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!


BOOTY said...

Guess any rangers who read your blog know about the illicit night you spent with Amanda in the woods!


Anonymous said...

The photo of you and Amanda is perfect! Hope you get that one framed.

Muddy Paws

Buxton Boxers said...

Thanks for the hike! Love hearing and seeing your hikes!!

Buxton Boxers

Okie Dog said...

I agree with Muddy Paws, get that pic of you and Amanda framed. It is great of both of you with a thrilling backgrounds go....