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!

High Hut 1

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

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  Snowshoe Video

 

Creaky Old Bridges and Spectacular Views

Creaky Old Bridges and Spectacular Views
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Beargrass bloom on Tolmie Peak

#4 Tolmie Peak Mowich Lake, Mt. Rainier National Park

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Mt. Rainier and Eunice Lake, Mowich, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott

Tolmie Peak Fire LookoutModerate 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.

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Fairfax Bridge

Video of this trip

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…

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Sunset on Tolmie Peak, Mowich, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott
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Full Moon at Tolmie Peak, Mowich, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott

…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.

Video of Mowich Blue Waters and the View

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Foxglove Field, Mowich Road, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott
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Eunice Lake, Tolmie Peak, Mowich, Mt. Rainier National Park
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott
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Harebell, Scots Bluebell
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott
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Mountain Bog Gentian
Photo Copyright Lisa Elliott

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.

Video

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.