Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Long Walk in the Woods

The Summer has been a hot one. As hot as any I can remember in my -nearly- 40 years living in this state. Because of this, there's been a lot of motivation to get out doors and, luckily, this happened to pair nicely with both of the kids finally being old enough that we could easily drag them along on hike of three to four miles. As a result, we've done a lot of hiking and camping this year. Especially in comparison to the last few years, were we've considered ourselves luck if we got up into the mountains more than a couple of times a season.

Unfortunately, we've been a lot better about hiking recently than we have been about posting here, so we haven't had a chance to talk about it here. I'm going to try to fix that. This is going to be a big, jumbo, woodsy post. But, to keep things manageable, and to keep my sanity (hopefully), I'm going to try to limit it to a paragraph of two about each outing, and only a couple of pictures. If I can.

Here goes...

Snow Shoeing At Sleeping Lady
While a lot of our hiking has been driven by the warm weather, our first outing actually happened just a day or two into 2015. We had, rather promptly, decided to spend New Years weekend at Sleeping Lady, a resort in Leavenworth, a few hours outside of Seattle. While a whole entry could -and probably should- be written about that weekend, one of the most noteworthy experiences was all of us snowshoeing for the first time.

I'd actually been dubious of the idea, though it's been something Sarah has been interested in for some time. But, I have to admit it was a smashing success, and I was definitely a convert. What I'd imaged would be a tear filled session of the kids rolling around in the snow actually was a delightful experience, wandering snow covered paths, as cross country skier slide silently past us.

There was definitely some falling that occurred. But, most of it was more humorous than tearful.
Snowshoes around!

Franklin Fall
The second hike of the season actually resulted from a failed snow shoeing attempt. Later in January, we decided it would be fun to try snow shoeing again, and headed for the pass. Unfortunately, the Winter had been so warm that they'd already closed all the snow shoeing trails. So, after eating lunch at a pancake house across the street from a sad looking ski slope littered with skier trying to find some pleasure in grass dotted sheets of slush, we double back to Franklin Falls, which we had hike before on previous Summers. 

While snow shoeing had been a bust, we were glad that we had brought the kids snow suits, since the trail was slick with ice and slush itself. The kids seemed to take it in stride though, spending as much time falling and slipping in muck as they did actually hiking. 

 A sample portion of the trail. Still covered with a slick sheet of ice.
 The falls themselves. We actually weren't able to take the kids down to them, owing to the slick path. Still, nice view!
Happy hikers! ...though you can't tell with Otto. This was in the middle of his "I'm not looking at the camera phase," which dominated much of the Winter and early Spring.

Dorthy Lake
When it came time to pack for our hike to Dorthy Lake, the memory of slipping on snow was still fresh in the kids mind, and they insisted on packing their snow suits. I poo-pooed the idea, but Sarah humored them and they ended up being smarter than dad. When we pulled into the parking lot of the trail head, it was grey and wet, but -as we pushed farther uphill- large wet snowflakes began to fall. 

Still, this was our first hike to Dorthy Lake, but likely not our last. The lake itself was beautiful and -with the white flakes falling around us- the whole location had that mysterious feeling of being on the edge of deep winlderness.

 The snow beginning to fall on the approach to the Lake.
The view out and across the lake. When I see vistas like this, with distant, mist enshrouded mountains, it makes me thing "there be monsters" in all the right way.
Descending, as the snow falls more and more heavily around us.

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge
With it's well-build wood boardwalks and level ground, the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge always feels more like a pleasant stroll than a true hike. But, at the same time, you are walking on those boardwalks for several miles out in bird-filled tide flats, often under unrelenting sun. So, we'll count it here. 

We've done this hike several times before, but this trip was noteworthy in that it was the first time that all four of us made it out to the viewing platform at the end of the boardwalk. Also, less amusingly, it will be remembered as the time that Otto got halfway there, and then decided that he needed to go the bathroom "super bad" and I was stuck carrying him back to the outhouses and back. (Sadly, no just peeing on a bush when you are out over exposed tide flats.)
 Otto bird watching. Or, at least watching something.
 Stella and I, a bit punching in the sun.

Stella, checking out the tide flats.

Talapus Lake
By May, things were in full swing for us, hiking-wise. Which, honestly, was already a little amazing, because in passed years we'd often encountered cold weather and even snow when trying to explore the mountains this early. Instead, this year, after a brisk uphill hike, we were already soaking out feed in an alpine lake. 

Probably my favorite memory from this particular outing would be Otto jokingly holding out some food to a camp robber bird... only to have it surprise him by happily swooping in and grabbing it. 
 Sarah, Stella and Otto, enjoying the view and the water.
Now entering the Alpine Lake Wilderness. In what would begin to become a bit of a joke, Sarah and I started noting and even taking pictures of the Alpine Lake Wilderness signs. As I maintain: "The Alpine Lake Wilderness always brings it's A Game."
Happy family! Another hike down!

Snow Lake
Speaking of bringing you "A Game," Snow Lake, located near Mt. Rainier's Paradise Lodge certainly did. The day itself was misty and mysterious, but that only added to the super cool ambiance of this short hike. We rarely make it down to the Mt. Rainier area, owing to so many other, closer hikes, but each time we do, Sarah and I are left scratching our heads and thinking "why aren't we down here all the time." While it's easy to find wilderness in Washington, Rainier's alpine fields and forest are otherworldly and just on a different scale.

 A happy Sarah, in her element.
 The misty, surreal world of Snow Lake.
 At only a little more than a mile in, this hike was easily manageable by these experienced hikers.
More wilderness. Here's the thing about this photo: It's upside down.

Dads and Kids Camping - Kanaskat-Palmer State Park
After all that hiking, it was time to switch it up and do some camping. Mine friends, Justin and Kip, and I had decided (or possibly our wives had arranged in a Machiavellian-manner, depending on how conspiratorial you are) it would be a good idea to do a "dads and kids" camping trip where we took our collective horde up to the woods for a weekend. 

We decided (owing to the number of kids) that it would be easiest to make reservations at a State Park. And, though we'd never been before, Kanaskat-Palmer ended up being a great fit. While at first I think the three dads were a bit overwhelmed when we realized there's were 2-to1 in the kids favor, we quickly settled in nicely. There was a central (safe-ish) section of forest that the kids had free-reign of and spent most of their time exploring and digging up, which left the dads largely free to put around the campsite, hang out and drink beer. The arrangement suited everyone nicely. 

The second day, what had started as a short walk around the campsite turned into an extended lounging and exploring session down by the adjacent river. Again, a perfect fit.

 The kids, learning valuable life skills from Kip.
 A panorama of the campsite.
 Exploring a small pool next to the river. Where the kids spent most of their afternoon, on the second day.
 Things did occasionally have that Lord of the Flies feel. The boys rarely wearing shirts, and Stella ended up spending about 75% of the trip in her night grown (see photo below).
Six kids, after 48 hours in the woods.

Lake Phuckalia
The annual trips to "Lake Phuckalia" are well documented in this blog by now. This year marked Sarah's 10th visit to the tried-and-true campsite. And, the hottest. Temperatures were north of 90 for most of the weekend. And, while most trips to Phuckalia involve an obligatory visit to the "Lower Lake Phuckalia" swim hole, this year it was nearly a matter of survival, to get through the hottest part of the day. I know I haven't spent that much time actually swimming there.

 Camping or off to school? It's hard to tell with Otto sometimes.
 The kids, trying out the new horseshoe set. The oppressive heat kept the adults from playing, but I'm sure it will be back for future trips.
 Trying to "beat the heat" in Lower Lake Phuckalia.
There were still some Lord of the Flies moments on this trip too. Otto appears to be stalking Stella and Ryder.

Lake 22
Lake 22 has been another favorite hike of ours, but none of us had been in several years. And, actually, I still haven't been in several years. While Otto and I attended a Birthday party, Sarah took Stella up for a mommy and daughter hike. So, while I'll post a few pictures here, I -sadly- can't share much beyond the fact that I know they had a great time. Stella was apparently a positive and talkative hiker, and there were lost of salmon and thimble berries to be eaten.
 Happy Sarah and Stella without and grouchy daddy or Otto to slow them down!
 Stella for scale, at Lake 22.
Another hike, another feet soaking in an alpine lake.

Mountain Loop Highway
(4th of July weekend)
The 4th of July weekend found us camping out on the far end of the Moutain Loop Highway, a couple hours north of Seattle. We'd camped in a nearby site last 4th with a coworker of mine and his family, and had a great time, so we were eager to go back and explore some more, now that the kids were a year older. 

Like the last couple of outings the weather was oppressively hot, and there was a veritable mist of biting flies, but it was truly an amazing weekend. Owing to the holiday weekend, out site was small but nice, so we spent most of our day making out way to various alpine lakes. 

The first day was Kalemas Lake. Several miles up a dirt road, the actual hike was less than a mile in, but still the drive must have deterred most day trippers because the trail and lake were both nearly empty. And what an amazing lake it was. And warm! While most lakes are -shall we say- brisk; you could easily float in this lake for extended periods of time, feeling cool and refreshed, but never overwhelmed by the chill.

The second day brought our most ambitious hike. Peek-A-Boo Lake was only listed as being 2.2 miles in, and only 800 feet elevation gain; but what that didn't mention was that the trail actually went steeply up and down several times, bringing total elevation gain to well over 1000 feet. The reward though was worth it, as -again- we found ourselves at another nearly abandoned lake. Still, the kids were tired when we reached the trailhead again.

On the last day, heading out, we decided to check out Coal Lake. This lake wasn't really a hike, but instead it was another drive up a winding dirt road, followed by a quick 100 meter trek in to ...yet another nearly empty lake. Truthfully, there were two fishermen when we arrived, but they promptly left, giving us the entire lake to ourselves. 

When was the last time you got to swim in three separate alpine lakes in one weekend? Definitely a happy 4th of July!
Our campsite. Simple, small, but a nice place to place our chairs with a view of a river, so I ain't complaining.
 Sarah and Stella at Kalcemus Lake. About as warm a wilderness lake as I've ever encountered.
"Daddy, really?" Stella, I think less-than-amused by all the trudging up hill.
...but the pay-off for the hard work was some great vistas and neat alpine fields.
 Me, swimming in Peek-A-Boo Lake. Not nearly as warm, but more remote.
 Coal Lake. We had this whole place to ourselves, for an hour or so. Well, if you don't count those pestering flies.
 Sarah called this our "Wes Anderson kid" photo. Can't argue that.

Franklin Falls Revisited
Again, I can't share too much about this, since I wasn't there. But, for Sarah's return visit to Franklin Falls, it was Otto's turn to hike with mommy. This time out, they were joined by one of Otto's good school friends and his mom. I don't have much in the way of details, but I know everyone eljoyed themselves. 
Otto, and his friend, Brick, goofing off on a boulder.

As promised, this entry has been a long haul, and it's now well past my bed time. Still, I'm glad I sat down and powered through this. It's been an amazing and fulfilling first half of the year, hiking and camping-wise. And, while I think that most of our wilderness adventures are likely (and sadly) done for the Season, it's been great revisiting and recording them. As always, there are a ton of more pictures on our Flickr page.

OK, now off to bed!