Where do I go next to hike? A question most natives to PNW ask themselves when summer rolls around. Finding great hiking trails with or without a lot of people are abundant around Western Washington. Here are my favorite hikes to do.
Mt. Baker National Wilderness
I believe Mt. Baker national forest is a best kept secret when it come to tourist. To think you are very close to Canada you can throw a stone over the border. Yet very few people I know want to explore this hidden gem in plain sight.
The story goes this beautiful mountain and her surroundings were the pride of Washington until the faithful day in 1980 when she erupted. Thirty five years later the surroundings are starting to come back in a beautiful array of color.
This is the popular hike to take for those living in the Seattle area. The trail can become crowed on weekends during the warmer months, but if you get there early in the morning, you will not have as many people on the trail.
Goose Rock is a trail very few people know about. This trail head is located in the Deception Pass Bridge parking lot. Most people turn left towards the beach, but if you stay right, the trail climbs to a high spot to see out over the Channel and out to the Salish Sea towards San Juan Islands.
Hiking is a rewarding experience many people in the PNW thoroughly enjoy. Last summer I had the opportunity to experience hiking in remote, alpine regions of Western Washington. When I first started out on the big adventure last summer, I failed to realized I may not know what I was up against. I learned the hard way on a few occasion.
What I failed to realized turned into an adventure within an adventure. Here are the things I wished I knew before hiking in the alpine.
Altitude sickness is not for planes:
I have spent most of my life at or a little above sea level and only experienced altitude sickness when in Tanzania. I should have listened when my own body started to struggle with keeping water and a granola bar down. Breathing started to become harder as I climbed further up the mountain, and the dizziness set in when ever I had to exert more energy to get over a log. I thought I was out of shape, but this is not true.
Lesson: Hiking takes a lot of effort to reach the end point. When hiking in alpine mountain regions, you have to take your time going up, and really tune in with what your body is telling you before it is too late. I was lucky it did not get to this point, but it could have become a major medical emergency.
Beware of snow:
Sheets of ice is more like it! Snow can be found in areas in the middle of summer. Avalanches still happen in the summer as they do in the winter. I recall a moment when hiking up to Fremont Lookout in Mt. Rainer National Park last summer where what sound as a gun shot going off in the distance followed by the sound of a roar alerted everyone in the hiking group of an avalanche sliding down the side of the opposite mountain side! Not to mention slipping and landing hard on a snow cover rock or worst falling into a craven or a lake! You may want to have a snowball fight, but be warned, they hurt when it hits you!
Lesson: Be aware of the snow around you. Falling and breaking something is a danger no matter how prepared you are.
Toilet paper is your friend:
The one time I decided to forgo the toilet paper was the time there was no toilet paper to be had! Normally I would carry a role of toilet paper in my pack, but the one time I forgo it was at a trail head outhouse where there were no rolls left by other hikers. Thank goodness it was not while in the Olympic National Park (mountain goats smell urine and can result in a deadly encounter!), but in Mount Baker National Forest. Hiking up the trail and air yourself out is not the best way to start a hike.
Lesson: Always pack a roll of toilet paper while hiking, traveling in a remote area and road trips. I had mine in Tanzania, but for some reason, I did not have one in the wilderness of Washington!
Wildlife, they are not always afraid of you: The sound of marmots whistling at you is a warning to other marmots of your present, but a deer, bear, cougar or any other such animals, are not afraid of you. I will not forget the time a hiking group left me alone out in the open when a deer suddenly bolted upright and headed into the trees sensing a predator. I at the time sense something was not right, and that a bear or cougar was in the area. Fear of knowing at any moment those two animals are not afraid of you is scary. Imagine hiking down the side of the mountain with just a headlamp and see a bear or worst a cougar in your path. These animals think you are the prey.
Lesson: Be aware of your surroundings, and take caution when hiking through bear or cougar country.
Alpine lakes are cold, proceeded with caution:
When there is snow present, there is a lake or river somewhere near by. Lakes in alpine regions are cold-hypothermia cold. Most alpine lakes are fed by snow or glaciers melting, making these lakes crisp, cold and deadly clear. Swimming in them should be done with caution if not ever. On a hot sweaty hiking day in the summer they are inviting, but not all alpine lakes are the same temperature, and each one you encounter will feel different. Having your body submerged in for one minute can cause hypothermia to the body. I remember standing in such lake up to my wast, and started to not be able to feel my legs!! It was difficult to get out of the water, and took ten minutes of rubbing my legs to get the deathly white color to a living flesh color. The rest of the hike back down to the van was painful.
Also, the water is not exactly safe the drink either from a glacier stream, river or lake.
Lesson: Just dip you hot sweaty feet into the water instead of the shoreline and treat the water you pull from the lake if drinking it.
Storm clouds are in your face:
I will not forget staring face to face with a dark black cloud on the Johnson’s Ridge Observatory Trail at Mount St. Helens. Being high up with little to no treeline protection can mean anything can happen in a split second. Scary when the cloud can have lightning. Hurricane Hill in Olympic National Park I remember how fast those clouds moved across the landscape, and how one minute it is a nice sunny day with warmth to a few seconds it is blizzard conditions and the temperature drops to freezing. A simple rain jacket is not enough, nor a simple baseball cap and even the fleece jacket does not keep you warm. Hypothermia strikes by lightening or anything nature throws at you can become life to death situation.
Lesson: Be prepared for all-weather conditions and pack winter clothing when hiking in higher regions of the mountains not matter if it is an eighty degree weather day. Dressing in layers that can be easily shed during the hike or put on is your friend.
Go Girl can be a lifesaver: Men have it easier than women when needing to go on a backcountry trail. Men just go off into the bushes without much thought, but us women, we need to find a secluded vulnerable place to do our business. After having to (TMI alert) pee off a trail stripping to be half-naked, and almost if not peeing on ones self, is just too much work (and cold wind blowing on your bum). Not to mention some other hikers just don’t get it why you are crouched down in the bushes!
Lesson: Get a Go Girl to use for hikes where the nearest outhouse is miles away, and you can discreetly just go behind a bush.
Wildfires: Where there is smoke, there is a fire! This is not something I learned the hard way, but it was always in the back of the mind. Hiking in the alpine and backcountry regions of the mountains during the late spring through the fall can put hikers into the path of a wildfire. From an old fire lookout, I saw a two (one-off in Canada, the other in Eastern Washington) wildfires in the distance burning in the opposite directions from me. Still, to see the smoke hanging in the air, it was a sign to start back down to safety in case the fire decided to switch directions.
What to do: Always check conditions before leaving on the hike, being aware of the surrounding area, and when you smell smoke, see it or hear it, move fast away from it. See this link for more information: Dos and Don’t s of Wildfires.
Once you hike in the alpine, you are never the same again!
This summer go enjoy a backcountry hike, and don’t do what I did!
Over the years as I have gone hiking around Washington, I am still appalled at behavior of other trail hikers. At this point I no longer go hiking up to Rattlesnake Ledge after witnessing some very scary sh*t of some people on the ledge. Last summer I hiked many spectacular places in western Washington, but what the pictures don’t show you is the bad behavior some users have left behind. Most trail, mountaineer, back-country organizations and US Forest Service have stressed enough times is, LEAVE NO TRACE BEHIND of your presences.
Still there are people who are “trail” jerks who think it is okay not to follow common sense or trail etiquette. A Trail Jerk is defined as people who do not get it-who think they can do anything they want whether they want to where ever they want because “we are taxpayers and no one is going to tell us what we can and can’t do” (If you think you maybe a trail jerk take this quiz by PNW Adventure Sisters).
With Seattle having an influx of people who want to get out of the city enjoy nature, there are going to be problems arising on trails. These problems don’t have to be the norm (never should be!) if all trail users (including pets) followed common sense rules and laws.
Here are some important rules to follow on your next hike through nature:
Keep dogs on leashes
Not only does it protect your dog from wildlife, but keeps other trail users safe from your dog. People on trails do get injured from dogs not on a leash after falls, or trips happen. Imagine causing someone to fall off a side of cliff because your dog tripped them? Also it protects sensitive areas that would take years to restore once disturbed.
Know the right way
What does this mean? It means when encountering other hikers on the trail, the general rule is the person going downhill yields to the person going uphill. I have seen countless times people not yielding to each other only to shoulder checking each other while passing. On mix use trails mountain bikes yield to hikers and everyone, yes everyone, must yield to horses.
Step aside to let people pass Like driving on a freeway, let the faster hikers, and trail runners pass you. If you are the fast hiker or trail runner, make sure to make your presence known to the other with a polite simple hello or excuse me when approaching. Also to other hikers, be aware of those around you in case someone is trying to pass. It is better to make yourself known when passing as to not surprise the person.
Hiking in groups
When hiking in a group don’t take up the whole width of the trail not allowing people to pass your group. Hiking in a single file line is much appreciated, and still can have a conversation with those in the group.
Taking a trail break or stopping
Move off the trail or over the side when you need a break or stopping for a nature selfie. Allowing people to pass is common curtsies bestowed on others, which will be returned further up or down the trail. Also do not abruptly stop in the middle of the trail with people behind unless there is something very wrong up ahead.
Stay on the trail
This should be common sense. Leave not trace is not a rule, but a necessity.
Speak in low voices whenever possible. Hiking on the trail for some is to be in a quiet place where they can listen to nature’s soundtrack instead of the latest rap song! Playing music as you hike through a speaker disturbs not only nature, but disturbs other people who come for peace and quiet. Please, just please, use headphones if you like a hiking soundtrack other then nature’s. I thank you in advance for this.
Pack all waste out
Human, pet, food, etc. Just pack out what you hiked in with (unless water). Do not relieve yourself outdoors unless 200ft from the trail and away from water sources. Those who happen upon someone relieving themselves, just keep moving on!
Let cairns be Cairn are pyramids of small rocks that mark trail routes and decorate mountain summits. Hikers rely on cairns to find their way along trails. Respect them! Destroying them is a no-no!
We all want to have an enjoyable experience in nature, so do not be trail jerks and follow simple etiquette rules for everyone.
What more could be perfect then spend a birthday at the ball park? After all I did spend two months hammering out a four part series about it. The birthday ballgame was the Seattle Mariners vs. LA Angles, and it was little league day. During game pauses, the camera caught many of the kids dancing to the music on the jumbo screen. This made for a very entertaining day.
Thirty two years never looked so good! And a great start to another year of anything possible when you looked at this view from the beginning of the game. Just by the view we had great seats! Even eating one ballpark brat, countless handfuls of white cheddar puffs, and a few peanuts, I just could not beat how good it felt to pig out for once (training for the 5k is hard at times). Next month I will be running around this field for 5k so I look forward to “running” the bases.
I’m so thankful for these wonderful friends who made the day fun and exciting! Even with the seats being in the sun, we all some how survive the heat and may have sunburns to prove it. Also the arrow pointing to me is in reference to the other girl on my left is my birthday twin.
The game was interesting with at least one home run by the Mariners, but alas, the Mariners lost to the Angles. Maybe at the next ball game I attend the Mainers will win! Keeping fingers crossed!
This girl may have been watching too much Hallmark Channel Christmas movies and now it may have gone to her head… a little. Christmas time for some reason makes past eras (1800s anyone?) seem closer than any other time of year (except for baseball season).
Last year a friend told me about the Meeker Mansion being all dressed up for Christmas in a Victorian theme. Every year the Meeker Mansion opens its doors day after Thanksgiving through eighteenth of December to the public for a special holiday exhibit. This special Christmas showing raises funds for the Puyallup Historical Society’s upkeep and repairs of this old historical home.
It has been a very long time since I have been down in Puyallup (last remembered 2011). When you have all the Christmas shopping done early, and need to get out of the Seattle holiday madness, go further south.
The Meeker Mansion sits in the old part of Puyallup as a relic from a time long gone, and every year the mansion is decorated for Christmas in the late Italianate Victorian style. Ezra Meeker the man the Victorian mansion is named for was a leading pioneer (physical parts of the Oregon Trail exists today because of him), first mayor of Puyallup and the “Hop King” of his day (Washington Hops).
During Christmas season the house is dressed up for a Victorian Christmas. Each of the seventeen rooms on the tour are decorated ready to receive guests for a Christmas house party at any moment.
Even the kitchen is decorated for the holidays!
Today the mansion is still undergoing painstaking work to bring all the rooms back to original decoration during the time when the Meeker’s were in residence. At the time the first and second floors of the house are completely finished to include period era furniture with all the trappings of grand house at the turn of the century. The third floor, unfortunately, is not open for exploring.
The house around the time of it being built had modern convenience of having electricity and running water. As you can see the tree is plugged into an outlet in the wall that is original to the house.
Cannot have a real Victorian Christmas without a piano. This one was waiting to for Silent Night to be played.
Scene out of many of those Christmas cards!
A little crowed at the beginning to day, but my the time I got to the first floor most of the people were already gone. I would recommend coming a little later in the day as it is not so much crowed.