Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

Larch Rx

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Sorry to keep jumping wildly from season to season, but I never got around to writing about this trip, and it was just too purty and too important to skip.

I like snow (until March)

October was rough. Actually, the whole autumn season was rough. The hormones I was taking made me feel all sorts of not great, so I spent those darkening months gaining weight, fighting lethargy, and feeling very down in the dumps.

Too many photo breaks

Very few things were able to motivate me to get outside. One was mushroom hunting, which I’ll come back to later, and the other was the chance to finally see the golden larch trees in Headlight Basin in perfect weather. I had been waiting for this chance for years, so I gathered up what energy I had left and let JK steer our trusty Subaru towards the magical kingdom of the Teanaway.

I had a moment of hormone-induced (yes, I’ll blame it on that) bliss/sadness/bittersweetness in the car when Pink Rabbits by The National was playing just as Mount Stuart first popped in to view, the light hitting it just right. It was one of those sappy American Beauty plastic bag situations when you realize that there are so many beautiful everyday moments in this world, even though it sometimes feels like shit. I will admit that I shed a tear or two, and I had that wonderful song playing over and over in my head the whole day. I still get emotional whenever I hear it – thankfully, I can still blame it on hormones.

Bare trail for now

Hiking felt so good, even after being couch-bound for so long. My legs warmed up fast, and my lungs reveled in the clean, crisp October air. Soon enough, the endorphins hit and I was talking a mile a minute as we switchbacked up to Ingalls Pass. I felt like myself again.

Headlight Basin

The ridge above Headlight Basin was crowded, as it always is during larch season, but I can’t really complain about sharing a good time in the mountains with fellow grinning, elated hikers. We had all hit the jackpot – larch trees at their peak, a blanket of fresh snow, and blue, blue skies. The colors looked slightly dull from above, but when we dropped down into the basin (which we actually had to ourselves) and the light hit the trees, the larches looked like they were on fire. Amazing.

Walking in a golden wonderland

Unfortunately, I don’t have the vocabulary to convey just how therapeutic and spiritually uplifting a day like this can be for me. I know it must be difficult to understand if you’re not a fellow nature-lovin’, endorphin-hungry, overly-emotional sap.

I meet people who say they hate hiking, they hate the heat of it, the cold, the sweating, the hard work, the bugs, and the dirt. We humans all have different outlets for frustration and inlets for inspiration, and hiking is mine.

When the light hits just right

Especially when I can share it with this guy.

It's such a perfect day

Headlight Basin | 7.5 miles | 2400 feet elevation gain –

Our own little corner of the woods

Hiking in early pregnancy

Friday, March 28th, 2014

I really hope I’ll be able to hike throughout my pregnancy, not just because it’s excellent for my physical health and that of the wee babby, but because, as I have learned over and over again throughout the years, it’s like Prozac to me. That said, right from the start I was surprised how much more difficult it felt to hike for two. I had somewhat naively thought it would feel just like normal, but with an increasingly heavy backpack carried on my stomach. Hah!

Burgeoning bump

First lesson I learned: don’t make any grand plans; every pregnancy is different. Some people don’t even notice much difference at all, while others spend nine months fighting lethargy, throwing up, and on bed rest with pelvic issues. So just hope for the best and do what you can.

Second lesson: ehrmagerd, the tiniest of hills suddenly feel like Everest! On flats, downhills, and even while running (once my, uhm, tender mammaries allowed me to do so), I feel pretty much like normal, but once I hit the slightest of inclines, my heart rate skyrockets and I have to slow down significantly in order to keep breathing properly. The weirdest thing is that this started happening even before I knew I was pregnant – I just thought I had overdosed on Christmas cookies. Ok, so I did OD on cookies, but still.

Third lesson: it’s so worth it. Being outside and moving makes me feel so good. Beyond the usual endorphin boost, hiking helps my lower back pain, I sleep better, and sometimes it seems to help with morning sickness. Sometimes.

View from Oyster Dome

This is my first pregnancy, so I am obviously not an expert, but here are my tips so far:

  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone – not to your pre-pregnancy self, not to some other crazy fit pregnant woman, not even to the elderly and infirm who suddenly start passing you on trail.
  • Leave your expectations at home! One day you’ll feel like you have wings, and the next you might feel like several vital organs are about to fall out of you and you just have to take it easy. Listen to your body and just enjoy your surroundings and the fact you get to be outside.
  • The old “keep your heartrate below 140″ rule is outdated, but make sure you don’t push yourself so hard that you can’t talk comfortably – this will happen way sooner than it usually does (damn you, uphills!), so beware.
  • Bring more snacks and way more water than you usually do. I even have to bring water on my standard 2.5 mile dog walk down to the river and back, which seems ridiculous but is absolutely necessary.
  • Use hiking poles for extra balance, this obviously isn’t the time to slip and fall.
  • Carry a running pack without a hip belt (I like the ones from Ultimate Direction) when you can instead of a normal daypack, especially when your belly starts rounding out.
  • If your pregnancy is anything like mine, pick less crowded trails so there are fewer people around when you puke. At my worst, before I was introduced to the life-saver that is Diclegis, I was throwing up twice per mile. Not my proudest moments.
  • JK

    The loop we did at Oyster Dome last weekend was perfect for me right now. There are some really steep bits from Samish Overlook up to Oyster Dome, but I took it nice and easy – I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to looking obviously pregnant so that when people speed past me, they’ll know I have an excuse and am not merely corpulent and incredibly out of shape.

    Post-lunch relaxing

    Welcoming spring on Oyster Dome has become an annual tradition for us – hopefully we’ll be back next year with a baby carrier! This time we brought a stove so we could make soup and just hang out for as long as we wanted in the sun before moving on to the lakes.

    The rest of the loop is all flats, rolling hills, and downhill switchbacks, and it felt amazing to really stretch the ol’ legs again. Most of our recent hikes have been to Poo Poo Point – all steep, up and down – so this was a welcome change and gave me a good idea of what types of trails to look for in the months to come.

    Oyster Dome, Lily & Lizard Lakes Loop | 7 miles | 1650 feet elevation gain –

    Inquisitive nutria

    Ptarmigan Ridge to the Portals

    Friday, February 28th, 2014

    I am slowly but surely waking up from my marmot-like winter hibernation, so while I’m stretching my paws and getting my hiking mojo reset, I’ll play catch-up with some of my favorite trips from this fall.

    The same, but different.

    Since we had our furry running coach, Brutus, with us, we picked a trail we knew would be excellent for running, the Ptarmigan Ridge trail on Mount Baker, but due to the heat (omgz way too hot for September – little did we know it would rain the rest of the month) and my getting over a cold, we ended up just hiking most of the day…

    Oh yeah

    …with lots of breaks to cool off in streams and roll around on snowfields.

    Them dogs be bananas

    I love this trail. Similar to Paradise and Sunrise on Mount Rainier, Ptarmigan Ridge lets you cheat your way through thousands of feet of forest and drive straight up to the timberline. Alpine views from start to finish!

    Last flowers of summer

    Last time we were here, we stopped and camped at the turquoise lake, but this time we had our eyes set on the Portals, which you can see in the distance in the photo above. Last time we also didn’t have any views until the last fifteen minutes of the hike, so we were kind of blown away this time.

    Inviting trail

    Still, I was feeling pretty blah from my cold, so Brutus and I took a very satisfying nap while JK and the Italians explored the Portals.

    Snooze Rock

    The hike back to the car was breathtaking (the views, not the trail – it’s mostly flat) – Mount Shuksan ahead…

    Mmm, Shuksan

    …and Mount Baker in the rear view mirror, all taken in while snacking on trailside huckleberries. Hells yeah.

    Mount Baker, you are magnificent

    Oh, and marmots, marmots all around. All in all, it was an excellent summer for marmot sightings.

    It's been a good marmot year

    It was hard to leave, so we stopped the car at Heather Meadows to watch the sunset and feed the hounds before driving the long road home to Redmond.

    – The Portals | 12 miles | 1600 feet elevation gain –


    This was the perfect ending to the best and most fulfilling summer of my life – so far.

    Favorite Hikes | 2013

    Friday, January 3rd, 2014

    Aaahhh, 2013. So much beauty. So many marmots. So many rewarding experiences. And fantastic weather (unless I have a very selective memory).

    View from Amabilis It don't get no better than this

    We started the year off right with a cross-country ski trip to Amabilis Mountain. For a while (a looong while) there it seemed like we weren’t going to pop out of the clouds, but when we finally did, it was glorious. A week or so later, I met up with Janelle for our first hike together, in postcard-perfect snow conditions on Mazama Ridge.

    Ram Head Trail Salomon Beach

    In late January, JK and I jetted off to the Virgin Islands for the best vacation of our lives (so far) on the small island of St. John. I don’t know why I never get around to blogging about our big trips (but have countless blog posts from Tiger Mountain), but I promise to write about this one soon, because wow. For now, I’ll say that our favorite hikes were Ram Head, which starts from one of our favorite snorkeling spots, Salt Pond Bay, and the Lind Point Trail – not for the trail itself, but because it takes you to beautiful Salomon Beach.

    Happy Hoodlums Samish Overlook

    Our car was totaled in a hit-and-run right before we left for St. John, so we spent most of the winter hiking in the lowlands until we could get another car. A weekend in the sun on Mount Hood was a welcome return to snow, even though we just hiked straight up to the top of the Palmer Chairlift and then back down again. As winter turned to spring, the newly ambulatory Nathan took us to Oyster Dome, which never seems to disappoint, especially when you can wear shorts in March.

    Shy Bear Marsh Marmots on top

    In April, I participated in a bunch of trail work parties for WTA on Cougar Mountain. Since they end early in the day, I liked to go running or hiking afterwards, which would leave me hopped up on all sorts of endorphins and in love with the Shy Bear Trail. I also did one work party on the new Mailbox Peak trail, where I earned my shiny new hard hat and found solitude(!) on the summit afterwards.

    Balsamroot Fearless leaders

    May saw us eating our way through London, Rome, and Oslo with our families, and when we came back, I ate even more after picking marvelous morels on Teanaway Ridge with Dani and Jo. Mmm, morels. Then I decided it was time to get in shape, and kicked off the summer with an excellent long run on Cougar Mountain, setting grander goals for the summer.

    Elg i solnedgang We heart the Teanaway

    It’s interesting how many Issaquah Alps hikes made it onto the list this year. I think it’s because I tend to run more on those trails, and the bigger the endorphin rush, the giddier I become. We had so many good hikes to Poo Poo Point this year, but I’ll highlight our June trip as it was the most amooseing. My annual birthday hike to Iron Peak was wonderful as always, and was followed by a most excellent night of camping along the Teanaway River. I really love that area.

    Celebrating his fifth volcano Unnamed pond

    July was big this year, and the weather fantastic. I accompanied JK on his final Washington volcano climb, Mount Adams, wrestled with the panic monster, and was rewarded with a truly epic glissade. A couple of days later, I hiked and ran the Mount Defiance Loop I’ve had my eye on for years. Score!

    A strong contender Wandering through the meadow

    One of my absolute favorite hikes this year was Benchmark Mountain near Glacier Peak. It was a new trail for us, but it will definitely go on the repeat list. Wildflowers and views in every direction, and hardly anyone else on the trail. To round out the month, I finally hiked to Sahale, home of the most picturesque crapper of all time.

    Broots I made it!

    August means WTA Hike-a-Thon, where I get to hike as much as I can while raising money for trails. Yay! Mount Defiance made it onto the list again when JK and I escaped the clouds in Redmond and found wonderful sunshine and total solitude up there, even on a summer Saturday. Later that month, we hiked the Enchantments and Little Annapurna in a day, my big goal hike for the summer. It felt so good and I want more!

    Stahp! Ridge with a view

    Our participation in TNAB sucked this year too, but we chose the one we did go to well. Rampart Ridge provided marmots galore and a ridonculous sunset. Oh, and a yellowjacket nest, but let’s not focus on that. My last Hike-a-Thon hike was Point 6262 above Minotaur Lake, where we (and the dogs) found lots of huckleberries and ate ourselves silly. The views were okay too, I guess.

    Mmm, Shuksan Our own little corner of the woods

    More huckleberries were found along Ptarmigan Ridge on a very very hot day in September. After that I suddenly lost all interest in hiking, but I did manage to get out to finally see the golden larches in Headlight Basin in October.

    Late season big'uns This be Novembers?

    My hiking blahs continued until JK and I were hit with mushroom fever (which sounds like a really gross disease) and took every opportunity we could to hunt, pick, and eat chanterelles, yellowfeet, and hedgehogs. This year we’ll start earlier…and we might have to buy an extra freezer. Right before Thanksgiving, we enjoyed an unseasonably warm and unseasonably sunny trip to Mazama Ridge, where we ran into Janelle (not surprising since I think she might actually live there) and Jessie welcoming the holiday season with a Christmas tree.

    Then I got an ear infection followed by a bad cold, and the only hike I have done since Mazama was a short loop on Cougar. I’m sure my first hike of 2014 will lead my lungs to quiver and explode and my leg muscles to actually detach themselves from my body in protest.

    Happy New Year!!


    Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

    Yikes, I don’t know what happened to my blogging mojo. (Un)fortunately, it shouldn’t take too long to catch up since my hiking mojo skipped town as well. It happens, sometimes I just burn out a little bit after summer.

    A young'un

    So, let’s go back to the last day of August and my last hike of Hike-a-Thon 2013. Last year on almost this exact date, we hiked to Labyrinth Mountain above Minotaur Lake. This time we decided to take a left at Minotaur and scramble up Point 6262 instead.

    Point 6262

    The berries were plentiful on this hike, and we spent quite a bit of time stuffing our faces in the meadow below the lake. The dogs even started eating berries straight from the bushes, something we thought was hilarious until we realized that: a) they would come home and strip the blueberry bushes in our yard clean and b) they probably aren’t smart enough to tell the difference between edible berries and non-edible berries. Ruh roh.

    Om nom nom!

    I loved Labyrinth last year, but I think this peak was even better. Minotaur and Theseus Lakes looked beautimous below.

    Almost to the ridge

    With views like this, Point 6262 deserves a mythological name of its own, no?

    Ridge with a view

    Wellie and Basil brought their adventure buddy, Brutus, along for this hike too, so I had all my favorite guys with me.


    Pups, lakes, peaks, sun, huckleberries? Summer Saturdays don’t get much better than this.

    Wellie with Glacier Peak

    Oh, and once again, Basil confused the minds of small children with his furlessness. After stroking Wellie’s (relatively) luscious coat, one of the little girls we met on the way down started petting Basil’s smooth skin. “This one feels like he’s naked! Is he naked?”

    At least it was better than last year when, whilst snuggling with the nutrias at Yellow Aster Butte, our friends’ daughter informed us that “Basil doesn’t have any skin“.


    Minotaur Lake & Point 6262 | 4.5 miles | 2500 feet elevation gain –

    Bullheaded JK in Minotaur Lake

    Humongous thanks to my Hike-a-Thon sponsors, little Nathan and family…

    Thanks, Nathan!

    …fellow Mukmukian, Lindsay…

    Thanks, Lindsay!

    …fellow European, Barb…

    Thanks, Barb!

    …hiker extraordinaire, Elle…

    Thanks, Elle!

    …and Erik the Ooob! Thanks for supporting me – and WTA!

    Thanks, Eric!

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