Friday, November 30, 2018

Fort Worden

Fort Worden is located where it is because of its strategic location at the entrance to Puget Sound, where it, Fort Flagler on Marrowstone, and Fort Casey on Whidbey created a pretty imposing array of gun batteries, had any unfriendly ships tried to sneak in (I guess none ever did). The forts all date to the late 1800s and early 1900s (I think Fort Ebey on Whidbey is of a later vintage).

It's been a State Park since the early 1970s, managed now for museums, camping, lodging, as well as a variety of events and festivals. It's a great venue for workshops and small conferences (my excuse to spend two days recently). The bluffs offers great views of the Cascades to the east, from Baker to Rainier, of Vancouver Island and the San Juans to the north, and of the Olympics in the west. It's also got some neat beaches (and some interesting coastal geologic conundrums).

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Knife Edge

I think this is a pretty common name for hiking and climbing routes in similar settings, but it certainly fits this place well. North of Old Snowy, the PCT follows the crest of a jagged ridge for a mile or two. I followed it to Elk Pass, before turning around and heading back.

The trail is pretty good (though sections were covered in packed snow) and while it drops off steeply in both directions, it's not terribly precarious. I've found myself increasingly sensitive about exposed heights in recent years (Vors Fleslers Kirke), but even the snowy switchbacks down from Old Snowy didn't bother me much.

It might be interesting in some places were one to encounter pack horses, or converging packs of goats, but there was only one other party and they didn't go the whole distance.

The regular PCT goes up and over the shoulder of Old Snowy - but there is an alternate trail designated for pack animals that cuts across the broad talus on the mountains northern slope. It's an easy enough route, but there were rocks constantly rattling down the slope as the sun warmed the icy slopes.

Old Snowy

Mount Gilbert is the highest point in the Goat Rocks, at 8200' (it's the ragged peak in the earlier Goat Rocks post). At 7930', Old Snowy isn't quite so high, but is still a significant landmark. These photos capture the mountain from a number of different directions. Old Snowy had several large patches of old snow, and there was new snow in the shadows and along many sections of the trail.

The PCT crosses a high shoulder about 300' short of the summit - which is as close as I got early Saturday morning. A couple of women passed me and summited 25 minutes later, but the icy rocks, their apparent difficulty in route-finding, and maybe my caution as a solo hiker, all convinced me that I didn't need to try it.

By mid-afternoon, when I was heading back to camp, there were more people heading up (some poorly equipped, some with dogs, and some who actually looked like they knew what they were doing). But again, I thought better of it, or chickened out, depending on your perspective.

Snowgrass Flats

Snowgrass Flats was home for two nights. I camped in one of the many great sites scattered around the junction of the Snowgrass Trail with the PCT. The only drawback was that this late in the season, there's not much flowing water. Oh, and another drawback, what water I did have froze in the bottles at night. I think it must have been around 20 at dawn. And windy at night. Particularly Sunday morning.

I was reminded what an impressive peak Mount Adams is. As opposed to Mt. St. Helens, also visible (bottom panorama), but much diminished since its small setback in 1980.

The roughly five mile trail in was in good condition. And since the trailhead is around 4500', the elevation gain isn't bad. Snowgrass is a great base camp for exploring the more exposed areas of Old Snowy and the Knife Edge, which I'll get to later.

Goat Rocks

The theme of the last few weeks has been beautiful fall weather in the Cascades. And the next few posts are more of the same. The challenge has been deciding which subset of photos to actually post. And in this case I've split the three day trip into at least four posts and included more photos than I probably should have.

I had never been to Goat Rocks. I'm not even sure when I was last in Packwood (the closest I can recall was Ohanapecosh with D back in 2011). Unlike my Olympia friends, I never go to White Pass.  But by 11:00 on Friday morning, I was headed up the trail to Snowgrass Flats (I parked at Berry Patch, since that's where I would return early Sunday afternoon).

The Goat Rocks are the remnants of an old volcano, roughly half way between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams. The crumbly volcanic rocks rise well above 7000' in places, way above timberline and offering views of just about everything. The Pacific Crest Trail runs down their spine - precipitously so in places.

The days were pleasant, the nights were bitter, and the colors were great. There was snow from last year, and snow from last week. There were goats, but they were far away.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Artist's Point

We hadn't been up to Mount Baker in a long time. It's a long drive from Seattle and other mountains seem more convenient, but I'd forgotten what an impressive spot this is - particularly on a beautiful fall day.

It rained on Friday and it was scheduled to rain on Sunday (it did).  But the forecast for Saturday looked pretty good. M will be grading papers next weekend so it seemed like a great day to go somewhere. Of course, we weren't the only ones with the same idea and the parking lot was overflowing with tourists, locals (I consider Bellingham local to Mount Baker), and a few of us Seattle types.

What a day! We made it back to Burlington for dinner at the Train Wreck and were home by eight.


I think this is Kalsbeek Farm in Acme. On Route 9 along the South Fork of the Nooksack, just upstream of Van Zandt. On the way to Mount Baker.

It wasn't part of the plan, but what plan there was allowed for unplanned stops at farm stands and corn mazes. The corn maze was a little threadbare - maybe a little late, or maybe a poor year for corn - but that made it pretty easy to find our way out. We avoided the pumpkins, and the Halloween-themed muffins, but enjoyed the break in our long morning drive.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Mount Defiance

Saturday was a nice fall day to go for a long walk in the mountains. The Ira Spring trailhead is only a little more than an hour from the house and I got there by 8AM, before the main lot filled up (as usual, the cars were parked a quarter mile down the road by the time I left at 2PM).

Seven years ago, D and I hiked up to Bandera and Mason Lake (Bandera: June 2011). That time, it was pretty early in the season and the lake was still snowed in. This time, the snow was long gone, replaced by fall colors.

The trail to Mason Lake is very good and relatively fast, despite the climb. The trail on up to Mount Defiance is steeper, particularly the final stretch up its southwest ridge. The clouds were beginning to come in, but the temperatures were perfect.

Woodland Park Zoo

It was a significant birthday and worth taking the day off. I lingered over coffee, multiple times, puttered around the house, and then spent the afternoon wandering around the zoo.

Some of the more charismatic fauna (grizzlies, tigers) were hiding, but many were not, and I wasn't counting. I still find it neat to know that such a range of critters live within less than a mile of our house (but also happy that they aren't allowed to range too freely).