Saturday, June 23, 2007


"Nirvana: an ideal condition of rest, harmony, stability, or joy." So states ... and that is what I found after spending 3 blissful days in Stehekin, Washington. Could it be that I have finally found my Eden??

Stehekin is a town of a little over 80 year-round residents at the end of 55-mile-long (by 1 mile wide!) Lake Chelan in the Northern Cascades. It is a town reachable only by foot, boat, or float plane. The mostly dirt Stehekin Road leads 12 miles (used to be a lot further) into the backcountry and the Pacific Crest Trail, at which point it is another 17 trail miles north to Rainy Pass, the last major road crossing on the PCT before reaching Canada, and a bunch more miles to the nearest road south. The 23-mile Stehekin River runs alongside the road for its last few miles before emptying into the lake; the water was so incredibly, impressively high and wild!

We hiked the Agnes Gorge Trail as well as the Coon Lake-PCT-Stehekin Road loop. I found out the hard way that when a road is said to be washed out up here, it is WASHED OUT, i.e. impassable! My intended loop could not be completed because where the road once existed is now "wild river hitting rock face." That's probably not a good description but the best I can do. Anyway, I had to backtrack all the way around such that my 10 miler became a 14 miler.

It was with a heavy heart that we boarded the Lady Express Friday afternoon for the trip back to civilization.

This is a photograph of the dock in Stehekin and the shuttle bus that will take you anywhere up the road for $5. The drivers are super nice and will even wait for you at the bakery 2 miles up the road while you buy gooey cinnamon buns, carrot cake, muffins, magic bars, coffee, lattes.... Mmmm!

This is the old Stehekin School which was in operation until the late 1980s. It is kept unmanned and unlocked for the tourists. (Those are my new socks--aren't they purty?--which I was wearing as gloves for a few minutes.)

I will definitely return!

Stehekin "don't misses"

The bakery!

Waving good-bye to a stick I'd just thrown into Agnes Creek.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mt. St. Helens

Today we climbed Mt. St. Helens -- what a blast!! There was patchy snow soon after leaving the parking lot, but since the temps didn't fall below freezing overnight, none of it was very frozen/icy. I really enjoyed this hike--first active volcano for me! Also it was the first time I've climbed a mountain that cost money ($22 for a permit!) but well worth it in my opinion. These views are from the rim of the crater. There was quite a cornice right where the trail comes up to the rim, but a quick 5-10 minute walk west puts one in a safer viewing spot. That's Mt. Rainier in the background. We were able to do some fun butt sliding for several hundred feet on the descent--woohoo!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hoh Rainforest

Guess what the weather brought? :p The mosses, fungi, and trees were *impressive* though! Here's a sampler:

I got in a run of a little over 20 miles on the Hoh River Trail, out and back. Also visited Crescent Lake (great clam chowder) and Olympic hot springs, which were heavenly. I'd always wanted to soak in backcountry hot springs and finally had the chance--oooooh! Here's where I was testing the water; the one we actually soaked in was even nicer.

Oh, and many elk were spotted but, dang, no mountain lion. (One has frequently been spotted in the area of the hot springs.) Also encountered another very, very young fawn and her mother, what a treat to watch.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Olympic wildlife

While driving down Hurricane Mountain Road in Olympic National Park, a bear sauntered across the road, in no apparent hurry. Its left ear was tagged.

That was pretty cool. Two minutes later, however, something even more cool happened. Sitting beside the road was this blue grouse--obviously male and obviously trying to attract a mate--all puffed up, strutting around, and thrumming his tune. *I* was impressed!

He could run, too!

Hoping for a herd of elk and maybe a mountain lion tomorrow? :-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Misty trails

The Olympic Penninsula is splendid, and I've been getting in some nice trail miles: Yesterday morning was about 15 miles on the Duckabush Trail (I had to laugh when I saw a DUCK floating down the Duckabush River), and late afternoon we hiked up & ran down 6,288 ft. Mt. Townsend on an absolutely gorgeous, smooth, wide, pine-needle-covered, nicely switchbacked trail, about 8 miles round trip.

Some eerily beautiful woods on the way up. Yep, this region gets a lot of rainfall...

A bit nippy on top! "Hurry up & take the photo already!" (Is that Mt. Baker in the back??)

View from the summit ridge. Clouds were in and out all day but yippee! -- no rain. I almost expected Heidi and her goats to go strolling by.

Today I ran ~3 hours on Kitsap Penninsula's Green Mountain and Gold Hill. These were predominantly mountain biking trails, but being midweek I had the trails mostly to myself. At one point I came around a corner and encountered a mama deer with her little fawn standing in the trail. Neither seemed particularly afraid of me, so I slowly scooted around them. I could have reached out and touched the fawn's nose--it was that close! Although sorely tempted, I did not try to touch it, of course. Alas, the camera was sitting in the car!

Will be back in the Olympics for most of the weekend. Hoh Rainforest, here we come! :) Hope everyone reading this has a great one!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Wagonwheel Lake Trail

The first trail to be hit was the Wagonwheel Trail in the southeastern part of Olympic National Park. While the trailhead sign was rather foreboding, the trail really wasn't that bad, at least not by White Mtn. (NH) standards. Hey, if it has switchbacks, I'm happy. The lake was lovely, as were the spring flowers all the way up the trail. There were white and red trillium, Pacific rhododendrun, red columbine, white lily-like flowers, and other pretty but unidentifiable-by-me varieties (sorry, I'm a bit botanically challenged).
Trillium... most were white, but there were a couple of shades of purple here & there as well:

Beautiful flowers


The white lily-like flowers:


Spending the next few weeks in Washington State to climb mountains, run beautiful trails, and DRINK GOOD COFFEE! :) Ahh, yes... one of the things I love about WA is all the little drive-through espresso stands in the tiniest of towns. This is the bridge crossing the mouth of the Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon. And below is the quaint town of Astoria with the same bridge in the background:

And THIS is the Astoria Column , the top of which can be reached by climbing a circular staircase of 164 steps. Kind of reminded me of climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa as a child... only this one was skinnier... and not leaning. The exterior artwork was pretty cool.

An interesting factoid: this is the area where Lewis & Clark wintered upon finally reaching the Pacific Ocean. The NPS has erected a "replica" of their fort on, or at least very near, the actual site, as well as a visitors' center, etc.