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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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!
Seated left to right: Carrie, Lisa, Shannon, Susan, Catherine
#4 Tolmie Peak Mowich Lake, Mt. Rainier National Park
Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout– Moderate 7.5 miles round trip with 1,100 elevation gain to 5,920 feet.
Named for Dr. William Fraser Tolmie. In August 1833, employed by Hudson’s Bay Company and stationed at the newly built Fort Nisqually, Tolmie made the first recorded exploration of the Mount Rainier area. Unable to summit Rainier itself, Tolmie and two Indian guides, Lachalet and Nuckalkat, summited one of the snowy peaks near the Mowich River headwaters. Although Tolmie Peak is named for this event, it is not known exactly which peak was climbed.
Driving to this location is half the fun! First the Fairfax bridge near the Melmont Ghost Town is spectacular and creepy to drive across its one lane. Next, 11 miles of potholes, which turn into craters later in the season, up the Mowich Lake Road in the northwest section of Mt. Rainier National Park.
Once you have arrived to the beautiful blue waters of Mowich Lake, you will feel like you are in the true wilderness. The mountain peeks around each turn and grows larger in your front window if you can see through the cascading dust. Some of the fool hardy, chance driving up this road in cars and end up with major damage. Make sure your friends help wash your vehicle when you return!
My best story is hiking it at night and waiting for the full moon to appear. As we hiked up rather early and picked our perch around the fire lookout, a few thousand mosquitos and pesky deer flies decided they would also camp-out with us…
…we decided to get out the heavy artillery which means a large spray can of DEET and coverage. As four more hikers arrive on scene our insects decide to swarm in and invade them as our feet happily dangle off the porch and we finish our dinner. I then give an offering of my large can of DEET to our new arrivals which they gladly accept and in return “pass the bottle”. Now we are all happy as we watch an airplane buzz the fire lookout and the moon appears in the east as the sun sets in the west. Glorious evening.
#2 Skyline Loop Trail, Paradise, Mt. Rainier National Park
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.
Best to go on a bluebird day, you will hear languages from all over the world with differing abilities and equipment.
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…
…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!
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.
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.
And wait until you see the luxury toilet at Panorama Point.