Monthly Archives: June 2012

62 – Elbow Lake

Right from the get go, our hike to Elbow Lake started off with a great sense of adventure. Here I am at the trailhead, pointing out a warning about a stream crossing.

(pic by Kent) . . . me at trailhead to Elbow Lake

The U.S. Forest Service sign made it very clear that the crossing was dangerous, and as warned, moments later we were faced with a major challenge. Washed out by flood waters during the early 2000’s, the original bridge over the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River is long gone, and now, the only access to the Elbow Lake Trail #697 is by crossing a make-shift bridge of logs that have jammed haphazardly across the river. Kent first made the crossing with our backpacks. Go here – http://youtu.be/lHbLlVrB-kU – to see the video I took as he made his way over with his pack, and then back again. Really, this was an exciting stream to cross, so do take the time to view the video!

Kent first crosses with packs, then returns to give me a hand

With both of our packs safely on the other side, Kent returned once again to give me a hand. The logs, damp from the spray of the rapidly moving water only inches below, did not feel as slick under my hiking boots as I had expected, and securely holding onto each other’s wrists, we safely made our way to the other side. To say that I am comfortable with stream crossings like this would be an over-statement, yet because we so carefully crossed together, as long as my focus was NOT on that rapidly moving river, I did not feel frightened.

(pic by Kent) . . . Me – crossing the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River

Once safely on the other side of the river, we put our packs back on and continued along the trail as it led us through the wild and scenic Mount Baker  – Snoqualmie National Forest.

The forest . . . along the trail to Elbow Lake

Occasionally a creek flowed over its bank and onto the trail, but compared to the stream crossing we had made at the very beginning of our hike, these creeks seemed so minor.

Small waterfall over our trail . . . we walk through

The trail continued to work its way up and around the forest, sometimes opening up to show us a magnificent view of the Twin Sisters.

Twin Sisters mountain range . . . from trail to Elbow Lake

Free from snow until about the 3,300′ level, we did not have to hike much further before all signs of the trail were buried under the snow.

Snow . . . along the “lost” trail

Standing on the snow between two creeks, our exact location could not be determined when checking the topo map. Rather than meander aimlessly through the steep, snow-covered forest, we decided to turn around and backtrack to where we had last seen the trail and hike back down to the trailhead.

Checking topo map for indication of trail lost in snow . . .

It was then that a couple of other hikers came along. Pointing to a ridge high above, they said they knew where to pick up the trail again, and that if we were headed to Elbow Lake, we could follow – so we did.

Hikers come by and give direction for scramble up mountain to rejoin the trail . . .

We followed as they set off scrambling up through the forest and along an extremely steep slope. Those guys moved fast. (They were lots younger than us. I’d guess, younger than my children. Maybe barely older than my grandchildren!) We were hurrying as fast as we could in our effort to keep up, but in no time, those guys were out of sight. Then in my hurry, I failed to dig my boot deep enough into the soft soil as I climbed up the steep hillside, and I slid a few feet back down the hill. Fortunately, my backward slide was stopped by a snag. There were very large trees further below and I felt glad the snag had kept me from crashing into one of them, but it was rather wild looking branch and my knee twisted slightly as I stopped. At about the time I was bringing myself back to an upright position, we heard a call from the guys from above that they had found the trail. It was something like 23 more meters. (Meters?) We weren’t sure how much further that might be, but it must not have been too much further (maybe only 75 or so feet?) because we could hear them as they yelled. We decided to continue our climb up the hill – only at a slower, more controlled pace, and we finally reached the top of the ridge. Once again, we were on the trail.

We find the trail after scramble up steep forested mountain side

There was no snow on that ridge, and the other hikers had drawn an arrow on the ground to indicate which direction we should go to reach the lake. Back on track, Kent’s fishing pole was sticking out of his backpack, and we were still hopeful that we could hike into Elbow Lake – and maybe even have fried fish for dinner.

Along the trail . . . to Elbow Lake

We continued along the trail, but gaining a little more elevation as we got closer to the lake, once again, we hit snow. This time it was deeper, steeper and more slippery. For the most part, we weren’t sinking very far into the snow as it was frozen pretty solid, and we tried to stay to the inside of the snowy trail, but it was slippery and getting dangerous. Plus, remember my twisted knee? With every step, it was beginning to hurt more.

Icy snow trail conditions along the steep sideslope

We did not have much further to go to reach the lake, but there was snow everywhere, the trail conditions had become treacherous, my knee was hurting more and more, the lake would be nothing but a frozen snow field, it was already after 4:00 p.m., we were well over three miles from our original starting point, don’t forget those logs we had to safely make our way over in order to get over that raging river. Assessing our situation, we decided to eat a snack and then turn around and head back down to the trailhead.

We turned around when snow became dangerous along side slope trail

Here I am, hiking back down to the trailhead through the snow.

(pic by Kent) . . . me along snow-covered trail

Funny thing about this second river crossing, even though we crossed the same way as we had at the beginning of our hike with Kent first crossing with our packs and then returning to give me a hand, even with my sore knee, that raging water below us no longer felt that intimidating. Here I am, ready to cross the river for the second time.

(pic by Kent) . . . Me – ready to cross the river for the second time

Would I go back? Yes, definitely! But let’s wait until the snow is off of the lake. This hike has all the things that I enjoy the most. There is plenty of excitement as the rather challenging trail works it way up through a beautiful forest, past some very old trees and beautiful streams. With stunning mountain views along the way and the destination a beautiful alpine lake, how could I not want to go back?

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Categories: Hiking, Nature, Photography, Whatcom County | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Happy Birthday – Sweet Sixty

Week after week, one hike at a time, working my way to the completion of the goal of sixty hikes before my sixtieth birthday made this entire year feel like a celebration as friends and family joined me. Making more incredibly wonderful friends, including meeting the love of my life, while experiencing exciting new adventures along the trails, I wore out the soles of a pair of hiking boots and even toned up my tush a bit. All surprise bonuses along the way! The entire weekend of the grand finale was filled with wonderful celebrations with lots of friends, family, fun, nearly too much food and great gifts – yet no hiking, unless that rather long, uphill path leading from the dock back to the parking lot after our three and a half hours of Contra dancing could possibly count as a hike.

Wearing my “birthday” hat . . .

From Saturday afternoon until well into the evening, we celebrated during the annual Ferry Boat Contra Dance Party. From Anacortes to Friday Harbor, and back, members of the Contra Sutra Band played their lively Contra tunes. We danced and danced and danced as the Elwha ferried us through the San Juan Islands. Go here – http://youtu.be/JVqJM5Egt58 – to see the video I took during one of the Contra dances. Beautiful music while dancing Contras – incredibly fun!

(pic by Beth) . . . Kent and I dancing to a Contra waltz

Sunday, the actual day of my birthday, was filled with even more celebration. Starting with breakfast with my son at our favorite waterfront restaurant, the Bayside Cafe, followed by a visit to our local Marine Life Center, the updated version of the original “touch tank” we often visited when he was a child. Later, as if a picnic, our morning celebrations closed with birthday cake at Boulevard Park, another of my favorite locations.

Birthday cake . . . at Boulevard Park

Following an afternoon relaxing and perusing a stack hiking books, Kent’s homemade lasagna and more birthday cake made the finest dining for any birthday celebration. Once again, it was time for more celebration with the receipt of the absolute perfect gift – a pack perfectly designed for extended backpacking trips.

The perfect gift for further hiking adventures!

And to make it even more fun, tucked into the many compartments of the pack were even more gifts. With clever clues written on each, sometimes my first guess was correct and other times, it took me several. Thank you, thank you for making this birthday so special and so much fun!

Hint – “I’m so attached to you”

Thanks also to Beth, Francean, Lori, Kriss, Fred, Jane, Joy, Lisa T, Kathy T, Kathy R, Kathleen, Camille, Dena, Sandy, DJ, Dan, Mike, Michael, Richard, Judy, fellow Contra dancers – and everyone else. I don’t mean to omit your name, but there really has been so many of you that have so generously given encouragement, support, friendship, cheers and love as each step got me closer to completing those sixty hikes – and to my sixtieth birthday. Some of you joined me along the trails, others wanted to, and you all helped. So, thank you, EVERYONE! Special thanks to Kent – for your love, for so effortlessly making our hikes together so much more of a fun adventure as we met up with bears, snakes, fossils, hot springs, wildflowers, birds, snow, streams overflowing their banks, beautiful waterfalls, lookout towers and so very much more. Thank you for letting me blubber and for holding me up last week through the passing of my sister. Words cannot express the thanks, appreciation, gratitude and joy I feel by sharing my life with you! I can only repeat what you said so well in your birthday card to me – your words:

“Building a life together,

Loving and supporting each other,

Creating so many good memories,

And many great adventures together to come.

I love you.”

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So, what’s next? We’re talking a backpacking trip now and researching snow levels, looking for camp sites where we can hike into, set up a base camp to do day hikes from there. Definitely stay tuned!

Categories: Dancing, Hiking, Island County, Nature, Photography, San Juan County, Whatcom County | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

61 – Squalicum Beach

With this predicted to be the only day of sunshine for this week, off I headed for a hike with my sister-in-law. She  is turning 54 this year and is determined to complete 54 hikes herself. Practically her back yard, and certainly one of my favorites (you can go here – https://60before60.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/26-lower-bay-to-baker-trail/ – to read about some of the other times I have hiked this trail), we chose the Lower Bay to Baker Trail and headed to Squalicum Beach.

Approaching Squalicum Beach . . . from the Lower Bay to Baker Trail

Here we are, enjoying the sunshine on the beach.

Enjoying the sun . . . on Squalicum Beac

Because the tide was out, we walked south along the beach until we had reached Squalicum Parkway, then headed toward Squalicum Creek Park. With lots of large drift logs along the beach, it was fun as we climbed over and around some of them.

(pic by Sandy) . . . me in the hollow drift log on Squalicum Beach

This ended up turning into something closer to a hike and a half, maybe two, as, turns out, my sister-in-law’s car door opener had fallen out of her pocket when we were playing around at this hollowed-out drift log; so what started out as approximately a three-mile hike ended up being more like a five-mile hike. Having began our hike at Birchwood Park, our route continued along the Lower Bay to Baker Trail to Squalicum Beach, then on to Squalicum Parkway to Squalicum Creek Park, back to the Lower Bay to Baker Trail and back to Birchwood Park. Unfortunately, it was not until we had returned to Birchwood Park and could see her car that we realized that her car door opener was missing. Deciding our only hope in finding the device was to backtrack, so we turned around and retraced our steps. Carefully watching along the trail as we backtracked, we stopped to do a thorough search at each location along the route where we had paused to take photos, and our search took us all the way back to the beach. About the size and color of the thousands (really, probably closer to millions!) of rocks and small pieces of driftwood on that beach, it felt like a miracle when we found it.

Car door opener . . . found on the beach

Once the car door opener was back in her hands, we turned around and once again made the trek back to Birchwood Park. Having worn footware closer to gym shoes than hiking boots, after the extra mileage of this hike, rather than be discouraged, she headed to the store and purchased a good solid pair of hiking boots. Go, Sandy, go!

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Categories: Hiking, Nature, Photography, Whatcom County | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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