Ebey’s Landing Hike

On a foggy and windy May morning our trekking group started up the bluff at Ebey’s Landing. We passed newly cut fields and looked out over the Strait to Port Angeles and the Olympics beyond.

At the top of the bluff we were buzzed by crows, gulls, and at least 3 eagles circling above, as the fog dissipated.

We paused to gaze in all directions, then started down to Parego’s Lagoon far below.

On the beach we ate our lunch and enjoyed crashing surf before beach walk back to the cars.

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Larches in the North Cascades

We wanted to take one last opportunity see the larch trees at their peak of color.

On October 5th we packed the car and headed up Highway 20 for Colonial Creek Campground. Along the way we saw the dismaying effects of summer fires on ridges and meadows.

Once we had set up camp, we decided to hike up nearby Thunder Knob. Shocked by low water levels in Thunder Arm and dead pine trees along the trail, we still found beauty in scarlet vine maples and yellow big leaf maples. We heard the calls of chickarees and the swishing wings of a raven overhead as the sun set.

The next day we got up early to hike and search for larch trees. We started up the Blue Lake trail about 9:00 in cloud and fog. We saw the first clusters of golden trees at 5500 feet and ascended into glowing groves of them all around the rim of Blue Lake by lunchtime.

Rain was coming in the distance, and with it, the golden needles were about to fall. We had gotten there just in time to see them.larches2

Joan Burton in Washington Trails Magazine

watrailscoverThis month’s edition of Washington Trails magazine features a young Joan Burton on the cover, and highlights her and seven others in the article Learning From Legends. She’s up first on page 19, as one of the “epic and impactful” figures in Washington state hiking and the outdoors. How do you leave a legacy for trails, it asks these eight. Her answer, which she has lived and written about throughout her career, is to introduce kids to the outdoors. She is also called a role model for women climbers. Her own lifelong love of hiking developed early in life:

As a teenager, she climbed six of the highest mountains in Washington and was featured in the second-ever issue of Sports Illustrated for summiting Mount Rainier—and camping in the crater rim.

Joan is a regular contributor to Washington Trails. You can receive the print edition of the magazine by becoming a member of the Washington Trails Association.

Three Iron Animals and Their Northwest Trails

Iron Horse, Iron Goat, and Iron Bear–these are all names of popular Northwest trails. But don’t look for those animals on the trails. You won’t find them. The historic reasons for their names add to their appeal.

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Iron Horse is the 19th century nickname for a railroad. Our Iron Horse Trail is the old railroad grade for the Milwaukee Road, traveling west through Montana to Seattle. The mostly level trail runs alongside Lake Keechelus, through a long spooky tunnel and then parallels I-90 down the Mountain to Sound Greenway. Hikers, cross country skiers, and mountain bikers enjoy its gradual ascent or descent.

IronGoatThe Iron Goat is also a former railroad grade, but the animal cited is the signature Great Northern’s Rocky Mountain goat. That Great Northern Railroad crossed the Cascades along a route what is today’s Stevens Pass Highway 2. The trail contains a number of old tunnels and snow sheds. One area above Scenic is the site of the infamous Wellington Slide in 1910, which killed 98 passengers. Although the trail has the gradual grade of a railroad, there are steep scenic overlooks and left -over relics of railroading days next to old snow sheds. This trail was restored with the help of the volunteer members of Volunteers of Washington.

MountStuartCIron Bear is not a former railroad grade. It was named for two Teanaway area creeks-Iron Creek and Bear Creek, whose headwaters originate on a steep ridge near Mt. Stuart. Its trailhead is reached from Highway 97. The trail switchbacks up the ridge through fields of flowers to a high pass with an overlook. Continuing on another mile to the highest point, hikers find themselves staring straight across at close-up views of Mt. Stuart and the Stuart range. Steep dry rockslides along the way contain tiny blossoms of pink Lewisia, looking like little waterlillies in an incongruously dry setting.

The Iron Horse, Iron Goat, and Iron Bear trail historic references are mostly unknown or forgotten today, but hikers can enjoy knowing about the history they spring from.

Fall Hikes for Rain or Sun

During fall months we will want to find hikes suitable for both rainy days and sunshine. Many days will offer both. Knowing what to expect on the trail makes the choice easier for families. Most of these hikes are close to metropolitan areas.

Some Good Colder Season Rainy Day HikesFamily on the Old Sauk trail 2

Boulder River – Forest canopy protects hikers on this old growth trail as it winds through a narrow canyon with plunging waterfalls along the way.

Old Sauk River – A level walk out of Darrington along a white water scenic river, beautiful in any season. Birds, animals and rafting parties may surprise you.

Lord Hill – A Snohomish County trail gives possible views out over the Snohomish River Valley and one trail goes down to the river bank itself.

Mt. Catherine – A short hike above the Pacific Crest Trail, the Mt. Catherine Trail (trail #1348) provides views south to Rainier and into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Goose Rock – Just south of the Deception Pass bridge is a short trail that circumnavigates a large monolithic rock alongside scenic bays and islands. After walking around it, climb it for sweeping views down Whidbey Island and out to the Strait.

Some Good Sunny Day HikesPacific Crest Trail south of Stevens Pass

Tonga Ridge – A short easy hike into Stevens Pass high country with fall color and views along a scenic ridge.

Evergreen Mountain – A former lookout lies at the end of a short trail through alpine meadows. In fall expect berries and vine maple adorned in bright colors.

Iron Bear – A hike leads in switchbacks to a ridge drained by both Iron and Bear Creeks of Highway 97. Views and flowers at any time of year are rewarding.

Lake Susan Jane – From the summit  of Stevens Pass follow the Pacific Crest Trail south up over ski areas down into a valley and then to a story book small alpine lake. Expect berry bushes and mountain ash and vine maples to be brightly colored in fall.

Canoeing on Baker Lake

My friend Gary Rose and I had planned in 2000 to participate in an August 10-day canoe trip on the Nation Lakes in northern British Columbia. To prepare ourselves for this outing just before Memorial Day, we planned to paddle his aluminum canoe up Baker Lake to a campsite on its east bank called Maple Grove.
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(Eight years later, just before Memorial Day, we again planned to paddle on Baker Lake, this time in a Kevlar canoe, and stay at Maple Grove,. We brought along another canoe-owning couple to paddle on Baker Lake, with us, which they had not done before.)

We left Seattle with Gary’s 17-foot canoe strapped to the top of his Toyota truck and a backpacker’s camp lunch, dinner and breakfast. When we got to the Baker Lake campground where we planned to launch, we were surprised to find no one there.

(Again, in 2008 the campground and launching area were lonely.)

The sun was shining on the lake and there was only a light breeze ruffling the surface. A few clouds circled the summit of Mount Baker because it makes its own weather system, but Mount Shuksan on the opposite side of the lake was clear of clouds, its white summit horn gleaming in the sunlight.
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(In 2008 the clouds covered most of both mountains, but the lake was still and solitary. We could see the bases of the peaks.)

Since Gary and I have climbed both peaks we immediately surveyed the glaciers and remembered routes and past trips, accidents, and successful summit efforts. The magic of the one-hour canoe paddle up the lake lay in having it all to ourselves and seeing the reflections of the snowfields in the lake.

When we arrived we had a hard time choosing a campsite since all were available and each had different advantages. We settled on one under old growth cedars and giant big leaf maples.

(We used the same one in 2008 because its picnic table was the freshest.) The wind came up in the afternoon, so we were glad to be protected from it.

We explored Maple Grove, prepared our dinner, and then sat out on the shoreline logs to watch the sun set behind Mount Baker. The snowline is still so low that very little rock is showing, leaving almost every part of the two giants shining white.

(In 2008 the lower part of the mountains were still white, and we tried to remember how the rest of the peaks looked. Maple Grove, a long ago rock slide, is a shoreline section of the east bank trail, which runs the length of Baker Lake, We had brought ratatouille for dinner, so we heated it and put it over rice, then had an apple crisp for dessert.)

The evening was warm and dry.

(During the night in 2008 I heard a distant loon laughing, and then much closer I heard his lonely, haunting cry.)

When we awoke in the morning a small rodent had gnawed on the dishwashing sponge, but he was our only visitor.

(In 2008 a hummingbird sampling thimbleberry flowers buzzed us.)
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The morning lake was like a millpond and the sky was perfectly clear. We paddled across the lake and north up its west shore inspecting giant old stumps cut when the Baker River was flooded a century ago to create the reservoir/lake. A few folks in trailers and motor homes were beginning to move into west side campsites to spend the Memorial Day weekend, but so far there were no motorboats, fishermen, or water skiers.

We stopped along side a creek to enjoy our lunch, and then paddled back to the launch site. The August trip to the Nation Lakes will have to be magnificent to top the beauty of Baker Lake in the spring.

(In 2008 I still say I find Baker Lake a glorious place for a spring paddle. Our friends who had never been there before in a canoe were enchanted with it.)

9/11 Memories

On 9/11 morning I was packing my pack for a backpack trip in the North Cascades. As I searched for food and gear, I turned on the morning news to find reporter Peter Jennings, my favorite evening news host.

“That’s odd,” I thought to myself. “Why is he broadcasting now?” The answer came in a series of horrific footage visions. I was shocked by the sight of a planes flying into buildings, the buildings catching fire, and ultimately collapsing into New York City streets.

The first crash might have been a pilot error, but the second one into the other World Trace Center building made it clear that this was a planned terrorist attack. Jennings reported that in addition to the two World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon had also been attacked.

After a while, the stories and pictures were too grim to watch, so I turned off the TV news and resumed my packing. We hoped to backup up Yellow Aster Butte with a couple of old friends. A beautiful high point near Mt. Baker, we thought it should provide us with stunning views of the snow and ice covered mountains in September’s clear skies. Perhaps man’s ugly behavior could be temporarily put behind us.

We reached the trailhead and started up the steep, heather-lined trail. We didn’t know whether we would find a source of clean water this late in the year, so we were carrying heavy full quart bottles for drinks and cooking. The trail seemed steep, and with our heavy packs, we moved slowly. As we reached the meadow just below the summit, we found ripe blueberries and, even more of a surprise, a spring with fresh cold water.

We found a lovely spot for the tents, with views of Mt. Baker in one direction and Mt/. Shuksan in the other. We rolled out the mattresses and sleeping bags, and stretched ourselves out on them. We didn’t need to do much work to make our simple dinner. Afterward we listened to Gary’s little portable radio. As the sun went down we enjoyed the gorgeous colors of an alpine sunset. The moon was full, so. as it rose, it lit up the glaciers on the two giant ice peaks.

Meanwhile we heard about a plane crashing in a field in Pennsylvania, deliberately brought down by its passengers to avoid another attack on the White House. The courage and self- sacrifice of the passengers was inspired by someone named Todd Beamer. It seemed so far away and unbelievable, we wanted to turn off the radio and pretend it was just a bad horror story. The beauty of the natural world around us soothed and comforted us as we fell asleep.

An Amazing Canoe Camping Trip on the Nation Lakes

Six of us, three couples, planned a weeklong canoe trip down the length of the British Columbia Nation Lakes in early September of 2000. The men had been climbers long ago together. We took our own canoes and carried the food and gear we thought we’d require. Who would have predicted snow and heavy rain for the first week of September? I don’t know what possessed me at home to boil up 10 pounds of potatoes to take along, but they saved my partner and me. Morning and night we ate fried potatoes, and hash browns, supplemented with a few other vegetables and tinned meat. Our friends looked on, hungrily cooking their slower meals, as I was the first to get those potatoes heated up and on our plates. In cold and rain they sustained us.

We drove for three days for 900 miles north of Seattle to the Nation Lakes yard of the outfitter who then drove us to the put-in point. Doug French told us to expect a world-class collection of black flies, which managed to bite our faces, even through head nets. As we prepared dinner, the women looked as though we’d been stung by bees.

On Day 1 after a bumpy back roads ride, we started paddling under cloudy skies on Lake Tsayta. We had hoped to camp in a campsite at Andrews Bay, but after we had covered the 12-mile length of the lake we realized we’d missed it and settled for another unmarked campsite, probably Kwanika Beach.

On Day 2 we passed from Lake Tsayta to the next, Lake Indata, on the Nation River. We had to line the canoes over gravel bars, walking along the shore with ropes tied to the prows leading them and bouncing them over logs in narrow passages, which had been cut out with chainsaws. The campsite we found was a welcome discovery since it offered us an outhouse and a table, but it rained so hard that night we had to spend an extra day there just to dry out our gear.

On Day 4 we moved down the Nation River again to Lake Tchentlo in weather so cold the rain became blowing snow. We were glad some of us had yellow rain slickers and overalls, which kept us dry if not warm. An easy Class 1 paddle, the river’s narrow passages once again required us to line the canoes. The gentle current was welcome after lake paddling. The lakes were long and scenic. We saw mergansers and an osprey, skimming along the surface. Most of the forest was made up of scrawny Black Spruce, which I suspect has a foreboding look to it, even on a good day. That night the women mutinied about camping in another muddy campsite, and we agreed to paddle on to the Tchentlo Lodge to ask for refuge. Its proprietor agreed to rent us one large room with six beds and a stove for the night. We warmed up, dried our things, and woke up ready to continue on. The dry night was a morale raiser.

On Day 5 we paused to look over the hot springs, but decided they could be more accurately called lukewarm. They did not tempt us to take a dip. We passed a huge log chalet, Fisherman’s Paradise Lodge, and stopped for a tour and cups of coffee with the owner, who urged us to stay. But instead, and because we were not fishermen, we paddled on to Eagle Island that had an abandoned cabin, where we could prepare our dinner out of the rain. More storm clouds with wind and rain in the night made us glad we were under tents.

On Day 6 we paddled 20 miles down the Tchentlo Lake and, once again, into the Nation River linking us to the last lake, Lake Chuchi. The lakes were lovely, but we appreciated the current of the Nation River. Here we saw beaver lodges, but no beaver. We had a good campsite, but the wind came up after we made camp and we were glad to cook our potatoes in a shelter out of the wind.

On Day 7 we paddled down part of Chuchi Lake to an exposed campsite at Rocky Point, reaching it about noon. A local inhabitant stopped by with her powerboat and told us its name was Onion Rock because of the native onions growing there. When she asked us where we had come from, we told her we had paddled down from Lake Tsayta, some 70 miles. She looked at the three women and remarked, “I can’t believe you girls did that in this weather.” We could hardly believe it ourselves.

On Day 8 we paddled the last 6 miles in less than two hours. We started out in heavy wind and rain, but we were thankful the sun came out just as we reached the take-out at the end of Lake Chuchi. The outfitter met us there and drove the men back to our parked cars so we could reload gear and canoes. The three women basked on the beach in unexpected warmth for our last few minutes on the Nation Lakes. We had had an amazing adventure.