I just entered the Seattle Film Festival with the urging from my hiking friend Shannon. The trailer for it is below.
This is my synopsis. “I’ve lived my entire life in the Pacific Northwest and spent my career within the four walls of a classroom as an elementary school teacher. With retirement and my newly found freedom, I became involved as an ambassador with the non-profit, Washington Trails Association. Washington Trails Association has a strong commitment to diversity and a belief that trails are for everyone to enjoy and use, regardless of race or socio-economic status.
Bringing equity to less advantaged, Washington Trails Association was in the process of finalizing and advancing their outreach of a hiking equipment lending outpost at the Boys and Girls Club in Tacoma. The first goal and target was for at risk youth to become invested in the outdoors and nature by bringing them to the trails and building a relationship to become lifelong stewards.
When COVID shut our state down and with the project on hold, instead of retreating indoors, I decided to bring nature to the screen. My goal was to walk around Mt. Rainier in 14 days. It started with explaining my role with Washington Trails Association then asking a few friends who were willing to take a chance to explore the beauty of Mt Rainier National Park to come along. Their experiences varied from novice to experienced backpackers.
The hike into the backcountry of Mt. Rainier included over 150 miles of trails of protected wilderness within Mt. Rainier National Park. It also included a grueling 30,000′ vertical feet of elevation gain and over 30,000′ vertical feet of elevation loss which reduces its accessibility. A portion of my trip also touched on the famous Wonderland Trail. Iconic in scenery and blessed with natural protected beauty, Mt. Rainier National Park was named the fifth national park in the United States of America.
My hope for 2020 is to show how beautiful and fun backcountry hiking can be, build stewardship that lasts a lifetime, encourage protection for the environment, and bring this incredible footage to one of the largest growing audiences, the outdoor hiking enthusiast.”
Known as one of the most pristine areas in Washington State, The Enchantments are conveniently tucked in the cascade range near the touristy Bavarian town of Leavenworth. I was lucky enough to be invited with a friend who has applied and was drawn through the lottery system through the USFS with applications beginning in February for the coming season.
The Enchantments have five zones when you apply. It is written, last year 2019, over 18,000 people applied for The Core permit with only 350 or so permits approved. My friend had applied for Eightmile / Caroline Lake, set on the far west side with only 300 permits applied for with most all approved.
3 Days of Enchantments
Destination: Eightmile Lake 3.3 miles/1,300 elevation gain
Our first day was carrying our packs and trekking to set-up camp. We parked at the trailhead and set off around 11 am. It was already in the 80’s and mostly exposed. The water from the last of spring run off was plentiful along the way.
Arriving around 3 pm we had enough daylight to set up our tents, hang our cache away from the critters and have a swim in Eightmile. Dangling on the line, the wind was cool and comforting and dried our dusty clothes from the day.
That evening, I quickly learned my appetite was 1/2 of a Mountain House so for my next trip I will need to divide the package into two servings so there isn’t so much trash carried out.
My cozy little tent rippled in the wind during the evening as well as a few little pitter patters of raindrops fell at night.
Destination: Caroline Lake 4.18 miles/ 2,000 elevation gain (8.5 miles round trip)
My friend Candace and me got up early to a beautiful blue sky. We decided quickly to pack our bags for the day and headed out to Caroline Lake, an additional 2,000 ft elevation gain to 6,200 ft.
Caroline Lake involves backtracking to Little Eightmile and taking a trail with signage that says Trout Cr. Following Trout Creek, you start uphill.
The Enchantment mountains of the Stuart range appeared to grow into the background as we continued to climb. It was hard not to just stop and stare at the beauty as we took our time to catch our breath.
The wildflowers were beautiful against the burn-out of pine trees as their little heads waved in the strong wind. Due to a recent fire, the soils were rich and fertile and the amount of wildflowers was more than I have ever seen in my lifetime and all at once up a 2,000 foot hillside. I took a lot of video with my GoPro this day because of the wide-angle lens, it was the right choice to take along. VIDEO LINK
We returned around 3 pm so the hike to Caroline Lake was a full day for us. Candace’s daughter was starting to get a bit concerned so make sure you let your party know it is so breathtaking you will want to take your time getting there.
We both felt so complete that this trip and portion of the zones that is most often overlooked, could just very well be just a well hidden secret as we had the hill almost completely to ourselves this day.
This night was still and calm, as we battened down the hatches, donned our repellent and bug nets and started in for the fight of our lives against hoards of mosquitos eager to get their fair share of any bit of bare skin their could find.
We finally retreated to our own tents and just hunkered down for an early evening.
Morning at Eightmile Lake
This was an amazing morning. We got up before anyone else at camp. I had my coffee and little bit to eat and we headed to the lakeshore for some reflection photos. I also shot some video of the lake which is nestled between two steep mountains.
If you are thinking about going to Eightmile Lake and The Enchantments, don’t miss this lovely section. You can view my full video here: FULL VIDEO LINK
Authors Note: Upon returning to my car, I discovered it had been broken into. LEAVE NOTHING OF VALUE in your car. Thieves know of every hiding place in your vehicle. They even knew about the secret hiding spot under my tailgate of my Jeep and the place where the carpet can easily be lifted to hide valuables. If you can leave your vehicle unlocked that is my suggestion. Luckily, the only valuable I had left was a few lug nuts and my registration and garage door opener. I made it out quick enough to call the neighbors and my husband also quickly changed our codes. Trailhead thefts are very common so remember, leave no trace and plan to leave valuables home.
I don’t know about you but, just about everyone I hike with has a trail name.
One year we decided to go with names from the American Gladiators. For those of you too young to know about this TV show. You can get up to speed on Wikipedia.
American Gladiators aired from September 1989 to May 1996. It matched gladiators against one another and other amateur athletes.
Our house went full-tilt testosterone when all my boys got a bit over-excited about watching them duel it out.
With my kids hands all over each other, I learned hearing the theme song, evoked the motion in the room to increase. In this way I know there has to be a similar parallel to a trail names.
My boss trail name became Turbo at that time with my friends, Blaze, Lace, and Red still owning their names like a boss as I write.
Recently, I decided Turbo needed a bit of a boost and thought Xena Warrior Princess was more fitting for me.
Xena has stuck for awhile.
I’ve always thought she was better at just simply being strong and beautiful then could muster up hidden strength when necessary from the gods. I’d kind of forgotten about her.
This week I decided Xena needed to be called up again. I always work out better when I have this mindful and playful attitude about kicking ass. To prove my point Xena did some serious ass kicking this past week.
Double workouts in a day. Bike rides, long runs, charging hill sprints and backpacks loaded down with 20 pounds of cat litter on neighborhood hill hikes.
I was on fire!
Because I frequently hike around the neighborhood with a 20 pound bag of cat litter stuffed inside, at some point I was jokingly saying each time, ” I am taking my cat litter on a walk.”
Since we’ve been up-close and personal, like my new best friend this past month, I decided on a name for my backpack. It’s better than taking your cat litter on a walk.
That’s where Jonny Cache was created. Jonny Cat to Jonny Cache.
Have you pondered how photographers get those great macro shots.
Take a look at the simple dandelion. As we have come to terms with their endless spreading and have learned to appreciate and understand them better, we now know they serve an important role in the environment and to our dwindling bee population.
Kids also get excited about macro photography. With their natural curiosity, it may lead to them discovering and wanting to explore the fractal world of many other plants and lead eventually to becoming good stewards of the environment.
Here are a few tips on how to get started and take a great macro shot.
Macro photography can be accomplished with with either a cell phone or an expensive digital camera. These two types of cameras operate comparatively the same for the beginner. When set in auto mode you just point and shoot. Automatic settings take the guess work out of photography and many times you get an amazing picture.
The first thing you will need with either device is time, an abundance of subject material and the willingness to get to know your camera a bit better. That’s why we chose our friendly dandelion as the subject.
Here are the other materials you will need:
Camera tripod if available, various colorful kitchen background materials, dishes, dishcloths, a spray bottle with water, a paintbrush for droplets water on the subjects, short stubby glassware, clips, tweezers.
Taking macro photos does not require any expensive outlay of cash. All the backgrounds seen in the above photos are from the items on the left. The photo on the right shows my set-up. I use the glassware as a ball and socket I can swing the subject around and push and pull back and forth. In this way I simply experiment around with camera settings and use what I have available to start and go from there.
Once you gather a few materials, time to start experimenting.
10 Tips for the Digital SLR
Choose simple and easily available subjects
Experiment with Manual settings and your camera’s built-in light meter
Take multiple shots using a variety of shutter and aperture settings
Keep the camera in a stationary place if possible. Tripod set-up is best but a tall counter also works.
Use the camera for an initial auto-focus then set on manual focus.
Fine tune your subject’s focus, depth of field and focal plane by moving it with your hand either away from the camera or towards you while you look inside the view finder. (This is why a tripod is very handy to have) In general if you focus on the closest area there are a few degrees that will fall into focus behind it.
Keep your laptop handy for quick downloads in order to adjust your outcome. I move back and forth between shooting and checking my shots on the laptop
Bracket exposures length and shutter speeds a few clicks at a time
Be patient, experiment with a variety of backgrounds placed in the distance, drop a some droplet of water for the effect of dew.
Avoid cropping. It does not yield good results try to use good composition of your subject and background before defaulting to cropping
True macro photography garners a multiplication ratio of 1:1 ratio or higher
General tips for those new to manual operation. Shutter should not go below 30 on your built in meter unless you are using a tripod. The tripod also frees up your hands to adjust your subjects focus, look in the view finder and press the shutter release all at the same time.
10 Tips for Cell Phone Macros
Choose simple and easily available subjects
See if your cell phone has a macro setting
Use an aperture if available of 4.5 or less up to 1.4 if camera allows you
Known for its beauty, Washington State without a doubt has a large urban population who have either lived their entire lives or have moved here to enjoy the scenic outdoors of the region.
A Right or Entitlement
Recently our state made the news with pictures of hikers and trail usage on rocky hillsides with no social distancing and going against the wishes of our leaders.
Wildlife at Risk
Park workers and rangers have been pushed to the max and have had to issue no trespassing signs on thousands of trailheads where hikers refuse to follow good judgement and feel entitled to use them anyway.
This past weekend rangers started towing cars at popular trailheads that were closed.
It goes without saying, it is getting ugly in the iconic outdoors of the Pacific Northwest.
Outside in is all about this one person outdoor enthusiast who is now found caught-up indoors. It is moral belief to follow the recommendations of our leaders because we must do all we can to stop the spread of this disease and protect our lands.
My supervisor, Crystal Gartner with Washington Trails Association emailed me with a very professional and heartfelt letter that her duties were being turned over to another WTA employee, mostly due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak that has rocked the world and our country.
Washington Trails Association
A bit about Washington Trails Association. It exists as a non-profit organization and with the economy taking this downward turn, WTA has decided to reallocate funding (what little they have) and focus on trail reports only that empower its members to make informed choices while choosing a hike outdoors. WTA runs a giant data base with hiking information at your fingertips.
I would like to spend more time on another post why WTA is such a class act when it comes to organizations but, the top reason I chose to volunteer there is because it was first, an interest of mine and second, the focus of inclusion, equity and diversity while creating access and protecting and maintaining our trails.
Back to Crystal, I’m reading between the lines here but, one can only summarize in Crystal’s well written letter, many programs that co-exist as public service and help maintain trails in parks were cut.
Left in existence as of today is the online trail or trip reports with all other projects being cancelled. This means, no trail maintenance, no advocacy, no gear library, no ambassador program, no Trail Newsletter and blog, etc.
Washington State Parks, lands and trails are in crisis mode as trails are overrun and are now at risk of being destroyed by our love. A right yes, but so many organizations have come to depend on non-profits.
One idea the talented employees left WTA with last weekend was a hope of filing trail reports with titles of “My Neighborhood” and “My Backyard” in order to show others the correct way on the trail as of today.
My Neighborhood Hike
The following is my trip report on Washington Trails Association
…It took two dandelions to find four hours of bliss today.
I located the specimens on my way out on a neighborhood run this morning. Upon my return home I found solitude with my camera and faced the daytime with future fractals.
It’s amazing how a few practice shots and some common items around the house can provide hours of entertainment and peace.
My friends are among the backyard flowers as they return social distancing that is required for my survival.
It is an act of moral responsibility by saying above all else, I care enough about the future of our environment to not go to into the woods.
If the COVID-19 doesn’t make me sick, the snackin’ certainly may.
Even though I have been running and hiking up to last weekend like mad, my will power to un-consume, has gone by the serious way side.
Last week I made cranberry muffins, went through those, a bag of almonds, ate that, bottles of red wine, gone, banana bread that my husband helped me with…
Glutonny is ug-i-ly. I believe it manifests itself in many ways, such as my example of food above or perhaps hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizers and paper towels. Basically I’ve just lost my way with self-contol because there are so many others things to consider controlling, like obsessive cleaning and hand washing. I don’t know.
My self-control has also been challenged with excessive running and hiking lately. Forty miles in one week seems a bit excessive as well. I could say it was for health reasons, which it is but it all plays into the game. Run to eat, hike to eat, do weights to eat.
I’m not sure what exactly brings this all on except there are a lot of us who are stressed out and frightened right now. Stress certainly triggers it in my opinion.
For today I am a better person for understanding this. And for whatever the cause, I should be thankful for my health and take care of the condition.
Let’s stress less, use more self-control, create limits and routines and remember to breathe.
Over the past 10 years myself and many of my friends have shown gratitude on social media with an abundance of pictures of families, social outings, and travel. Like everyone, this is why we participate. As social media evolves, with these daily examples of life, it is clear we are beyond blessed and thankful, and show this each and every day of the week.
Many times I felt the struggle of guarded feelings of jealousy and being envious.
COVID-19 US Ground Zero
It is March 16, 2020, Washington State. Up the road, just east of Seattle is Kirkland. Life Center of Kirkland, had the first casualties from COVID-19 the past month. The virus is spreading from China, to Italy, most of Europe and the United States.
Within a month or less time, we moved from denial to acceptance. We have sent our kids home from school for six weeks, closed public places, and started to shelter in place. We collectively looked at facts as evidence and then became people who sought hope in our medical community and governing powers, more than seeking our own self recognition.
Hope can be fleeting, however. Hope is and will be challenging. It is a hard to maintain and even harder place to live. When hope dwindles you easily begin to drive down a road of despair. Just that fast.
When you loose hope together and willingly, despair consumes you.
The Cycle of Despair and Hope
Today it flipped for me. As my husband and I walked a few miles through the surrounding neighborhoods, the lesson I saw was many people standing outside in their front yards looking for us to say hello or to stop. Keep in mind it is chilly here in Washington State, 35 degrees and breezy and clear. Yet I never saw so many people outdoors, cleaning the garage, working in the yard, playing with their dogs, walking.
“I am good,” I say, “how about you” with a smile, not looking away and down at my phone like I would have done on any other given day. Today my glance lingered, my smile lasted a bit longer. Then it was apparent. I added a word of encouragement keeping my social distance.
Isolation Spreads Despair
No one wants to feel isolated and despair lives in isolation. Hope thrives when we are together even if it is at a distance. We need a reassuring smile to see we are still going on but, remember we have done it to ourselves when we feed into despair.
Togetherness Builds Hope
As I walked I continued to think hope will be the big idea and safety net today, especially in light with what’s around us. Observe, listen and above all else remain positive. We are learning a new way to navigate life and cope with fleeting hope for a short time.
When you become tired and weary let others lift you and don’t drive down that road of despair and take others with you. I was headed there when I stepped out my front door feeling alone today. Help each other, reach out from a distance. We are in this together.
Meet Candace. This week Candace and I met to go over our itinerary we are submitting for the Wonderland Trail. We have a few others who may hop on and off the trail along the way but mostly it will be just Candace and myself and then the potential of meeting close to 100 more folks that we have no idea who they are and they don’t even know who they are yet. In other words, it is a random lottery fest to see who gets the coveted permit within the desired window of time. Mt. Rainier National Park holds the statistics on the lottery with only a small percentage being issued ahead of time and most all handed out after appearing at the door of a ranger station ready to go.
I am sure I put too much thought into it but, the most popular and currently used book is Tami Asars, “Hiking the Wonderland Trail”. Since Tami Asars book is currently so popular, we picked the more leisurely 13 day trek and settled on submitting our permits for both counter-clockwise and clockwise, mid August, beginning at Mowich, a less desirable starting point.
Timing is everything and the later the better. Reason one we decided on mid August is, the snow pack is much higher this year and will more than likely put us a week or two later in the season.
Mowich is also less desirable for the following reason. Mowich Lake drive-in campground is an eleven mile dirt hole drive through potholes and mud until you arrive at your even more dusty location.
After you leave your vehicle there for over a week, no telling what could happen. You may not be able to find it with all the dust. There is also no running water and pit toilets. The one desirable thing about Mowich is the beautiful crystal blue serene lake.
In the end, since the probability of being pulled out of a lottery for any itinerary published in Tami’s book is slim to none, coupled with the most desirable time to do the Wonderland being late July and August, I really thought through our strategy over and over again in my head in the middle of the night.
The window to submit is March 15th-30th this year. Here is where we started after meeting and then here is where we discussed again Tuesday and landed…
Here is my thinking why starting at Frying Pan Creek is most desirable….
First, the trailhead is in a good spot for one of the most challenging portions of the trip.
This trailhead leads to Summerland and the highest point of the Wonderland, Panhandle Gap. Panhandle Gap is usually always snow covered and there is a 2900′ elevation gain from the TH to the gap. The nice part about this is, we will stay at Indian Bar one night, then Nickel Creek day two. Our next cache is at Longmire, adjacent to our stay at either Paradise River or Cougar Rock or The National Park Inn.
2900′ elevation gain with two days of food sounds really desirable to me. It gives us a burger and a beverage at Longmire with our trip ending at Sunrise for another burger and adult celebration beverage.
After day hiking for years, I think Frying Pan Creek is most certainly the ticket!
Nothing is more important than good food on the trail.
A few weeks ago my friend Carrie and I ran into three ladies who had hiked the Wonderland Trail successfully a few years ago.
Since we were hut mates for the evening, Carrie, mostly picked their brains for the entire evening. Their food looked delicious and they talked about how many things they had dehydrated and dumped into ziplock baggies.
Ziplock baggies is key here because on the Wonderland it is pack it in and pack it out. You might find yourself with trash for days if you take the store brand sealable cooking pouch bags. Also if you’ve ever actually sampled those, they are hit and miss with taste with some of the desserts being overly sweet and lacking fresh taste.
When we returned after our stay at the hut, these recipes magically appeared in my email box.
I’ve also decided to dive into the world of dehydration. I should be able to do this with my oven that has low and convection settings.
Today was 4 Minute Rounds between a menu of cardio and strength activities and bouncing back and fourth for sixty minutes. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to say the least! Between each 4 minute round, we did 5 burpies.
Seriously, of all the things I do, Find Your Fit is probably the best thing I could have done for myself in the past 40 years.
About the Gym
Find Your Fit is a family owned and operated facility from the ground up. Workouts are created with all fitness levels in mind. The facility was created with the idea that everyone has unique fitness goals and abilities, and the path to get to those goals can vary greatly. Whether you exercise everyday or you’ve never stepped into a gym before, Find Your Fit can help you reach YOUR goals. They can modify any exercise when necessary, while still pushing you harder than ever before.
I meet with Shane once a week on my nutrition goals as well. A few years back I took a hard look at my weight and why it bounced around all the time. Shane has helped me by staying accountable and by focusing my attention by bringing out some details in my nutrition that were lacking.
Each week he looks over my food plan. I use My Fitness Pal to log all my nutrition and calories and exercise. He then looks at the calories overall and the pie chart that shows the breakdown of carbohydrates, protein and fats.
Also a nice feature of these check-ins are Shane will periodically do a body fat measurement with the calipers. He also arranges for a mobile truck from BodySpec that scans your body for bone density, fat and muscle. It amazes me how high tech everything is. Making the comparisons between the two has allowed me to have some grace with getting older and by having realistic goals.