Every year when spring hits, my hiking mojo comes back in full force after a winter of hibernation, and I start getting all manic and excited about summer hiking trips.
This year I’m not actually going to plan any trips since I have no idea of what I’ll be able to (or want to) do, but I’ll gladly take advantage of the energy and excitement and hike as much as possible while I still can.
Enter TNAB. Sort of. I’ve never been able to keep up with those loons and their afterburners, so I obviously won’t be able to now, but it’s such a good incentive to get out on trail on a regular Thursday night…especially when the weather is sort of soggy and the couch sings its siren song.
(Oh, and a benefit to hiking on a soggy day? My first salamander sighting in Washington! So cute, little Newt Scamander.)
The solution? Modified TNAB! Last week, the main group hiked/ran/flew up to Rattlesnake East Peak while a group of us folks who either couldn’t or didn’t want to do the full hike moseyed up to Rattlesnake Ledge at a very pregnant-friendly pace. AND I got to eat fries and a beet salad at North Bend Bar & Grill afterwards. That makes up for the lack of post-TNAB beer.
Last night, we met up with the TNAB group at the Little Si trailhead, but they sped up the Old Si trail while JK and I wandered on up to Little Si instead. Can we still call it a TNAB? Not really, so I think we’re going to name these after-work hikes Fun Evening Trips Up Summits (FETUS).
(Fun evening trips would be even more fun if certain dogs would refrain from rolling in piles of poop of unknown origin – canine? human?? – forcing us to retreat before the sunset to avoid getting it smeared all over us, too. I’m looking at you, Wellie.)
– Little Si | 5 miles | 1200 feet elevation gain –
Kendall Katwalk is one of the most popular hikes by Snoqualmie Pass, but, even though we’ve hiked here for six years now, this was our first visit. True to form, we left late, something that usually pays off in golden afternoon light and glorious sunsets. This time we missed the morning sun and had to make do with limited views and cold fog instead.
We’ve turned into wimpy fair-weather hikers (aided by two excellent Seattle summers in a row), so this weather was unusual for us…but it was honestly really nice to hike without feeling like I was drowning in my own sweat.
If definitely felt like fall, and the critters were prepping for the long winter to come. The pikas were frantically collecting impressive mouthfuls of noms to keep them going until summer, while the marmots were plumping up nicely for their upcoming snooze.
A freezing fog rolled in just as we reached the impressively engineered Katwalk, so we just had a quick snack before running most of the way back down to the car (luckily I had brought headphones so I could get Right Said Fred out of my head). I’ll have to come back on a purtier day.
The great thing about having hiked 20 miles the weekend before? It made these 12 miles feel like nothing. W00t!
Oh, right, TNAB. I vowed to go to more of these Thursday evening hikes/sufferfests…then we went to one this winter, and promptly stopped. Why? Laziness, that’s why. Mostly, though, it’s because of the drive – rush hour traffic makes it difficult to be at the trailhead by 5:45.
Rampart Ridge? Worth fighting traffic.
To the family we met at the trailhead who warned us about the yellow jacket nest on trail, thank you so much! JK and Basil (who has the worst luck with bugs) still managed to get stung, as did some later arrivals, but Dani, Wellie and I managed to skulk into the woods and bypass the Nest of Evil. Luckily Basil seemed to be doing fine, but we gave him Benadryl just in case and kept a close eye on him the rest of the night.
If you’re hiking the Ramparts through “the backdoor” this fall, be careful, the nest is located right at the junction with Lake Laura, and the yellow jackets will repeatedly sting any man or beast who walks by. Last I heard, some thoughtful hikers had marked the area with flagging.
Moving on, the meadowy bits below the summit were full of scampering marmots, but I didn’t get a single good shot of them. Clouds and forest fire haze foiled my photography plans and cast the mountains in gloomy light…
…until sunset, when the sky ‘sploded in breathtaking pinks and purples. Whoa. When TNAB is good, it’s really good.
There was the usual drinking and chatting, oohing and aahing, joking and reminiscing (even some snoozing, courtesy of Basil, who was still high on Benadryl), and JK and I realized that we had missed this more than we thought.
We vowed yet again to attend more TNABs…and then Mother Nature decided that she would serve up epic storms every Thursday from then on.
If we’re going to fight traffic, it’s going to be for something a bit more pleasant than “rain Armageddon“. So…maybe next week. Or next year?
My second hike of Hike-a-Thon, a variation on the Melakwa Loop, an old favorite of mine, was just incredibly enjoyable. The weather was perfect, the views inspiring, the company (just Wellie and one pissed-off marmot) excellent, but I was also struck by how effortless the hiking itself felt. Part of it is that I’m in better shape than I used to be, for sure, but I’ve also made some changes that make for a more comfortable time on trail.
1) Instead of lugging over three liters of water with me on hot summer days, I bring my Sawyer Squeeze water filter with me and filter as I go (provided I know there will be water available – there usually is, since I mostly hike in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness). This filter only weighs three ounces (and the Sawyer Mini will be coming out soon, weighing in at two ounces, $20!) and is really easy to use. Less water to carry means faster, more comfortable hiking, and I get to drink fresh, delicious mountain water instead of tepid tap water that’s been heating up in my Platypus container.
2) I switched from hiking boots to minimalist trail runners in 2011 and I love it. I used to roll my ankles all the time back when I wore boots, but, knock on wood, it’s never happened in trail runners – increased ground feel lets your feet adjust to the terrain. They’re also marvelously light and breathable, so my feet no longer feel horrible at the end of a long day. I usually don’t even take my shoes off before I get home, while back in my boot days, that was the first thing I did when I reached the car.
3) Trail runners allow me to run the downhills (I would run the uphills if I could, but that’s not likely to happen unless I lose a significant amount of poundage). JK and I were talking about how much we love this last weekend as we were running the six not-very-interesting miles down a mountain – what would probably have felt like a neverending death march while walking turned into something fun instead; the running itself becomes one of the highlights of the trip (endorphins!). An added bonus that doesn’t seem to make sense, is that if I run back down to the car, my legs actually feel fresher than if I had walked – maybe because I’m using slightly different muscles and a different gait?
4)Hiking in a skirt! I can’t believe I never tried this before. I’m using the Moving Comfort Sprint Tech Skort and I can finally hike and run without having to endure chub rub chafing.
5) This one is new to me, but after trying it on my last two hikes, I’m a convert. All summer I’ve been eating total crap on my hikes – I can’t stomach granola bars anymore, so I’ve been eating Snickers instead, supplemented with energy gels. I finally realized that since I wouldn’t eat Snickers in “real life”, I shouldn’t be gorging on them when my body is working hard. Enter real food! These Chocolate & Sea Salt Sticky Bites from the Feed Zone Portables cookbook are tasty (because CHOCOLATE and SALT), efficient, and have a much less scary ingredient list than a packet of Gu or a Snickers bar.
– Melakwa to Pratt Loop w/Olallie Lake | 15 miles | 3600 feet elevation gain –
Big, big thanks to my Hike-a-Thon sponsor Mark who loves this area of our mountains as much as I do!
Seattle saw nary a drop of rain in July, so we were all flummoxed by the forecast on the first Saturday in August. Clouds? Precipitation? Whaa?
I was itching to go for a hike anyway, especially since it would be my first trail of Washington Trails Association’s Hike-a-Thon 2013! Read more about it (and maybe consider a donation if you’re a lover of trails too!) over here.
We settled on Mount Defiance – Wellie and I had hiked there a couple of weeks earlier, but JK had never been, and I knew he would love it.
Everything worked in our favor. We started late, so we were able to bypass the cars that were parked 1/2 mile down the road and park right by the trailhead (the Ira Spring trailhead is always crowded, even on soggy days, but the early birds had left by now, leaving the prime spots up for grabs). We took the old trail to Mason Lake, bypassing the descending crowds. The clouds and mist kept us cool(ish) on the steep ascent, but cleared right as we made it to the Mount Defiance meadow – man oh man, how I love hiking above the clouds!
Finally, while there were still black flies out, there were barely any mosquitoes. Basil could finally hike with us again, no antihistamines necessary.
We had borrowed Brutus for this one, too.
I’m finding it kind of hard to blog about my hikes this summer, because they’ve all been so good. I feel like I’m gushing too much. But seriously, this evening was just wonderful. Great quality time with my guy, happy dogs, beautiful light.
We took the Ira Spring Trail down and ran most of the way back to the car. Even a triple yellow jacket attack a mile from the trailhead couldn’t kill my buzz.
It was the perfect start to Hike-a-Thon. I don’t have a mileage goal this year (but JK is sponsoring me per mile for extra motivation), I just want to enjoy myself and talk to people about trails, spreading the good word like a mountain minister. ;^)
Hopefully I’ll have lots of hikes to gush about this month.