Winchester Peak Lookout & Twin Lakes

Taking off on an impromptu back country adventure was in store for one last hurrah before we all moved to different parts of the world. Packing the van with our gear and headed out towards Mount Baker Wilderness, we started the beginning of goodbyes.

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Backcountry camping at it finest! By the time our group got to the trailhead, the sun had set and the stars were out in all force. The plan was to hike up the trail by headlamp to spend a night in the lookout. It did not pan out in the end, and decided to set up camp and get up early in the morning to chase the sunrise on the way up. With a sleeping pad and a bag, I fell asleep under the stars watching shooting stars across the sky.

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Getting up early for another sunrise with hot chocolate made getting up the trail better. At the Twin Lakes Peak, I watched as the golden rays slid up the slopes of the mountains for another day of hiking.IMG_3697

IMG_3710There is a quote about nature reminding us all how small we are, and nature keeps moving forward greeting the day with beautiful rays of joy. Sunrises from mountaintops remind my of nature is more beautiful then we give credit. With the small haze of wildfires, even the sun still comes up in clear golden rays.

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Mount Baker throughout the hike up loomed in the distance reminding me this would be the last sunrise in the alpine for some time.  It also looked cold and deselet compare to Mount Rainier.IMG_3694

After eating some instant oatmeal bars, we headed up the trail towards the lookout.

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One part of the trail we had to slide down a snowfield in order to cross. My butt got so wet by the time I reached the bottom, it looked as if I peed on myself and I think my tailbone got bruised in the process after hitting a small chunk of ice sticking up. Also, we had to stop for a snowball fight as well to get each other one last time before we all headed off around the world.DSCN4406IMG_3743

Just hiking up, you could see how much beauty there is in the alpine. The rugged peaks in the distance marked where the United States and Canadian border is. That is how close I was to Canada. At one point I did ask the Canadian if they wanted to make a run for the border. The answer was no. IMG_3843

For some reason I ended up being the first one to the submit where the lookout was. On my way up the trail, I saw a group of hikers coming back down the trail and realized they were the ones who spend a night in the lookout. I am normally the last one to the top of may hike, so beading a whole bunch of people made it extra special.

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Of course inside the lookout was very warm, and could see from the log book countless people had been up here in the past few months. As a funny joke, we all signed the visitor book as the Marmots of 2018. A class about a year ago did the same thing when they visited, and we found it in the log book!

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The sign below reminds all who venture up here that you cannot be unhappy and still be here. You have to be happy!

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On the way back down we all decided to go another route back to the campsite. It ended up having to hike climb across a snowfield. The whole time I was thinking “dear God, what the heck did I get myself into?” It is harder then you may think to cross an icy sheet of snow and climb up it with bare hands! At one point we all were sliding back down the slope towards the sharp rocks in the talus field below! I even had some one’s butt in my face, and it was enough motivation to get the heck up the icy slope. Finally, we all managed to get to the top with fingers painfully stinging and white. No frost bite for any of us, but came close!

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Once down at the trailhead, we made a dash for the lake! There is no picture of me jumping into the cold alpine lake waters to wash off the grime of the trail, but it was divine experience worth it. After having the sun dry us all off, we packed up the campsite and headed for civilization with a stop at the Taco Bell for lunch.

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This picture sums up hiking in the backcountry. Around every corner is something unexpected and once you have completed one hike, you go back for more. I can see this type of hiking continuing for years to come. Once bit, you cannot go back!

Information:
Winchester Lookout

Twin Lakes Trail

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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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

 

Sweaty Hike Through Saint Edwards State Park

Seminary Building

Boy was it hot on the day I decided to go take an urban hike through Saint Edwards State Park! This solo adventure started off with me asking myself is this worth getting sweaty? Yes!

I started out towards the beach (Lake Washington) for a glimpse of the lake from a different angle. I started off on the Perimeter trail, but somehow found myself on the Seminary trail which lead to the beach. The beach was peaceful with the water lapping at the shore, and a few people where swimming in the lake as Kenmore Air float planes came flying overhead.

Peek of Lake Washington

After taking in the view of the lake I headed towards the Orchard Loop. The trail that connects to Orchard Loop trail ended up being the part of the hike that felt like it was going to kill me! South Canyon trail ended up being one of those challenging trails because I had to hike it all uphill!! Here I was huffing, puffing, and sweating all the way to the connection for the loop trail. I now know for future hikes to go down this trail instead of up it. Once on the Orchard Loop trail, it was all easy, and I regained my breath. Unfortunately the “orchard” was nowhere to be found, or I miss something along the trail.  I must have because there was not an orchard to be found as I made the whole loop again. Very disappointed after huffing and puffing my way to it.

After finding my way back to where the seminary buildings are, I decided to find the famous Grotto seen in wedding pictures. Ha! I ended up reading the map wrong! I thought the Grotto trail lead to the Grotto, but nope. Apparently it by passes it from the bottom of the hill instead (palm to face). I hiked all the way back down to the lake, and then had to take Seminary trail back up!

Stone Steps On Trail

Eventually I found a map with the “you are here” circle to finally be steered in the correct direction for the Grotto. Dear reader, I made it harder than it should have been. The Perimeter trail going towards the playground in a corner of the field is where the entrance to the trail leading to the Grotto starts.

Behind Look of The Grotto

Once there I really found it peaceful and secluded. A little slice of magic in the middle of the woods. I joked on Instagram I had found the place where I was getting married….when the time comes….when I find someone first…..ok then.

Selfie with The Grotto

The structure is a small stone altar with stone steps and a path leading up to it. Stone walls border around the area to make it look like small outdoor church/sanctuary. A very beautiful spot for a small intimate wedding.

The Grotto
Leading Up To The Grotto

After hiking lost all around the area, I decided it was time to head back home and get out of the heat. While walking back to the car, I decided to check out around the Seminary building.

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Entrance To The Seminary Building

There is something about old church buildings and how they speak volumes without making a sound. Lots of stories being told in these hollow halls of this building, and judging by the land action notice sign, it seems the place will have a few more to share in the coming years.

Overall I hiked a total of 5.5 miles. Not bad for an urban hike.

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Hiking Wallace Falls

2015:

Looking back on all the hikes I have done over the years and I can say I have hiked Wallace Falls in all seasons. Strange to think that it is the primary hike that I have done with others. This past March I hiked this very same trail with Megan for her college geography project. I have hiked it in the middle of winter with the rain pouring down, in the middle of a hot summer

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Wallace Falls: Upper Falls

with lots of people crowding the trails, in the early spring with snow still on the ground and now early fall with all the trees peppered with fall blowing in the breeze. I think I need to find a new favorite hiking trail after this.

Our adventure started out with a detour that ended up taking us through the back country roads because as I found out last-minute SR-522 was closed for bridge construction. The drive ended up putting an extra thirty minutes to our already hour-long drive. Once we go there, there were lots of people starting out for the rail head in the parking lot and the weather looked like the rain was going to hold out. Another disappointment while hiking was the closed Rail Road Grade trail, so we had to hike the Woody Trail instead to get to the Upper Falls of Wallace Falls. The problems did not stop there, at the beginning of the hike my water bladder line leaked all over the front of my shirt resulting in me finishing the hike with my tank top (thank goodness for that!) and I started to over heat from all the exertion. Since hiking this trail many of times before, you would think I never have a problem. Wrong! Apparently the trail was more difficult this time around then the last three times. I felt half way through I was going to die from all the exertion I had to put forth to get over tree roots, and lift myself up to reach high steps on the stair parts of the hike. Michael realized how vertically challenged I am when it comes to certain heights and had to in the last bit of the hike hoist me up so I could get up the trail.

Apparently I have thought the Valley Over Look was the upper falls part of the hike. I was surprised to find that I had not made it to Upper Falls before. So we trudged up the steep switched backs to the Upper Falls area. When we got up to the falls, of my goodness! I have to say I missed out all those time when I didn’t make it up. The falls were beautiful.

The hike going down was not as bad except the last stretch where the stairs came back! But over all I’m glade I made it finally to Upper Falls of Wallace Falls.  Took us both 3 1/2 hours round a trip to hike the trail. I think next time I will aim to hike further up to Wallace Lake using the Rail Road Grade trail when it reopens again next summer. The trail is popular, but not as popular as Rattle Snake Ridge trail (believe me, people who have gone said it is very crowed in the day, and so go as early as possible for Rattle Snake!) and since it was free entry day for national and state parks, there were a little more people this time.


2014: Geological Hike

I have been Wallace Falls a few times and each time it has been a different season. In the past I have blogged about my trip up with a great friend of mine  and this time we both went again for a geology project she was doing for her geology class in college. The point of the trip was to hike up to the falls and take picture of her standing next to or near geological important markers for comparison in size. We decide to do it at Wallace Falls since it is an easier place to access and one of the few state/national parks open for visitors this time of the year.

The adventure started at 7am in the morning with a forty-five minute car trip up past Gold Bar on the way  to Steven’s Pass. When we left the Seattle area that morning, there was a little bit of sun starting to peek out from the clouds. By the time we reached the Gold Bar, there was rain and snow mixed coming down. The last two times I have been it was the middle of summer in 80 degree heat, and the other time in the fall where it was raining. This time I hiked with snow coming down! We started out on the trail as the only people hiking up there on a Monday morning. By the time we were heading out, more people started to show up.  For our hiking adventure we decided to be safe and hike the Railroad Grade part of the trail instead of the Scenic River trail because as we were driving up, the Skyhomish River is currently running very high on its banks, and some parts of the river are flooded or in flood warning.  We started out with a few flurries of snow coming down between the trees. By the time we were half way to the Wallace Falls Lake,  the snow was coming down in big flurries and at that point we both thought it would be better to turn back  for safely reasons.  Hiking up in the snow was a peaceful and tranquil experience. Hearing the sound of the water in the distance rushing down the side of the mountain, and hearing the gurgling of the small streams running down towards the river below. My friend and I kept think why we did not bring our nice DSLs with us for the beautiful snow shots. The trail had a lot of running water, puddles and soft gooey mossy mud. I am so glad for great sturdy hiking boots! I will admit the hike was wet and cold since we did hike it in early spring. So there is no surprise with snow and large amounts of water along the way. At some point, trees made parts of the trail bare to snow, and some parts of the trail started to see accumulation. Thank goodness we did not have to plow through the snow!

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Snow on the path!
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Snow and green moss!

Every so often we would stop and take a picture of something along the trail to mark the geological timeline of Wallace Falls. This would be anything from tree trucks, boulders, puddles where water over time accumulated, rock walls, large rotting tree trucks, and the falls themselves. I took a total of ten pictures of my friend standing next to all of theses things (except the falls, that would have been very dangerous!). As we traveled along there were sections of the trail were the falls/river could be seen, below you could see the massive amount of water coming off it was very impressive. I would so not want to be swept away by the sheer force of all that water.

It took a total of two and a half hours to hike up, and back. The total amount of miles we hiked was about four miles, with it being two and half miles both ways. I really like the Railroad Grade trial better than the Scenic one. The elevation up was not a killer, and being short, I don’t have to climb up stuff just to go further along the trail.  So hiking Wallace Falls in early spring in not as bad, but being prepared for possible snow is a factor everyone should note. Plus it is that time of the year where there could be bears coming out of hibernation. We were luck to not run into one along the way. Thank God for that!


2012:

Hiking through the woods to Wallace Falls was one of the best hikes so far this year I have been on. I have been planning on doing at least one major hike by the end of the summer, and just needed someone willing to go for a whole day. My friend Megan and I headed out to hike this wonderful trail outside the small railroad town of Gold Bar WA. This hike is around three-hour at least if you are going up to the Middle Falls part, with the hike at around a medium endurance level. This endurance level, you will need to carry a water bottle with you so you don’t get stuck without some hydration.

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Upper Falls look out. Looking out on Cascades National Forest and Gold Bar
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Megan at Middle Falls
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Me, Upper Falls

We started out on a gray morning in Shoreline WA with the possibility of rain (Seattle- what do you expect). I was the driver for this trip this time since I have a Discover Pass needed for parking at the trail head. I have not driven out to Gold Bar in a very long time, and when I saw it again, lots of memories started flooding back again. Some were bitter-sweet, and some bitter at the same time. When we started out, there was some sun, but still had clouds in the sky. Silly me had a rain coat on when I started out. I ended up having to take it off around one mile into the hike because I was becoming very hot. I will admit, this hike kicked my butt with having me stopped when the stairs became too much. Megan being tall, had no problem with the hike, well-being short like myself, I have to exert more energy to keep up.We made it to the top off the falls in no time. Drench in sweat and knowing this was the best workout ever, we both where very happy with how much this felt to both of us. The sun did come out making the forest glow a greenish tint on the way back down from the falls. While up at the falls eating a power bar a small squirrel was trying to climb up Megan’s leg to get a hold of her peanut bar in her hand. The poor creature wanted to have a piece of our bar for burying.

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Upper Falls of Wallace Falls
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Falls from the lower falls point
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Wallace Falls

Will I do this again? Heck yeah I would! I would like to go hiking and fishing at the same time too. I know I need to work out more due to now having my butt muscles hurting as I write this.