Owyhigh Lakes

Another quarantine hike! I picked Owyhigh Lakes because it’s been too long since I’ve done much cardio, and this 7 mile round-trip hike seemed like it would be a great payoff for the relatively easy grade. There are two main access points to the lakes – the north trailhead on White River Road and the south trailhead on State Route 123. We left from Bellevue at 6:20 am and while it should have taken about an hour and a half to get to the parking lot, we got turned around and ended up at the south trailhead. Since we didn’t want to extend our hike in mileage or elevation gain, we made the 20-minute drive north to the White River Road lot instead. When we parked around 8:30am, there were already at least 7-8 cars. As a note, this particular lot does require a Mount Rainier National Park Pass (or an America the Beautiful Pass), and you have to show your pass and identification at the entrance if you decide to use this starting point.

From the marked trailhead, you’re immediately immersed in dense PNW forest, with lots of green but few wildflowers or mountain views – I think this might be why the trail tends to be lightly trafficked. The trail Continue reading

Mount Si – Social Distancing Edition

We got to go hiking again!!!!!!!!!

 

Effective May 5th, Washington state parks and public lands managed by DNR and WDFW opened back up for day use. Since we wanted to give ourselves the best chance at social distancing, we waited a little over a week from the easing of outdoor recreation restrictions to go hiking (it was an overcast weekday, which helped as well). I chose Mount Si  for several reasons – it was clear of snow, it was a short drive away, and I’d already been to the top and would be much less disappointed if the weather affected the view. I forgot, however, how hard it is, especially since I haven’t kept up a regular workout routine since the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order came out late March. We brought our cloth masks, and overall, people just seemed happy to be out enjoying nature, and at least half of the 76 people we saw put on their own masks as we passed them.

We got to the trailhead around 9:00 am, and there were only a handful of cars already parked. As a note, it doesn’t appear that anyone is servicing the trailhead restrooms – bring your own TP! It took us three hours to get to the top, and I was too tired to do the scramble so we ate coffee cake at lower viewpoint. This was the only time I’ve sat at the top of a hike with no one else around, and it was amazing. When we reached the parking lot at 2:15 pm, the parking lot was only a little over half full. Let’s just say I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to see the trailhead as I was after this hike!

 

Chenuis Falls (Mt. Rainier National Park)

My family was in town last weekend, and we ended up going down to Mount Rainier National Park for some much-needed time outdoors. We were initially going to hike up to Tolmie Peak, since that’s one of my absolute favorites in the park, but I didn’t plan ahead and we discovered that the last 5 or so miles up to the trailhead are closed off until June 28. The nice ranger at the turnaround point estimated that we could make it to Tolmie Peak and back to the parking lot in about 8 hours, but none of us were quite up to that challenge at 1:00pm in the afternoon. Instead, he gave us a map of the area and pointed us toward the Carbon River Ranger Station, where they suggested the 8-mile out-and-back hike to Chenuis Falls. We arrived at the trailhead around 1:30pm, and while there were a decent number of cars already parked, we saw plenty of open spots left as well. The bathroom there is standard, but clean enough. Don’t forget your parking pass (you can either use an America the Beautiful pass or the Rainier-specific one)! 

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Hiking Kauai’s Kuilau Ridge Trail

When we decided to plan a Memorial Day weekend trip to Kauai, one of the first things we knew we wanted to do was find at least one of their famous Garden Island hikes. Since we were going to be in Hawaii for 5 short days (really, 4.5 if you take travel time into account), there was only really time to choose one hike to fit in with all the other things we wanted to do on the island. In the end, despite all our research on the varying levels of difficulty, the best hikes for different weather conditions, and the easiest trails to get to from where we were staying in Kapa’a, we ended up choosing Kuilau Ridge Trail. We opted to leave Kapa’a around 7:00am and arrived at the trailhead around thirty minutes later. The trailhead is clearly marked, but comes up fast on the right side of the highway, if you’re coming from Kapa’a. There’s only room for perhaps 5-6 small cars at the trailhead lot, and there were already at least 3 when we arrived.

The start of the trail was very muddy and slippery, made worse by the 80% humidity the day we decided to go hiking. There is a sign near the beginning calling for hikers to look Continue reading

Mount Rainier National Park

TLDR: Hiked with my parents, had questionable weather, mom attacked by a dog, made the weekend fun anyway.

This weekend, my dad and I decided to meet up in Ashford and do a few hikes near Mount Rainier National Park. We ended up convincing my mom to join too, and we rented a very cute Airbnb about ten minutes away from the Paradise side entrance. The plan was to hike High Rock and either Comet Falls or Pinnacle Saddle on Saturday, then drive through Mount Rainier National Park on Sunday and stop at various viewpoints on the way to and from Paradise Inn. Of course, things don’t always (ever?) go the way you plan.

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Colchuck Lake

Last weekend, I was able to spend the weekend in a tiny house with some great people near Leavenworth, WA. I won’t go too much in depth about tiny houses, but here are a couple of pictures!

The trail starts off with an easy walk through a dense forest. We passed some neat boulders along the side of the trail, and we were never too far from running water. About 1.5 miles in, we reached the first real bridge, which crossed over the creek in the picture below. After the bridge, the hike became noticeably more difficult and we stopped more often to drink water and catch our breath. When we reached the fork, we followed signage to Colchuck Lake–I will definitely come back to do Stuart Lake someday! The next bridge we crossed next was very narrow and led to a large hill made of boulders. At first we thought it was a scramble, but luckily the trail curves around the base of the rocks, along the water. Continue reading

Hamilton Mountain

I decided to try Meetup for the first time following my last (failed) attempt, when I ended up on the wrong hike. This time, I was going with a small group down to Beacon Rock State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. From our meeting point (transit parking at Tacoma’s Discount World), it took us about 3 hours to the trailhead parking lot. When we arrived around 9:30am, the first parking lot was already full. Luckily, there is a second, larger parking lot 0.1 miles up the hill from the first and we found many open spaces there. The road is well-paved and the parking lots are easy to access (and both have restrooms). Discover Passes are required to park in either of the two lots available near the start of the trail.

The start of the trail is wide and flat, and for about a mile it’s a very easy jaunt up to the turnoff for Hardy Falls. The trail down to the falls is steep and unfortunately, the falls were only a trickle this weekend–they might have been more impressive a month or so ago. Once back on the main trail, it’s a short distance to Rodney Falls and Pool of the Winds, which were much more unique. The Pool of the Winds (pictured here) requires you to climb up a rocky area at the fork, and there are guardrails for safety along the side of the edge. I saw several hikers debating whether or not they wanted to take the detour, and I made sure to let them know it was worth it (and that it was short!).

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Ira Springs Trail

I haven’t had a lot of time to hike over the past few months, so when a long weekend came around, I was more than a little excited to hit the trails. Since I was hiking this one alone, I decided to do a hike with fairly steady foot traffic and went with Ira Spring Trail, an out-and-back trek along the I-90 corridor. Recent trip reports indicated that I could leave my microspikes behind, and so I packed my bag with the usual: first aid kit/survival tools, an extra layer, water, snacks and my camera. I met a friend for breakfast before driving out to the Ira Spring trailhead, so I didn’t end up getting to the lot until after 10AM. A big thanks to all the people who worked on the road leading up to the trailhead–there were hardly any potholes, and it was a pretty smooth drive all the way up.  There were already too many cars in the lot, so I parked 0.3 miles up from the trailhead on the left/drop off side of the gravel road.

The trail from the parking lot starts off very flat and wide, an easy walk for over a mile. Almost a mile in, I crossed this waterfall, which apparently used to be a creek crossing before they built the bridge in the picture below. Had the bridge not been constructed, I doubt I would have attempted to cross on my own. Around 1.5 miles in, there’s a clear trail leading up where the “real” hiking begins. I was unprepared for the trail to be as relentlessly steep as it turned out to be! It actually reminded me of Mailbox Old Trail, albeit much more maintained. I leapfrogged with several groups of hikers on my way up, and many faster parties passed me on the long incline.

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Icicle Gorge

We’re in December now, so of course I had to go on another snow hike this weekend. My friend and I packed our bags and headed off to Leavenworth for a couple of days to see the tree lighting and eat brats. Although we were certainly looking forward to enjoying the town, we were equally excited to explore Icicle Gorge, which is one of the more popular trails in the Leavenworth area. Since it was so cold and we wanted to be back in town by noon, we did the short version of this already-short hike, just going a mile out to the overlook and turning around from there. The Icicle Gorge trailhead was only 15 miles from our Airbnb, but it took much longer to drive to the parking lot than we expected–the 24° weather kept Icicle Road slick in places, and the last few miles to the trailhead were fairly bumpy. We saw two coyotes on the drive up, although they were skittish and ran quickly into the forest. Since there was only one car in the lot when we arrived around 9:30AM, we had the trail mostly to ourselves for the short hike. Continue reading