hiking

Birthday Hike!

Birthdays are rarely a treat for me.  Growing up in New England, it was always cold, caked with snow, and generally forgotten (I’m looking at you, 21st birthday).  But here in the PNW, I was lucky enough to get a sunny and 52* day, and a visit from my dear friend Jade.

Jade lives in San Antonio, and she visited specifically for this event, so we had to show her a good time.  And so, Sandwich, Louboutini, and I took Jade hiking at Fragrance Lake.  We parked at the parking lot to Larrabee State Park, and the trail head was conveniently right across the street.  Chuckanut Drive is really fun when there’s no one on it, and I was having a super time.

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It’s rated as Moderate on Alltrails, so we figured it would be just challenging enough so that we could burn off all the birthday dinner calories we’d later consume.  Let me tell you.  My butt felt GREAT after this one.  The above photo was taken before my quads were on fire – stairmaster, eat your heart out.

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I think the 50s are my favorite hiking temps, especially when working on elevation gains.  This one isn’t too bad, only 1100′, but it can hit you with some steep inclines.  I tell you, I have never been so excited to wear a t-shirt in March.

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The lake itself seemed so drab to me – colors will come out in a few months – but Jade loved it.   I suppose there’s something peaceful about the reflection on the water, but I can’t wait for all the green!

The best part of the hike, however, was a little lookout over Bellingham Bay.  I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of this view.   And the best part is that all it takes is a little leg work (literally)!

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Dam.

After the waterfall we were hot and sweaty, but there was still time for one more short hike.  We found one that was barely 2 miles out and back, and because we had about two hours to kill, it seemed fine. After all, at CDB’s pace, we’d need both hours…

We were going to do the Staircase Rapids hike, which promised a little loop and some pretty water.  Louboutini, the Ginger, and I wanted to do something a bit more challenging, but CDB’s incessant whining prevailed.  The hike was quite simple, but very pretty, mostly because of what lay under the bridge (cue RHCP song).

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We made our way down to the water, which was easier said than done.  Being me, I took the most direct, if not the harder way, down, scrambling over trees, straight down the side of the mountain.  But the water below was cold, and green, and worth it.

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There was a big beaver dam from the driftwood, and of course, I wanted to climb it.  It was a success, but there are no photos.  It was not my most fashionable or graceful moment.

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We spent a good hour cooling off, playing in the water, and relaxing before the mile walk back to the car.  These rapids were lovely, the weekend was lovely, and I think it’s an absolute truth that hiking is good for your soul.

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After making our way back to the car and dusting off a bit, we set out to drop the Ginger and CDB off at the airport.  Overall, it had been a good weekend, though I think my next trip will end up being a long weekend with a group that is about the same fitness and ambition level.

As we drove off, I turned around and saw the remains of Lake Cushman out the window.  No, sir, it truly does not get better than this.

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Staircase to Heaven

The Ginger and CDB wanted to get to their flight by 4pm, which meant we had time for only one short hike.  We chose to go to Staircase Monument, since it was on the way to SeaTac, but still promised a lovely view of a waterfall.

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Again, CDC bitched about everything, despite the Ginger and my urging to get a move on (to about 3 mph).  He was more interested in breakfast oysters and beer than seeing any more of the national park, so at some point we hiked ahead left him.  Louboutini kept him company, much to his chagrin, and we secretly thanked him later for taking one for the team.

The waterfall was not a hard hike, but it was gorgeous, even if the water flow was drastically reduced.  The Ginger mentioned that it was a perfect place to propose to someone, and he isn’t completely wrong.  It’s secluded and romantic, and aside from the fact that you’d be sweaty, your hands would likely be swollen, you’d smell bad, and if you are anything like CDB you’d be hungry, thirsty, whining, and upset with everyone, it truly is an ideal place to pop the question.

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Editor’s Note:  I care about being sweaty and smelly, so if you are ever planning on proposing, please don’t do it when I look like I have Muppet Hands.

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What a Hoh

When I moved from Texas, everyone said they’d come visit.  However, the only one I believed was the Ginger; he said he would come visit to go hiking.  The Ginger is from the Dirty Jerz, and has lived all over the country, so it’s not surprising he is less inclined to enjoy the rolling flatness of Texas, and he’d take the opportunity to escape the oppressive southern summer.

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We planned to meet at Olympic National Park, which would be my first trip there.  After picking him up around the University of Washington campus, we had a three-hour drive to figure out where to start.  After some deliberation between the Ginger, Louboutini, and the Ginger’s travel friend, Cheap Douchebag (CDB), we decided on the Hoh Rainforest (insert “hoe” jokes here).

CDB is not athletic, he is cheap (thus the C), he’s a haughty elitist (“Iiiii went to Harvard Laaaaaaw”) and he does not appreciate nature.  Nor does he appreciate people going out of their way to make it easier for him.  Needless to say, he was a very large damper on the whole thing – complaining, whining, going slow on purpose, not chipping in for anything, and repeatedly mentioning how he liked being in Seattle proper a lot better, with the restaurants, girls, and booze.  Despite his best efforts, however, he still couldn’t ruin the incredible experience we were about to have.

We chose what amounted to a seven-mile hike, that started in the Hall of Mosses.  It wasn’t difficult, but damn, was it beautiful.  Not everything that is gorgeous needs to be hard.

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The main hike would be through the rainforest, and be an out and back.  The trees are so much taller and wider than I’ve ever seen – this is what ants must feel like when they come across a twig.

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Yes, I realize how phallic this all seems…

Summer 2017 had been awfully dry in the PacNW, so the “rain” part of the rainforest was lacking a bit.  Only about 100 inches of rain so far, in an area that usually gets 200 inches a year.  I’m glad we didn’t get rained on, but I cannot imagine the area being even MORE green.  I felt like I was stuck in Kermit the Frog – not that it was a bad thing.

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Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Beach is between the Hoh Rainforest and Olympia, heading north.  It was a last-minute stop, and it was worth the detour, as it is probably the nicest beach I’ve been to in the PacNW. (Take that with a grain of salt – it is not the type of beach where you’d want to swim, but it did have sand…)

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Driftwood from the rainforest is knocked into the ocean and floats downstream, until it lands on the shores of the rocky beach, and creates natural paths, gives wood to build shelters, and makes for amazing scenery.

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It was foggy and chilly when we arrived there; it was reminiscent of when the Goonies washed up on Cannon Beach in Oregon.  It was magical and as if it were keeping a secret in the mist, just for the lucky few.

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And just for a minute, I was one of those lucky few.

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Vancouver – Stanley Park

When you’re so close to Canada, you can’t resist the temptation to go, just so you can put “I am out of the country, and therefore have no access to email or phone” on your out of office message. Or, fine, that’s just me.

My parents hadn’t been to Vancouver, and I had never been to Canada in general, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to hang out, get some real Korean food in the Asian district, and visit a thriving city.

Once we got through the border crossing, the traffic, and managed to find a parking space, we walked around the northwest part, settling on a Korean restaurant with a prix fixe menu.  It was fantastic. I haven’t had Korean food that good since I went to Hong Kong.

We also went to Stanley Park, which has totem poles, a lovely sea walk, and a lighthouse at the end.  We caught a gorgeous day (albeit at low tide), and we took full advantage of the sunshine.

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Sourdough, Part 1

My parents came to visit a bit ago, and of course, I wanted them to meet my friends, and my new friend Lt. Dan was going to join us. We planned a dinner, but my parents wanted to go on a whale watch, so at the onset, I thought I was going to be by myself for a while. Lt. Dan called, and wanted to go on a hike, so we picked one, and off we went.

We chose Sourdough Mountain, which was rated as hard, but LT. Dan is actually a lieutenant in the military and I had been training to run my second half-marathon, so we figured we’d be fine. I borrowed Louboutini’s truck, and we drove the 1.5 hours to the North Cascades. After a little bit of rerouting due to random accidents and construction (seriously, construction schedules make no sense out west), we made it to the trailhead – and we couldn’t find it. A nice gentleman on his lunch break pointed it out to us, and not only was it totally hidden, but it looked like switchbacks as far up as we could see.
“It’s fine!” I really did think it was fine. We wanted a workout, my legs were strong, Lt. Dan went hiking and rappelling with her boyfriend all the time…we would be fine.

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After switchback #8, we started to get a little sore. We stopped every 15 minutes for a sip of water, but needed to take a 10-minute breather almost every other water break. The first 3 miles of the trail are 1,000 feet of elevation gain each, and the last two miles are not as steep. I know that 1,000 feet per mile doesn’t sound like a lot, but trust me. It is.

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As the day wore on, it took us almost 90 minutes to climb 2 miles. Normally, that is an embarrassingly glacial pace (usually 3 miles an hour is average, when you have elevation changes) but it was a tough hike. They were not kidding when they rated it “hard.” Unfortunately, dinner was soon, so we had to turn around just barely over the 2-mile mark. We still had some incredible views – to be expected when you’re so high up.

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Remember, when you climb up that much, you also have to climb down, and believe me, going down is always harder. The paths are narrow, and the PacNW is (still) in desperate need of rain, so the trails are dusty and slippery. You know how I know that? Because I slipped going down, and took a tumble down the mountain. Yes, really. I fell down a mountain. (I was okay, just some cuts and bruises.)

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Our lunch spot after my tumble.

If you notice, the title of this post has a “part 1.” That’s because Lt. Dan and I resolved to make Sourdough Mountain our bitch by the end of 2017. We’ll make it to the top, and back. Even if it takes all day, and a few more tumbles down the mountain. There WILL be a “part 2.”

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