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).