Peaks Are Alive|Olympic National Park

I find myself in beautiful places and with that, I find myself at places I least expect. Every time I think of the Olympic Mountains I think of the Sound of Music. Wide open alpine meadows with peaks looking straight out of Alps. Why did Leavenworth have to be in the Cascades? Three days spent in what I believe the most beautiful natural park in Washington, a beautiful place everyone should visit.

IMG_3322

Hurricane Hill Trail:

In order to find the trailhead, you have to drive past the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center along a narrow road with one nerve-wracking switch back with a cliff. No tour buses here!

IMG_3343IMG_3330

The trailhead at the time could only be accessed by the lower trail parking lot. Along the first mile of the trail, the Olympic Peaks peeked out between trees. The vistas were spectacular with so much beauty coming all at once. While hiking to the top, our group came across so many deer walking around as if people did not bother them. One even came popping out of the bushes while a group of us were trying to figure out of we saw a bear in the distant slope.

IMG_3338IMG_3334IMG_3343

Marmots were also out lazy sunbathing on rocks like vacationers. Clouds coming across the slopes like wisps of smoke and a spooky show at the same time. The quietness of the landscape was so beautiful and unreal when this high up.

IMG_3347IMG_3350IMG_3349IMG_3365

Lunch was on a rock outcrop I ended up climbing up later to survey all the surrounding area. While climbing up the rock pile, clouds whipping all around me to the point where it was a wall of clouds. The song Into The Mist by Eivør going through my head as the clouds surrounded me.

Walking in the mist
No one knows where I’ve been
Far from my home now
Going in circles round and round
I’m on my own now

Something’s hiding in the dark
Lurking in between the rocks
Whispers in my ear
I turn around but no one’s there
I call up but there’s no answer

Shadow, shadow by my side
Drifting through the misty night
Are you wandering just like me
Within this surreality?

At this point I was separated from the group….and…I had a feeling something was not right. To be alone and exposed to predication (cougar sightings in the area along with bear), it was unnerving to see a deer below take off running into the trees with deadly quietness following. I knew something was close by, and I needed to figure out where it could be coming through. Thank goodness the group showed up with laughter and not coming face to face with a predator.

IMG_3369IMG_3387

Later a group of hikers had seen a black bear on the trail close by! I was lucky! The rest of the hike was uneventful and mostly viewing all the plants and other animals around the trail. The ride back to camp was rocking out to Mumford and Sons “I Will Wait For You” with a smile on my face.

IMG_3365IMG_3364IMG_3378IMG_3389IMG_3396IMG_3397IMG_3398IMG_3344

Obstruction Point Trail:

There is a dirt road turn out before the parking lot at Hurricane Ridge that goes down to this backcountry trail. Many people don’t see it, and this is one of the best-kept secrets of this area of the National Park. The road is long dusty with lots of switchbacks as it winds towards a small parking lot with a pit toilet. So bring your own toilet paper!

38168749_10212465932913890_6222507601507123200_o

Sunsets are starting to become a thing lately, and I am not complaining about it. Rewarding after a long day of hiking to summit a peak to watch the sun sink down ending another day.

_DSC0187

Spending time atop of a mountain viewing the sunset listening to the wind whip around you in near silence is as close to God as it gets. 37778120_10212406487747798_356720724972404736_o

When night fell, and it was time to put the headlamp on, we trekked down the mountain trying to keep on the trail that was nonexistent in the dark towards the van. Out here the stars shine brightly, and yet a shooting star decides to give us a show. On this night laying in a field with others viewing the stars in the sky made the world seem so small. _DSC0197

Five am wake up call again to chase the sunrise. Again we trekked towards another lake to view the coming sunrise. Pumpkin Seed Lake is an alpine lake very few people know about. It is somewhere off the beaten path of Obstruction Point Trail and finding it can be challenging. Challenging since the trail to it is not marked. You may have to ask someone who knows.

38292903_10212465932033868_8738106715989344256_o_DSC0206

IMG_3607

This frog did not have a great morning after being caught two times by people. By the second time he just sat there defeated. 39400036_10212577663787092_875643024476995584_o

With enough coffee coursing through my veins, I headed up towards other alpine lakes in the area. These nondescript lakes are nestled between other peaks and off known trails where climbing talus and boulder fields is a must.

IMG_3633IMG_3644

This alpine lake at the bottom of the ravine was not as cold as the one at Heather Lake. Just getting down to it was interesting with the possible slide completely down into the lake if you lost your footing. DSCN4477

The famous Ptaragen made one last apearence before it flown away. Many people do not believe they exist because they are hard to spot, live in the highest coldest parts of the mountain ranges. Hear them is at times the only clue they are in the area, and they do get stepped on because they look just like the surrondings.

IMG_3576

Hurricane Ridge Trail:

After partying with another group at the campsite, we all headed towards Hurricane Ridge to hike the small Hurricane Ridge Trail.

IMG_3587IMG_3650

So I said in a previous post I had fed wildlife. Well, I did it again! Yep, this time it was a bunch of gray jays that are also known as camp robbers. To hold a bird in your had is a Disney princess moment. They loved crumbled granola bars and would take a sandwich if I let them. I know shame on me again! I will not be doing this again-it is out of my system now.

IMG_3659

Ok moving on…

Three days hiking in the Olympics was and will be a breathtaking experience. The peak was alive just as in the Sound of Music.

IMG_3651

Information:
Obstruction Point Trail
Hurricane Hill
Hurricane Ridge

Sunset to Sunrise In Mt Rainier National Park

Standing at the base of Mount Rainer at Sunrise is awe-inspiring and humbling. Seeing the mountain from afar looming on the horizon on a clear day does not give it any justice of the beauty of this symbol of Washington State. For two days sunset to sunrise, I had the awe-inspiring moments to see the mountain in all its glory.

IMG_3420

Sunrise area at the northeast corner is the highest of the park’s roads accessible areas to the mountain and the best place to get an up-close look at the biggest glacier collection in U.S. Sunrise like it name was where I set out on viewing the majestic sunsets and sunrises from nearby lookouts.

IMG_3423

The first things first, we had to stop by the White River campground to pitch our tents so we can fall into them into them without having to worry about it later that night. Getting two campsites together was a challenge, but we did find two (later that night we would come back to one of the sites having people already pitched a tent and asleep!). At roughly 2pm we headed for the trails to hike up to see the sunset while eating dinner.

Fremont Lookout:

We headed towards Fremont Lookout on Fremont Peak via the Frozen Lake trail. The trail starts out next to the Sunrise Rainier National Park Hotel. The trails at this point were busy with day hikers coming and going.

IMG_3435

Many hikers we encountered on the way up did talk of seeing bears in the area. Most said the higher up you went towards the lookout, the more chance you would see a bear in the distance. Cougars I can handle, but when it comes to bears, it can be scary to encounter one on a trail. Mount Rainier only has black bears and not grizzly bears thank goodness, but it still was in the back of my mind when I hiked up with the group of us.

IMG_3436

The trail up towards Frozen Lake is long, dusty and has little shade along the way as weaving through the mountainside. Bringing extra water is a must if the temperatures are above 70°F. Side cliffs opened to vistas of Mount Rainier looming before I covered in icy snow.IMG_3446

Frozen Lake is a lake with a snowpack that melts throughout the summer for drinking water in the Sunrise area of the park. It really is a small glacier that must be massive in the winter time. There was not a way of telling how cold this lake is because you cannot swim in it due to being blocked off from the public.

IMG_3456

At the crossroad of trails Frozen Lake and Fremont Lookout, this Cascade Golden Mantle Squirrel was begging for the walnuts we had in our packs. At one point we could get close enough to touch it, and it took the nuts right out of our hands. I will admit to knowing full well there are no feeding animals in the park, and yes there was a sign on the other side of this rock stating this! Shame on me!IMG_3460

The trail up to Fremont Lookout was rocky slopes with small boulder and talus fields to navigate. Towards the top, the trail narrows with massive boulders below reminding all hikers to be careful navigating the loose rocks making up the trail. At one point while getting closer to the lookout, there was a sound like a gunshot/firework coming from the slopes of Mount Rainier opposite of me. This happened not only once, but a few times as an indicator of an avalanche and even in the middle of summer, it is still an issue hikers face. The avalanche was not viable to us on Fremont Peak. IMG_3473

Once in sight of the lookout building, the temperature started dropping as the sun was sinking closer to the horizon. Even saw the mythical bird called a Ptargen that lives in the alpine. _DSC0148

IMG_3475

After exploring the lookout (the lookout is locked, and cannot camp out in it anymore), we all settled into the rock outcrops to enjoy our dinner in a sealed pouch. While eating our meals, we watched the sunset in quietness enjoying natures most beautiful sight. IMG_3487

_DSC0150

_DSC0152

Sunsets are a life-changing moment for many who witness them. Experiencing them atop a mountain is a once in a lifetime moment.  Watching the sun sinking into the horizon reminds me to take a step back and just experience life as it is in the moment. The pinks, purples and golden rays refracting off the slopes of Mount Rainier is and always a beautiful sight to behold. _DSC0154

It’s even better then an Instagram post could ever capture!

_DSC0157

_DSC0155 - Copy

After spending another hour atop, we headed down the trail in dying light toward camp. By halfway down the darkness started to change the landscape into something of a mystery.  I have only ever hiked in darkness once. Being told by forest rangers this is bear and cougar country, it does make one very hyper-aware of your surroundings. I will say it was nerve-wracking to be the one in front of the group leading them down the trail! I did get down the trail unscathed as a group of people started heading up the trail (it must be a thing to hike at night). I arrived with the group back at the campsite and passed out after 5.2 miles!

Shadow Lake Trail:

Getting up to chase the sunrise can be a pain in the butt at 5am after only four hours of sleep the night before. Having no coffee and only a granola bar to get me to the lake just makes it harder. But seeing the sunrise was worth it! As I trudged onward towards my final destination, the rays from the sun started moving up the mountain in golden rays reflecting off illuminating all around the lake. At Shadow Lake, the place was remote enough to allow peace to resonate as nature started waking up for another day.

IMG_3499IMG_3505

Here coffee finally was pumping through my veins waking me up for another day of hiking. The only sound I could not stand was the deer flies and the mosquitoes trying to add to the collection of bites from the previous day.

IMG_3506

After spending relative peace and quiet taking in the beautiful sunrise, it was time to head towards the next trail-First Burroughs Mountain Trail. As I climbed up to the junction for the trail, I passed an old 1930s campground. The outlines of the camping spots can still be seen to this day.IMG_3503

First Burroughs Mountain Trail:

The  Frozen Lake Junction is where a few other alpine trails split off. One such trail is First and Second Burroughs Mountain trail. The trail is 4.7 miles of steep switchbacks along some rocky talus fields were marmots, ptarmigans, pika and the famous mountain goats made appearances. One such marmot ran down the steep slope and jumped right in front my face as he made is way past me!

IMG_3527

Once to the top of First Burroughs Mountain, I was up close and personal with a mountain that is a sleeping volcano. My second one in a span of four weeks!

_DSC0173

Spending an hour looking at Mt. Rainier, and checking out all the peaks of interest, the group and I made our way down the trail towards the parking lot. Five Guys Burgers and a Starbucks were in order after two days of hiking in the alpine of Mount Rainier.

IMG_3525

What are some favorite memories at national parks? Is Rainier on your list of places to visit? Let me know in the comments!

Information:

Fremont Lookout
Shadow Lake
First Burroughs Mountain

Heather Lake Trail| Hike Into The Alpine

 

Alpine lakes stir up images of crystal pristine water with emerald green vegetation, with possible snow on the high slopes. Heather Lake Trail is one to do in late spring early summer to view this beautiful alpine wonder without having to backpack very far up a mountain. This lake has been on my list for some time, and when I had the opportunity to hike to this lake as my first alpine hiking trip, I could not pass it up.

IMG_3195

With a pack all loaded with all the essentials, I headed out for a 4.6 miles round trip to the lake summit. The trail winds through young growth and old growth forests with lots of green vegetation along the path. There were sections where old boardwalks and bridges have been beaten up by nature.

IMG_3181

IMG_3182 Along the trail, there were small streams running over rocks with small pools of water where salamanders were hiding. A fellow hiker in my group caught a salamander hiding under a rock in the above picture. The little guy was not a happy camper about it, and at one point almost slipped out of her hand entirely.

IMG_3186

At one point a banana slug was found to be moving slowly up a trunk of a moss-covered tree. This one decided it did not want to be down on the trail and decided to move to a higher location.

_DSC0041If you are wondering, yes I have licked a banana slug before, and the slime from the slug does make the tongue go numb for a short while (I do not endorse licking slugs in general!). One time was enough for me and thus would never do it again.

IMG_3197

 

Once to the top of the lake shore, my fellow hikers and I found a nice vantage point on a rock overlooking the lake for lunch. This rock has been known to be proposal rock and a few people have been asked here in the past.

_DSC0043_DSC0042

After much needed substance, the snow pack near the slope by the lake was a call to be explored. The whole time I was looking for watermelon snow (snow that is a ting pinkish-red) for a sample to analyze in the lab later. Watermelon snow does taste a little like watermelon, but you do not want to consume it for you will get a bad case of Hersey squats!

IMG_3201IMG_3207

While there appears to be one lake, Heather Lake is actually made up of one large lake and a smaller one more like a marsh. Here plants and small animals thrive to create a mini ecosystem in an alpine elevation.

IMG_3208

While exploring the smaller lake area, I came across some frog eggs. At first I though they maybe salamander eggs, but frog eggs have a distinct color and shape to them. They almost look like a bunch of eyes looking at you in my hand.

IMG_3213

 

With the summer heatwave in full effect, the 80°F temperature made this one heck of a sweaty hike. At one point I decided to dip my feet into the lake to cool off. Just imagine how refreshing it was for thirty seconds before you cannot feel your foot! Heather Lake is an alpine lake being fed by glaciers, thus making this lake very cold!!

IMG_3209

 

After spending some time by the lake soaking in the quiet beauty and being one with nature, I headed down towards civilization. Even with a dip in the alpine lake, the hike down was still sweaty from the 80°F heat the area was getting at the time. By the time I reached the parking lot, I was clear out of the water! A ranger station a few miles down the road had a water spigot to refill my water bottle for the drive home. A reminder to carry enough water with you, even if it is two water bottles full of water.

Have you hiked Heather Lake before? Did you do it in spring or summer? Or in fall or winter?

Information:
Heather Lake Trail

 

Tanzanian Adventures|Unexpected Hike

Updated 12/2017

Hiking in Tanzania was an unexpected adventure with a whole lot of people. I was talked into going on this hike with a whole bunch of people because we could have a view of Mount Meru from the top of a hill just behind the hotel. The said hike was to hike to the top of Suye hill before sunset. We did all make it up just as the sun was setting, and we all got a great view of Mount Meru and the rest of Arusha valley below.

18582063_1500042400037693_2730908632610044836_n

It all started with crossing the busy road full of crazy motorcycles and cars. Not something for the faint of heart in this country! The beginning part of the trail started up a steep muddy rock step between a cluster of houses along the slope of the lower part of the hill. Once in the tree line, it was climbing up the steep embankments with slippery mud clinging to our shoes, getting almost lost in the brush when the group was split up, and finding out the cobblestone path was not complete enough to take anyone to the top. It took around an hour to hike up this trail to the top to see the sunset over the valley and to see an unobstructed view of Mount Meru. The guide from the hotel said Mount Kilimanjaro could be seen from the top as well, but it was hidden by cloud cover and this was true for the whole time I was in Tanzania. Most interesting part of this hike was seeing two people living in the shack on top of the hill. Remind me of people living deep in the jungles of South America.

IMG_1952
Mt. Meru

IMG_1953IMG_1957IMG_1959IMG_1961

Now going down the hill was an adventure in the dark. I have never hiked in the dark, and hiking down this hill in the dark was not an easy task. What made it easier for me and those around me in the group was the headlamp I had packed just in case. Going down the side of the hill was a challenge with all the slippery mud on the steep parts, and the vegetation that liked to reach out to catch us as we passed by. People were slipping and falling at times. I even when down hard after I had told the people behind me to watch out for a slippery part. Slowly we all made if safely to the bottom with a few scraps, scratches, mud caked on clothing and shoes. It was worth it in the end! I earned the dinner back at the hotel, and it was one adventure worth going on.

18518160_1432315253492047_4989863090553038398_o18527500_1432320536824852_7451729298211759609_o

Disclaimer: All links are for reference and are in no way affiliate links. I do not receive or am paid for promotion on products mentioned in this post.

Hiking Rattlesnake Ledge

2017:

I have already done this hike before, but this time it seemed there was something different this time around. It might have been due to hiking in a small group of students at Northwest U, or I just knew the outcome of this hike. Either way, it was a better view this time. Last time I went it was in the middle of summer (the hottest on record), the lake was almost non-existent, and there were people doing stupid stuff up on the ledge. This time, there was none of this!

14264011_10211009076689847_8240155799466309374_n

The hike started out around 10am in the morning, and ended around 1:30pm. It took us two hours total to go up and down the trail; and hanging out on the ledge taking Instagram worthy pictures (most of the others are out-of-state people who never been, and so worth being a part of this for them).

14237469_10211009077569869_3516076611219579088_n14241596_10211009078649896_4703119958283421220_o14292374_10211009077369864_5857076142089175822_n

Then a few minutes hanging by the lake to cool off before heading back home.

14264162_10211009076609845_7675336044372450376_n


2015:

What to do when you don’t have a reason to be at Sea Fair? Beat the Interstate 90 bridge closure and go hike Rattlesnake Ledge trail with a friend. Early on Saturday morning a friend and I went on an adventure up Rattlesnake Ledge on a hot summer day (90 degrees!) to experience the view everyone talks about.

Boy was we in for a great view, just look at this view!

11779852_10207759987744654_2631481876715901901_o
The Ledge View
11792138_10207759990104713_62413674311969345_o
Mt. Si View

We started our adventure with a forty-five-minute drive from Seattle towards the outskirts of North Bend. After a few minutes going around in circles in the small town of Tanner looking for the road leading up to the trail with a GPS that was having dumb movement, we finally got to the parking lot of the trailhead around 9am.

10927168_10207759991464747_90113944656659082_o(1)
Dry Lake Bed

Since the whole state is in a state of drought, there was a section of the lake bed that had dried up and you could trek across the lake bed to the head of the trail without going all around the lake. Starting up the trail at 9am is a good time because there was not a lot of people going up or down at this time. There were a lot of pauses along the trail for some water after the heat of the day started to come through the canopy of trees. The trail going up had switchbacks, steep inclines in areas, rocky and tree roots on the trail. There were times when my friend had to help me up with the steps made out of tree roots. Overall I made it up the trail without any incident.

I reached the ledge after an hour of hiking two miles up the trail. The view did not disappoint at all, and the sun made the perfect reason to bask on the rocks looking out over the valley below. The lake below was a beautiful bluish- green color with the banks very visible from the ledge showing how dry the summer has been. From the ledge, you could see Mt Si, North Bend, Tanner/Riverbend, Chester Morse Lake, Christmas Lake and Iron Horse State Park Trail.

11145235_10207759989504698_4474455020043415380_oAfter spending an hour on the ledge people watching and resting for the trip back down, I started to see groups of people starting to get crowded the ledge. We decided to start back down the trail after a few people started to push others out-of-the-way on the ledge. While coming down there were a lot of people starting up the trail to the ledge and a few people who were struggling with the heat as they hiked upward. I am so glad the both of us decided to go earlier because marching up the trail with people crowding behind you would not be a fun experience and the weather was getting warmer the longer I was on the trail. When we drove out of the area there were a lot of cars parked on the shoulder of the road and lots of people on or by Rattlesnake Lake.

11807170_10207759987304643_4615582045922714684_o
I hiked All The Way Up There!

After finishing the hike we stopped in North Bend to refuel ourselves and then head back home to cool off from the Ninety-degree weather.  Now I can check this one hike off my bucket list and try next time to hike up to Upper Ledge which is another 3.8 miles past the lower ledge.