Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mount Rainier

At 9:00 we had no plans. By 10:00 we were on our way. Yet another pleasant day and we decided to go for a long drive. It's been a long time since we've been to Rainier together and a very long time since we'd driven the whole loop.

The Park was metering traffic at White River, which meant a long wait, but this probably made it less of a zoo up at Sunrise. We stopped at the snack bar for a simple lunch before heading on around the mountain.

I'm always impressed by how big this mountain feels, especially from close up. I guess most mountains are massive, but when they have broad shoulders and stand alone, they really stand out. Rainier was in and out of clouds all day, but we got plenty of great views.

Paradise was crowded, but we were still able to grab a parking spot in the top lot without much of a wait. We kept our exercise simple - the short paved walk to Myrtle Falls. Pretty much any other route would still have involved snow. The new visitors center (new, at least for us) was nice and the old lodge was even better. I still have visions of entering the lodge through snow tunnels when I first visited as a child (one must always be a little skeptical of such memories - brains can create data as easily as they can store it).

It always seems like a long drive back. We had dinner on the patio of the Copper Creek Inn, then headed to Des Moines so M could swing by her office and clear her floor of stacks of paper so the carpet could be cleaned. Why the carpet has to be clean (or even gets dirty in the first place) if it's covered in paper is beyond me.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

North Cascades Loop

My basic rule is that each post should be about a place - a fairly specific place. So I'm stretching this one to include a larger geography.

Given that I was already in the mountains, that it wasn't even noon yet, and that the only reason to come home wasn't at home this weekend, I decided to head east from Stevens Pass. I picked up lunch at EZ Burger in Wenatchee - I walked up to the window instead of driving through. Then crossed the river and climbed up toward Badger Mountain, glad for my air conditioning and glad that I wasn't riding the bike. The temperature dropped from the high 90s at the river to the high 80s up on the plateau. From there it was north, back down to the river and on to the Methow. I bought coffee in Twisp. I bought Gatorade and chips (and a t-shirt) at the Mazama Store.

Climbing toward Washington Pass, I bookmarked the road for a future bike ride. What a gorgeous late afternoon - and the first time I'd driven over the North Cascades in many years, let alone east to west.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Stevens Pass

The old Cascades Highway between Scenic and Stevens Pass doesn't get much use these days, since it's closed a mile or so up Tye Creek and there's only a foot bridge. But you can drive in from either direction. On a bike it's great, especially if you ignore the uphill aspect. I had the road almost all to myself - all 6 miles and 1400 vertical feet. It was very bikable, even for me, although I wasn't going awfully fast. Maybe next time I'll try to ride up from Skykomish.

I hung out on the patio at the Stevens Lodge for half an hour, texting M in SF and watching the mountain bikers. Summer at Stevens looks much like Stevens in the winter, except the snowboarders have been replaced by bikers (probably some of the same people).

The ride back down the hill was fast and easy and fun. Again, I had the two lane road all to myself. I did break it up by taking the gravel side trip to Wellington on the old railroad line.

Wellington marked the west entrance of the original Cascade Tunnel from 1900 until 1929, when the new tunnel was built lower on the hill. It's known for the avalanche in 1910 that killed 96 people trapped in trains stuck in the snow. I had read Gary Krist's White Cascade, about the Wellington disaster, back in 2010, exactly 100 years after the event. The spot is all forested now and despite good interpretive sings, it's hard to imagine the town, let alone the bare slopes that allowed for the landslides.

On the drive back out, I stopped at the west end of the new Cascade Tunnel. I was hoping for a train, but no such luck. It was only 11:30. I pondered whether to drive back into Seattle or whether to continue east and do the big North Cascades loop.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mount Dickerman

M spent the week in the Bay Area, so I was on my own on the 4th of July. I got an early start and was on the trail by 8:30. I had ridden my bike past the trailhead two weeks earlier on the way up to Barlow Pass and maybe that's what planted the seed for this trip.

I wasn't the only one on the trail, since this is a popular hike - easy to get to and great views from the top. It's a good trail, but relentlessly uphill - almost 4000' in just over four miles. There was still a lot of snow on the way up, but not enough to get me to stop and pull on the spikes.

It was crowded on top - a big meet up? group, I think. And a few dogs. One yipping, one nosing into folks' packs while owners chatted loudly with friends. The quiet solitude of the mountains!

Mount Dickerman really is a good place to take in the central northern Cascades, with peaks in every direction, including Glacier, Baker, and Rainier in the distance. But the closer ones - Del Campo, Big Four, and three Fingered Jack were just as good.

The last time I posted from here was a drizzly day up above Monte Cristo two years ago (Gothic Basin: October 2015).

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Potholes Coulee

Potholes Coulee is just a few miles north of Frenchman Coulee (previous post), but has a more diverse landscape, with a whole bunch of lakes (both above and below the rim). There are basically two large channels - Dusty Lake sits in the southern one, the multiple Ancient Lakes sit in northern one. It would have amazing to watch during the floods!

Looking West

Looking East
I hiked in from the Quincy Lakes Wildlife area above the rim - from where I parked it was less than ten minutes to the cliff edge overlooking Dusty Lake. I spent a couple of hours exploring the narrow spine (a fin if it were in Utah and perhaps a blade around here) that separates the two coulees - which afforded great views of the lakes on both sides. I'll save an exploration of the lakes themselves for some future trip, but this saved me having to hoof it all the way back up from the bottom.

Ancient Lakes

Route-finding was pretty easy - although it benefitted from earlier reconnaissance with Google Earth. And good views do not require any scrambling - let alone ropes. The flowers were out, the temperatures reasonable, and the rain squalls waited until I was back in the car. I did see one snake (I heard it first), but it was moving away quickly so I couldn't even get a photo.

Frenchman Coulee

I sort of knew this place was here, but never appreciated how close it was to I-90. A 15-minute side trip at the Silica Road Exit would be enough time to check out the view and still make it back to the freeway.

Fortunately, I had more than 15 minutes, so I drove all the way down to the river. I guess this was the route of the old road across the river to Vantage, before the Wanapum Dam was completed in the early 1960s and this part of the valley was flooded. The climbers were out - I also hadn't realized what a climbing mecca this was. Bicyclists were riding down to the river and back. Folks were camped along the way and cars were parked at the trailheads.

And a CWU Geomorph class was getting introduced to the role of the Missoula Floods in creating this landscape. There were many outburst floods from Lake Missoula, but they didn't all take the same route across central Washington (depending a little on which portions of the river were still blocked by ice). But many came down Grand Coulee (over Dry Falls) and then spread out across a broad fan below Ephrata. From there, they took several several paths into the Columbia Valley - including here at Frenchman Coulee and just north at Potholes Coulee (where I went next). The huge floods flowed over the cliffs, plucking and eroding out the basalt, head cutting the flat-bottomed coulees.

In the past, I've posted from Lake Missoula (Gravel Beach: 2011) and Camas Prairie (hshipman: 2014) at the upstream end of this whole flood story.

After a long day trip to Steamboat Rock in 2011, I told myself I should try to get in at least one good excursion to eastern Washington every spring. But somehow it just doesn't happen. Not that I won't keep trying.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Lithia Park

Ashland Creek flows right through downtown Ashland and the town has done a nice job of orienting walkways and restaurants along its edge. The best of these public spaces, and certainly the largest, is Lithia Park which extends a mile or two up from town. The lower part has playgrounds and artificial ponds and manicured gardens, but as you head upstream, the trails thin out and you are walking in the woods.

The geologist in me can't help but see a stream like this as a hazard. One really big rain storm sitting over the upper watershed for a few hours, after an already wet week, on top of a lot of wet snow, could probably do a lot of damage, both in the Park and in town. There have been some pretty big floods (1997, for example) and there are an awful lot of warning signs pointing uphill away from the creek bottom.


After several years of weekend excursions in May to watch D play Ultimate, M has found that a long travel weekend in May is a fitting complement to her birthday. And who am I to argue. She did all the footwork and the bargain hunting. She got us cheap flights to Medford, an Impreza, and three nights at a hotel in downtown Ashland. We flew down early Thursday evening and flew home Sunday afternoon.

Ashland is an upscale town - with a college, a major Shakespeare venue, an up and coming outdoor recreation scene, and plenty of nice restaurants and galleries and coffee shops. Which makes it a bit of a contrast to much of the rest of this corner of Oregon. It's on I-5, or at least very close to it, and I suspect the next time we drive through on the way between Seattle and San Francisco, we'll detour through town.

We saw two plays, neither of them Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare in Love is about the guy and benefits from familiarity with his plays - Romeo and Juliet, in particular. Hannah and the Dread Gazebo was definitely not Shakespeare, but a really nicely done story of both Koreas, of confused ethnic identities, of immigration and language, and the discovery of family baggage. It was also a really neat example of how a potentially depressing plot line can be made very funny, yet remain meaningful.

As always, the trip involved food. Breakfasts at Morning Glory, Greenleaf, and Brother's. Dinner at Hearsay and Amuse. All were very good, some were better (Morning Glory and Hearsay). The healthy part is that we can usually skip lunch. The less healthy part is that we often need a snack by mid-afternoon. M discovered the lemon meringue tart thing at Mix Bakeshop. I tried several coffee places, but both the coffee and the coffee house were best at Noble Coffee Roasters in the Railroad District.

We spent a couple of hours walking through Lithia Park (another post) and an hour driving up into the hills to the east on Dead Indian Memorial Road.