The Enchantments

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Lisa, Eightmile Lake, The Enchantments

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.

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3 Days of Enchantments

     Day 1

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.

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Candace, Chey, and Ryan

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.

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Lisa, Chey, Candace and Ryan

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.

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My cozy little tent rippled in the wind during the evening as well as a few little pitter patters of raindrops fell at night.

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Day 2

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.

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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.

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Screen Shot 2020-06-29 at 6.57.27 AMThe 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.

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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.

Day 3

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.

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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.

What’s Your Boss Trail Name?

Lisa High Hut

Does Your Backpack Own a Boss Trail Name?

Meet Jonny Cache

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.

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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.

Take a Shot at It

The Amazing World of a Backyard Weed

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

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

  1. Choose simple and easily available subjects
  2. Experiment with Manual settings and your camera’s built-in light meter
  3. Take multiple shots using a variety of shutter and aperture settings
  4. Keep the camera in a stationary place if possible. Tripod set-up is best but a tall counter also works.
  5. Use the camera for an initial auto-focus then set on manual focus.
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. Bracket exposures length and shutter speeds a few clicks at a time
  9. Be patient, experiment with a variety of backgrounds placed in the distance, drop a some droplet of water for the effect of dew.
  10. Avoid cropping. It does not yield good results try to use good composition of your subject and background before defaulting to cropping
  11. 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

  1. Choose simple and easily available subjects
  2. See if your cell phone has a macro setting
  3. Use an aperture if available of 4.5 or less up to 1.4 if camera allows you
  4. Focus by moving the subject not your phone
  5. Take multiple shots
  6. Use a variety of backgrounds
  7. Plan for composition
  8. Avoid windy areas if outdoors
  9. Be patient
  10. Avoid cropping

 

 

 

 

 

Outside In

Washington State recreation is in crisis mode.

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

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.

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Here’s the story.

Friday last week I was notified my volunteer work as an ambassador for Washington Trails Association had ended abruptly.

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.

Crisis

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

Outside In

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.

 

The Cycle of Hope and Despair

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Mt. Rainier, Washington State

Changing Attitudes and Feelings

…Social Media

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.

Take that step.

It’s Time to Submit for the Permit

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.

Planning is hard work…

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!

I am using the Wonderland Guides Trail Planner to play around with several scenarios. It has online tools and easy guides to adjust days.

The best book currently available is Tami Asars Hiking the Wonderland Trail

Trail Grub and Snowshoe Video

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.

Also important to note, a wonderful website TrailCooking.com

I’m doing the happy dance!

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Seated left to right:       Carrie, Lisa, Shannon, Susan, Catherine

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  Snowshoe Video

 

Reach out and Touch a Volcano

#3 Burroughs Three at Sunrise, Mt. Rainier National Park

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Burroughs Three, Sunrise, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott

Burroughs Three– Strenuous- highest point 7,828 ft with elevation gain of 2,500 ft. Distance round trip is usually around 10 miles because we do a bit of exploring at the top and stop and have lunch. This is a taxing hike if you haven’t been running or hiking on a regular basis. It can also get hot but usually there is a cool breeze so bring layers.

Each summer I cannot wait to head up to the Burroughs. Burroughs is a set of three mountains in front of the big mountain, Mt. Rainier. From each mountain, named one, two and three, you get a fire lookout view of the grandest of all.

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Lisa and Tami

Although hiking to Burroughs two is generally the stopping point for most people, if you venture up to three it is really spectacular. I took two videos this past summer of my multiple trips this past summer. I took two other couples up there that really wanted to go. Click here for Video ONE taken in August with frequent hiking friend Tami and her husband Paul. Click here for Video TWO taken in September with another hiking friend Luellyn and her husband Chris. I used a GoPro handheld stick for these. Drones are not allowed in the park. I think I’ve been here with almost all my hiking people, Delia, Carrie, Audrey my husband Scott. Spectacular!

Lisa and Luellyn

The details of this particular hike can be found here on my Garmin or at Washington Trails Association.

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Paul and Tami
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Skyline Loop Trail

Skyline Loop Trail

#2 Skyline Loop Trail, Paradise, Mt. Rainier National Park

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Skyline Loop Trail, Paradise, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott

The Skyline Loop Trail is probably the most popular trail at Mt. Rainier National Park- Moderate 5.5 miles highest elevation at 6,200 ft. Best to go in August for wildflowers and marmots.

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Click for Video. It starts at the Paradise Inn and loops around vistas, waterfalls and sweeping views of Rainier. This day was in August with Tami.

Best to go on a bluebird day, you will hear languages from all over the world with differing abilities and equipment.

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Edith Creek, Skyline Loop, Paradise, Mt. Rainier
Photo Copyright by Lisa Elliott

She Can Climb It Without Oxygen

My favorite story has to do with when I was solo hiking here. It was a hot August day and I my hydration pack in my day pack along with the tube that connects and extents out which then you drink from called a bite valve. I was heading up the hill and a lady was coming down. I had the bite valve in my mouth taking a sip. She responds to me, “I can make it up that hill without oxygen.” I told her she was absolutely amazing and not many can. Then she told me I didn’t have very much farther to go to the top. Hang in the there.

Like I mentioned there are all kinds of people from all over the world there and it is also best treat others with respect. I also like watching the people in flip flops and shorts in the snow…

Like I’ve never done that!

…the family dog (not allowed in the park), and the best was the family hauling a 1/2 case of beer up the hill for a picnic. Fun trip down I bet!

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Skyline Loop Trail, Paradise, Mt. Rainier
Photo Copyright by Lisa Elliott

My friend Diane and me used to just head up to watch the climbers who were training for the summit climb in how to self arrest. This is also a great spot to watch those folks yell out falling while hurdling themselves down a snow bowl and self arresting with their ice axes as we sat on the sidelines tanning our legs and arms.

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Photo Copyright by Lisa Elliott

We also met up with a solo climber who kept us at bay with his stories for half the day. Some were a bit far fetched and rather dangerous for someone climbing solo.

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Solo hiking in bear country
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And wait until you see the luxury toilet at Panorama Point.

Suspension Bridges

Suspension Bridges
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Tahoma Suspension Bridge

Westside Road Tahoma Creek Route– My husband and me were out for a day hike at Mt. Rainier. We veered off onto the West Side Road and followed it to the end at approximately three miles and parked at the small lot. Beyond that we walked up the road to the Tahoma Creek Trail Head (somewhat hidden) but look for a red piece of duct tape on a stick on top of a stump, a barrel or some kind of unmaintained trail head marker about 1 1/2 miles up the road. Next we entered a trail for 100 yards toward the Tahoma Creek. Next we followed pink markers staying close to the forest and in the smaller rocks. The Tahoma Creek often changes direction and floods often. Staying close to the smaller creek until the trail picked up again we set some markers on our Garmin so we could find our way back for a total of about 2.5 miles to the suspension bridge. 6 miles, and slight gradual elevation gain. By far my favorite route. The last two years it has become rather sketchy and unsafe along the unmaintained portion of the Tahoma Creek due to repeated flooding and washouts.. What makes this one my favorite is the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge that you get to walk across.

Click this picture below to watch the video of the Tahoma Creek Suspension Bridge. It swings and bounces and recommended only one person at a time.

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