Shriner Peak, Mt. Rainier

Are you tired of Mt. Rainier yet? We’re not, and so found ourselves on her trails again this weekend. Spoiler Alert: There are more Rainier hikes yet to come before this summer is through. The choice this time was Shriner Peak.

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TBGuide seems confused.

The WTA indicates this trail isn’t highly traveled because of summertime heat and the elevation gain. The description led us to believe that after leaving the forested beginning section, the exposure would be relentless and getting an early start was paramount. It also indicated that the elevation gain would be brutal. The first part was partially true, the second was absolutely true.

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Steppin’ up into the sunshine.

We didn’t take any photos of note in the woods, mostly because it really wasn’t that noteable and also because it was difficult to stop once we had a manageable uphill pace established.

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Bear grass.

About halfway up, or two-ish miles, we met up with two gals who had overnighted at the top and who told us there was a trio of guys camped as well but not yet awake when they’d left. We did meet them awhile later on their descent. Otherwise, we were alone. Recent trip reports indicated bears were about, but again, they were shy of us. I guess I shouldn’t complain about that.

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My favorite section.

The trail did become much more exposed at that halfway point, opening up to panoramic views and heat, but we were well ahead of the sun’s more punishing rays.  The website description would have you believe there wouldn’t be any shade after that, but there were plenty of short treed sections where respite could be sought if needed.

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Mounts Adams and Hood.

The views on the climb up are great, but this hike is all about the summit from which you can see Mounts Adams, Hood, St. Helens, and, of course, Rainier.

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TBG looking out from the lookout.

At the top is a lovely open meadow with a fire lookout, two campsites, and a toilet. TBG espied an elk way down below. He tried to point it out to me by saying it was “by that tree” and I failed to see it because out of the thousands of trees below us, I couldn’t tell which one was that one. It’s one of our long-standing relationship hiccups (one that involves very different ideas of how to describe to someone where something interesting is to be seen, mostly because someone who probably isn’t me stinks at it.) Remind me someday to tell you the one about triangulation and a hypothetical capsizing ship.

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How far away is this thing?

The campsites and pit toilet are at the end of this long path. Unlike the facility at Summerland, which was a two-story outhouse affair, this comfort station was breezy patio seating in a copse of trees.

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Magenta paintbrush amid pink mountain heather.

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Magenta-shirted hiker amid solitude and sunshine.

We had the top all to ourselves. Are you worried about me sitting on the meadow? Fret not, this was not a no-step meadow, although I was mindful of where I stepped all the same. Just as we were packing up to head back, others arrived at the lookout, and we felt fortunate to have had such a nice, uninterrupted intermission.

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Heat-beatin’ hikers.

I’ve mentioned heat a lot, but this really wasn’t a particularly hot day, fortunately. The website caution of preparing for the heat is well-taken, though, even on a less-than-blazing day. We passed a lot of sweaty hikers on the way down, many of whom expressed envy at our early-start heat-beatin’ forethought.

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Lupine.

They say that because of the gain and potential heat, this is best as an autumn hike. Maybe so, but if you get an early start and maintain a steady pace, a serene summertime wildflower meadow with a quadruple volcano view ain’t too shabby.

 

Summerland, Mt. Rainier

 

Whaaaat? On a Wednesday? Why, yes, and we plotted and schemed to get the day off together so we could fit in a midweek hike. When I say plotted and schemed, I mean that I was simply not scheduled to work, and TBG flexed his schedule which may involve a bit of plotting but certainly no scheming.

The beauty of a midweek hike is that very popular trails become less so, and there is a better chance of avoiding the populace. Summerland fit that bill, being described by the NPS website as “hosting several hundred hikers per day on a nice summer weekend.” Several hundred. Per day. Ain’t nothin’ that pretty. But whatever might be worth such a popular hike is going to be just as pretty on a weekday as it is on a weekend, so let’s get going, shall we?

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TBGuide blending in at the Fryingpan Creek trailhead.

Even though we left plenty early, we were a bit delayed by roadwork and were worried that we may not get one of the limited parking spaces. There were plenty left, almost all of them in fact, and we wondered where several hundred hikers per day parked on nice summer weekends.

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Me and my shadow.

The first two-thirds of the 4.2 miles is mostly in the trees with occasional views of The Mountain. For that time, we were the only two hikers per this nice summer weekday.

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Merten’s Coralroot Orchid

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Trip-trapping over a bridge.

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Eat him! He’s much bigger than me!

Soon after this crossing over Fryingpan Creek, the landscape started to change and open up, and the trail narrowed, and that undoubtedly makes it difficult for several hundred hikers per day to maneuver around one another. Not far past this crossing, we finally did encounter other hikers making their way down.

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Single track, single hiker.

There were several hundred wildflowers, though.

The trail steepened on the approach to Summerland with patches of snow to kick across in the shady sections.

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Summerland meadow.

After a series of switchbacks, the trail opened up into Summerland’s meadow, group shelter, “facilities,” and views galore.

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Golden-mantled ground squirrel

I had hoped to catch a glimpse of some mountain goats, but none were available for a photo-session. Other critters were more accommodating.

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Walking into Wonderland

We pushed on a bit past Summerland, thinking we might add another mile or so, on what becomes the Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile trail that circumnavigates Rainier. TBG hiked it when he was 15, over the course of ten days. Taking it in small bites is the only way that interests me.

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Through-hikers traversing a snow field.

We didn’t get much further because further required crossing some large snowfields, and we weren’t in the mood for post-holing or sliding beneath the snow into the rushing run-off. We met up with a group of five hikers from the east coast who had no such qualms and for whom we took some photos.

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Our lunchtime view.

Now why, you may ask, would we choose the above for our lunchtime view?

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Do you see it?

A glissading marmot!

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Hoary marmot.

If this chubby thing hadn’t been doing its own snowfield traversing, we never would’ve seen it.

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Day hikers only.

After a nice break sitting on top of a warm rock, chatting with other hikers, watching the marmots, and letting our backs dry off in the sun, we packed up to move out.

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Tip-toeing past a sleepy marmot.

Only a few minutes after we started back, a fearless furry friend ambled up onto this rock and immediately flattened itself in the sun. We moved very slowly past, but it didn’t seem at all concerned with our proximity.

On the way down, we encountered many other hikers, some from a YMCA retiree group, some from the Youth Conservation Corps hard at work doing trail maintenance, some recent transplants again from the east coast, and a group of four young hikers from the Houston area who were very grateful that we shared our bug spray, and one of whom squealed with delight when I informed them of the marmot activity.

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I squeal, you squeal, we all squeal for marmots!

Like the beginning of our hike, we had most of the forested section of the trail to ourselves, and we were surprised to see there were still parking spaces available in the lot. Don’t worry, hundreds of other hikers per day, we left a view or two for you.

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Just as pretty on a Wednesday.

 

Gobblers Knob, Mt. Rainier

When the trail begins as the forest service road, there is no formal trail sign.

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It’s poop!

That’s not to say there aren’t informal signs on the trail, though, and Big Bear kindly left this trail marker which TBGuide demonstrated how to interpret.

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Tahoma Creek

The first 3.8 miles is a gentle climb up the service road. It’s also popular for folks to ride their bikes up the road to the trail heads, and we did see some who were doing just that.

Often as we hike, we wonder aloud why this and why that. For instance, why did they close this road and how long ago? Why is it called Gobblers when there are zero turkeys? Why does this fly keep circling around my head with no intention of ever landing but apparently to simply annoy me? I found the answers to the first two questions here. The answer to the third question is the same as the answer to almost every animal question you’ll ever have: Food.

Enough summer school! Class dismissed!

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TBGuide and his fancy ways.

If you’re counting, this trailhead is 3.8 miles from the start. With 2.4 more to the lookout, the day’s total would be 12.4. The WTA website says it’s an 11 mile round trip. Pull yourself together WTA!

At any rate, this is the part of the hike during which you pay your dues.

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Talol, Tacoma, Tahoma, Tacobeh, Rainier, Regniere, or Pooskaus.

Not far up the trail at a small footbridge, the southwest face peeks (peaks!) through the trees. If we hadn’t paused to take advantage of the wonderfully cool breeze blowing up the hillside over the bridge, we may have missed this view.

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Avalanche Lilies

Most of the 2.4 miles is a grinder up through the forest with an occasional short clearing. At .9 miles is Lake George, which looked inviting, but of which we took no photos because it would’ve taken a lot of time to find a spot clear of the trees to get a good shot, and since we weren’t spending any time at the lake, it’s not really part of this story.

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Lookout!

In one such clearing, the fire lookout destination becomes visible for the first time. Even though I was the one who chose this hike, it completely escaped me that there was an actual fire lookout at the top. I’ll be more diligent in the future.

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Tiger Lilies

Nearing the top, things change.

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Scary beautiful.

The trail opens up providing breathtaking and dizzying perspectives both out, up, and d-d-down.

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Shady, wildflowery side.

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Hello, Pooskaus.

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Pretending to be nonchalant.

I did walk around most of the catwalk although it was quite distressing for me.

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Louwala-Clough, Lawetlat’la, Loowit, St. Helens

Mount St. Helens is visible from the lookout. This is a very zoomed-in photo of her. Were you alive in 1980 when she blew her top? I was, but lived in Ohio. TBG was, lived here, and heard it. Is that cool or is that terrifying? Cool because he wasn’t affected physically, terrifying because volcano.

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TBG snapping away.

We caught up to and were joined by other hikers at the top, where everyone takes a well-deserved break. One lady remarked to her fella that it wasn’t really lunchtime, and I felt a little self-conscious because I was eating part of my lunch. I felt vindicated when the fella had a snack as well.

After enjoying the outlook from the lookout, we headed back down. I was trying to get the gorilla clip set up for a photo of us at my favorite view point of the hike, when Anti-lunch-lady and Fella came by and were nice enough to lend us a hand.

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Piqued by the peeking peak.

The trail down was hard on knees and feet, reminding us that while this is not a difficult trail, it is a long one — our longest hike of the year so far.

Back near Lake George, we paused at the old ranger cabin and campsites. There was a sign indicating a toilet facility was nearby.

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O, rly?

It looks as though Big Bear may have had a difference of opinion with this comfort station. Fortunately, there was an intact one a bit further up the path.

Back out on the road, I went up in the opposite direction a brief distance to check out some signs we had seen on the way in. One just indicated another short access trail, but one pointed to a roadside Marine Memorial that commemorates a 1946 airplane crash into south Tahoma Glacier in which 32 marines lost their lives. The old, mossy stone steps were lovely, but I did not take any photos. It’s best viewed in person.

On the way out of the park, the line of cars to get in stretched for at least a mile. We smugly patted ourselves on the back for being early to rise and then we encountered horrible traffic on the highways home. It’s the tradeoff for living in such a beautiful place.

I can’t end this post with the last picture being of a destroyed outhouse, so let me see what I can find…

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Oh, here’s one. See you again soon, Tacobeh!

 

Grand Park, Mt. Rainier

We have been waiting for the snow to melt, scouring trip reports weekly, so that we could enjoy this hike. Saturdays are not our usual hike days, but Sunday obligations made it a necessity this week, and with the weather conditions playing along nicely, away we went!

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TBGuide after the fact.

The above photo was taken on the way out instead of the way in. The reasons for this were ternary. Primary fact:  Locating the exact trailhead was a touch sketchy because the WTA directions were a bit askew. (The trailhead is 9.8 miles from the turn off onto FR73 with parking right at the sign for Eleanor Creek. There is  no need to factor in FR7360 whatsoever. You’re welcome!) There were only two other cars in the small parking area, one belonging to a skirted and bandanna’d gal who approached us with a look of bafflement asking if we knew where the trail to Grand Park was because the WTA directions weren’t right (!) We said we were pretty sure we were in the right place, and she set off happily with one small frown in our direction when we doused ourselves with DEET.

 Binary fact:  TBG’s backpack had leaked a bit in the back of the car getting a few things soggy. Nothing overly much but enough to cause us some pre-hike frustrations. Ternary fact:  TBG thought this sign was stupid and unhelpful,  being devoid of mileage indicators, and felt it wasn’t worthy of a photo. While I agreed, I pleaded my need-it-for-the-blog case on the way out.

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First things first.

Before we could get to what we came for, we had to do some work with a rolling climb through quintessential northwest forest for roughly a mile and a half. There were indeed hordes of skeeters that thankfully were repelled by the repellent.

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Crystal-clear Eleanor Creek.

There was one very boggy section on the way up, and one of us may have lost her balance and sunk her foot into the pudding.

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1.5 miles in.

This is on the shore of Lake Eleanor, photos of which I could’ve sworn we took, but apparently not. It was pretty, but nothing compared to what was about to happen.

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First glimpse.

Just past the lake, the first meadow and view of The Mountain appears. The trip reports say that bears are often espied in these meadows, and I kept my head on a hopeful swivel, but no such luck.

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Grand Park

After traversing “lesser” meadows for maybe a mile or so, we reached the namesake, the miles-long expansive alpine meadow — the largest of the park — at the foot of Rainier’s north face.

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Who could ask for more?

It’s not the wildfloweriest meadow on Rainier but the magenta paintbrushes sure were putting on their show. It was kind of magical to be able to walk into that view for miles.

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A sense-makin’ sign at last!

This is at the meadow’s north terminus, and shortly before reaching this point, we again met up with Nature Gal, for whom we took a photo and offered DEET when she said her natural skeeter lotion was not providing her any protection whatsoever, and she was being eaten alive. She kindly declined our offer, and I admired her dedication despite the huge welts on her legs.

As the sign indicates, this meadow can be reached from other trails in the park. We decided to try for another 1.6 miles to Fire Creek Camp. A sign nailed to a tree a few paces in warned us that a bridge was out up ahead making for a hazardous crossing. We figured when we got to something hazardous, we’d turn back.

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Jungly!

The flora and view changed dramatically in this section, but what have I told you about perseverance?

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This’ll do.

The path continued around to the right of this photo, but this seemed like a darn fine place to pause for lunch. What looks like a road in this picture is actually roaring glacial run-off, the muted sound of which was the only thing we could hear during our trail picnic.

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Two Tahoma Trekkers

Leaking backpacks, mosquito gangs, and boot-sucking bogs couldn’t even put a dent in the serene joy of this hike. Grand is too small a word for it.

 

 

Conconully State Park

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There’s a toad on our tail!

This was our maiden voyage with the toad, about which we were a bit nervous. We hooked up down the road from home where there was more level room to work. Other than the sight of a vehicle so close to the back of Arvie freaking me out whenever I got up or when we stopped for fuel, I’m happy to report the only hitch was the one between Toad and Arvie.  I am also happy that the vehicles’ colors coordinate, which wasn’t planned, and will probably bother me if they don’t when we get our big rig someday.

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Where we towed the toad.

The park itself (pronounced con-con-ULL-ee) isn’t much of a destination on its own — it’s not very big overall, there is no privacy between sites, and not much is accessible by foot directly from the park. Also, this year the water table was still high so many of the sites were flooded out, luckily not ours. The primary reasons folks visit this park are to make a home base for ATVing (more on this later) and fishing, with its access to myriad forest service roads and two bodies of water, the lake and the reservoir. Being trend-buckers, i.e. people who don’t ATV or fish, it provided us with a base for some North Cascades hiking.

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Above the flood zone in space 15.

After getting the toad unhooked and the utilities hooked, we set off to explore the park and check out the short nature trail that connects the main park to a smaller south section.

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Buggy, soggy mess!

We gave it a valiant effort, but the mud was too annoying to slog all the way through. The bright side of the park being sodden in some areas was that it meant fewer campers in the loop opposite us, and a pair of entertaining mallards that thought two inches of standing water was a swell place to make their home.

 

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Argh, forgot my hat.

TBG walked with me over more squishy and goose-poopy turf to get to the reservoir’s edge where I puffed up my little ‘yak and took a short paddle.

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Twilight visitor.

The evening was passed in our oft-repeated usual way. I don’t need to spell it out every time, do I? The only incident of note was that the book I had loaded onto my Kindle prior to the trip was not there when I went to read before bed, which sent me into a temporary panic as I don’t have good night-light reading options since going Kindle years ago. I settled for a non-fiction e-book I own and read in between downloads, which was okay, but not the one I had been looking forward to. It may have helped me fall asleep faster, though, which is a good thing since we were up at 0415 the next morning to prepare for a big day of hiking. (Don’t let me fool you; we’re always up that early, vacation or not because we like it. You heard me.)

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TBG espying a critter.

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Scenes from a Conconully morning #1

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TBGuide doing his job.

The planned hike was at Clark Ridge Trail. It was a beautiful morning, and we were alone at the trailhead. So far so good.

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A well-kept bridge and gate.

According to the description on the print-out the ranger gave us, this trail is 4.5 miles one way and traverses terrain through the former Isabel fire area, which you can see in the above photo.

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Doable.

At first, climbing over the deadfall was okay.

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Still smiling.

It became progressively challenging, but still passable.

Soldier on, hikers! You’ll be rewarded richly for your efforts!

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Oh, for cryin’ out loud.

It occurred to me as I was crawling under one of too many obstacles as the day was warming up, the chances of literally coming face-to-face with a snake were also warming up. Crap!

It wasn’t long after this photo, about 40 minutes into the hike, that my stomach dropped, but not because of a snake. It was because I remembered what we forgot, and I wrestled with whether or not to tell TBG. I decided I had to.

We’d forgotten to hang the NW Forest Pass in the car. Oh, we’d remembered to bring it with us all right, just not hang it. “We’re MORONS!” I shouted. “Not only did we have to buy two NWF passes this year because we lost the first one, but we can’t even remember to hang the stupid thing when we have it!” Then I swore a lot and whacked a few bushes with my walking stick because something had to get whacked.

 Heated debate ensued about whether or not to go back and and hang the tag or what. It was decided we’d continue on and take our chances. It took awhile before I could clear my mind of running the calculations of how many hours of work it would take to cover the costs of two NWFPs and a possible ticket. It kept my mind off snakes, though.

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Say what?

We managed to bushwhack our way to the trail junction.

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Anybody seen my chainsaw?

After struggling for nearly two hours and only gaining two miles, we decided to bag it and turned around. Back at the trail junction, we temporarily parted ways, and I waited there enjoying a packet of Sqwinchers and watching out for man-eating critters, while TBG went back to the car to hang the tag if we’d  not already gotten a ticket. I could see the car through the trees from my vantage point, and saw TBG when he got back to it, but couldn’t tell if it was good news or bad.

It was good! Whew!

Bolstered by the happy news and our snack, we decided to try the trail to Tiffany Springs instead. After about 50 yards, it was painfully clear that this would be no better, so we cursed a bit more, and turned around.

Arriving back at the cool bridge and gate, I decided I wanted a picture of it, and TBG realized that his very expensive new trifocals were missing. “Why do you hate us?!” I  railed at Mother Nature. Again, TBG traversed the section of trail between the gate and the junction, and again the news was good when he located the glasses.

Even after all that, we hadn’t been out very long and certainly hadn’t made any real distance, so we decided to motor down the road and try to pick up a shorter trail.

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TBGuide looking doubtful.

We found the TH to Angel Pass, and as you can see, the NWFP is prominently displayed from the mirror this time.

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A quiet walk through the woods.

This trail, also included on the print-out from the ranger, is a 1.5+ mile loop.

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It’s poop!

Which carnivore do you suppose made this poo? I have examined many scat charts, and my Sleuthing Skillz tell me it is either cougar or wolf. I lean towards wolf.

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Covered patio seating.

The temps were well-risen by lunchtime, and we found a place to sit in the wolf-free shade.

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Bloomin’ beautiful.

The day was salvaged when the trail broke into a pretty wildflower meadow.

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Red and blue and yellow and pink and white!

We paused and enjoyed the sun and the view.

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Is there a wolf behind me?

The trail connected to some boondocking campsites, where a couple large rigs were making their homes and making us jealous for the days when “they” will be “us,” and connected to the road which led us back to the car.

We recharged back at camp, where I discovered that when I bashed my knee into one of the blowdowns earlier in the day, I’d actually sustained a cut on my skin which, mysteriously, hadn’t torn my pants. Yay pants, boo knee.

Feeling up for more activity, we motored down to the south part of the park where the boat launch accesses Conconully Lake.

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TBG paddling away.

The lake is so much prettier than the reservoir, and you don’t have to stand in squishy goose poop to set up your kayaks.

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My favorite part of the lake.

Except for the houses and cabins near the boat launch area, the land around the lake is house-free and so peaceful. We saw deer up on the hillside, and when we paused in the area shown in the photo, a zillion little trout swam up to our ‘yaks, probably drawn to the shade they provided in the water. Even though I could see vegetation and rocks under the water, it didn’t give me the willies at all. I can’t really say why.

Returning to camp, we ponied up for the showers because we were covered in sunscreen and bug spray. After dinner, we sat outside in our chairs and were highly amused listening to a group of our neighbors play cornhole. One of the participants was named Dick, and his fellow players were very encouraging. You see where this is headed, so fair warning for the following paragraph.

We could barely stifle our inner twelve-year-olds with each shout. “Nice, Dick!” “Get it up there, Dick!” “Slide ‘er in, Dick!” I do not know how they were not laughing themselves. Who needs TV?

While I was spraying the next day’s clothing with tick spray, the ranger stopped by.

Ranger: Is the Honda staying? Me: Yes, it’s our tow vehicle. Ranger: OK, but the tag expired at 1 p.m. today. Me: What? Well, shoot we got that printed at the same time the one for the RV was printed yesterday! Ranger: Well, it can stay, but you’ll have to stop by the office tomorrow morning and have Bob print you a new tag. Me: (thinking to myself) Gee, thanks for letting it stay considering WE PAID FOR IT and you’re the dude WHO CHECKED US IN! Me: (saying out loud because I know better than to argue with a dude and his pen and ticket book. And gun.) Oh, thanks, we’ll be sure to do that.

Then I fumed to myself for a few minutes that we could’ve gotten a ticket at the boat launch since we were there after 1 p.m. I figured we’d used up all our lucky breaks for the day, so we packed it in for the night.

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Scenes from a Conconully morning #2.

For Saturday’s festivities, we drove 24 miles on forest service roads to get to the trail head for Freezeout Ridge.

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The hard-to-read sign reads 3.7 miles (one way).

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Not again!

While this trail did run through the burned out areas, the surrounding underbrush wasn’t overgrown, and skirting blowdowns was no problem.

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Climbing through the skeletons.

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TBG says, “We’re going to the top of that hill.”

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So I did.

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And so did TBG.

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Altitude check.

“That hill” was Tiffany Mountain which provided a 360 view from over 8000′.

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If you insist.

We had the whole “place” to ourselves to enjoy the panorama, have lunch in the sun, and explore the rocks.

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The summit was lousy with ladybugs.

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Happy, happy hikers who remembered to put up their parking pass.

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A view of everything.

We were having such a good time, we didn’t want to leave, but we could see distant hikers catching up to us, and when we saw them crossing the final stretch, we packed up and headed back down. We encountered lots of other hikers on the way back, and patted ourselves on the back for being worm-gettin’ early birds.

By the time we arrived back at the park, our friends Shean and Mady had arrived. They visit this park yearly to tool around on their ATVs (UTVs?) and their trip this year overlapped ours. We had plans with them and another couple to ride later that evening.

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Ye Olde Cemetery.

Shean rode his dirt bike and led the way, Mady and I were in her Razr, TBG drove Polly’s Can-Am (thank you, Polly!), and Ron & Polly brought up the rear in their other Can-Am.

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Glad to be above ground.

Our ride was a fun and different activity for us, but when Ron asked if riding up to the cemetery was better than hiking up, we had to answer honestly and say, “No way!” While we really appreciated the experience, we don’t see ATVing in our future. What those who do it love about it (the dust, the noise, the feeling like you’re going to roll sideways or backwards, the ‘wahoo!’) are all things we generally seek to escape. I was also a little terrified of not just hitting a deer, but of one hitting us from the side since the ATVs have no sides.

When we got back, TBG had to go take another shower because he was one big dust ball. While he was doing that, I used up our Q-tip supply digging dirt out of my ears, blowing dirt out of my nose, and licking the grit off my teeth. And to think, our ATVs had windshields!

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Scenes from a Conconully morning #3.

Our plan for the third day was to hike through the nearby Sinlahekin Natural Area, which was said to offer at least 8 miles of trail. We drove and drove along the main (dirt) rode through the center of it, and we did manage to find an official trailhead marker and map, but the actual trail was so overgrown with meadow grasses that it was indistinguishable. So much for that!

Prior to the trip, TBG had printed out info on some area hikes, but when he talked to the ranger, the ranger indicated that one we were particularly interested in was quite a drive. We, of course, didn’t have the printouts in the car with us, but TBG remembered basically how to get there, and if we hadn’t spent an hour getting nowhere in Sinlahekin, we wouldn’t have had to take the route Napoleon to get to the trail for Bonaparte Lookout.

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After the long drive, TBGuide was hungry.

Some disagreement was had here about the distance. I insisted that this was the beginning (I remembered the printout described the first few miles to be along a forest service road) and TBG insisted this sign meant it was five miles to the trailhead. We decided we were going five miles from this sign, and wherever that ended up, that was it.

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Read the fine print.

After two miles of climbing on the road, we came to this sign which indicated the lookout was another three miles up. I don’t like to say I told you so, but I kind of really do, so I did.

I’m not going to be predictable and complain about going uphill — our destination was, after all, a seasonally active fire lookout — but these three miles? They were hard. We gained 2900′ in the five miles, which isn’t the most we’ve ever done, but the pitch and steepness were pretty extreme. It was a slow and steady plod.

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Step by step.

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TBG can see it!

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Perseverers!

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Bonaparte Lookout

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Demonstrating how not to crowd and shove.

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Picking out a lunch spot.

The bugs up here were extreme when the breeze would die down, which required careful selection of a lunch spot that was both in the warm sun and the cool breeze. There was a big butterfly that liked my shirt, and again lots of ladybugs.

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Another great vista.

Once again, we had the top to ourselves and were enjoying our lunch break so much it was hard to make ourselves leave, especially since going back down can be as hard or harder than coming up.

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TBG traverses the snow pack.

As we made our way back, we were pleasantly surprised that it was not as difficult as we’d feared.

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It’s poop!

We saw a lot of this type of scat, but we did not know what critter had made it. What we did know was that it was not feline, canine, ovine, bovine, ursine, equine, cervine, lapine, or lupine. Do you recognize it? I’ll tell you later.

When we got back to the car, the temps were in the 90s. TBG dunked his head in the stream, then walked with me back so I could do the same. We saw not one other person the entire time. Perfect!

We often talk while we hike about all the food we want to eat when we’re done I’m going to have a milkshake! I’m getting French fries!  But we’re usually all talk, unable to waste money on stuff that’s likely going to make us feel like crap later. This time, though, we did stop in Tonasket and treated ourselves to a sugary cherry soda and a gluten-full bag of chips, both of which we shared, and which was just enough to make me feel a little crappy later. All things in moderation my ass.

Once back, we visited with our friends for a bit, then with two tiny dogs that ran over to greet us from our new neighbors’ site. We hit the showers again to wash off the layers of sticky lotions and sprays that were ostensibly keeping cancer, Zika, West Nile, and Lyme disease at bay. Why must everything be so complicated?

We did a whole lot of nothing much for the rest of the evening.

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Scenes from a Conconully morning #4.

I had toyed with the idea of an early-morning paddle on the lake for our last day, but couldn’t really muster up the energy for it. Besides, we had one more stop to make on the way home.

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Our 57th Washington State Park

This is a pretty park connected to Chief Joseph Dam and stuffed with marmots.

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See?

We took a short walk around, then pointed Arvie and Toad west once again.

 Oh, the poop we saw on the Bonaparte trail? Tetraonine. Grouse!

Pete Lake


When your day begins with not being able to locate the Northwest Forest Pass you just bought two weeks ago, and you’re one of those people who does not – DOES NOT -lose things, it may be an indication that staying home is the wisest choice. This was one such day.

After going through the house, both cars, and the RV several times each, it was finally determined that the pass was good and truly gone, and we left a half hour later than planned, delayed further by having to stop along the way to acquire another NWF pass. (I kind of hope we never find the original because, as illogical as it may be, that will make me madder than losing it to begin with.)

The morning trifecta was that the forecast had been for nice weather, and we figured it would be even nicer east of the mountains. WRONG. It was gray, misty rain everywhere.

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After a bumpy ride in, TBGuide sussed out the way to go. We had originally thought that we might attempt to go all the way to Spectacle Lake, but the morning’s delays and the soon-to-be discovered trail conditions made it quite clear we’d be lucky to last to Pete Lake.

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There were lots of pretty flowers, so there’s that.

IMG_0005The first views were of very clear green water. We still had high hopes then.

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Me atop a high rock of hope. Notice the pant legs buttoned up in their high-water configuration.

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That’s because of encounters like this. The first few watery crossings weren’t terribly bad, and this one allowed us to walk around it.

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But others required some rock-hopping.

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Still others…well…you do what you gotta do.

Where there wasn’t water, there was mud, and where there wasn’t mud, there were snow patches.

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There were pretty flowers, at least. So there’s that.

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We did manage to ford all the water obstacles, slog through the mud, and reach Pete Lake. On clearer days, those low clouds at the far end of the lake magically become a lovely mountain range. You’ll have to use your imagination like we did. Pretend it’s sunny and warm while you’re at it.

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TBG spied a good lunch spot up on another high rock of hope. From there we spied what appears in this photo as a tiny yellow speck but is actually a fisher person in an inflatable kayak. There must be some really tasty fish in there to lug that ‘yak all the way to the lake in a misty drizzle.

Our butts got cold sitting on the high rock of hope, so we didn’t dawdle long over lunch. We took a picture for a group of girls who were camping just to the left of our lunch spot and whose campsite we kind of tromped through to get to the lake.

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In this photo, I was still trying, but for the last two or three crossings on the way back, I just walked in the stupid water and got my feet soaked. I was beyond messing around being all dry and happy.

IMG_0122There were pretty flowers, at least. So there’s that.

The drive back took forever due to extensive road work, and like last week, it was warm and sunny when we got home. We let the chickens out on the grass and sat on the deck, letting the sun chase the chilblains away and allowing that the day was not a total loss.

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And there were pretty flowers.

So there’s that.

 

Green Lake, Mt. Rainier

We haven’t needed a National Parks Pass for a long time. When we visited Joshua Tree in February, the first trail was a freebie, and for the second, the rangers hadn’t been sent the day passes yet so that was also a freebie. When we head down to Great Basin later this year, we won’t need one because that whole park is a freebie. I have researched why that is so, but can’t find the answer. I’ll have to remember to ask a ranger when we’re there. What isn’t a freebie is the park in our own backyard, Mount Rainier. We figure the $80 yearly fee is a small price to pay for visiting three of the national parks this year, and this post is about the first of many hikes we have planned in “our” park.

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You have to arrive early in the day to get a good parking spot in this small lot. We got there just after 0700, and there were only a few more spaces left.

There were a few choices, but TBGuide finds the one we want. I’m guessing that the Chenius Falls bridge has been out for quite some time and will remain so due to the permanence of the sign indicating such. Bummer for us since that’s one we’ll have to scratch from our list.

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The first three miles of trail aren’t. The way is the old original gently-graded road. Despite the cars at the trail head, we didn’t see another soul until the return trip.

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The temps started out in the 40’s, and we started out in our cap and ear-warmers, but the sun tried its best to burn off the low clouds. During one of the only actual sun breaks we would get, I tried the old arms-as-clock-face-to-locate-direction trick. Do you know this trick?

You’re supposed to use a real analog clock face, but arms work just as well, if not better. Plus you don’t have to take off your watch, although you do need to know the time. First, find the sun. Then, with the watch laid flat in your palm, point the hour hand at the sun. The halfway point between the hour hand and the minute hand at the noon position is South. Really. Go try it. I’ll wait.

TBGuide mixing it up with his trail-indicating. That wooden structure is a bike rack for those who wish to bike up the road to access the trail heads.

This is where the more classic type of trail not only starts, but climbs.

It’s never too drastic, but it is steady and therefore, sweaty. Many instances of nature stairs have been installed to aid hikers along the way.

The TBG is having fun with his new camera. He took most of this post’s photos, which means there are a lot more of me. Yay?

At a mile in, I took a turn at being trail guide. I think I nailed it.

Ranger Falls were pretty cool in both senses of the word. This photo reminds me that TBG said I’ll have to start wearing my backpack instead of my waist pack for the rest of our hikes this summer for more conditioning. I just got my waist pack a few months ago, and I love it, so this makes me sad.

After another .8 miles, we reached the terminus and namesake, where we had our snacks while a couple chipmunks zoomed around us and the logs, wishing we would share. I really, truly did accidentally drop a peanut. TBG didn’t believe it was an accident, and you probably won’t, either, but I know the truth. The chipmunk who got it doesn’t give a rip if it was an accident or not.

Green Lake And trees and bushes and ferns and moss.

We were chilly after lunch, and for the descent we re-donned out warmies.

I was comforted by the fact that had this tree fallen while I was where I was, it would’ve missed my head. It probably fell, however, before I was even born.

We began to encounter other hikers on our way down, many of them taller than me and more in danger of being hit on the head by a falling tree. Sorry, tall people, I have my own struggles.

This bridge crossing prompted a discussion on the difference between the words “sliver” and “splinter.”

TBG’s favorite photo.

While we saw quite a few people on the way back (I think that’s a cyclist near the vanishing point in this photo) they were spread out enough that we still felt the solitude. The parking lot was another story, and we were glad to be heading out rather than trying to get in. Of course the small formal lot was full, with more cars stalking returning hikers, and the roadway in was lined on both sides. It was fun to make someone’s day by vacating our space.

Happiness is 9.6 miles and home with half the day to go.