Tolt River-John MacDonald Park

The name of this park is too long, if you ask me.


It doesn’t even fit on the sign properly. As if that’s not bad enough, they put Tolt River twice on this one. In case you missed it the first time, I guess. Nevertheless, it’s a lovely park that, although it’s close to home, neither of us had ever been.

It was already 50° and sunny at home by 9 o’clock, and we dressed for that.



It was about 10° cooler and foggy at the park.


No busy-ness in the marsh area.

We saw lots of gnawed tree stumps but didn’t espy any of the toothy beavers.


Why so blue, heron?

Before very long, the paved trail leads to the RV (!) area of the park. Either it is closed for the  season or the $35 (!) per night fee is an effective deterrent. On the far side of that area, the bridge crosses the river where the trails begin in earnest.


Oh, the suspense!


Tolt River. Tolt River.


On a mission.

TBG suspected that if we kept going up, even though there is little elevation gain along these trails, we might rise above the low-lying clouds and find the sun.


Suspicions confirmed!

Not long after locating the sunbeams, we met up with a nice local hiker and her pup, who recommended we take a short spur to a viewpoint. Always listen to the  locals is one of our rules.


A river of clouds.

She apologized for the clouds obscuring the view of the Tolt River Tolt River, as if it was her fault, but we thought it was kind of cool. Besides, the whole walk out was completely in the sun, so totally worth it for that alone.


Going our own way.

Back at the trail junction, we gave the pup plenty of scritches and parted ways with the friendly local. Although we were once again in the trees, they couldn’t keep the sun out, and at one point, the air was so warm it stopped us dead in our tracks, while we soaked it in.



TBG apologizes for the blurry shot.


The trails criss-cross forest service roads.



By the time we were back at the bridge, the sun had burned through the ground clouds, but while it wasn’t cold down here, it was chillier than up on top.


Oh, boy!

We decided we still had energy to continue on the trails that lead out along the Tolt River Tolt River. We did not sight any bears.

About a half-mile in, we did, however, sight too much water over the trail to continue on so we called it a day. It is possible to do 12 miles in this park, and our boots got in about seven of them. With the exception of the dearth of critter-sightings, not too shabby for a mid-winter trek!



“Ceder Butt”

Who among us has not had a little fun with the word butte? The first time you saw it as a kid on a map or in a book, you know you said, “Whaaat? Butt? These things are called butts?!” Then you learned that the word was pronounced like beaut and you were, understandably, a little disappointed to not have a free pass to say butt in polite company.

I am not a huge fan of most sophomoric humor, but I cannot seem to help myself from calling buttes butts, and don’t even get me started on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We’ll get back to this in a moment.

The stars aligned for the first day of 2018, and we were blessed to have the opportunity to get off our heinies and share a sunny-day hike with family.


TBGuide gets family support!

It was chilly, but considering the deep-freeze that is gripping much of the country right now, no one was complaining (much.)


SIL, BIL, and me in my fanny pack

The hike begins along the wide, flat John Wayne Trail. It was a little bit of a bummer to not be in the sun for this section, but we could see it beckoning us.


Can-do attitude!

Soon we were at the  bottom of  the trail we were seeking, and it quickly took a turn, naturally, uphill.


Getting a gluteal workout.


TBG, taking photos, brings up the rear.

As SIL pointed out, the trail was nice, dry duff, a rare thing this time of year.


Being cheeky.

We found the sun as we neared the top. It offered no warmth whatsoever, but it sure was pretty and promised we’d get the view the summit offers.


Promise fulfilled!

The wind was quite chilly up here, and we had a laughingly good time trying to get our cameras situated to take a group photo and demonstrating my clock-face method of locating south without freezing our buttes off. Speaking of that…


Ceder Butt

The geodetic survey marker here reads “Ceder Butt.” No one seems to know if this was a legitimate mistake or someone having fun. Either way, it’s a little tush-tickler at the top for your efforts.


Groupie with the beautiful view behind us.


SIL hot on our tails.


TBGuide chooses an alternate return route.

We added just a small bit of distance by choosing the route down the backside of the ridge past the Boxley Blowout, where a 1918 dam-burst destroyed the town of Edgewick. There were no fatalities from that, fortunately, but 1918 was an ass-kickin’ year, what with the war and that flu and all.



Hooray for family, hiking, sun, and the perfect start to 2018!




Critter Round-Up 2017

Espying critters is, hands down, my favorite part of hiking. It’s just about my favorite thing in all of life, truth be told. Nowadays, there are a dozen or more nature programs on TV at any given time or an endless number streaming online, but when I was a kid, we had to wait for Sunday nights when Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom would air, and I’d be glued to the screen. We also had a large, glossy-paged book of nature photos, and although I think it was originally given to my brother, I was forever thumbing through it, completely captivated. The photographs were so clear and up-close that each time I pulled the book out, I had to quickly bypass the one of a jumping spider that scared me silly.

This post will showcase the critters we espied during our adventures this past year. I thought it would be interesting to share a Fresh Fun Fact™ (FFF) about each critter, one that I hadn’t included in the original blog posting of that critter. Some of these critters we have seen in years past, but many were new sightings, shown with an asterisk, and the caption of each photo is a link to the original post if you need to kill even more time.

So, without further ado, I present the Critter Round-Up of 2017!

FFF™ = Mating males have a sort of rock-paper-scissors hierarchy using the color of their throats. Orange > Blue > Yellow > Orange.

FFF™ = They can’t swim!

FFF™ = 80% of their life is spent underground.

FFF™ = A group of bean geese is known as a pod. A pod of bean geese.

FFF™ = Bull snakes have a very loud hiss (we didn’t scare it, so we didn’t hear it.)

Bighorn Sheep

FFF™ = The number of segments on a bighorn sheep’s big horn is one more than its age.

FFF™ = Ladybugs bleed from the knees when threatened. They say it’s to make them taste yucky, but I suspect “they” never tasted them.

FFF™ = Their babies are known as pups, kits, or kittens.

FFF™ = They are the heaviest rodent in the squirrel family. And I love them.

FFF™ = They’re not really goats at all! They are more closely related to antelope.

FFF™ = They have five front toes, but only four back toes.

FFF™ = Their foraged material is called a “haystack” and can be up to 60 lbs. for one pika.

FFF™ = Grouse will stay in place when very closely approached, giving them the moniker of “fool hens.”

FFF™ = Turkeys heads change color with their emotions, red, white, and blue! Another reason they were almost the national bird, I’ll wager.

FFF™ = Females, known as helpers, will raise the young of other birds.

FFF™ = I lied. I’m repeating a fact that I posted about this critter the first time around. Their alarm call is ridiculously loud. Ri.dic.u.lous.

FFF™ = Go away, they like to be alone!

FFF™ = They are the fastest long-distance land mammal in the world.

FFF™ = Their tail feathers have spikes that make a sort of kickstand to help them cling.

We happened upon many other critters that we’d seen before but didn’t capture well in pictures. That’s no reason not to give them their due, however.

Columbian Blacktail Deer FFF™ = They change color with the seasons, reddish-brown in summer, brownish-gray in winter.

Frog FFF™ = Frogs blink when they swallow, which causes their eyes to sink in, which helps push food down their throats.

Quail FFF™ = Adult quail are mostly herbivores, but the chicks go crazy for insects.

Merganser FFF™ = Gulls like to follow mergansers around and wait to steal their food. Gulls do that to everyone because they’re jerks, but I guess they’re particularly jerky to mergansers.

Harbor Seal FFF™ = They are pinnipeds, which means “winged feet.”

Bald Eagle FFF™ = Majestic as they are, they have a really wimpy call, and the classic sound most associated with them from movies is really that of the red-tailed hawk.

I can’t wait to see what we see in 2018. Happy New Year, one and all!

Little Mountain Park & FS73 Snowshoe

Part One, Friday 12/22

They say it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and for you, my steadfast readers, it is because you get a double trip report from me in your stockings, and for me, it is because we have officially passed the Winter Solstice, and the days are now getting longer.

Our celebration began on Friday, a day we both naturally had off and one on which the weather was foretold to be clear. We are a frugal pair, who likes to combine activities to minimize drive time and maximize fun, so we chose a hike that would be enroute to a holiday visit with TBG’s aunt up north. We began with breakfast at a local diner there, a place TBG’s late uncle frequented and where our waitress remembered him fondly. Then we had a nice still-morning visit with said aunt before she headed out to her lunch date and we to our trail.


“Whee to our trail!” says TBGuide.

Little Mountain Park, in Mount Vernon, offers 10 miles of trails, and it’s FREE. Just in case, we had every park pass we owned with us.


The predicted clearing hadn’t happened yet, and we weren’t so sure it would. By now you are familiar with the common PNW refrain, “At least it wasn’t raining!”


The Up Quick Trail

The “up” part I can vouch for. I’m not so sure about the “quick.” It was quite the little chuffer.



I left a little “breadcrumb” along the Ridge Trail.

The trail map indicated we’d be coming upon a viewpoint, and when we reached a wide flat rock where there was a clearing that, had there been clearing, would have afforded a view.



But, continuing on, we found a much nicer place from which to view that which wasn’t viewable.


Excuse us, but has anyone seen our view?

TBG was going to try to get some photos of the far-away sunbreaks from this vantage point, but the other guy you see in this photo was enjoying his thermos of coffee and pack of Pall Malls under the shelter, sort of ensuring he got the place to himself.

No matter, an even cooler overlook awaited us.


Spotting the clearing.

The viewpoints have their own parking lot access, and we encountered several other  park explorers here. We all took turns taking photos for one another.


Our turn.

After this, it was mostly all downhill.


We’ve been waiting for you.

The way down seemed as gray as the way up until I turned around at one point and realized the whole top of Little Mountain was bathed in sunlight.


Cold gold.

The light finally caught up to us as we neared the end of our hike, making me wish we’d had more time for a longer hike, only racking up about three miles (but 1,000’ of gain at the front end.) No matter, we had more outdoorsy plans for the long holiday weekend.

Part 2, Sunday 12/24

Even though as I write this, it is snowing here at home, there is rarely enough “low” snow for skiing or shoeing, and we have to go where the snow is. The current weather system was kind enough to hold off until this afternoon, allowing us the chance to get out and back before it blew in.

We had to stop to get our annual Sno Park Permit — yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, another park pass! We got our money’s worth, though, because this lot was actually plowed and the Honeybucket was freshly serviced. Score!


Sno Park parking only!

We have not been snowshoeing in a few years and mine are new-to-me shoes, which required more stops and readjustments than anyone would have liked. But if you want to mess up your knees, you’ll keep walking  with your feet crooked, and while your immediate excursion might go more smoothly, you’ll run the risk of ruining the whole rest of your outdoorsy life by blowing out your knees, and although frequent stops and starts to get things just right might be annoying for everyone, they are way less annoying than never being able to go out again because you wrecked your knees and are left wondering why you didn’t just stop and adjust your snowshoes when you had the chance.


Do I look annoying?

The snow wasn’t very deep, but there was plenty for the snowshoes to kick up, powdering the backs of our legs.


We had the whole trail to ourselves.


After our period of adjustments, it was very peaceful.


The trail was relatively flat, just enough rise to keep us warm but not overly so.


We heard some grouse flush but didn’t see them.



We saw more than one of these, though. Since they were on top of the snow, it wasn’t the snow that smothered them, and since I doubt they died while strolling across the snow, that means they had fallen from the trees overhead. They probably fell when they died rather than died because they fell, but either way, it’s spiders falling from trees.


We didn’t want to overdo it on our first trip to the snow, and we made ourselves turn around after an hour even though the snow was just getting better.


Running man.

TBG handed me his camera so that I could take some burst photos of him running in his snowshoes. I’m not sure why, but just look at him go!

16BF8F93-6AC5-45E9-86FA-553D0DD84355The sun tried to break through but never could quite make it. What was that I said earlier about the days getting longer? Longer, but not less gloomy for awhile yet.

We’ll be having a rare white Christmas here, which is good, not because I love snow (I actually don’t really care for it) but because it gives us all the excuse we need to stay in, stay warm, and do a whole lotta nothin’.

I hope your holiday is just as perfect.


Green Mountain

In an unexpected turn of events (TBG was supposed to be out of town this weekend) we found ourselves available and the weather clear and sunny. In a completely predictable move, we chose a hike from our list of winter walkabouts — an actual written list we collaborated on a month or so ago, which isn’t very spontaneous, but virtually eliminates a last-minute scramble when there is no time to waste one minute of daylight. We narrowly avoided taking the “wrong” car, the Discover Pass only being good for the RV and the Honda. If anyone from the park service is reading this, two vehicles is a dumb rule.


TBGuide looks very serious about this choice.

This choice was the Wildcat Trail at Green Mountain on the Kitsap Peninsula. As you can see in the above photo, it was a wee bit frosty.

The trails here, as the sign shows, are open to all uses, and we did encounter several mountain bikers as well as a handful of dirt bikers and a decent number of trail runners.


Douglas Squirrel

Doug Squirrels have a very distinctive chirp, and this little fuzz ball proved that they can totally talk with their mouths full. It didn’t seem frightened by us at all and kept peeking around the tree to see what we were doing rather than running away with its snack.


Waiting to warm up.

Winter hiking here always presents the conundrum of finding a hike that takes advantage of the terrain but also puts you in the sun. Most hikes here, as you can imagine, involve being among trees, and that can be a little frustrating when you’re in need of light. This hike was a decent compromise with the canopy never being super thick. Winter hiking, at least for me, also presents the frustration of never really having your clothing choices right. Layers go on and come off constantly as you try to anticipate whether or not you’re going to be too hot or too cold and trying to avoid being sweaty underneath it all. TBG said I would’ve been just as annoyed if it had been a hot day, and that annoyed me even more, so I told him to pipe down since he wasn’t even supposed to be here this weekend. He’s lucky I’m so adaptable, don’t you agree?



One of the beaver ponds

If we had stuck to the Wildcat Trail alone, we would’ve done 9.5 miles, but we decided to add in the Beaver Loop Trail, then later the Vista spur, so we ended up doing at least 11 miles if not a bit more. We’ll know later today if that was a good idea or not.

If there were beavers, we sure didn’t see any.


Look out!  There’s a mountain behind you!

One of the reasons we decided to add in the Beaver Pond Loop was because we knew it would take us through this logging area on top with the sunshine view. The immediate landscape in this section is, as you can see, blech.

Shortly after this, we reached the Vista Trail connection, and shortly after that we reached the (empty) Vista Trail parking lot which had a few picnic tables and a bathroom and from which it was about 1/4 mile to the summit.

There were several other hikers there, most having come up via the shorter Gold Creek Trail, all enjoying the view and lending us a hand in getting our photo. There were also pups that I felt obligated to scritch. One of them was named Steve, or I thought it was named Steve and kept calling it Steve until I realized that was one of the guy’s names, although they surely heard me calling the dog Steve repeatedly and didn’t stop me.


Look out! There’s a city behind you!

Do you see Seattle? No? Let me help you.


I’m sure you could’ve figured out how to zoom in and find the city’s skyline, but I got a new stylet thingie and I’ve been waiting impatiently for an opportunity to use it.

 Having traveled further than we’d anticipated and wanting to return in good time, we didn’t do any real photo-taking on the way back down. So I will just share some lovely photos TBG took on the way up and call it a post.




Until next time, faithful readers!


Fort Worden State Park

Our third annual Thanksgiving weekend RVenture took us to a state park that we cannot check off the Great State Park Grand Scheme list because we were there before in October of 1999. Collectively, we remember very little of that visit, TBG thinking it had been part of our honeymoon trip in 1998, and me thinking it was before we were even married.

I will now put aside my ego and show you the scrapbook page I made of that visit when my paper crafting skills were still in their infancy.


Be nice.

  One thing I do remember from that visit is that we took a lot more photos than displayed above, but something bad happened to them. This was Olden Tymes when cameras used film, and I have a vague recollection that the film advance feature malfunctioned. Whatever it was, those photos were lost to all but our memories, which, as we’ve already established, can be a bit faulty.

In even older Olden Tymes, 1982 to be exact when one of us was still in high school and we were many years and several states away from meeting one another, the movie An Officer and a Gentleman was filmed here. Alas, we didn’t have this movie in our big box of vintage VHS tapes. Too bad, because it would’ve been fun to watch it and place the scenes while we were there. Speaking of high school, the theme song from this movie was the theme song for my prom. Neither one was all that great.

I keep bellyaching about my dislike of repeating things, but I have two very good reasons for bending my rule this time. First, like last year’s holiday location choice, Fort Flagler, this one was on the water in order to try to take advantage of better weather than what often occurs inland at this time of year, not because we’re particularly fond of forts. We’re not especially all that fond of them, comparatively. It’s sort of a “seen one, seen ’em all” type of thing. Second, our first choice for this trip, Fort Ebey, is closed seasonally to camping.


The sun broke through just as we arrived.

This is a very active park with several of the buildings housing businesses, arts, etc., as well as two campgrounds and many rental opportunities for vacationers. We’d made reservations early, as even in the off-season, this park fills fast. I had known about one of the cafés being open year-round, but when we went down to The Commons to get our registration slip, we encountered a dining hall chock-full of holiday celebrants enjoying a large Thanksgiving buffet. It was tempting to want to sneak a little tart from the lavish dessert table as we passed by, but we had our own feast waiting for us in the RV, and we wanted to preemptively work some of it off with a walk.


Port Townsend Bay

We walked along the beach road area and over Battery Kinzie where I spotted a noisy Belted Kingfisher, who eluded photo capture, and then a small, completely white bird amongst the bushes. Was it a partial albino? I pursued it down the paths, trying unsuccessfully to get a good photo. TBG said it was my Spirit Bird, but the very accurate and completely reliable Buzzfeed quiz says my spirit animal is a snake, so who knows?


Spirit Bird or just an albino?


Point Wilson Lighthouse

Being Thanksgiving, everyone knows you eat lunch for dinner or dinner for lunch, and it was time for us to head back to the rig and feast, after which we headed out for more walking.

After a few hours of strolling around, dusk — which begins depressingly early at about 4 p.m. this time of year — was fast approaching, and there were indoor activities to be done like eating pumpkin cheesecake and learning how to play cribbage, a new addition to our game arsenal.


Friday sunrise

If the early dusk disheartens me, at least it’s somewhat mitigated by the fact that it’s easier to get all your sleep and still not miss the sunrise. The mornings would offer the only real sunlight we’d get for the rest of our stay, making them extra-important.


Campground trail head leading up to the DANGEROUS BLUFF

Our first order of business was to trek down to The Commons via the Bluff Trail to hop on the free wifi to research SOMETHING BIG and to take a few screenshots of more accurate cribbage rules. The ones included with our you-get-what-you-pay-for game board were full of typos that made our game-play maddening.

Next, we hiked over to the area known as the Chinese Gardens, where there are no gardens, but there used to be gardens, and the signs actually read “Chinese Gardens (no gardens)” They must’ve gotten complaints.

The trails in this area lead up to a view point atop the DANGEROUS BLUFF but, incredibly, there was another camera snafu and some photos of this day’s walking were lost. This is what we now refer to as The Curse of Fort Worden.

Never fear, there are plenty left to show you.


Gun Line Road

As with all the old forts, there are dozens of dilapidated batteries and creepy tunnels to explore. There were plenty of other explorers about, but we never felt crowded, although I was startled a few times by others in the dark warrens.


Not-so-creepy tunnel.


Creepy much?

We walked for a few hours, returned to the campground for a second round of feasting, and then headed back out. I am happy to report that this park provides very good maps, and with one in hand, I played tour guide and led TBG through all the inner fort trails.


Follow me!


“Over here is a bench if you need to rest.”


Soft woodland trail.

We managed to take in nearly all the trails there were in the park in a few hours.


Rock hound.

At the west gate near the cemetery (photos lost) naughty visitors had left a collection of souvenirs on one of the posts. I rescued a Surprise, AZ rock from among them for future placement in an approved location.

We again settled in for the evening with more cheesecake, cribbage the right way, and I continued to work on a new jigsaw puzzle that I’ve had pinned on Pinterest for a long time and ordered special.


Tapestry Cat!

It is bigger than the table, and it took me the better part of two evenings just to get the border assembled.

The wind gusts overnight were strong, and our little rig was swayed throughout the night. We both had some trouble sleeping, subsequently ‘sleeping in’ until 0700.


Mt. Rainier

We didn’t miss the sunrise, though.


 Saturday is our run day, and being on vacation is no excuse, not that we needed one with the nice, smooth trails.

After our run and breakfast, we set off for a day “in town” meaning an exploration of the Main Campus of the park.


Deer checking out Alexander’s Castle

The castle is the oldest structure in the park and can be rented. We could see folks inside on Thanksgiving Day doing just that.


Marine Science Center #1

Inside is a series of exhibits telling the story of Hope, an orca that died nearby years ago and was full of toxins but probably died from a bacterial brain infection. I found the explanatory displays to be a slight bit politicized but still factual and interesting. Also inside were many volunteers, somewhat overeager to share their knowledge and a little distressed that we were going clockwise, essentially reading the story backwards. It was both amusing and annoying. They did let us know that at the companion building across the way, there would be a Feeding of the Animals! at 2 p.m. Perfectly timed to coincide with our return!


We cheapskates weren’t interested enough to shell out the entrance fee.


Wheeler Theatre


Madrona (connector) Trail

Time to return for the Feeding of the Animals!


Marine Science Center #2

On our way in, TBG spotted a seal in the water near the dock. We thought perhaps it was sniffing around due to the impending Feeding of the Animals! but it was pure coincidence since the Feeding of the Animals! took place completely indoors.

These sorts of things are usually geared towards kids, but I never care and happily line up with the children. I’m pretty sure one of the reasons people have kids is so that they can use them as a front to do kid things without looking like lunatics. I just go ahead and let people think I am a lunatic, and then I get to do the cool things other adults are clearly longing to do but are too embarrassed to do. Too bad for you, suckas!


This building housed four touch-tanks where you were permitted to poke some sea life — two fingers only, please — like anemones (sticky) and starfish (some squishy, some crusty) and sea cucumbers (rubbery) etc. The Feeding of the Animals! consisted of dropping pieces of fish onto the anemones (I did that), dropping a clam near the gigantic starfish (only one kid got to do that and it wasn’t me, but I’m the only one who stuck around to see the starfish slowly overtake the clam), and dropping kelp onto the urchins (I was busy with the anemones, so the other children took care of this.) TBG is always a good sport, and humored me although he only poked one sea cucumber himself.


No touch!

Although you cannot touch the fish, the volunteer showed us how to spot these camouflaged critters and get this little flounder to raise his googly eyes by tapping the surface of the water. The real children weren’t at all interested in this tank because it was hard to spot the animals, and they have the attention span of gnats. The lunatics among them will get another shot at it when they’re adults.

That wrapped up our day’s activities, and we headed back to the rig because there was still cheesecake to eat and relaxing to do. The night winds once again had me feeling like we might tip over, and the final morning’s sunrise was a dud.

The route between this park and home takes us past several other state parks, many of which we’ve already visited, but a few remain on the list to be seen. We decided to make a quick stop at one of them.


Fort Townsend State Park

Another fort!


The place was deserted, but the lights and heat were on in the facilities, and since I got out of the rig to check them out, we can cross this park off the list. It has what appeared  to be very nice trails, and I can’t say for certain that we won’t stop in again someday to explore them.

Our retinas were damaged by extreme sun-glare off the wet roadways on the way home. I’m not sure how TBG managed to navigate that, but got us home safely once again.

This is probably our last RVenture of 2017, and the next two weekends aren’t looking so great for us to get out into nature much, but I have a few possible bloggy tricks up my sleeve to keep you entertained if you’re of a mind to stop back in here. See you then!

Great State Park Grand Scheme Grand Total = 59

South Tiger Mountain

I’m sick of this particular hike. We’ve done it a zillion times. I’ve blogged about it four other times: 11/2009 12/2009 9/2010 12/2010

We have lots of un-blogged pictures from times in rain and shine, cold and hot, with friends, with family, with pup (the last is one of my favorite pics of all time.)

This time, we timed it to coincide with a clearing on the weather radar, but it was raining when we arrived, and I was cranky because I hadn’t brought a billed hat to keep rain off my glasses. I’m sick of rain and I’m sick of wearing glasses.

Now I’ll show you beautiful photos from today (all taken by TBG) that will make you wonder just what my problem is. Don’t I know how fortunate I am to live in such a place? Don’t I realize that I live where others dream of vacationing? Of course I know it. This is the place I chose as my home 25 years ago, and where I have lived more of my life than any other. Sometimes, though, I still have to just put one foot in front of the other and plod my way through it, oblivious to my surroundings. Then I get my attitude adjustment when I see the photos and recognize, once again, the riches that surround us.




quintessential northwest forest


what it looks like almost always


tall tree perspective

perpetual ferns and leaves and moss


coming out on top

the views from up there


dry for a moment


where to go from here


back through the glowing woodland

 As far as the rain, we weren’t quite out of the woods, with drops finding their way through the canopy for the last mile or so as we made our return.

Yes, it’s glorious and close to home and a good workout. Despite that, I’m giving myself permission to never have to do it again if I don’t want to. Amazingly, for as long as I’ve lived here (far longer for TBG) there are still plenty of places where we’ve never set our boots down. It is my mission to find them before we resort to this hike again, ingrate that I am.


Black Diamond Natural Area

The title of this post is the official name of the place, but locals are more apt to just call it Sawyer Woods. “Black Diamond Natural Area” doesn’t really roll trippingly off the tongue. “Where should we go today?” “Oh, how about the Black Diamond Natural Area?” Who would say that? No one, that’s who.

For years, these trails have been a popular mountain biking area, and we have done a lot of that here. I can’t remember the last time I rode here, though, but TBG did just a couple days ago. Recently the county has caught on to the popularity and started working on trail development, parking, and signage. There is a nice new parking lot complete with Honeybuckets where once was only a roadside pullout, but there was no sign for TBGuide to point to for our obligatory photo. Fortunately for me, he knows most of these trails by heart, since I would get turned around in here if left to my own devices, a fact that bemuses TBG.

Last week’s post ended with a vow to get out at least once weekly for a bigger hike regardless of the weather or repeat locations. I’ve already established that this was a repeat, although we’ve more often ridden or run here than walked. And I would use the word walk rather than hike, despite the fact that I’ve made it clear in the past that hiking is walking is outside is good. That just leaves the weather, and the forecast told us that if we didn’t want a complete drenching or to get snowed on, we’d best get things done before noon.

tunnel vision

This is “main drag.” I don’t get lost on it, but look at it! How could I?


side trails, twisting and turning

It’s when we veer off onto the twisty-turny sides trails that things all start to look the same to me.


TBG finally finds a sign.

This area has made the radar of local rock painting groups, and there is supposed to be a gnome or fairy village tucked in here somewhere. It gave us a goal to shoot for, and I had one of my rocks weighing down a pocket waiting for a good space to be hidden.



TBG spotted this one. He almost always finds the first one. I’m not sure how I feel about that.



Hopefully this slippery bridge is on the list of upcoming trail projects.



I spotted this one (angry bird) first, and on the way back out I left mine in its place. Both this one and the first one are from Astoria, and I stuffed them in my pockets for future placement in far-flung locations.

We seemed to be on the right path to the gnome and/or fairy village, finding these perched on the trees.


fairy suburbs

This was the last gnome and/or fairy-like thing we found, never locating what is said to be a much larger cache. Oh, well, we had walking left to do and other things to see.


walking and looking for other things


 other thing


an other thing

I am conflicted about these objects (and even about the stones sometimes.) On the one hand, it certainly is a lot of fun to search for and find them. On the other hand, they’re litter. Fun litter, but still.


natural litter

Mother Nature throws her stuff on the ground all over the forest.

So remember a couple paragraphs ago when I was rambling on about biking in these woods and getting confused about directions?

This is the same log crossing four years ago and now. We passed by the far end first on this walk, and I paused, wondering aloud if this was that log, but deciding it wasn’t. Later, we came around this side, and TBG had me take another look. Same log! I told you without a guide or markers I’d get lost in here.



The last rock we spotted. We left it where it was so it could continue to share its positive message here awhile longer.


reversing the tunnel

All in all we spent about 1.75 hours tromping around, maybe four or five miles? Not enough to explain why my right foot is killing me, certainly.

Today, as I write this, it is snowing. I find that quite objectionable. It means the skiing and show shoeing places will soon be ready, and instead of dirt, we’ll have to chase a little powder. Don’t expect me to like it, though.



Twin Lakes and Lake Lillian

We (mostly me) don’t like to do repeat hikes, but certain things like weather, time, and our ever-dwindling choices mean repeats are sometimes a necessary evil. This trek was only a partial repeat, though. The first visit was nine years ago, predating my blogging, and making it all pretty much new again.

The first time we were here was in October of ’08. At that time there were signs warning of frequent car break-ins, and although we didn’t have much of anything a thief would want, we took what little we did have, wrapped it in a towel, and stashed it in the woods behind the parking area. We also left the car unlocked in hopes of avoiding any window-smashing. Either no thieves prowled the lot that day, or our tricky tricks foiled their miscreancy as all was well when we returned from our jaunt. 

The hike then was to Margaret Lake, a six-miler, and judging from our old photos, we didn’t descend the last mile to the lake. I have only three photos from that hike.

As you can see, we had our pups then, and as you can also see I took two pics of TBG taking pics of  Margaret Lake, but I have no idea what happened to them. We regret bypassing the spur to Margaret this time around because it is unlikely we will re-repeat this hike. But let’s back up just a touch.

We had a few moments of panic and angry frustration when we got in the car and were verbalizing our checklist but not finding the Northwest Forest Pass. You remember the NWFP, don’t you? It’s the one we’ve already purchased twice this year. We concluded that it had been left in the RV, but the RV is currently in the shop for maintenance. I was trying not to start punching everything within reach and TBG was saying we’d just have to buy a day pass along the way. I desperately pawed through the console one last time and came up with the pass. Crisis averted, happiness restored. Let’s hike.


TBG looks for signs of the sign.

The prediction at the end of my last post did indeed come true, with warmer temps and abundant sunshine negating the need for us to drive very far. It was still a chilly start, beanies and gloves being a good idea.


Our summer stomping grounds in the distance.

Not far up the trail, there are nice views of the valley and Rainier. The steady climb and a warmish wind allowed us to ditch the hats and gloves pretty quickly.


Enjoying the soft forest trail.

Some sections of this trail are very, very nice. Others are very, very not nice, as you will see in a moment.


Fuzzy photo of a fuzzy cutie.

There are a few talus slope crossings, and where there are rocks, there are pikas, and you will hear them long before (or if) you spot them. In doing a Google search for the word to describe the sound pikas make, it occurred to me that I could have been shooting my own short videos of them. Why do these things only occur to me once I’m back home? I will try to remember this on future outings. In the meantime, here is a link What does the pika say?


Fading fall foliage.

A lot of this trail is on the shady side of the slopes, and you know what that means…



It wasn’t too much or deep enough to post hole, but it was a little slippery and a little chilly when the breeze blew across it.

The WTA website says this about the trail between Margaret Lake and Twin Lakes After another mile of joyful rambling and a bit of descent you will come to Twin Lakes. The mile part may be correct, but “joyful” is subjective — who are they to tell us how to feel about it, huh? — and “a bit of a descent” is pure bull-pucky. It may not be a lot of elevation loss, although our calculations differed once again from the website’s, but the steepness of the trail is practically vertical in places. That’s the not nice part I foreshadowed.

After the “bit of descent” we were once again in some sunshine, with Twin Lakes coming into view.


“Pardon me, you’re blocking the sun.”

On the edges of the snow-melt puddles, we saw some froggies, and this one kept scooting around our shadows to stay in the sunbeams. Did you know that frogs will become mostly frozen in the winter and thaw in the spring? I didn’t, either, but I just looked it up. This is one of the reasons it takes me so darn long to complete a blog post.

One of the twins.


TBG explores the prominence.

The twins are separated by a narrow strip of land with a large clear area like the one pictured above. I don’t do the overnight tent camping thing, but if I did, this would be a place I would. These lakes are sandy, shallow, and clear and no doubt wonderful places for a dip in warmer months.


Short-people challenges.

Of the trail between Twin Lakes and Lake Lillian, the website says The trail abruptly rises and then descends and then will rise significantly again before reaching Lake Lillian. This is accurate. A lot of this section is ugly and requires a keen eye to keep to the trail.

Then you get where you’re going.


Seeking out a sun perch.

The lake access from this trail was in the shade, thus cooler, and I thought I might find a sunny spot to sit and have our snacks, but the rocks were too wet.

A couple and their three dogs were coming down the rocks on the other side of this photo, and they asked us to take a photo of them as they had just gotten engaged about two minutes before that. We were happy to oblige, but why we didn’t ask them to return the favor remains a mystery. At least we remembered to take our own picture, unlike last time.


Old married people.

We discussed whether we thought Lillian or Twin Lakes were prettier.


Who’s the fairest?

Lake Lillian is just over the boundary into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and she definitely looks the part of a classic alpine lake with the steep walls and rocky shores. On this day, however, my vote for the fairest goes to Twin Lakes. I asked TBG, and he just sighed and said, “Boy, that’s tough” which is abstaining, so I win!


T-shirt weather most of the way back.

We felt the difficulty and the distance of the climb on the way out and marveled at how quickly all our summer conditioning was waning and vowed to keep getting out at least once a week rain (snow) or shine.

Even if it’s a repeat.

Cowiche Canyon

October here is often more tricky than treaty. The sun and the rain begin their battle for control, and we outdoorsy types have to make the decision on just how wet we want to get or how far we’re willing to drive in order to stay dry. Today, we were willing to drive all the way to Palm Springs!


See? (image from NBCRightNow)

Having been to the actual Palm Springs, I have to say that Yakima is no Palm Springs. Unlike the real Palm Springs, it will eventually snow there, and it is almost completely devoid of palm trees. What Yakima does have in common with the real Palm Springs is a crap ton more sunshine than on the west side of the mountains. The other thing it has in common with the real deal is that it’s quite a drive — not days long, but more in total than the time we’d spend with our boots on the ground, which isn’t something we normally like to do. But the lure of more warmth and light was too strong to resist.


A rainbow delineates the sun and rain.

Four years ago this month, TBG dropped me off in downtown Yakima for a school conference, and then he and the pup took a hike on this trail. Since then, he has wanted to re-visit it with me, even though we knew by the time we could, the pup would no longer be with us.

zuzu on bridge 2

Zuzu, the best hiker, on the bridge in 2013.


TBG capitulates.

After some disagreement about the end of the trail at which to start — TBG had begun at the other end then — we began at the other other end now.

Then and now.

The main trail is 2.9 miles in one direction, and as you can see, is flat.


I’m the pack mule, carrying our limited supplies for the day.

There are several bridge crossings over Cowiche Creek, the name of which we aren’t sure how to pronounce, having never heard it said aloud.

Is it Cow-itch? Cow-itchy? Cow-eesh? Who can know?


We know how to pronounce “canyon.”


This sign indicates that if you see falling rocks, you should try to catch them.

It was a little breezier than we would have preferred, but how picky did we want to be?


Whaaat? Are we in Palm Springs?

There are some spur trails that climb up the sides of the canyon, and we took the one up to the vineyard on the return walk.


Adding in more of a workout.


Overlooking the winery.

It is possible to access the winery from here, and there are weather-worn signs pointing the way to the tasting room. We satisfied ourselves with a tasting of some of the grapes still clinging to the vines.


Someone neglected to catch these fallen rocks.


I left a rock to be “caught.”

As the day’s pack mule, I was prepared with our little gorilla tripod to take a photo of the two of us, but although we talked about the best place to do so several times, we completely forgot to actually do it. I hate when we do that (or don’t do that as the case may be.)


Vitamin D! Get your vitamin D here!

On the way back through downtown Palm Springs, we stopped at Miner’s Burgers for a treat, a place I’ve mentioned in a blog post prior. Then it was time to head back to the dark side.


Another rainbow guides us home.

Next weekend’s forecast is promising some Palm Spring-like weather on our side of the mountains. It might be too much to hope for this time of year, but I think I’ll hope anyway, optimistic fool that I am. You’ll know in a week if it came true! The sun part, that is. It’s already pretty certain I’m an optimistic fool.