Saint Edward State Park

I started this post a few days ago, but I was boring myself to tears with my writing, then I ran out of time to finish. Not publishing an outing within a day or so of it happening violates one of my weird self-imposed rules of posting, not to mention being gasp! boring, but I’m going to pick up where I left off. I’ll try to be more engaging, but if I fail, well, that’s why there are pictures.

We’ve had a bit of a spring-teaser weekend, and no doubt we will encounter coworkers tomorrow whose faces are a bit too pink and muscles a bit too sore. Add in Daylight Saving Time, and we’ll all be a bit too tired. In the upper left corner of the country, we grab warm sunshine by the greedy fistfuls whenever it shows up, but on a weekend? Have mercy.

We took advantage of the weekend’s radiance to check off state park #61.


This is a park I had been to before over 20 years ago pre-TBG, but it only counts in the Great State Park Grand Scheme if we visit together. As they say, the couple who visits together, stays together. They do say that,  don’t they? They should. It’s pithy.


Does my butt make this tree look big?

Some of the trails are like you see above — nice, level gravel.


And some are single-track dirt, but all are pretty darn nice.

There wasn’t a particular trail sign by which TBGuide could pose. The following shenanigans were beyond my control.


…or are you just happy to be here?

Back off, ladies, he’s all mine!


Lake Washington

Several of the trails lead down to the shores of Lake Washington where there is a beach area (a no-sand type of beach) but there are a few picnic tables and a restroom (yay).


You can do it!

TBG took the opportunity to adjust his boots and practice his smile. Does anyone remember the Friends episode about Chandler not being able to smile for photographs?


TBG has the same problem. We’re working through this difficult situation together.


Togetherness is where it’s at!

Again, we exchanged photo-taking with another couple enjoying the beach area. There were a lot of people in this area, so it is a bit amazing that none of them showed up in this photo.


Aggressive owls are the worst!

When they say “be cautious” what do you think they mean? Tiptoe? Whisper? Some concrete pointers on what not to do would’ve been more helpful.

After we climbed back up from the beach and away from the raptor attack zone, we headed for The Grotto.


Galloping to the Grotto

Any time we have visited a grotto, and this isn’t the first time believe it or not, I can’t help but sing “in the Grottoooohhhh” to the tune of  Elvis’ “In the Ghetto.” TBG thinks it’s hilarious. When I say hilarious, I mean he tells me to quit it.


In the Grottoooohhhh!

This particular grotto used to be used as a place of prayer when the seminary was still active, and there was a statue of a saint on that pedestal. I can’t remember which saint it was, but I do remember it wasn’t Saint Edward, which I thought was curious. These days, this area is a popular place for weddings.


Dedicated to Saint Edward the Confessor

According to my research, a real estate group will be converting this building to a hotel. I can only imagine that some of the expansive lawn is going to become more parking lots. There is also an indoor pool that has been closed for several years, and if the hotel people don’t refurbish it, they’re fools.


The path of least resistance.

We took one more trail loop before calling it a day. There are about seven miles of trails in the park, and we did about five of them. We should have gone the other way in this photo, and then we would’ve gotten closer to the seven mile mark.


But who’s counting?


Little Mashel Falls & Nisqually S.P.

The weather forecast flipped and flopped all week, and we didn’t know which weekend day would be the best until we got up this morning. Fortunately, we are early risers, and because one of us (who has learned well over 20+ years that neither of us are the best at cheerful last-minute hustle) spent many rainy-day hours choosing potential hikes and printing maps, we had a ready-made list to choose from. It was just a matter of some coffee for me, a little breakfast for TBG and the chickens, throwing a few things in our packs, and a quick perusal of the hike list to make a choice. We settled on a two-fer for what promised to be a beautiful day.


TBGuide signals the beginning at the end.

The above pic was taken on the way out because on the way in, there was another couple preparing for their hike right here, and we didn’t want to wait for them to move. The lady asked us where we were headed, and I said, “Little MASH-ull Falls.” She said, “Oh, Muh-SHELL Falls are beautiful…” and she told us just how to find the lower, middle, and upper falls. I have no idea which of us — or if either of us — pronounced it properly.

However it’s to be said, we accessed it from the town of Eatonville at this nice trail head and free parking area.


Bridge over the River Mashel

The Bud Blancher Trail is a wide, even gravel path, and on this late winter day, it was exposed to all the sunshine it could handle.


(Big) Mashel River

There are two river crossings over the Mashel on this trail.


The new boots get their 2nd outing on the 2nd bridge!

After the second bridge, the trail to the falls heads off to the left.


In search of the cataracts.

It also goes up, which should be no surprise since falling water needs height from which to fall, no?

When we reached the spur trail to the lower falls, we decided to go up to the highest one first and view them in descending order. We encountered a family at what we thought was the spur to the upper falls, but they said it was the middle and to keep going because the upper falls were really great.

The trail, however, was not. It became narrow, sort of muddy single-track on the edge of a rather sketchy drop-off. I was feeling kind of cranky scared, then TBG banged his head on a fallen tree, and we had a few minutes during which things were not at all pleasant.

The upper falls were within view, though, so we got hold of ourselves and pressed on just a bit further.


Upper Little Mashel a.k.a. Tom Tom Falls

We were not all that impressed, and certainly didn’t think this was worth being scared of plunging to your death OR a knock in the noggin. I don’t know what TBG was thinking at this point, but I was thinking that the lady said the upper falls were great which meant the lower falls were going to be…not.

But I was wrong.


View of the upper falls from the rim of the middle falls.

The middle falls a.k.a. Little Mashel Falls — the namesake of the hike and the only destination you really need. What? You’re not impressed with this view?


How do you like me now?

There are actual steps leading down to where I am playing Maid of the Mist. I’m not crazy enough to have scrambled my way down there! Don’t Google ‘have people died at Little Mashel Falls,’ especially if you’re my mother.

There was a solo lady hiker enjoying a trail snack at the top of the steps, and TBG offered to take her photo there, too, for which she was so excited I was worried she’d  slide down the steps in her eagerness. She made it safely down and back and returned the favor of a photo for us.


On down to the lower falls.


TBG’s view of me viewing Lower Little Mashel Falls.


What I was viewing while TBG viewed me.


Back to the beginning.

We did about five miles here, but the day was not done. On returning from one of our Rainier hikes last summer, we noticed signs for a new state park near here. In researching it online, we didn’t feel it merited it’s own day trip, but we wanted to add it to the Great State Park Grand Scheme, and being a long drive from home, catching it while we were in the area seemed prudent.


Lushootseed translation: It’s good to see you.

As well as this spanky-new sign, there is a nice new parking area and restroom (yay).  There were lots of horse trailers that should have been a bit of foreshadowing.

 After TBG studied the map board, he thought that there looked to be enough trails that we may want to consider this a stand-alone hike another day. However, the sun was shining, and it wasn’t very late in the day, so I snapped a pic of the map and off we trekked.

At first, it was pretty nice.


Say, this is pretty nice!

But soon it turned into some of this:


Give that man a pony!

And a whole lot of this:


At least it’s better than hitting your head on a tree!

Amazingly, we didn’t get lost in there, though we tried. We were glad that we hadn’t put off this visit because we surely would have been disappointed to travel all that way for this. We didn’t see all the horses that had presumably arrived in the trailers, so we assumed they were off having a jolly old time making mud.


Sunshine makes everything better.

Pony-less patrons can have a nice walk around the gravelled trails, and we were happy to get back on one. TBG is making a bee-line for that puddle, where we rinsed off our boots.

As is tradition, we shared some chips on the drive home, which like on the drive there, TBG took the back roads through bucolic areas where we espied lots of farm animals, and some sort of mutant sheep or maybe a buffalo, enjoying the sun.

Great State Park Grand Scheme total = the big six-oh!



Jenkins Creek Park

This was not a hike by any stretch, and it barely merits a mention here, but it was a walkabout during which we espied some critters, so a mention it gets.


Appropriating TBG’s duty.

This is another local county park that I thought would provide a nice change of pace for our daily constitutional, and it did, it just isn’t quite as big as I thought.


The sun was shining on the recently improved bridge entrance.


President of the Welcoming Committee 


I proclaim thee, Second Bridge!

Another recent improvement. Having never been here before, I can only assume this really is an improvement.


Let’s reflect on that.

The social media page for this park has several pictures of park goers coming here to feed the ducks.


Pardon me, did you folks happen to read the online instructions?

Our pockets were devoid of duck snacks, so we moved along quickly to avert trouble.


TBG proclaims thee, Second Entrance!


Not recently improved. 

Again I assume, but the moss is a bit of a giveaway although it does grow rapidly in these parts. I love moss. People around here spend lots of time trying to rid their lawns of it, but I’ve always thought a yard comprised of only moss would be great — soft, always green, no need to mow — perfect!

This mossy pathway ringed an open picnic area then connected back to Second Bridge. There were some unpaved trails in the fields, and we traipsed through those, disturbing a murder of crows along the way.

Although not the walk I’d hoped, it was a neat little suburban respite, and it’s nice to see places like these being preserved. Especially when they have critters.


FS7315 Snowshoe

We’re back! It feels like forever since I’ve had a new outing to share what with TBG’s probably-flu and my toe aciurgy. (Aciurgy looks like a typo, doesn’t it? It’s not, though, and I am amazed that, considering my job, I’ve never heard or seen it before. If you’re ever bored thinking there’s nothing new under the sun, learn more words. No one knows all the words, and that includes you.)


TBGuide says, “Just hurry up and take the damn picture!”

Why does he say that, I ask. “Because snow is getting in the back of my boots because             I didn’t wear my wool pants [because you asked me why I wasn’t wearing my cross-country pants so I did and now snow is getting in my boots because of you.]” I showed him how to stretch the bottom of the pants over the boots, and all was right with the world once again.

This is the same area we shoed last time,  but today in a fit of madness, I decided we should hang a left at the gate and head uphill on the road.


Don’t let the smile fool ya.

It was actively snowing the whole time we were out. Snow is just rain on delay as far as getting soaked goes.


TBG and his dry feet.

TBG has mountain biked to the top of this road, but we had no such plans today both because of another commitment and the fact that we want to be able to move tomorrow.



It’s not actually all that easy to fall on snowshoes, but I managed to do it right after taking this picture when I stepped on my left shoe with my right shoe. It is far easier to fall than to get up on snowshoes, I will tell you that.

When we were about an hour out and ready to start heading down, we decided to try to get a few shots of me coming up over a snowy roadside hill. I walked back down the road a little while TBG waited on the other side of the rise, camera at the ready. I called out to let him know when I was coming, and started up the snow bank.

And promptly face-planted right into the hillside, making a lovely snow(shoe)angel. I was making this falling thing look like a cinch!


Toe dig, step. Toe dig, step.


Aaaalmost there…


All that for this.

The trip back down was, of course, quicker, and we encountered other snowshoers and xc skiers and little sledding children.

For the first time in many years, I had to take a snow brush to the car, and it was building up almost as fast as I could brush. A couple rangers stopped by to check our snow park permit, which we appreciated because we like to know our money isn’t being wasted.


They’re yummy!

It has become one of our après ski (or shoe or  hike) traditions to share a bag of chips on the ride home. I stock up on them when they go on sale and stuff them in the pantry until an activity day arrives. The last time I was stocking up, I was food-shamed by the lady behind me in line at the grocery store. She was eyeing my many chip bags when she said, “Gosh, I wish I was going home with you!” in a tone that made it clear she hadn’t seen the three bags full of fresh produce that had preceded the chips and that she wished no such thing whatsoever. I eyed her small pile of all-organic items and tried to think of a snappy retort but instead I said something lame like, “Oh, yeah…uh…we only eat them on big hike days, they’re yummy!” I was miffed that I felt like I had to defend my groceries at all.

Today, we ate the whole bag. I regret nothing.



Home Territory

A week ago today I had my toes “did.”


 The piggies that went to market were negligent in their nail-growing duties, and I had them surgically corrected. This is why there was nothing adventurous to report last weekend. There will be zilch again this weekend because I miscalculated the recovery time and returned to work too quickly. So, here I sit at home.

Although I am going a little stir-crazy since I can’t walk too much for exercise (close-toed shoes are like torture devices) home isn’t such a bad place to be, nature-wise. That is the whole reason, that 20 years ago, we chose to live where we do. When the local elk herd showed up this morning in our field, I was reminded that when we can’t get out to see the critters, more often than not, the critters will come to us.

Come have a virtual seat on our back deck, and I’ll show you.

View from Study Hall


This photo wasn’t taken today, but it could’ve been — same view I had this morning, probably some of the same elk.


Bull elk behind the greenhouse.

The elk have been a consistent presence. They have provided us with hours of viewing entertainment, as well as gardening frustration since they eat everything, even all the plants the books say they don’t eat. Sometimes, they pull plants out by the roots, only to throw them down uneaten just to show you who’s boss in these parts.


Black-tailed deer fawn

Baby animals are the best, and we’ve enjoyed watching many little ones grow up over the years.



Where there is prey, there are predators. This one is especially fond of chickens and decimated my flock last year. It has also cornered our Turtle kitty under the deck. Neither the chickens nor the cat get to free range anymore. I miss the dogs whose presence kept this beautiful feline at bay.



We have never seen a bear while out hiking but have seen many here at home. The one above is a youngster that showed up in the front yard mere minutes after I had finished mowing it.


Big bear!

A much bigger ursa just behind our back fence in the neighbor’s field.



This one wandered into the raccoon trap, but no raccoons did. Most people think opossums are ugly, but not me. I feel compelled to love them for being the only North American marsupial.



This bat was probably sick since it was out during the day. I don’t particularly want to touch healthy bats, so this one posed no danger to me as it was.



There is a wetland area at the back of our property where beavers have lived for longer than we’ve been here and have done their share of tree trimming. The above picture shows the only time we were able to capture one in a photo.

That concludes the mammal portion of this presentation, at least the ones of which I have photos. We also regularly see rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, rats, moles, shrews, and coyotes. Mountain lions have been seen in our area, although we have never spotted one. That doesn’t mean they’ve never spotted us.

Onto reptiles and amphibians!

garter snake

Garter snake

We are glad that there are no poisonous snakes on our side of the mountains. In the summertime, we go on daily “snake walks” around the property, checking the usual places they like to warm themselves.


Northern Alligator Lizard

These are common, and they will shed their tails to get away if caught. Ask any local cat.

tree frog

Pacific Tree Frog

It is amazing how loud these sticky-footed creatures can be when they get going in the warmer months.


Rough-skinned Newt

Look at those little “hands!” But don’t get its skin toxins on your hands.

Now for the birds!


Food fight!

Does anyone not like hummingbirds? I keep feeders up year-round, and the Anna’s delight us even throughout the winter. In the summer, the coppery Rufous come to play, as well.


Canada goose

These are so common everywhere that I forget how pretty they are. Mean and and loud poopy, but pretty.


Bufflehead ducks 

We have seen all sorts of waterfowl pass through over the years. Waterfowl carry bird flu, so don’t let them breathe on you.


Golden-crowned Kinglet

Of course, there are dozens of small birds around at any given time. I’m thinking a fun goal for this year might be to try to photograph as many as I can.



Owl, probably barred. It lives in the woods on the east side of the house.

barn owl

Barn Owl

This one was in a carrier because our animal control friend brought it out to release here, but we have seen others gliding around the property at different times. I find their faces both interesting and startling.

Other large birds we see frequently are bald eagles, hawks, quail, and blue herons.

Let’s look for insects!

Clockwise: Katydid, woolly bear, ladybug, dragonfly, Cinnabar moth, garden spider

Lastly, the slimy things that the Pacific Northwest is known for:  Mollusca.

Slug F


Sorry for the blurriness, or maybe not, depending on you feel about slugs. If you are not from the PNW, you would be amazed at the size of the slugs we have here. They’re epic.



Not slugs with shells, but close. They’re certainly “cuter.”

Gosh, bird flu, rabies, skin toxin, and animals large enough to kill and eat you. It’s a jungle out here!

Hopefully, the piggies will be all better by next weekend, and I can get them out on the trails again. Thanks for stopping by my nature preserve!

Cedar Creek Park

TBG has the flu. Or a cold. Depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I say it really makes no difference since the “treatment” is the same. That means he’s been down since Monday-ish doing what sick folks do, until yesterday when he decided he felt well enough to want to take a walk to help alleviate the comorbidity of cabin fever. We successfully treated that with a walk (walk-run for me) on our home trail. Feeling even better today, he was up for another outing, but we didn’t want to overdo it, and I had just the place in mind. 

Earlier this year, I was browsing our county’s website, looking at all the parks listed. Many are too small for any real walking, but there are a few that we’ve never visited that offer some longer trails. Cedar Creek Park is only about 10 minutes away, and the website says there are three miles of trails there. The Washington Trails Association site says there are four. We added up all the numbers and only came up with two and a half, and we probably only got in two of those.


TBGuide back in action.

The websites also say that, although small in area, the trails can be confusing so it’s best to take a printed map, which we did. It’s the same map TBGuide is indicating above. Unfortunately, that map is only minimally helpful, with some small spur trails missing altogether, and the ones that are shown aren’t exactly accurate in either distance or connection. I don’t want to complain too much, though, because the printable online maps are courtesy of the Friends of Cedar Creek, and they are all local volunteers who have worked hard recently to formalize this park. And the map did keep us from getting lost, so I tip my headband to you, volunteers!


What the—

Although it looks like I’m trying to climb that tree, what I’m really doing is pointing at my Festone with my new boots. Let’s break that down.

 I picked a pink stone to match the pink on my new boots. Did I really want hot pink on my new boots? Not especially, but they kind of look rad in person, and most importantly, they’re comfortable and lighter-weight than my old ones. It is hard to take new boots out for their maiden walk, though, knowing they’re gonna get at least a little messed up.


TBG gets credit.

He picked out the hidey-hole for the Festone near a crossing over Cedar Creek.



The trails are actually in good shape, lacking serious mud, making my new boots happy. It’s a vibrantly green area, too.


Slightly sloshy.

There were a few places with some standing water.


Wee waterfall.

And some with a bit of rushing water.



But most of the way was pretty smooth, and occasionally there were actual signs. It was a nice little oasis in which to stretch our legs until TBG is back in the pink.

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.