Happy New Year to my followers and fellow lovers of the outdoors.
Wishing you a happy New Year with the promise of better times ahead for all of us.
The following is a prelude to Video Episode 7 Wildflowers of Berkeley Park. You can click here to play video or read and watch at the end.
Video Synopsis: Now on the Northern Loop Trail, Episode 7 takes us through Berkeley Park wildflowers and a lovely creek that meanders parallel and gives us perfect background music to a relaxing and lovely day. Runtime 6:55
Headed for the Northern Loop Trail, we leave Sunrise Camp directly to the cache to resupply for the next 3 nights and 4 days. It is already getting warm with the extra weight but most of Berkeley Park is downhill.
We meet several groups of people enjoying the brilliant wildflower display that makes this hike so delightful in August. Like Summerland, a hill that blooms from the bottom up most of the month of August. As if planned for us our coming, the entire hill was in bloom.
I think about how each lovely arm on the north side has been nothing short of a showcase. To the far northeast of Sunrise the seven lakes glisten next to path below the Sourdough Ridge an intense blue. Forest Lake with a peek into a past glacier with enormous rocks chiseled and carved with water and freezing temperatures, the last remainder of time past. Then down the Huckleberry Creek area, a lovely jade green forest and spa camp. Now the Berkeley Park trail, showing off every color it can in a buzzing fury of insects.
We aren’t at Berkeley Camp long when a couple a long way from home arrive at camp. Berkeley Camp is a small camp like a bed and breakfast and you must walk by other sites to either go to the pit toilet or to filter water in the creek, making it impossible to avoid the other campsite.
While hanging my food at the bear pole, we exchange greetings and have a short one-sided exchange about plans. I never say too much that wouldn’t make me feel safe as a female in woods. The couple proceeds to tell me about all their forthcoming accomplishments, together they are hiking The Northern Loop, then the man was going to run around the mountain by himself supported by a commercial group he had paid that would help him. There is nothing humbling in this exchange. That means, a commercial company helps him finish, feeds him, sets up his tent, gives him encouragement, praise, food, shelter, and whatever else it takes to allow him bragging rights.
We pick a site, the one with the stump kitchen, that gives us a little forest cooking table and logs to sit on and carry on with our routine of filtering water, organizing the insides of tents, and decide to have an early evening since tomorrow is a long day.
First, I want to say I am a runner. My runs have been at the most half marathons and 5ks. I run all winter and early spring to train for hiking season.
The last few years however, there have become more and more of supported groups of ultra runners on the Wonderland Trail. Most backpackers have something to say about them in forums on the internet. At times it seems they do not get along with one another.
While I am all about creating access to the wilderness and believe trails are for everyone. I also believe trail runners, like hikers and backpackers do cause an impact to the environment and need to adhere to trail etiquette. Since trail runners can finish so quickly with assistance, they also need a way to marshal their numbers with a permit system.
There are truly only a few really stellar endurance athletes that can run The Wonderland Trail without someone by their side or close by. My advice is if you cannot run over 100 miles at sea level do not attempt this, use it as a training ground in order to tromp the vegetation, scare the critters and ask backpackers to step off the trail or if they have an aspirin or ice pack.
The fact that runners can do this quickly means they don’t need a permit to be there. Companies that get paid good money, get away with sending literally hundreds of people to the trails.
It goes without saying , furthermore we will have nothing left of the fragile alpine meadows with this kind of attack by humans.
Trail runners also have a long way to go as far as etiquette.
On more than a few occasions during our time up a hill with heavy backpacks, we were forced off to the side. One young lady with nothing but her shorts and tank top, telling us how much she loved the wildflowers as she made her way down the narrow path through the meadow. My thought was if you have two men on the sides of you, assisting you, you do not respect the wildflowers.
Another time I was approached from behind and elbowed to make room and move. The excuse came later after the two runners could finish and get their breath.
Then there is the occasional runner who doesn’t even step off trail and stop, they just run down the meadow, or up the meadow, avoiding the trail all together.
I truly hope they do stop to look at the scenery. I truly hope they stop to appreciate the beauty of a wildflower and mostly I truly hope they advocate to protect it now that they’ve seen it.
Trail runners need to start a permit system and adhere to a code of environmental ethics and we must be respectful of one another, above all respectful of the environment that has no voice.
Watch Video Episode 7 Wildflowers of Berkeley Park.
The following is a prelude to Episode 6. You can either watch or read the following then watch.
Episode 6 video synopsis: After seeing a big bear foraging at bed time, Episode 6 started with a 4:30 am wake up and eye lock with a big buck. Lisa and Shannon experience the sunrise of a lifetime and end with coffee by 9 back at the campsite by Shadow Lake. Runtime 12:42
Sometimes the wisest choices are made in the most spontaneous moments. This was day 7. We had never planned to get up before sunrise and hike to catch a sunrise. Something beckoned us that we should experience and do just that.
In a headlamp I begin to wake and I call to Shannon in the tent next to mine.
“Hey, Shannon are you up?”
Shannon, replies, “Yes”.
I believe we both said at the same time, “Let’s go.”
And we begin walking after grabbing a few items, to Mt. Fremont from Sunrise backcountry camp.
Just a few steps out of camp, we are met by a giant buck with glowing eyes at 5 am. It is heart pounding. My senses heighten, I’m cold, I’m shaking off my shivers one step at time, one foot in front of the other. I’ve planned my direction so my gut and instinct finds the way through with my small headlamp in complete blackness. That buck just stood erect in the same manner I did and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if it wasn’t for his glowing eyes from my headlamp.
Once I warmed up and got my feet under my breath, each step started to quicken as we make along the ridge to the top of Mt. Fremont Lookout right at dawn. The pikas whistles carry from the rocks below. The wind churns the blowing clouds below as I find a few boulders in order to hide away and tuck myself between.
To the east was the red and orange glow of the sun, to the west and south was the sleepy giant ready to glow in unison with the rising sun. Like gasping for air between holding your breath I couldn’t decide if I should have my camera out, my video out, be turned to the east, turned to the west or just be completely awestruck and sit down and take in every moment so I did them all.
This is when I start to feel completely badass but insignificant. It isn’t about making it to the top or walking so far or doing it in in record time. It is simply about being able to make decisions and pull it together in order to experience life and STOP for a frickin’ moment to realize I am where I want to be and should be and need to be in this moment in time.
When the sun rose, I forgot my discomfort and all that we both could say repeatedly was, “I cannot believe this.”
You can tell by my face this is one decision I will never regret as long as I live.
We make it back to Sunrise Camp around 9 am just in time to warm up to the real heat of the sun next to Shadow Lake.
Having my coffee and taking a walk around the lake makes for one of the most memorable mornings so far.
Watch Episode 6 video here.
The following is a prelude to 14 Days of Wonderland. You can skip to the video by clicking Episode 3 here or read and click at the bottom of this page.
Video Episode 3 Synopsis: As Lisa continues to dry her gear, episode 3 takes you on several trails on the Wonderland. Through the White River area, to Sunrise. The group meets up with Bob and Wendy for a two day stay at Forest Lake. Runtime 9:25
My bedtime fears have always haunted me. In a demonstrative fashion every sound, sight and sense of movement seems abrupt and larger than life when backpacking and alone in my tent.
Overcoming my slight personality quirk was a mental goal of mine which eventually I hoped to find peace through the night. The first night on my sleeping pad, an old Z mat that I notice is starting to compress, is always an adjustment in comfort so I wrestle with physical more. Then there is the no pillow thing that I use a portion of my backpack that has my clothes rolled up into a ball inside to elevate my head slightly. Next there are more physical challenges, cold feet. I sleep with clean wool socks, I wear the next day with toe warmers or hand warmers or both inside. I also sleep in leggings, a long sleeved shirt, my puffy jacket, my wool hat and zip myself fully into my 35 degree bag. That’s my summer pjs. In Spring and Fall I use a 20 bag and a bag liner. Coupled with weather extremes, hiking demands, carrying extra weight over days, heat all continued to push me to my limits, clothing is a big deal.
After several full days on the trail laying down to sleep came well received but not without some mental challenges still.
It took me 4 nights to shake my bedtime fears even with Carrie and Sandy as my part-time tent mates.
Oh my goodness my friend, Carrie saved my bacon. Carrie is neither self centered or self serving. She is a giver and an emitter of happiness with her golden locks, continually in tune with the feelings of others.
Wise beyond her years plus, with the added bonus of being a kick ass athlete, I hope some very deserving man comes to realize the drive in this woman. Drive, wisdom, determination, smart, understanding and knows her character, can I say more.
Carrie is just as passionate about nature and a true adventurer as myself. I love this woman for just who she is even if it was a bad day for her which I wonder if there ever could be, as she always is turning checking to make sure the rest of us are right behind her and happy.
Letting go of fear and breaking through to awareness was magical for me, as our group spent the first of two at Forest Lake. In the morning light, I discovered a lovely reflection in the lake. The air was calm and wonderful, reflecting the surrounding hills and forest. It seemed there was a forest both in the lake and I was surrounded with green. More than likely the reason a brighter person than myself had named it Forest Lake.
Even more magnificent was the lake at night. Standing at the shore after midnight and before the moon had rose, were billions of stars reflected below within the heavenly waters. I do not know what woke me that night, at that particular time, coaxing me to the shore but, I had to go see if the reflection at night was equally as spectacular at day and was curious if a reflection of the moon would emerge in the lake as well.
I remember standing for a while, and in this way, realized the show above and below me moving in a semi circular scene ever so slowly with my face pointed upward. Turning my back and walking few steps to my cozy tent, I realized the hard evidence in the scene. It was grander than life itself in the mirror of the lake. The remainder of the disappearing world was suspended, floating in the heavens on this very tiny ball called earth. That night when it was simply me and the sky and the lake, the rest of world the evaporated and disappeared and then so did my fears.
In essence perhaps my biggest fear was not what I couldn’t see and what was lurking at me with glowing eyes hidden behind some tree. My fear was based on a perceived feeling of anxiety triggered by being alone. I’m sure whatever critter it was that chewed several holes in a nice silicone bowl Wendy had cooked in that first evening, really could care less about me and more about if we had left a morsel or crumb around for them.
I understand the critters but how do you explain my hot mess and where it comes from.
We like a good charcuterie and my thanks this evening for good friends and wonderful locations.
Walmart charcuterie at Forest Lake during a pandemic.
Forest Lake felt like an outdoor spa. It had the cold plunge pool, and an even colder one with fountains and water features. This was our Yoga studio with all our mats.
Carrie’s mat doubled as a top layer to our sleeping bags as Forest Lake Camp is 5,660′ elevation so it became chilly at night.
Episode 3 Video Forest Lake Day 1
The following is a prelude to Episode 4 Video of 14 Days of Wonderland. If you want to watch the video click here or read and click the link at the bottom of this chapter.
Video Synopsis: Mushrooms and Lake Swimming continuing into day two at Forest Lake and a trek along Huckleberry Creek looking for fungi as well as a refreshing swim in Forest Lake. Runtime 7:28
Bob and Wendy arrived at Forest Lake ahead of the rest of us. They had met up with a man who had commandeered our already reserved camp spot complete with personal outdoor toilet, bear pole and fresh-running Huckleberry Creek for our water source.
He was compliant about picking up and leaving and did not know that you needed a permit to stay at all backcountry camps in Mt. Rainier. There was some discussion later with some friends of mine who said you used to be able to camp any where, no permit at least 1/4 mile off trail. I’m still uncertain about that one because there is quite the process to get permits and it is an extremely protected area. In an emergency, I read if that is the case and only the case.
Regardless, Bob and Wendy are a delightful, fun couple. Bob an avid cyclist and bicycle attorney and I hit it off quickly. I bike pretty much all summer every where. Wendy, a former high school art teacher and I also hit it off quickly. I am a retired elementary teacher. Both Bob and Wendy spent two nights with us at Forest Lake.
As we learn more about each other and had said our good-byes to Sheli at Sunrise, I find Wendy absolutely loves shelf fungi and really any mushroom or fungi for that matter. Wendy takes photo ops with fungi any time she can. With that being said, Forest Lake was just the ticket for her.
On day two we rise, get our breakfast, hang our extra items on the bear pole, and head down Huckleberry Creek Trail. We learn from Shannon at the end of the creek and at the park boundary may have been one of the original entrances to Mt. Rainier National Park.
After 4-5 or so miles we break to have lunch and decide to head back. The trail becomes very overgrown and with many blown branches and logs to cross. Which could be one of the reasons it was a less desirable area for the park to try to maintain.
With all the snapped off trees, this is where the lovely shelf fungus loves to grow and some of those had even blown down and were the size of our hands and as big as our heads.
After returning to camp, we take a much needed swim in Forest Lake, dunk our heads, cool our feet and then are treated to the most delicious coconut cream desert Shannon makes.
Shannon and Lisa walk Carrie back to Sunrise for a glorious sunset as we say our sad good-byes to Carrie.
We complete the evening with forest spa and yoga.
Episode 4 Video of 14 Days of Wonderland.
Episode 2 Video The following is a prelude to 14 Days of Wonderland video is on the very popular Summerland Trail on the Wonderland system. You can skip to the video by clicking Episode 2 here or read and click at the bottom of this page.
Video Synopsis: Still boasting the ziplock plastic bags in her shoes, Lisa contemplates returning them to Carrie. Upon summiting at Summerland camp it is found the camp had recently been ransacked by a bear. Runtime 6:40
We wake up to gorgeous weather at Tamanos Camp and decide on taking a popular trail on the Wonderland for a day hike. Earlier during our planning Summerland Camp and Indian Bar Camps were both full and we could not make arrangements to backpack through both of these beautiful areas. A recent sign, posted, boot prints and a single track of something being dragged across the ground is all that remains of evidence to a scary day to campers who had camped there a few days prior.
The story from the other campers was, campsite #2 was occupied at Summerland. During lunch a bear walked into campsite two, snatched a backpack out of the possession of a camper and dragged it and commandeering the bag and contents.
After crossing Frying Pan Creek, having lunch on the rocks and taking a brief moment to catch a few golden rays of sunshine, we were met with a spectacle of wildflowers. Everything from Lupine, Columbia Tiger Lily, Columbine, Magenta and Orange Indian Paint Brush, Pearly Everlasting blooming all at once. In the background the lovely scents were married with the mountain as if standing so proud of her work.
The trail up to Summerland is a sought after day hiking spot, especially on a weekend in summer. It starts from lush, green forests, on a wide forgiving pine needle filled path that is easy on the knees. Later it switches back and forth as Frying Pan Creek cascades and falls over the rocky face of the hill. From it’s crossing you catch a glimpse of Rainier, here and there along with wildflowers that forever fill the hillside all summer.
When we a arrived to take a walk through camp, we found a posh pit toilet, and high end, solidly constructed rock walled group site. I’ve been here many times with the chipmunks and marmots looking for a handout. I spotted one lazy marmot hiding from the heat under a tree.
Which is probably how the bear came to be.
In essence I feel sorry for the bear. People feed the chipmunks, they are aggressive when you sit for a split nano second. They jump all over your bag, and hop inside if you walk away to peak over the hill. The marmots take their share too.
So why not the bear?
Just there for his share of take-out.
Most, if not all of Rainier’s backcountry camps, have bear poles. We never leave any of our food unattended. Ever.
It goes without saying Rainier’s bears are generally mild and do not aggressively take food away from humans but this bear decided it would go about his business differently. That’s when the rangers started putting up signs, checking in with hikers, and doing what they call mitigation to scare it away.
We didn’t ask for details what mitigation was, air horn, rocks, yelling, we were just more concerned there was still that particular bear there.
After filtering some water for the trip down, we take in a snack on a nice warm rock.
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I have no idea what I am doing.
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.”
Here’s the trailer
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.
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.
Now that one is going to stick around awhile.
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.
Once you gather a few materials, time to start experimenting.
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.