partial glaciers that still remained. The clouds began to roll in so we retreated to the tent. Moments later, the rains came.

Alder Groves.

Cadet Peak
Cadet Peak.

I can't say that I was completely opposed to being rained on while inside the tent. Lately I've heard a lot of stories about bear encounters. Nothing scary, the bears are usually scared of you (black bears, not grizzlies), but I still had that little shadow of worry hanging over me all night. The rain tends to drown out the sound of what's outside, so it's comforting to not to hear those little twig snapping sounds that are usually chipmunks but sound like Big Foot.

We woke up the next morning to snowy peaks all around us. It was quite beautiful but seemed odd for September. We ate some breakfast in the shelter of our tent and decided to head home. It really wasn't worth staying another night in the rain and there weren't many trails to explore around the lake. We put on snow pants to take advantage of their waterproof material, and wrapped our backpacks in trash bags for the rainy hike out.

Goat Lake

David's rain coat and a trash

Grand Entrance
Me next to a massive tree.

On the way home, we decided to make a stop in Granite Falls for some pizza. We had at first thought the tavern looked interesting, but when we walked inside, the bartender and three barflies looked a little rough so we opted for Omega Pizza & Pasta next door. An adorable little high school girl was our server. She seemed way too cute for a place like Granite Falls. We ordered some Caesar salad and a pepperoni pizza, the perfect post hike meal. The drive home was crazy. It was a torrential downpour for most of the way, but we somehow made it home in two hours flat.

Granite Falls
The sketchy tavern in Granite Falls.


I don't have as many pictures this time due to the rain factor, but there are still a few nice ones. On the other hand, David had his awesome little G10 along and he also wrote about our trips on his blog. We could probably make millions with his words and our pictures combined. Check his blog out here.

Be sure to check out my website at Powder Photo.

In a Jackson Hole update, my friend Anne from college who lives out there called me today and needs a place with her boyfriend for November 1st, just like us. We are going to try and rent a three bedroom house for the four of us! That would be such a great situation. Hope it works out...only one month till Jackson!!!!!!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Early Morning

Ever since leaving High Cascade Snowboard Camp, I realized that I needed to get a professional camera if I was going to get serious about this industry. They are so expensive, but such an investment if photography is what you want to do with your life. After countless hours of searching on eBay and in the used camera section of Glazer's, I finally found my prize. It was a package deal someone was selling on eBay...Canon 1D Mark II N, Canon 70-200 f/4 L telephoto lens, some filters, and an 8 GB memory card. All for a reasonably good price. Let me just say, this camera is a beast. I just received it yesterday and have been pouring over the manual (which I never read) to figure out all of the nifty little controls. It's amazing. This is a truly powerful machine that I hope will make my photography even more appealing than (I think) it already is. Here's my new toy:


Also, I've been wanting to go over to the University of Washington aquatic center to take photos of the sunrise. It's supposed to rain this week so I thought I would get there early today. God I hate getting up early. It's miserable. But after I stopped for a pumpkin spice latte (I'm a sucker for seasonal beverages) at Starbucks, I felt better and set up my tripod down on the dock at the canoe center. The sunrise on Lake Washington is incredible. It comes from behind the craggy and rugged silhouette of the Cascade mountains and then pours over onto the smooth-as-glass lake water. It was crisp and cool outside and there really was no other place I would have rather been at the time (besides my bed). There were people getting out there to row, which blows my mind, but they did make for some good subjects in my photos.

Rower's Paradise

Canoe Reflections II

Canoe Reflections

Husky Stadium and Boat Launch


My Morning Fuel

Boat Launch

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hiking around Stevens Pass

I was pretty excited to take this route when I first read about it. It would be familiar to me. Josephine Lake is located in the Stevens Pass backcountry, near where I took my avalanche class in the winter. I thought it would be really fun to see what the little winter wonderland looked like in the summer time. It would also be a shorter drive, which I never have a problem with.

For those who know me, you'll probably laugh at this story because it's so typical. The last time we went hiking we took our hiking shoes out of the truck because it was starting to smell like something died in there. So when we were close to Monroe on this trip, David said "Oh my god, did you bring your shoes?" No. Sure enough, they were sitting right outside the door to our apartment. We had to drive all the way back to Seattle and sit in the miserable traffic yet again. Oh well, that's probably the only time we'll ever make that mistake.


Back on our way. Next stop, Sultan bakery. This is quite possibly the most wonderful little gem of Podunk restaurants one can find on Highway 2. They have these massive loaves of bread in the back that they make massive sandwiches with. We just got doughnuts but I can't wait to try one of those sandwiches sometime. We took Highway 2 all the way up to the big left and then turned off at a Forest Service road that I didn't even know existed. I guess I always see that area buried in snow. The dirt road was short, and we shortly reached the Tunnel Creek trailhead. There wasn't much parking here, but it didn't look like it was needed either. Supposedly this is a low-use trail. As we started up, I could see why it was a low-use trail. This thing was relentless. They had even installed log "stairs"for part of it because of the steep grade. Luckily there was only about 1.6 miles of this until we reached Hope Lake and the intersection of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Hiking in the Sunlight

I didn't end up getting any photos of Hope Lake. It was kind of a disappointment, actually. I guess this trail had a lot to live up to considering the fact that we were on top of Mt. Daniel last week. Moving on. We hiked up the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for about another mile and reached Mig Lake. This lake was a bit more picturesque, with pretty little plants growing in the water, dragonflies in abundance.

Mig Lake

Perfect Meadows

The huckleberry bushes in the meadows had all changed to a bright red, making a beautiful contrast with the delectable little berries that hung on them. There were so many berries we literally had to stop ourselves from eating them. I could have taken enough home to make a pie. They are so delicious! We kept hiking on the PCT passing a few people along the way. One guy was headed all the way to Snoqualmie Pass. He said he had passed two groups of people who had been hiking all the way from Mexico! I couldn't imagine taking a trip that far. It is pretty amazing to imagine that it's possible though. I would just wonder what you would eat after you ran out of food. We hiked up another fairly steep slope, passing Swimming Deer Lake at the top. We didn't see any swimming deer unfortunately.

Finally, we could see Josephine Lake far below us. The trail split, intersecting with the Icicle Creek trail, which we took. This trail circled all the way around the lake for about a mile. When we reached the bottom, we searched for a camp. Many of the camps were closed for restoration, but we were able to find a fairly large area tucked away in the woods with a view of the lake. We had the whole area to ourselves, a first since our very first trip to Spider Meadow.

Josephine Lake
Going for a swim.

The next day, we decided to hike over to the Stevens Pass ski resort. The route took us back to the PCT, which climbed up and over another saddle. Below us was beautiful little Lake Susan Jane. We immediately wished we had camped here. It was tucked below the steep avalanche ridden slope that I had descended with my backcountry class in the winter. There was a perfect campsite right at the edge of the water. Bummer. We were too lazy to pack up and move all of our stuff. After exploring around the lake a bit, we continued on into the valley known as "the backside". At least that's what it's known as in the winter, because it literally is the backside of the ski resort. We could see a bunch of machinery and people doing who knows what at the bottom of the chair lifts. The valley was blanketed in huckleberry bushes, making a lovely mix of red, yellow and orange contrasting against the clear blue sky. It was truly gorgeous.

Lake Susan Jane
Lake Susan Jane

Human Evidence

We passed under the power lines and switchbacked through Corona Bowl and the blue ski runs, finally reaching the top of Tye Mill around lunch time. It was funny as we got close to the top because someone had placed a red cooler with "thru hikers"printed on the top. It was empty besides a composition book in the bottom. From the notes, the cooler must have been filled with beer at one point in time because some of the notes were very excited and some were pissed to have hiked all the way from Mexico only to find an empty cooler at the top of Stevens Pass. I'd be pissed too. Someone should really refill that cooler, it's a tease being empty like that.

Jupiter Chairlift
Jupiter Chairlift.

We stopped to make some lunch and take photographs. There were lots of pretty little flowers and even pikas running around. Pikas are cousins of the rabbit, only a much smaller version, almost the size of a mouse. They have the same mannerisms of a rabbit though, and they're pretty darn cute.


Perfect Lookout

Cowboy Mountain
Cowboy Mountain.

We started our hike back to Josephine Lake around two o'clock. It had been a pretty good hike and it was really fun to see what the ski resort looked like in the summer. When we returned to Josephine Lake, another couple showed up. They ended up camping somewhere further away in the woods so we still kind of felt like we had it to ourselves.

On our hike back to the car on Wednesday, we solved one of our biggest questions: How do bears eat the huckleberries off of the bushes? I mean, it's a legitimate question. Bears have big snouts, and the berries are tiny and delicate. Well in the middle of the trail we ran into a pretty large pile of bear poop. Berries, leaves, and all. So that's how they do it. They eat the whole bush. After running into the poop I was my senses were heightened, just in case we ran into a big black cuddly friend on the trail. Luckily we didn't and made it back to the car around two.

Super Mario Inspiration
Mushrooms everywhere! Super Mario inspiration?

This was a pretty good trip, especially considering it had a lot to live up to after our spectacular trip up Mt. Daniel last week. The fall colors were beautiful, it was relaxing, and we were able to just enjoy the great outdoors. We're hoping for a trip up to Mt. Baker next week if the weather cooperates. At this time of year, we could run into snow!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mt. Daniel Summit - We Made It!

All Smiles
All smiles at the top of Mt. Daniel.

This week was one of the most challenging weeks I've had when it comes to backpacking. Not that I expected any less. I knew that summitting Mt. Daniel would be a challenge from the get-go. But it was our second attempt, and I had an idea of what to expect. We arrived at the Cathedral Rock trail head on September 14 around 11 am. This trail is kind of monotonous to me, considering we've hiked it several times now. It's just switchback after switchback. I was pretty excited when I finally saw the east summit of Mt. Daniel peaking through the trees on the trail to Peggy's Pond...WAY less snow! This was great. It was even better than I expected. After having to turn back due to early season snow last week, I was super stoked to see a nearly bare mountain. We set up camp, this time at the real Peggy's Pond, right next to the lake. It was still and quiet, and beautiful.

Peggy's PondMt. Daniel
Peggy's Pond and Cathedral Rock. Mt. Daniel from our camp.

The next morning we woke up early, made breakfast, and hit the trail. The sky was clear and we had high hopes for the afternoon, hoping to be at the top of the west peak of Mt. Daniel within a few hours. The first part of the trail was easy, meandering through a rock-filled valley. An old, crusty snowfield lay at the other side. The second pitch of the trip would be a bit more challenging. The scree fields were slippery, and parts were really steep. It was hard to keep a good footing. Let's just say that David and I tried to climb next to each other instead of in a line. Rock falls were common. It took a bit of navigating to get to the top of that, but it wasn't too bad.

Scree Fields
David on his way.

In the valley.
The goal is in sight.

Before we knew it, we were staring up at the looming spire that lies right next to the east summit. It was frightening and majestic, really putting me in my place in the big world of nature. The last pitch was similar to the second, forcing us to climb and navigate through piles of rock. It was much easier this time though, as the rocks were bigger and more stable. The last part of the east summit was a little scramble which brought us to the very top. From there we could see the middle and west summit of Mt. Daniel -- our final destination. There was another guy at the top of the east summit who was on a much longer trip than us. He was also traveling solo -- not what I'd like to be doing on a mountain like this. We spent a few minutes oohing and aahing over the views of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Stuart, and even Mt. Adams. It was a very clear day.

One More Pitch
Feeling small.

Snow traverse.

Daniel Glacier
Daniel Glacier.

We left the east peak, trying to figure out a way to get to the very visible trail that led to the west summit. As I looked down one of the scree filled slopes, I decided that it would be a challenging, yet fine place to go down...wrong. This scree slope was not stable by any means. The rocks slipped with every step, and I was completely scared. We weren't on top of a cliff or anything, but the fact that I couldn't take one step without sliding at least two feet was unsettling. Luckily, David had more confidence than I and reached the trail, encouraging me the rest of the way down. I was left with only a couple of small scratches on my leg.

Coming down from east summit.

We followed the easy going trail all the way to the middle summit, passing a little rock wall where someone had slept in a bivy sack. We read the story on the Washington Trails Association website. It was just weird to be right next it. We continued on, only having to climb one last pitch of scree to reach the west summit -- the tallest point of Mt. Daniel. It was easy, considering I had visions of lunch dancing through my head...and another little treat.

The Daniel Complex
The west and middle summit of Mt. Daniel, respectively.

Amy under the Middle Summit.
The easy trail to the west summit.

We reached the west summit around 1:15 p.m. David scrambled up the last little rocky outcrop and found the summit register. We signed our names, and looked out at the expansive views before us. We could see everything. Venus and Spade Lake, Mt. Stuart, Mt. Rainier, Bear's Breast, Mt. Adams, and even Mt. Baker. Below us was the mighty Lynch Glacier, draining into Pea Soup Lake below it. We were standing at nearly 8,000 feet and felt like we could see the whole world.

West Summit Register
David finding the summit register.

Pea Soup Lake
Lynch Glacier and Pea Soup Lake.

Summit Register

So Happy.
So excited.

Feeling Small

At that point it was time to celebrate with the mini bottle of bubbly that David had carted all the way up the hill. It was the perfect ending to a long climb. That and freeze-dried mac & cheese. I'm sure that food would have tasted terrible at home but here, on top of the highest peak in King County, it was perfect.



We shared our time at the top of the summit with another couple for a while, and then began the long trek down. We skipped the scary scree field, and somehow ended up on top of a snow field. At this point it was time for some glissading. Basically, skiing without skis! The first slope was quite a disaster. I ended up sliding on my butt the whole way down, slushy snow spraying up into my sunglasses, nearly crashing into the rocks below. The second slope was shallower, and I was able to stay on my feet but I got going pretty fast. No injuries :)

Me, being the navigator that I thought I was, decided that we should descend straight down into the valley. I thought I had seen a good way earlier in the day...really bad idea. We should have just gone the long way down the southeast ridge. We ended up above some cliffs, and had to traverse along a very slippery scree slope. It was nearly impossible to get a steady foot. I was terrified. Luckily, we made it across safely and David spotted a good way down to the bottom of the valley. Success!

We skipped across the last snow field, knowing the hard part was over. We could go back to camp and enjoy a big delicious dinner. The evening was so relaxing considering the long journey we had taken that day. I definitely tried somethings I'd never tried, and realized I am capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for. As I sit here typing this, I don't even want to stand up I'm so sore. Oh well, it was worth every step and I feel so accomplished. Depending on the weather, this could be our last trip of the summer. I'm okay with that though. It was the perfect ending to the best summer I've ever had.

Mt. Daniel

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mt. Daniel Summit Attempt

A view of east peak Mount Daniel from the southeast ridge.

David noticed an article about some people summitting a mountain in the Cascades called Mt. Daniel. Read it here in the PDF if you're interested: Scrambling Daniel. Seeing as how they didn't use any climbing equipment and only trekking poles, this sounded like a challenging, but doable task for the two of us. It also sounded like a great way to say goodbye to summer and look forward to winter...Well, here's how the story goes.

The route to Mt. Daniel begins from a little area called Peggy's Pond. You might remember me talking about Peggy's in a previous post titled "Mosquitoes Suck." Luckily, the mosquitoes have pretty much retreated and died off for the summer so this time we didn't have the problem. The day we left was pretty soggy. The trail was muddy, both of us were coming down with colds, and it was freezing. The rain was just a drizzle for most of the hike to Peggy's so it was definitely tolerable. When we reached Peggy's we set up camp and made dinner. The night proved to be pretty chilly. I didn't take my hat off the whole time and felt like I couldn't zip my sleeping bag up enough to keep warm. It had to have dropped well into the 20s that night.


The next morning we woke up to a layer of frost on the ground, and a beautiful clear and sunny sky. We were very thankful for warm oatmeal and hot coffee for breakfast. We bundled up, grabbed our trekking poles, and headed out to climb Mt. Daniel.

Cathedral Rock from camp
I'm loving the morning sun here.

Standing at nearly 8,000 feet (puny in comparison to what I've seen in the Tetons) is Mt. Daniel. It's covered in snow most of the time but the route to the top is pretty passable. There were a couple of routes described in the web story. One was a route up to a snow field. We tried to shoot for that one but ended up taking a very off-the-beaten-path way up the southeast ridge. We began by hiking what we thought was the climbers trail up the southeast ridge. This "trail" proved to be quite challenging. There were a few cairns along the way, but nothing that looked like an actual trail. We climbed steep scree covered slopes, traversed a bit, and then we realized we were a bit trapped. It was either turn back (there was no way to traverse further), or climb a steep stream bed. We were stuck climbing up a stream bed. This was an interesting experience, and definitely a test of my courage. I felt like turning back multiple times.

Climbing a streambedLooking up SE Ridge
Not sure how I made this climb. Taking a breather after the stream bed.

David, Mt. Stuart behind.

When we reached the top of the stream bed, we were faced with climbing a snow covered slope to the top of the southeast ridge. This was challenging, but not as bad as the stream bed. Most parts of the snow were easy to get grip, and the worst part was at the top but it was very doable. When we got to the top, we could very clearly see the east peak of Mt. Daniel. It looked like it would take forever to get there, and we were trudging around in what seemed like a foot of fresh snow. The views from here were beautiful. From Mt. Stuart, Circle Lake, and Bear's Breast, all the way to Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams was clear. I felt as if I was on top of the world. Unfortunately, I did not feel confident with climbing the rest of the way to the summit. It looked dangerous. There were cornices that had formed, and so much snow to cross! We decided to turn back :( This is the one time when early season snow is at my disadvantage.

Blazing the trail. First tracks!

The best view ever!

Bear's Tetons?? :)

David's on top of the world.

On the way down, we followed the southeast ridge in a different direction. Looking at the topo map, it seemed like we could find a shallower slope to descend on and not have to climb down the creek bed...whew! The way down was marked with lots of cairns, and the snow made it really easy to keep a good footing. I felt much safer this time.

SE Ridge descent
I'm trudging through snow at the end of summer...weird.

When we reached the edge of the ridge, we saw a beautiful little lake at the base of Cathedral Rock, appearing to be Peggy's Pond. This is where we got confused. This lake was beautiful and blue. A little mountain gem. According to the map, it was Peggy's. David was sure that we weren't camped by that lake. I remained hopeful. If it turned out to not be where we were camped, it meant that we would have taken the wrong route to climb Daniel, starting from a lake that wasn't even Peggy's! Sure enough, as we descended further we noticed a crappy little swamp...with our tent next to it...just next to the real Peggy's Pond. We started from the wrong place! No wonder the ascent was so difficult!!

The real Peggy's Pond.

We walked up to Peggy's Pond, in awe of how beautiful it actually was. We continued on the trail to the crappy lake that we were near, naming it Peggy's Piss. How disappointed we were. Our whole route to the top of Daniel would have been much easier had we actually started from the right spot. What an annoying mistake.

I guess we learned a few things on this trip. Maps really do help. We weren't far from the real Peggy's but it definitely made our trip to the top of Daniel very challenging. We have been watching the weather this week and it seems like a lot of the snow will be melting on Mt. Daniel so we might try again next week. Until then, enjoy the gorgeous pictures we got from our trip, and hopefully next time I'll be raving about how we made it to the summit.

David gazing up at where we should have been.