Wednesday, August 31, 2011

As the Hike-a-Thon Turns....

I put on my pack and head off on the
Longfellow Legacy Creek Trail from the Home Depot.
It's almost the end of the month, the end of the Hike-a-Thon. I haven't done anything particularly exciting recently, but I do have some more photos to share. =)

Back the 27th, Amanda and I headed off to Home Depot. I'm not sure how many of you know it--it's not something we've been posting about--but it looks like Amanda plans to buy herself a condo in the very near future. We heard about free workshops about interior painting and such and figured we'd poke around. How much does this stuff cost anyhow? 

We spent about an hour and half there looking around but buying nothing (not yet, at least!), then went our own ways. Amanda wanted to do some hiking elsewhere in Seattle, but I wasn't too keen on the idea of hiking a dull trail after a long drive, so I decided to take the dull hike that required no drive. The Longfellow Legacy Creek Trail happens to pass directly in front of the Home Depot. I hopped on the trail and headed south, ultimately winding up at Barnes and Nobel at Westwood Village.

I started reading through a couple of computer books there, and was interrupted when a fellow named Terry Brooks showed up for an author signing. Anyone know of him? I've never read any of his books, but by golly, that place was crowded with fans. I listened to his little talk and he read from part of a book that's supposed to come out next year or something. I'm not familiar with any of the characters, though, and my mind started to wander after awhile.

Blackberry season is fast approaching!
And afterwards, I followed the Longfellow Creek Trail back to the north end of the trail. I did this trail once before early in the month, but it was late when I started and completely dark by the time I finished. I didn't have many photos to share, and those I had generally didn't turn out well. This time, it was bright daylight and the photos are much improved. =)

I've also done a couple more of my Alki Trail walks. Nothing particularly exciting to report, but this evening I went shortly before sunset and got some nice photos of said sunset.

The Longfellow Legacy Creek Trail passes this stadium. I have
no idea who's playing, but I can tell you according to the scoreboard
when I passed by, the home team was losing.
Lest you think the entire Longfellow Legacy Creek Trail is urban,
this photo shows a gaggle of birds hanging out on a log in a pond. =)

This bridge has always puzzled me. It dead-ends, right there on the other side.
It's truly a bridge to nowhere, even if it's not as impressive as the one
Alaska tried to get for itself. =) And this isn't just any bridge, but it's a
curved bridge. Why? For what purpose? Perhaps someday they plan to
extend the trail in that direction? I don't know, but I wonder about it
every time I pass it.

I really like the rhythmic patterns in Fishbone Bridge. It's starting to look
a little dirty, though. Seems like it was only a couple of years ago this
bridge was last painted and it looked great then! 

There's a reason this place is called the Dragonfly Pavilion. =)
I saw this plume of smoke to the south shortly after finishing the
Longfellow Legacy Creek Trail but before I made it home. Clearly, I couldn't
know the details of what was going on, but this is not normal and
just as clearly bad news or somebody out there. Turns out, it was a
house that was a complete loss. Adding insult to injury, when
firefighters arrived, the first two hydrants they tried didn't have sufficient
water pressure and they lost a great deal of time getting water from a hydrant
three blocks away from the fire.

As the sun sets over Alki. 
A ferry boat glides through Puget Sound under the setting sun....
Definitely near high tide right now!
This is an Argosy cruise ship--tourists going for a little boat ride.
I've done them  couple of times and enjoyed it. =)

And that's all I have for photos. In Hike-a-Thon related news, I got an e-mail from the WTA saying that pledges made today, August 31st, will be match dollar for dollar (up to $2,500). So if you've been thinking about it but haven't gotten around to it yet, TODAY is the day! Make it happen and double your contribution for a good cause! =)

You'll see that Amanda's already made her goal for the month (over $1,000!), but I still need a few more sympathy contributions to make my less ambitious goal. Thanks to everyone who's sponsored us so far.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Yes, I'm a Slacker!

Flowers on Alki
I haven't posted here for awhile because, yes, I'm a slacker. That should come as no surprise to my regular readers. The term 'slackboxing' was even invented to describe my style of letterboxing.

However, I have continued to do hikes, even if I've been lazy about posting them. I did three consecutive Alki hikes which you haven't read about yet. The first time was during the day, and I found myself having trouble trying to find something new and interesting to take a photo of. Ultimately, I settled on some flowers, but I don't even like how the picture turned out.

The second Alki hike was at night, and my problem was compounded because it was dark which limited what I could take photos of even more. I did bring my tripod, however, so at least I could get relatively steady photos, and I ended up taking pictures of the Seattle skyline and the moon. (I did not, however, bring my telescope, so the moon photos aren't particularly impressive.)

The moon over Alki
And the third Alki hike was also at night, and I remembered to bring my tripod and camera, but ultimately took photos of nothing. I just couldn't think of anything new to take photos of--at least something new that was somewhat interesting. I really need to widen my hiking radius.

So after that, I took a day off. On August 19th, I didn't hike. I was tempted to, just to continue my streak of consecutive hiking days for the entire month, but in the end, I just didn't care about that anymore. The idea of doing a hike I didn't really feel like doing didn't appeal to me, so I took a day off.

Or was it a day of rest? Because the next day, Amanda and I packed up and drove off for her very first backpacking trip. Ever. After a lot of driving, and being snowed out from Plan A, we ended up at the trailhead for Baker Lake, along the skirt of Mount Baker. Despite the fact that I can see Mount Baker from Alki, after all these years, I've never made a trip to Mount Baker. The closest I've come to it was driving by along I-5. Even the PCT manages to swing well to the east of it, although I was able to see it from a distant vantage point along the PCT.

Amanda prepares to take her first steps of
her very first backpacking trip.
Baker Lake was ideal for Amanda because it was relatively flat (she's not a big fan of ups and downs), and short (this would be her first time ever on a backpacking trip--no reason to run her into the ground!) Initially we planned for one night in the wilderness, but after looking over our maps and getting to the trailhead early enough in the afternoon, I suggested a two-night backcountry adventure. The first night would be a short 2.5-miles hike up the Baker River to Sulfide Camp. And for the second night, we'd backtrack to Baker Lake and camp along its shores at a site about 6 miles from our first campsite. Then the next day we'd hike 4.5 miles back to the car and call it a day.

The 2.5 miles up to Sulfide Camp went well enough. Amanda was concerned that we wouldn't arrived until after dark. We definitely arrived after sunset, but there was still a little light out when we arrived. We did hit two minor snags, however. The first was that the campsite was technically over the boundary and in North Cascades National Park. We did not realize this when we started, so we technically camped illegally because we didn't have a necessary permit for camping in the national park. We decided to go anyhow, however, because the nearest ranger station was much too far away by the time we realized our error and the short half-mile or so that the trail entered the park didn't appear to be connected to any other trails in the national park. It seemed very unlikely that a ranger would happen upon us by accident--unless he drove out all the way to Baker Lake and hiked up from outside of the park.

Amanda looks over a suspension bridge
over Baker River.
Our second snag was that there were already people at both of the campsites at the camp. We were hoping to have the place to ourselves since nobody had signed into the register at the trailhead saying they were overnighting at the campsite. We certainly didn't expect not to have a campsite at all when we arrived!

So we smooshed ourselves between the two campsites. On the one side of us, there was a couple with their infant. I was both impressed that they would backpack with an actual baby--not a young child, but an actual baby--and worried that its crying might keep us up all night. As it turned out, the baby probably slept better than Amanda did--who woke me up during the night saying she was cold and pushing me off the groundsheet. =)

Mosquitoes, fortunately, weren't bad, but the no-see-ums were terrible. And, as I only brought a tarp, we had no protection against them. Once it started getting dark, though, the bugs died down.

The next morning, Amanda was pretty pleased with herself for surviving a night in the backcountry, and ready to go home, so we scuttled my plans for a second night along Baker Lake.

Amanda hiked the 2.5 miles back to the car, but I wanted to stretch my legs a bit and decided to hike around to the far side of the lake--about 16 miles away.

The hike was largely uneventful. Despite following more-or-less along the edge of the lake, the views were obscured by trees most of the time. The campsite we had originally planned to crash at for the night seemed spectacular--right along the edge of the lake and with fantastic views. But it wasn't meant to be....

Amanda crosses a small bridge.
By about the halfway point, my feet started getting a little sore, and normally I would have stopped for a long, leisurely lunch break, but I told Amanda that I'd finish at around 2:00. That didn't give me a lot of time to sit around lounging. Onwards and onwards I pushed.

I covered the 16-or-so miles by 1:40 that afternoon, arriving a full 20 minutes ahead of schedule. It was a thru-hiker schedule. I was pretty tired by the time I arrived at the trailhead, but during my thu-hiking days, I'd have taken a half hour break, got back up, and pushed out another 16 miles by sunset.

Amanda was already at the trailhead when I arrived, with cold drinks in an ice chest. My trail angel. =) This came something as a surprise to me, though, since when we first arrived, we had no cold drinks or an ice chest. Clearly, Amanda had driven back to civilization somewhere and resupplied while I was off hiking. I assumed she'd do a short day hike on one of the nearby trails to kill some time, then take a nap or read a book until I emerged from the woods. Instead, she went into town and letterboxed. =)

Then once again, it was back to Seattle, a long drive with surprisingly heavy traffic for a Sunday afternoon.

This old log had quite a few rocks resting on it. I went ahead and added to the pile. =)

I carried a tripod with me, which is how we could take a picture of us together here. Look at that--after a night in the backcountry, Amanda is still smiling! =)

A cascade flowing towards Baker Lake.

The view from where I had planned to camp the second night.
That's Mount Baker in the background.
Kayakers in Baker Lake.

Another stream running towards Baker Lake.

And one last view of Mount Baker. The skies really cleared up by the end!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Quartz Creek

Wassa Jr. goes on his first backpacking trip!
It's also always cool with you can carry a giant
saw in your pack. (Okay, maybe not giant, but
I bet it's bigger than anything you carried into the
For the first time since I finished the Pacific Crest Trail, I was heading back into the backcountry. This time, it was with the Washington Trails Association. After all, if you're going to sponsor our participation in the Hike-a-Thon, wouldn't you like to know what kinds of things the money is spent on? =)

Amanda and I camped at the Lewis River Horse Camp overnight--which was exceedingly convenient since that's where I was to meet for the Backcountry Response Team I had signed up for at the unholy hour of 8:30 AM. (Needless to say, I usually wake up much later in the morning than that!)

Little did they know, I planned to bring my little friend, Wassa Jr. Wassa would be going on his first backpacking trip!

Shortly before the appointed time, cars started pulling up. In all, there would be six of us. Well, seven if you include Wassa Jr: Ryan, Carol, Chris, David, Kurt, and myself. No, I'm not referring to myself in the 3rd person--the trip leader was a nice fellow named Ryan.

Who, as it turns out, I met twice before. The first time I met him was April 23, 2010, at approximately 3:43 PM in the afternoon. I usually don't know this sort of information with such precision, but this was an exception moment for me because it was the exact time I started my PCT thru-hike. I didn't blog about it that day because it didn't seem important, but there was one other hiker at the border when I started my hike. He wasn't thru-hiking--just planning to go as far as Agua Dulce then it would bump up to Washington because he had a job with the WTA that would be starting. I happened to photograph my watch when I started, and I looked up the photo and could find the precise time I started my thru-hike. =) I took the photo only a few minutes after I met Ryan, the other hiker at the border.

Ryan, who as it turns out, I met a couple of times before.
Never thinking I'd ever see him again, I didn't think about him again. At least not until I bumped into him again in southern Washington on September 2nd. I don't know the exact time, but I distinctly remember meeting two trail maintainers from the forest service while hiking with Hui, and that was the day I hiked with Hui. (I had to cheat to check my blog, though--I didn't know that date off the top of my head.)

I didn't mention this encounter in my blog either--since I had failed to note him the first time I met him, it seemed strange to mention him this time. But it seemed like a bizarre coincidence to run into him a second time more than 2,000 miles later in a completely different context. He explained that he was between gigs with the WTA and was doing some work for the forest service at the time, and he mentioned that he was at the PCT kickoff earlier that year. I didn't recognize him, but the story sounded familiar, and I realized--that's the same guy I met at the border! Only him and my mom were the only two people who actually saw me at the Mexican border!

And, once again, I didn't recognize him this time either--except that after he found out I thru-hiked the PCT last year, he mentioned that he was at the kickoff last year and I thought, "Wait a minute.... I've heard this story before! In fact, I've heard it twice before!"

Wassa kept wanting to stop to eat berries.
And so for the third time, our paths would cross.

We made introductions, Amanda drove off into the wild blue yonder, and the rest of us picked up some hand tools and headed off into the backcountry along the Quartz Creek Trail.

We didn't really go far--only about two miles, just to the other side of a small tributary of Quartz Creek that would get our feet wet. No bridges, though a couple of others crawled under and over giant trees and bushes along a log jam to cross without getting their feets wet. It looked like too much effort to me, though, and I charged directly across.

Along this creek would be our camp for the next three nights.

But before we set up camp, Chris told us a wild story. This would be Chris's first backpacking trip. Ever. He bought a brand new sleeping bag, a new compression sack for it, and tied it poorly to his pack. He said he thought about running a rope through it or something to make it more secure, but ultimately, didn't bother. This would prove to be a huge mistake because just as he was going down that last big hill down towards the creek, his sleeping bag escaped and bounced down a cliff.

Trying to get over the river on the log jam seemed like
more effort than it was worth to me.
Ryan and Chris would go back across the creek and try to retrieve the sleeping bag, but eventually they came back empty-handed. They could see the sleeping bag resting on a nook on a cliff, but the cliff was too unstable to get down to retrieve it. Chris was in the backcountry. Without a sleeping bag.

This would be a very discouraging development for anyone. Even more so for someone who had never spent a single night in the backcountry. Chris thought about going back and quitting before he had even begun, but decided to try doing without. The nights were relatively warm, and with extra layers of clothing and a tent to trap warm air, he was going to try to stick it out without the sleeping bag.

As for myself, I brought no tent at all. The weather forecast was favorable, so I decided to carry nothing more than my tarp as shelter, and to only set it up if it actually started to rain. Otherwise, I would be cowboy camping.

I also brought a bear canister. I wasn't particularly worried about bears, but I had no intention of carrying all of my food with me to the work site every day, and I didn't want to leave it in camp unattended. Even if no bears happened along, some rodents would undoubtedly take advantage of such a situation. So, as much as I hate carrying them, I brought along my bear canister this time.

David (right) and Chris (minus a backpack) decided to ford the creek like I did. =)

No other mishaps happened for the rest of the day, and by sunset, we were all ready to hit the sack.

The next morning, though, it was time to get our hands dirty and do some work. We donned our hard hats and gloves and hiked another mile or so north along the Quartz Creek Trail. The trail was a wreck. Especially where large trees had fallen across it. The forest service already sent in people to cut out the large logs blocking the trail (although they didn't finish it all!), but the trail was still covered with bark, sawdust, pinecones, branches, and other debris and severely overgrown after years of neglect. The Quartz Creek Trail made the list of "endangered trails" in Washington last year. We were to fix that. =)

Wassa tries on my hard hat, but it doesn't
really fit very well.
I set up Wassa on a nearby log to be a supervisor. He's very good at that. *nodding*

My first task was to cut down a tree that was growing a bit too close to the trail. It was a few inches in diameter and stood probably about ten feet tall. Not exactly a giant among trees, but that's just as well because we didn't bring a cross-cut saw. Nope, just small hand saws, but that was enough. Timber!

Then I picked up a grub hoe and started bring the trail to life. It didn't take long before I declared the work backbreaking. Or at least back-aching. Along with my arms. It's exhausting work. When we got to the first major part where large pieces of bark blanketed the trail where some large trees had fallen, Ryan said we do some swamping first. "Swamping?" I asked. Yes, swamping. It seems that's the technical term for throwing debris off the trail. Learn something every day! =)

So I did some swamping, then picked up Pulaskis, grub hoes, and McLeods--whichever was needed at any given time--and brought the trail to life. Barely discernible at times, we brought it back to life.

My favorite activity was whacking trees, logs, and stumps with a Pulaski. Half axe, half grub, it could chop through anything given enough time. On the second day of work, even Wassa took a few swings with the Pulaski.

Speaking of Wassa, everyone on the team looked out for him. Once, I picked up my pack and some tools to move them further up the trail, and Carol saw Wassa still sitting on a log playing supervisor behind me. "But... what about Wassa?! Are you forgetting Wassa?!"

Carol and David sitting in camp.
No, I wasn't forgetting Wassa. My hands were full. I intended to move my pack and tools ahead, then return for Wassa. Sometimes Kurt would pass where I was working and stop to look around--looking for Wassa. He knew wherever I was, Wassa wasn't far behind.

Our last night in camp, I decided to dress up with a tie and a fancy collared shirt. It was an extravagance, but a tie and shirt didn't take up much space, and I thought it would be amusing to put on something as useless as a tie on a backcountry adventure. =) And anyhow, it was a Wallace and Gromit tie. How could I not wear it?!

By the end of the trip, we figure we restored about a half-mile of the Quartz Creek Trail. After we finished our work, we hiked back to where we started working and walked the entire length of our work--which seemed like an astonishing amount for just six people, five of which are purely volunteers. What paid for these tools and paid the salaries of the trip leader (Ryan, in this case)--donations to the WTA. The money Amanda and I have raised so far probably covers all of the expenses for several of these kinds of trips.

On the forth day, we hiked out again, back to the trailhead. Amanda wouldn't be there to greet me--she was off in Zurich working (and hiking!). But David volunteered to drive me to Tacoma, where he lives, which is close enough to Seattle that I could catch buses and trains the rest of the way to Seattle.

We didn't cut out this large tree, but the trail
is barely visible under all of the debris left
behind. Note Wassa supervising from
his perch on the log.
He dropped me off by the train station in Seattle, but alas, the last Sounder train direct to Seattle had already left for the day. I really like riding trains and was a little disappointed I couldn't take the train to Seattle.

I walked across the street and started looking at the transit maps at a light rail station for a hint about which bus I'd need to catch to get to Seattle, but I had only been looking for a few seconds when a light rail train stopped and a hippie-looking guy popped his head out asking where I was going.

"Seattle," I told him, and he proceeded to explain exactly which route I should take and where the relevant bus stop was located. There was a bus stop on the other side of the block, but he suggested I ride the free (free!) light rail two stops down and there was a bus stop he'd point out to me directly. Sweet. I jumped in.

I chatted with him a bit between the two stops learning that he had recently been arrested and everything he carried had been confiscated. And that he almost lost a leg last week trying to hop a freight train. He grabbed onto a ladder of a moving train and his foot slipped through the rung nearly cutting off his leg.

Wow, my life is boring. =)

When I arrived at the anointed stop, I got out and checked the bus schedule. Yep, there it was. Bus 590, 592, and 594 all went to downtown Seattle. Excellent! The next bus should arrive in 15 minutes or so.

This is the same photo as the previous one,
except taken after some of the work in fixing
the trail had taken place. It's the best
before and "mostly" after photo I have.
It was dinner time at this point, and I had to pee something awful, so I popped into a nearby Subway store to kill two birds with one stone, as it were. When I came back out, a nice old lady was sitting at the bus stop and I sat down next to her, asking if the Seattle bus had already come and gone. I didn't think so--I even took my Subway order to go to help insure I made it back before my bus came and went, but it must have been early. My bus had indeed come and gone without me. The horror!

What to do? What to do? I know, I'll eat my sandwich, and that's what I did. =)

Another Seattle bus would arrive in another half hour. As it turned out, I misread the schedule and the buses came five minutes earlier than I expected. Oh, well, no big deal.

I paid my $3.50 fair to Seattle, a little concerned about how long it would take to drive to Seattle. Buses always make all those stops seemingly on every block, taking every non-freeway road they could throughout the area. I never road the bus between Tacoma and Seattle before, and worried the trip might take hours.

As it turned out, the bus made one more stop in Tacoma, got on I-5, then headed directly to Seattle using the carpool lanes without a single stop between the two! Dang! In rush hour traffic, the bus was probably faster than driving your own car! Yeah! Wee! I never enjoyed a bus ride so much. I'm not sure I've ever been in a bus going freeway speeds before. =)

Again, Wassa supervising the work we had done.
The bus started taking the ramp for the West Seattle Bridge--the very ramp I'd have taken to get home, but I knew the bus was supposed to go downtown--not West Seattle. The left-hand side of the ramp leads to West Seattle. The right-hand side, however, exited into the south end of downtown. I got off at the very first stop in Seattle--near the corner of Spokane St and 4th Ave. (Only a couple of blocks away from the world's first Costco.) Perfect! I couldn't have imagined a better place for the bus to have stopped unless it gave me door-to-door service!

I could have taken another bus into West Seattle, but at this point, I was only a few miles away from home. My pack was relatively light now that I'd eaten most of the food that was in it during the backpacking trip. The air was crisp and cool. And I felt like walking. So I walked the rest of the way home.

My Quartz Creek adventure was officially over. All told, I figure I hiked about 14 miles along Quartz Creek during those four days. Not exactly big mile days, but very satisfying ones.

And please, if you haven't sponsored Amanda and I yet, please consider doing so! Even a dollar can help sharpen or fix a tool!

Wassa checks out the poor quality of the trail.

This log was sticking out part way into the trail. (That greenery on the right is actually
the trail--it just hasn't been cleared yet.) I had a lot of fun lopping off the end with
this Pulaski. It makes a very satisfying thud when it bites into the wood. =)
Wassa takes time off from supervising to climb a tree. =)

Wassa also hiked out to this small waterfall along Quartz Creek.

I found the refracted light on the rocks in Quartz Creek hypnotic. =)

Chris tries on a new kind of hat--totally vegan, too!
Wassa finally does get his hands dirty with real work, using loppers to trim
branches hanging over the trail. He finds them awkward to use,
however, and gives up quickly.
Then Wassa gives the Pulaski a whack or two.

Talk about burying the hatchet! Or the Pulaski, as the case may be. =)

A boy with his moose. =)

Wassa tries to walk a mile in my shoes.
(He doesn't get far!)
I stored Wassa in my bear canister overnight to protect him from
marauding bears. (It would also give him an excellent perch to watch
marauding bears eating me if they had the inclination.)
Back at the trailhead at the end of the trip, Kurt prepares to a take
a group shot with his camera and tripod. (Alas, I do not have the
picture he took to share. Not yet, at least!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Alki, Alki, and Not Alki

Once again, I continued hiking, but once again, it wasn't particularly noteworthy. The next two days, I hiked Alki because it was close and convenient. This time I walked around with my camera thinking I should take pictures for this blog, but found myself increasingly frustrated because it seems like I already took all of the most interesting shots I could think of at some point or another. Gotta find something new, but what?

So that first day after the Green River Trail, I hiked Alki. Again.

Hey, look, paddling boards or something. That's new!
I hadn't taken a picture of those before! =)
Later in the afternoon, after my Alki walk was done and I was walking home,
I found this little message. Hey, that's new too! And I couldn't help myself--
I giggled. I sense some pent-up anger from the person who wrote the message.

The next day, I took another evening stroll around Alki, which limited my photo opportunities even further. At least I brought my small, portable tripod along this time, so my night photos aren't nearly as blurry this time. =)

Downtown Seattle

And, of course, the Space Needle, at night!
The next day, Amanda and I shook things up a bit and left West Seattle and Alki. =) I signed up with a work party with the WTA--the very organization we're raising money for--but the work site was a several hour drive away and we  were expected to meet at the trailhead at 8:30 in the morning. We figured we'd drive down the day before and do some hiking and camp out overnight near the trailhead.

So Amanda printed out some letterboxing clues, we loaded the car with camping gear, and we were off!

We stopped at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, just off of I-5, along the way, where I hiked every trail in the refuge, along with my buddy, Wassa Jr.

Hey, is that what I think it is?

Yes! It is! A turtle! =)

I loved tossing these helicopter seeds into the air
when I was a kid. I refrained from doing so on this hike, however. =)

Wassa Jr. takes a closer look at the views!

I gave the camera to Wassa Jr. for awhile,
but he kept getting his thumb in the photos. *shaking head*
This photos shows what is the single longest and most impressive boardwalk I've ever seen in my life. Amanda told me that the hike out to the end and back was four miles. The first part of the hike wasn't along the boardwalk, but from end-to-end, the boardwalk was easily more than a mile long, held up on stilts with an observation tower, a bird blind, and two viewing decks.

I'm not sure why Wassa took this photo of the viewing deck's bird-poop-covered roof.
I don't think I'll let him use the camera anymore....

After our hike, we built up a huge appetite and satisfied it further down I-5
at Burgerville. Wassa was especially excited about Amanda's onion rings!

Late in the afternoon, we did a short hike near the Lewis River.
I don't remember what this waterfall is called, though.