Sunday, June 21, 2009

Granite Mountain 6/20/2009

The snow is melting fast from the mountains. Majority of the trail to Granite Mountain lookout was snow free and most of the parts that were still snow covered were accompanied with option to scramble on rocks around them.

The hike turned out great. Way better that we expected actually. We left the trailhead with all the surrounding mountains socked in and no views available but instead the gorgeous views the trail let us admire little things along the way such as neat rock formations, blueberry bushes loaded with tiny tiny berries(can't wait to come back during fall), stream bubbling through meadow, and hundreds of sweet smelling bear grass blooms.

Once we got higher and were close to reaching the top, the weather changed a bit - to our advantage. The clouds rolled around us, revealing little views here and there. It was like looking through a window kinda.

Progressively the clouds got lighter and offered more views. It was not the grand views this place holds on a clear sunny day, but still it was decent show. Combined with the soft clouds appearing and dissapearing at various spots the scenery was beautiful.

The weather cooperated really well. It was warm the whole time and not a single drop of rain hit the ground while we were on the trail.

Another good day to be in the mountains!

Exploring East Side of the Mountains 6/14/2009

The clouds lined our way as we headed to our Eastern Washington Adventure. At one point the fog was so thick we could have never guessed we are driving through the mountains if we didn't know the area.

Then we drove over Snoqualmie Pass and about 3 minutes later, the clouds started to break. Few more minutes later we saw little bit of blue color in the sky and after several more miles we drove into a reasonably nice day.

Our first stop was a Petrified Forest Interpretative trail near vantage. Whole 200 ft of elevation in about 3 miles with variety of caged petrified trees on display along the trail. It was a neat thing to see; however there was no reason to linger in the area too long as except for the trees which despite the nice variety of species looked one quite like the other in their petrified form, there was not much more to see and soon after we finished our loop, we headed few miles east to where our second trail started.

The beginning of this trail was promising. Nice path leading along Columbia River, offering beautiful views, going to backcountry of the state park. There were not many cars at the trailhead and it seemed we'll have this peaceful area to ourselves. Why there weren't many hikers around, we figured our relatively soon.

The nice path turned into a narrow trail shortly after we started which led us onto a cliffy bluff where it narrowed some more and offered little to hold on to. I was quite surprised I found this trail in regular hiking book. We decided to turn at a point where we only had about 3 feet wide path full of loose rock and roots to walk on and long way down if we slipped.

It was still rather early when we finished this unexpected scramble and decision was quickly made to head for Ancient Lakes. We stopped at a local restaurant for lunch and then were on our way to our next adventure.

I really like area of Ancient Lakes. It seems there's always something new to do every time I visit. This time we not only reached the waterfall, we also scrambled little scree slope to get to above it. From this top part the views were amazing and we spend long time chilling out before the though of the long drive home made us head back

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Big Craggy Peak 6/7/2009

Recent nice weather really made me want to go explore. Originally the idea was to climb Mt. Adams but with the trailhead still few feet under snow we could not complete the climb in 1 day as was planned so we decided to postpone the Adams trip. We all were in a mood for an exciting adventure somewhere further away though. New location was quickly established and we set up for our journey to the Craggies on Saturday morning.

The trip turned out pretty good. We all enjoyed the drive. Even though little bit longer, it led us through the beautiful scenery of North Cascades as we followed Hwy 20 to Winthrop where we stopped to refuel our cars and tummies.

From there it was just several miles up very nice mostly paved road to Honeymoon Campground which is the closest one to the trailhead and sits in a forest with a creek bubbling in a background. We set up our camp and spent the evening by fire, sharing stories and enormous amount of snacks and beer everybody brought.

We planned for an early start on Sunday morning but in the end we did not hit the trail until 8:00 a.m. The forecast was for mostly sunny day and the sun was trying to break from the clouds as we proceeded up the trail.

The first obstacle we encountered was a remnant of an old bridge, its wreckage tilted across swiftly going creek. It was a slippery crossing but we all managed to get over dry. We followed the trail for a while longer, passing around a cool mine and crossing a meadow full of spring flowers with a very nice view of surrounding peaks. Soon after that we left the trail behind and made our way through the forest towards Big Craggy Peak. We expected to be dealing with lots more snow but ended up climbing only one snow field on the way up, approximately 250 vertical feet. Rest was on talus and scree.

Few more clouds appeared on the sky. By the time we reached the summit, the sky was partially covered by thick layer of dark clouds with more rolling in. It was a very nice thing to watch, giving the area really mysterious feel, so nicely matching the rugged peaks around us, yet the nature did not let us enjoy this show for a long.

Shortly after we finished our lunch a loud roar disturbed the peaceful silence. It was a very alarming sound or approaching lightening storm. We were packed and headed down the mountain in seconds. Even though our descend was followed by few more thunders, the storm fortunately never broke loose.

It started raining however. Few drops first soon turning into a steady rain fall. At least the timing was good. Even though bushwhacking for considerable amount of time in the rain was not much fun, it was easier than dealing with steep slope full of wet slippery rocks.

The rain subsided before we reached the trailhead and first sun rays peaked from between the clouds just as we arrived back to the camp. Classic!

Despite the fact the nature chased us down before we could even attempt neighboring West Craggy Peak, with one summit in, it was a successful and fun trip and I’m already looking forward to coming back next year.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Camp Muir 5/30/2009

For a long time we were looking forward to Mt. Adams climb originally scheduled for June 7, 2009. From the very first time we started planning for Adams, we all agreed that Camp Muir would make a wonderful training opportunity for the weekend prior the climb since it's one of the rare places that not only challenges you to gain nearly 5000 ft of elevation but it also takes you to top elevation of 10,088 ft - higher than any other easily accessible hikes nearby.

The closer we got, the more obvious it became that we will not be able to climb Adams on the date we originally chose. With 5 ft of snow still covering the campground and trailhead just a week before the climb we estimated we would have to add at least 6 miles RT to this already extremely challenging route and reaching summit would be very questionable. We postponed the climb to the end of the month but with weather being at its best behavior we still decided to head to Muir.

Right from the beginning it was obvious that it was the perfect choice for the day. It was sunny and warm and Rainier welcomed us in its spotless beauty. Not even a cloud around its summit.

It was a long drive and we had a very late start. It was not until 11:00 a.m. when we hit the trail. The snow was softened by the shiny sun rays but with a well established boot track all the way to the camp, we had no problems with postholing on the way up.

We were not the only ones with the idea of visiting Muir on this beautiful clear day. As a matter of fact, it felt like everybody is going to Muir today. Few times I felt more like I got caught in a Thanksgiving Day Sale's line - long and moving very slowly - than being on a mountain trail. Fortunately this was the kind of line where skipping turns is OK if you have the energy to go ahead and pass.

It was truly a gorgeous day. Probably the best I saw on the mountain. We could not only see Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens but also Mt. Hood way in the distance yet so perfectly clear.

We took a short break at around 9000 ft. This elevation was notorious to completely suck my energy and get me out of breath before. Kind of my own personal Dead Zone. Every other time my energy evel dropped drasticaly after that point. Today was different. It seems like al my interval training paid off. I flew up the hill like bener before. Not once i run out of breath, not once I felt a need to take a short break to rest my legs.

In a very good spirit I made it to the camp. Andrew was already there and the rest of our group arrived shortly afterwards. We spend reasonable amount of time up there, chilling out, talking to people who will be making their summit attempts, observing groups training glacier travel.

It was very hard to leave but the clock would not stop ticking and finally we decided to say good bye for this time and head back down. Our descend was equally interesting with the same glorious views and little bit of glissading we had a good time getting back to the car.