May 12th, 2014
I know a lot of people love to hate the Issaquah Alps, but I have really grown fond of them over the last couple of years. I wonder if some of the negativity stems from the fact that a lot of people only visit these wooded gems on crappy days in the middle of winter and never get to experience how lovely they can be in the summer and fall.
I think I could be perfectly happy and content if for some reason I was only allowed to hike and run on Cougar and Tiger the rest of my life (this attitude will probably serve me well over the next couple of years when bigger adventures will be harder to execute). I’ve experienced some amazing moments of peace and flow and wild endorphin rushes on those little mountains, and I’ve barely even scratched the surface of the trails that are available.
I finally managed to convert JK into a Cougar Mountain fanboy a couple of weeks ago on an evening hike/run in the AA Peak area. It was his first time seeing the trails all greened-up for late spring, and that huge grin stayed glued to his face the entire night.
Unfortunately, I think this trip was my last attempt at running this pregnancy. It just didn’t feel good as I was doing it (especially downhill, the whole pelvic area felt unstable). I switched to walking pretty early on, but I was still rewarded with a several days of extra grumpy round ligaments, to the point where it was keeping me up at night. I’ll stick with walking from now on.
Speaking of walking, the pups and I have really upped our daily strolls lately – partly due to the sheer magnetic force of the gorgeous, green spring trails, but mostly due to the fact that I have completely weaned myself off Diclegis, and fresh air and exercise is doing a fairly good job of taking care of the remaining morning sickness.
Wellie and Basil are thrilled with this new development, as it often leads to several walks a day, and I am hoping the extra exercise will make up for the fact that I am eating like a person who is constantly hung over. At the very least, all that walking works wonders for my mental health.
May 8th, 2014
The day after my family flew back to Norway, JK and I drove to Peshastin to visit another spring classic, Sauer’s Mountain. We had driven to Leavenworth the weekend before to show my grandma the wunderbar “Bavaria” (and to buy our grumpy friend Andreas an “A grouchy German is a sour kraut” bumper sticker), but this hike is more than worth another long drive across the mountains.
We doused Wellie and Basil (and our own legs) in cedar oil in hope that it would ward off any ticks that we fragile westsiders aren’t used to, then headed on up the trail, past all the cool wood carvings on Sauer’s property and into wildflower wonderland. Glacier lilies, lupine, paintbrush, and the star of the show – balsamroot. ALL the balsamroot.
Growing belly in the foreground, views of the Enchantments in the background.
This was our best hike of the year so far, by far. We kept stopping (for me to catch my breath and) to just look around and take it all in – the flowers, the sunshine, the happy pups, and the sweet scent of ponderosa pine. Aahhh.
The trail definitely felt more challenging than it usually does, but in a good way. I was high on endorphins right from the start, thanks to my newly lowered threshold, and got an excellent workout for both my psyche and my body, not to mention lots of soothing swaying for my belly-dweller. Whenever I sit down and relax, she starts dancing around in there, but when I move, she seems to go right to sleep. This bodes well for all the neighborhood trail walks I plan to go on this fall with my little marsupial sidekick snuggled up in a baby carrier.
P.S. There wasn’t a tick in sight, huzzah!
– Sauer’s Mountain | 5.5 miles | 2000 feet elevation gain –
May 7th, 2014
In honor of National Wildflower Week (yes, apparently that’s a thing), I hereby present a short guide to my favorite wildflowers. I am as far from an expert that you could possibly get and don’t even own a book on flora, so I’ve learned the names of these from my hiking partners. In other words – if any of these are wrong, blame my friends.
First up, lilies. I love lilies. My absolute favorite flower is the Tiger Lily (left), and I have yet to see one without emitting a high-pitched squeal of joy. These just say SUMMER to me. I’ve only seen the Chocolate Lily (right) once, but look! So cool! So elegant! So named after my favorite food group!
The Glacier Lily starts popping up in late spring/early summer depending on the elevation (we saw a bunch of them last week on Sauer’s Mountain) and make quite the impressive display in an alpine setting.
Even prettier, the Avalanche Lily! I’ve seen huge fields of these in Spray Park and Summerland on Mount Rainier.
Columbine (left) signals the beginning of summer to me. I usually see these popping up on Poo Poo Point in June, then giddily follow their development as the snow melts in the higher climes. Calypso Orchids (right) can be deceptively hard to spot and a pain in the ass to photograph, but man alive, so pretty. I usually find these east of the crest, but have been surprised by them once or twice on exotic Tiger Mountain.
Aah, Beargrass. If you ever decide to hike Bandera Mountain (or any other open-sloped trails along I90), do it in late June when it turns into a veritable wonderland of these purdy stalks.
I have a special affinity for Paintbrush since one of our very first hikes (to good old Noble Knob); I remember the trail being lined with beautiful shades of red, and it was one of the moments that made me fall in love with these mountains.
Winner of the best smell category: Lupine. I’ll never forget the scent of sun-warmed lupine on the Wonderland Trail. It was like walking through a cloud of perfume, except it was light and airy and not gross (I really hate perfume).
Shooting Stars will always remind me of the Teanaway, which automatically puts them on the favorites list. They’re quite easy on the peepers, too.
A lot of these flowers excite me so much because they symbolize the changing of the seasons, and Trillium is the official herald of spring. When these start popping up in the Issaquah Alps, I know lighter, greener days are coming.
Another spring favorite – Balsamroot! These flourish east of the crest, and warrant at least one drive across the mountains every April or May for a petal pilgrimage.
Last but not least, my second favorite flower – actually, as far as I can understand, this is when the Western Pasqueflower has gone past the flower stage; these are the seed heads! Also known as Western Anemone, I usually call them fuzzbuckets or hippie heads, especially when there’s a whole flock of them gathered like a miniature Woodstock Festival.
May 5th, 2014
The weather (do I ever not talk about the weather?) has been good this spring, except for one little oddity – almost all of the sunny days have landed outside of the weekend. Great for the unemployed, like me, but not so awesome for the office-dwellers. So, when the forecast promised a weekend full of sunshine, JK and I took advantage of both days to visit two of the classic spring trails I look forward to visiting every year.
First up, Heather Lake with a group of friends. This is where I realized just how slowly I have to hike these days to keep a conversational pace, which was sort of embarrassing on an easy trail like this one. I know I have a good excuse, but I hate feeling like I’m holding others back.
I guess I might as well get used to this extra snail-like pace now; I doubt I’ll be moving any faster when I’m carrying a baby on my back or inspecting pine cones with my toddler. S’all good.
The upside of getting out of breath the second I hit a hill is that my endorphin threshold is really low! Just about every hike I go on these days feels incredible – even this one, during the unwelcome return of morning sickness.
– Heather Lake | 4.6 miles | 1100 feet elevation gain –
The next day was Pacific Northwest perfection. Clear skies, a scenic ferry ride from Mukilteo over to Whidbey Island, and lots of happy, pasty Washingtonians hiking Ebey’s Landing, bravely baring their skin for the first time since last summer.
JK and the pups entertained themselves by running back and forth along the bluff while I dawdled along, spotting bald eagles and my first non-captive orcas!
The orcas were far away and my lens only goes to 105mm, but if you embiggen this photo and squint, you can see them. Sort of.
We hiked this trail for the first time two years ago – Basil’s first hike! – and it immediately made it onto our favorites list, a great place to welcome spring and hunt for treasures among the driftwood on the beach.
We chose this hike since we wanted to get home early enough to get the house prepped for the parental invasion the next day, but it was just too pretty to leave…so we dawdled some more, and ran with the dogs on the beach for a bit. Running on sand is Wellie’s favorite thing ever (Basil’s favorite thing is eating).
I might just have to return to Ebey’s Landing this summer when 250 feet of elevation gain is no longer a gentle stroll, but just about the only thing I’ll be able to do. I’m hoping to start hiking longer distances and more gain now that I am feeling better again, but if this is the caliber of the hikes I’ll be “stuck with” further along in pregnancy, I can’t really complain!
– Ebey’s Landing | 3.5 miles | 250 feet elevation gain –
April 28th, 2014
This tends to be my favorite time of the year anyway – longer days, freshly green trees, flowers everywhere, trails starting to feel like summer but not so hot yet that you feel like you’re going to die – but these last two weeks have been all sorts of excellent on top of all that.
First of all, my parents and grandma came to visit! My parents make it over fairly often, but this was my grandma’s first visit since 2007 – it’s a long way from Norway. It was extra comforting to have my family over now that there’s a pretty huge change coming up in our lives. It’s going to be hard to have all our relatives so far away while we raise our child, but at least my parents have already booked their tickets to come and help out in the early days (when JK and I will undoubtedly be freaking out that the hospital let us take this precious baby home as if we have any idea what to do with it).
One day when my mom and I took the Wellie and Basil out for their walk, we FOUND A HUGE MOREL IN OUR FRONT YARD. And then we found TWO MORE. In our FRONT YARD. Do you realize how amazing that is? Gaaah! Also, morel season is coming up in the mountains, and my current snail’s pace is pretty much made for mushrooming.
After my family flew back home, JK and I celebrated reaching what is hopefully the halfway point of pregnancy by going on my favorite hike so far this year, to our favorite spring flower trail, Sauer’s Mountain (I’ll get my report up soon, but go now, the balsamroot is peaking). I feel like I look rather large for 20 weeks, but I’m sure some of that can be contributed to the massive amounts of Norwegian Easter marzipan I’ve consumed lately – yet another reason why life is so good right now. Mmmm.
Finally, and most importantly, we had our 20-week ultrasound, and our baby girl(!) looks totally healthy and thriving – and pretty damn cute if I do say so myself! After the appointment, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Now I can relax and enjoy the second trimester and what looks to be a fantastic spring season. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt happier, luckier, or more content in my life than I do right now. So yes, life is very, very good.