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Going home (Post #11)

October 18-20      Driving

I wasn’t looking forward to driving 180 miles to Eugene. We had to return to RV Glass Solutions to get a couple of things fixed on the new windows they had installed. That meant crossing the mountains with the rig. There are two ways to go and the Garmin put us on the wrong road – OR-242 that is barely wide enough for two trucks to pass, much less our 10-foot wide rig towing the Rav4. We saw the sign advising against rigs over 35 feet taking the road but it was too late to turn around.

I was shocked as we drove through a large burned area near the Dee Wright Observatory. It must have happened in the past two years. We then saw a sign warning of road delays ahead. Usually that means about 10 minutes or so. Of course, we were at the front of the line and the wait was 20 minutes. When they finally waved us on, Dave waved everyone behind us to go ahead of us. He did not want a passel of angry drivers behind us.

We found a place to stop for lunch before the descent. This road is only 37 miles long but winding is putting it mildly. Luckily, there wasn’t much traffic coming the other way. The forest around us was largely deciduous and colorful. It was too bad we couldn’t stop. We passed the trailhead to Proxy Falls that is a wonderful hike. Finally we reached OR-126 and had a wider road and a faster ride.

We were tired when we reached RV Glass Solutions. We got a free night of dry camping at their site and turned the RV over to them on Friday morning. We then went and enjoyed breakfast at Shari’s before doing various errands around Eugene. We expected the RV to be ready around noon but due to some problems, we didn’t get it back until 2 p.m. We moved to a nearby RV park, did the laundry and crashed.

Going to Eugene forced us to change our itinerary. I like to spend time around Bend but it seemed dumb to drive 120 miles west and then drive those same 120 mile east. We decided to see if we could get into the Elk Prairie Campground in Prairie Creek in northern California. This time of year it’s first come-first served so we have a chance. If not, we’ll go somewhere else and hang out for a few days. This will reduce the number of long driving days in a row to get home on October 26.

The 150-mile drive to Grants Pass was uneventful, all on I-5. The scenery was pretty with lots of yellow and tan trees interspersed with the evergreens. We got into the RV park by 2 p.m. and worked on our Painted Hills pictures some more.  The weather has been cloudless for a week now, with more of the same for the next several days.

October 21-22   Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

After the final miles through southern Oregon, we were going south on US-101. We passed the golden bears welcoming us to California. Passed Jedediah Smith State Park. Passed Paul Bunyan and Babe, his Blue Ox. Passed through Crescent City and Fisherman’s Restaurant where we celebrated my birthday a few years ago. Finally, we reached Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. I had needlessly worried about getting a space in the one loop that wasn’t in dense trees. They were all available. One of the reasons we love that loop is that it looks across at a sizable meadow where elk are known to hang out. It’s also protected from the road by a berm of grasses that elk also feed on. But the grasses were just beginning to rebound from a controlled burn a while ago. There were no elk. I couldn’t even hear any elk bugling. This is the first fall trip in memory where we haven’t seen any elk. And most of the few deer we’ve seen have been dead ones on the side of the road.

It was overcast in the park, and when we woke up on Monday morning, it was quite foggy. We decided to go to Fern Canyon which was about 17 miles away near Gold Bluffs Beach. It is the premier place to visit in the park because of the fantastic vertical walls covered with ferns.

The green lushness comes at a cost to the sightseer. Navigating the creek involves wading, sloshing, rock hopping and log leaping. This is one wet environment. I don’t much care for doing any of that but it’s the requirement for this hike. My hiking poles enabled me to move forward.

The light was low, very low. Great images are not made at ISO 6400 and 1/20thof a second. But we did what we could. And then I just started to play around a little.

It took us quite a while to maneuver our way .6 miles to where the trail leaves the Home Creek and rises high above it.

The trees were covered with stubby limbs covered with moss. It seems like they didn’t have enough oomph to grow into real branches down low.

As would be expected, the damp area is rich in fungi. Much of it consists of cute little flat guys that look like a fried egg.

The hike hadn’t taken that long. We returned to the parking area and had our coffee break in the car. It wasn’t very nice out. We decided to go check out the misty, gray beach. We didn’t stay long.

Luckily for me, Dave drove back. The road is very, very narrow and windy and when entering from US-101, a sign warns that vehicles wider than 8 feet and longer than 24 feet should not enter. This would be frustrating to some would-be campers because the Gold Bluffs Campground is at the end of the road near the beach. The sign certainly didn’t stop the Class C Winnebago that confronted us as we rounded a bend. Our side of the road had a small but very steep dropoff. Dave pulled over as far as he could and it was still impossible for the Winnebago to pass. The guy rolled down his window and suggested that we back up 20 feet or so into a pulloff so he could pass. I hoped he ran into a park ranger down the road who gave him hell. What a dangerous thing to do!

This road is bizarre in a way I’ve never quite seen before. All the ferns and foliage next to the roadway are covered with a heavy coat of dust. Part of the road is gravel and dirt which gets dusty, but part of it is paved and the plants are still a weird color of dusty tan.

October 23    Prairie Creek Trail and Foothill Trail

The day started out foggy and dim. I didn’t have great expectations for photography. But we walked up to the Prairie Creek Trail and it was a pleasant walking experience. There were very dark areas where ISO 6400 was required to get a 1/15thsecond shot. Because it was dark and damp, there was lots of fungi. Most looked the same: little buttons with a darker spot in the middle. But we also found other varieties.

A closer look at the ferns was called for. The undersides of some are covered with tiny rows of seeds or spores or whatever they use to make more of themselves.

There were areas with deciduous trees that had bright green or yellow leaves, mostly maple. What was great about that was the piles of leaves strewn about, covering the trail and stuck in the ferns. I collected a few outstanding leaves and cast about for good locations in which to shoot them. The low light didn’t stop the colorful leaves from glowing. And the maples created a light, lacy background with dark trunks.

The final “sight” on Prairie Creek was the Corkscrew Tree that has twisted its way into fame. Many redwoods grow iterations of themselves out of a burl (or bud, as the ranger called it). That way, if one part burns or dies, the other has a chance to live.

We got off the Prairie Creek Trail and onto the Foothill Trail across the Drury Roadway that runs through the State Park. There we found the famous “Big Tree”. The Big Tree is 286 feet high and 75 feet in circumference. As the image shows, it’s big. Since I’m shooting straight up, there is nothing that can be used to show how large the Big Tree is. It’s a conundrum, alright.

Although the walking had been easy, we were getting tired and went home. The weather report was a 50% chance of rain and sure enough, there were several good rain showers in the afternoon. We relaxed the day away and finally opened the bottle of Tobin James Liquid Love Zinfandel we had tucked away for 2 months. Unfortunately, it was too wet and chilly to sip it outside.

October 24    Brown Creek Trail, Klamath Beach Road and Prairie Creek Trail

After the rain, we were really hoping for a brilliant sunny morning. Didn’t happen.

It was misty again so we didn’t hurry onto the trail. We drove about 10 minutes to the Brown Creek Trail, an easy 1.5 mile trail that the ranger had said was filled with Maple. It was another dim day. The first thing I saw was a notice warning people that an aggressive mountain lion was in the area. The second thing I saw was a pile of fresh, glistening scat. It didn’t look to me like bear, coyote, deer, elk or dog scat. What does that leave? I stuck close to Dave on the trail.

It was preternaturally quiet on this trail. So quiet my head felt a little funny when we stopped and listened. Even Brown Creek was very quiet. Dave said he was listening for a Verbal Burble from the creek.

The trail wasn’t very long. We crossed a little bridge, off the main trail, that took us into a twisty loop. The plaque at the start said the redwood grove was dedicated to Carl Schenck the founder of the Biltmore Forest School, the first school of forestry in the U.S. at Biltmore, NC in 1898. As we wandered along, small numbered posts dedicated trees to various “…alumni, his friends and admirers” including Frederick Olmstead, the landscape architect who designed Central Park in NYC, Gifford Pinchot, and other luminaries. It was a great tribute.

Dave found a view to concentrate on and I stared down into the black and white water of Brown Creek.

We continued a little further to the end of the trail and had an early lunch. The way back was uneventful except for the sighting of a bright yellow banana slug and more fungi.

Because it was still early, we steered the Rav up and out of the Drury Parkway, onto 101 north for a few miles and exited on Klamath Beach Road. A short loop took us to a viewpoint where the Klamath River runs into the Pacific. It was gray and misty, like everywhere else but a long vista was a nice change. I spotted a new critter that I first thought was a really long worm, squirming across the path. A closer look revealed that it was a really short, tiny garter snake. That added a new name to our short list of animals we’ve seen on this trip.

We returned to Prairie Creek to walk a little more of its namesake trail. The sun actually came out for a few moments here and there, so we got some backlit images.

We were home by 4 p.m. and relished our final real night of the trip. Thursday will be 200 miles of traveling.

October 25-26    The final drive

The sky actually showed some blue this morning, along with fog and various types of clouds. We had a final bacon-and-egg breakfast and drove 184 miles south on US-101 to Willits, CA. We spent our final night at the Golden Rule RV Park. It’s a strange name for a pretty little park in a canyon, one winding mile off 101. It was warm! We actually got to sit in our chairs outside for a while.

The last day’s 134 miles were uneventful. The traffic steadily increased on a Friday afternoon but we expected that. We finally caught sight of our beautiful city, shrouded in a little mist. Some idiot almost got creamed by us as we got off Golden Gate Bridge. He had a stop sign but turned right into our lane without stopping or looking. Dave was able to swerve a little into the next lane, honking all the way, so we avoided crushing him like a bug.

We reached home, got a space in front of the house, and unloaded on a warm afternoon. We are back!

 

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October 14-16  Moving on

I woke up Sunday feeling lethargic. Even though we didn’t hike at all on Saturday, the driving still tires me out. I wanted to see Peshastin Pinnacles State Park but we defaulted to taking the day off and hanging out in the quiet RV park. It was nice.

Monday was a 180-mile drive out of Washington. I like drives like this. It’s mostly not on interstates. Instead we drove alongside the Columbia River for a long time, past apple orchards and vineyards and small towns. We skirted by Richland, the busy tri-city area, crossed the Columbia into Oregon, and went west a while to Boardman. Some of the RV parks along the Columbia also serve as marinas. We lucked out, camped on a grassy plot facing the Columbia River. The river and the hills across glowed in the sunset. It was peaceful and lovely.

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Before our trips, we DVR a lot of movies because we usually don’t get cable or local networks. Dave’s choice last night was the 4.5-hour Cleopatra – the one with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Although way too long, it was interesting to watch. I giggled at the Egyptian Cleo with a blond maidservent and an advisor played by Hume Cronyn. Cleo’s outfits seemed to be mostly translucent loungewear in every color under the sun. Apparently, the Egyptians had access to a vast array of dyes. The emoting and fighting went on too long. But the acting by Taylor and Burton was pretty good. And the sets were amazing for their time.

We regretfully drove away the next day. To start, we went further west on I-84. This far east in Oregon, the landscape consists of the placid blue river and dun-colored bare hills. It is desert country with a huge river running through it. I selected a new route south and we turned onto OR-19. That involved 60 miles of road winding through grasslands, similar to the Palouse except the hills aren’t as prominent or interesting. Both Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood occasionally appeared, indistinct in the distance.

We finally started seeing trees and foliage. A heavy pall of smoke lay over the area we were heading to and we were concerned until we saw the fire with a “controlled burn” sign on the road. It may affect the light on the painted hills but we’ll see tomorrow. One of the pleasures of driving through this area is that you may come around a bend in the road and see a farm with brilliantly-colored mud hills behind it. Usually, there is nowhere to pull over to photograph so I just appreciate it as we pass it.

We rolled into the tiny town of Mitchell, and familiar with the routine, hooked up to one of the 4 sites in the city park. Lucky we got there when we did because two huge RV’s came in right after us and filled up the remaining 3 spaces. It was warm and sunny and we spent the afternoon not moving. I did get out once to follow the flock of turkeys that run the town, but they were having none of me.

October 17    John Day Fossil Beds – Painted Hills Unit

The next morning we opened the shades and watched 11 turkeys finding breakfast in the sketchy grass slope next to us. The advantage of staying in Mitchell is that the Painted Hills are only 8 miles away, so we arrived pretty early. As usual, we had to stop to photograph the hills before we even reach the John Day National Monument, Painted Hills Unit. There are three other units but they are nowhere near this one.

We stopped at the first pullout in the monument.

The majority of the gorgeous hills face west so morning light isn’t ideal at the primary overlook. Instead, we started at some of the other areas farther west.

The Red Hill walk is very short and is a semicircle around a smooth red hill. Only the red hill is half yellow. The red clay is the result of a wet, forested period millions of years ago. The yellow part is from a dryer climate.

We drove to the Leaf Hill Trail, another short one. I didn’t make any photographs. The hill is covered in bits of clay, many of which contain various tree fossils. I want to pick through them and find some. But there is a sturdy fence surrounding the hill and you can’t get near them. Basically, you get to look at a hill where many valuable discoveries got made. Frustrating!

We continued on to the Painted Cove Trail. This is a short walk along a boardwalk through more mud hills. A bonus at the top is a view of a nearby ranch and its pond, adding blue to the variety of vivid colors.

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After eating lunch and a short car nap for me, we went to the primary Overlook Trail. This is one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen. The scene is like something out of a dream or an O’Keeffe painting. It just doesn’t look real.

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One of the things I love is the fuzzy topknots on the crest of most of the hills. The dried grasses shine in the sunlight.

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The colors and textures of the hills seem to change as you look from north to south. Colors change from red and yellow to subtle shades of olive green and browns. Some of these hills appear to have the texture of those dusty old velour sofas I sat on as a kid. Humans are not allowed to walk on the fragile hills, but they are covered with hoof prints and animal trails.

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We worked our way back to car and prepared for the longer hike on the Carroll Rim Trail. It’s only 1.5 miles round trip but it rises 400 feet up a couple of long switchbacks. We had never done it before, but the weather was perfect and it offered a different view of the formations.

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We headed down the trail and headed back to the rig. I was elated. It had been an extraordinary day. The light was not optimal with the cloudless sky, but we each had shot more than 200 images. It was going to be fun to edit them.

Around 9 p.m. we experienced a power failure. Dave checked the utility pole and it was dead. We had enough residual power without having to resort to the generator but it was irritating. We had a power failure the night before but it occurred after we had gone to bed.  Mitchell has a systems problem here.

 

 

 

 

October 7-8   Wetness

Boring! It sprinkled. It drizzled. It showered. It rained very little. We sat around the campground on Sunday and then decided to drive back to east side on Monday. It was a very unremarkable trip across North Cascades National Park. We went back to Near Pine RV Park and did laundry. Big whoop!

October 9-10    Looking for Larches

We were debating several places to go. The ranger station suggested taking WA-20 east from Twisp and go up the mountains to the Loup Loup Ski Area. So we took off around 11:30 and drove slowly up WA-20 towards Okanogan. The clouds were supposed to clear but the white and gray overwhelmed the blue. The light was still dull. We went down a few forest service roads and kept trying to make images. Neither of us was terribly excited. We went down FS-41, then FS 42. Only little bits of sunlight brightened the landscape.

Having whiled away the afternoon, we stopped to shop and went home.

On Wednesday, we returned to Klipchuck Campground. One loop was now closed, the water turned off. So…..free camping for us a few nights. We have to start planning what we’re going to do the next week. It’s getting close to head home plans. One good thing is about ten days of sunshine are forecasted.

October 11    Cutthroat Lake Trail

The Ranger Station in Winthrop had told us that Cutthroat Lake had Larches. The trail was only 4 miles round trip and rose only 650 feet. A sunny day and an easy walk sounded good to me.

We got on the trail sometime before 10 a.m. The trail was primarily through forest and was in shadow so there were many frosty areas. There’s always something to photograph with frost. Dave got a good image of the ice on the metal struts of the bridge we crossed.

It was nice to see the mountains in sunshine, even though the light was contrasty.


Several people passed us, heading for Cutthroat Pass, a steep climb we would pass up. We ambled along and finally reached Cutthroat Lake, where the trail petered out in a jumble of foliage. We did manage to find a few open spots on the edge of the lake. It was a pleasure seeing a sea of golden grass.

It wasn’t always obvious, but there was a lot of ice on the lake.

We decided not to bushwhack further along the marshy edge of the lake. Instead, we returned a short way down the trail to an unmarked turnoff that looked like it circled to the east side of the lake. That provided a different set of backup mountains.

October 12-14     Cashmere, Washington Area

We decided to go south. I wanted to check out a few mountainous areas east and south of Leavenworth. But because of Oktoberfest, I didn’t want to go anywhere near Leavenworth. I thought finding a Friday-Saturday campsite might be hard and it was. We ended up at the Chelan (Sha-lan) County Expo Center, attached to the Fairgrounds. It’s an open, grassy area with nice views. It was $28 per night for a full hookup. Best of all it was almost empty. Perfect for us. It was also fairly warm so we sat outside and had an afternoon apertif.

The next day we headed out to find Old Blewett Road. It’s somewhere around Blewett Pass but after consulting with the forest ranger, we were still confused. We wanted to check out the open forest service campgrounds near Liberty, and so headed 30 miles south down US-97.

The campgrounds were cold and very shady, not ideal for our needs. We moved on to take a look at the town of Liberty. Considered the oldest mining townsite in Washington, it was settled after the 1873 discover of gold in Swauk Creek. It still has some residents and we met one of them. He filled us in a little on town history and showed us his “bling”, a large gold nugget.

Some of the Liberty mailboxes.

And the real thing.

We wandered around town for a while and then headed out on Forest Service Road 9712. In the Washington atlas, the road circles around like the path of an earthworm. We were hoping to see larches. It took a while to get high enough for the larches to appear. The one-lane dirt road was surprisingly busy. We passed many trucks with guys in camo and hunters orange. We also passed several tent camps. Eventually, we began to see larches and a lot of dead trees from an old burn.

It was really chilly in the shady areas of the road. Ice was prevalent, even in the afternoon.

Eventually, the road twisted on to a huge, steep talus slope that exhibited the trees nicely.

We moved on past the talus slope and back into forest. The brilliant larch were interspersed with dead trees. They seem to have regenerated quickly after the fire. The afternoon shadows were getting long.

We were headed for Haney Meadow but we didn’t know exactly where it was or where we were. All this time, I was trying to compare the Garmin map and the atlas with the forest service roads that were branching off 9712. I was looking for 9716 because that would take us back to US-97 without having to backtrack all the way to Liberty. But it was difficult because while Garmin shows some forest roads, it doesn’t always name them similar to the atlas and some it just shows as “unpaved”. We finally reached Haney Meadow and Ken Wilcox Horse Camp and realized we had missed the turnoff to 9716.

After our afternoon repast, we turned around and found FS-9716 on the Garmin. The only sign on that branch was “US-97” and an arrow. We quickly got back to the highway and immediately got stuck behind a fifth-wheel who wouldn’t use the Slow Vehicle Pullouts to pull over. But it was a pleasant drive along a river canyon.

This was our last foray into the Washington Cascade area. We’ve had a great time here, aside from some overcast days. Now it’s back to Oregon.

October 3 Heading North

We left Nason Creek campground on a gray day. The drive towards Stevens Pass was unimpressive. However, as we rose, snow began to appear frosting the trees. As we neared the pass, it looked like a winter wonderland, with slight touches of color brightening all the black and white. We had to stop. Boy, was it cold! A bracing zephyr was blowing out there. We didn’t stay long.

The rest of the drive was pretty easy, although there’s a lot of traffic on WA-2 and the other non-interstate roads we took. We stopped at the town of Index for lunch and a tiny town it is.

We reached our destination: Howard Miller Steelhead Park. In the small town of Rockport, this is a nice RV park, right by the Skagit River. On Wednesday, the place was empty, so we chose a spot where we can watch the water flow 20 feet away.

October 4   Sauk Mountain Trail

One of the neat things about this campground is that it often gets dense morning fog. The last time we were here, we had a magical morning of wandering around for more than an hour, photographing water and trees shrouded in fog and seeing it gradually dissipate as the sun came out. So of course, the morning of a strenuous hike, those were the conditions. Knowing how long it would take us to get to the trail takeoff point, we skipped the fog and headed up Sauk Mountain Road.

The road has 8 miles switchbacks and potholes. It rises about 4,000 feet. Towards the top, when you get your first view of the trail, it looks impossible – something only a mountain goat would use. But it is worth doing. We found that out in 2016.

The trail is only 2.1 miles one way and that way is up 1,200 feet. But most of the 27 switchbacks are gradual. We quickly got sidetracked by frost on all the alpine plants and icicles hanging from trees and rocks. There weren’t too many people on the trail at that point so we could hunch across the trail for photographs all we wanted.

I was so entranced with the greenery as we rose, I was surprised when we got to the top of the switchbacks and rounded the bend to reveal another huge valley and set of peaks.

We ate lunch while looking down at Sauk Lake. There’s a trail that descends about 1,100 feet to it but it definitely wasn’t worth it to us to see the lake close up.

There was some snow up top but not enough to bother us. We followed the trail across the rocks and clambered up the steep short trail to the top. Mountains everywhere!

We were soon joined by two guys. One of them was using a light meter and I asked him what he was using it for. He said they worked for Microsoft, making videos of the beautiful areas in the outdoors. Now that’s a job!

We eventually started back down. As we crossed a rock field, I saw a Pika out of the corner of my eye. The little rodent ran up on a rock and stopped. Usually, they disappear under a rock but this guy was relaxing on top.

We descended pretty quickly as a fair number of people labored upwards. We were stopped in our tracks by a dog-jam. A lady with 3 dogs heading down had to pass a man with 2 dogs headed up. The dogs stayed peaceful but of course had to sniff each other and the leashes got tangled up on the narrow path.

We reached the parking lot and sat with our coffee and cookies, watching people come and go. On the way up, we had met a man with two dogs, one placid and unleashed and the other a leashed puppy, straining to go everywhere and smell everything. He returned and I asked him how the pup had done. “Terrible. I let him off the leash a few times and once he ran off the trail and almost rolled down the hill. I figured a shepherd mix would have more sense.”

Finally, we drove the long descent down the hill and back to camp.

October 5     Dreary Weather

The weather outlook was cloudy for Friday. We started the day obtaining a different campsite at the RV park. We were trying to get the only available campsite in the entire park. The weekends are booked solid here. We got it and moved to a less desirable site.

It looked like the entire day was going to be dreary. We piled into the car anyway and drove east into North Cascades National Park. We weren’t expecting much with the lousy light and we weren’t disappointed. I saw my first ever dead duck by the side of the road. It wasn’t flattened or half-eaten so it must have been recently deceased. Or maybe it was just resting.

We stopped at tiny, tidy Newhalem that is a town totally about the hydroelectric plant. They have an odd little gazebo deemed the “Temple of Power”, designed by Dan Corson. Corson used recycled bushings (originally used in giant circuit breakers) from the Diablo switchyard to support the ceiling.

The other notable thing about Newhalem is the garden planted around the power station. They have some great trees and flowers that glow in the low light.

P.S. On the way back, the duck was still “resting” by the side of the road.

October 6    The Next Great Hike: Dock Butte

It was foggy when we took off for the Dock Butte Trailhead but it was the kind of fog that burned off. I could see blue sky behind it.

It’s a long drive to hike. It’s 13 miles or so along-side Baker Lake. Then a couple of forest service roads for another 10 miles or so. The Garmin made the navigating easy this time. The gravel roads were in good shape, though they were narrow. We stopped a couple of times to make images.

We reached the small parking lot and checked the posted information. The Forest Service outdid themselves this time. There was nothing. There was a small post at the trailhead pointing out the trail to Blue Lake. (This is not the same Blue Lake we hiked to last week.) Some other people at the parking lot intended to go to Blue Lake and I overheard one of them say they didn’t need to bring water because it was such a short hike. They took off ahead of us.

There was no mention of Dock Butte on any signs that day.  Recognizing the trail from the first time we hiked it in 2016, we knew we were on the correct path. As we began to climb the 1200 feet to our destination, Dave noticed the unmarked turnoff that goes to Blue Lake. I walked right by it. As it turned out, so did a lot of other people.

The hike begins, as so many do, going through a forest and the trail was damp, muddy and covered with slippery roots. The hiking poles were very useful. After the first 1.25 miles, views began to open up, small tarns appeared and the terrain was covered with bright foliage. There were no wildflowers left but the bushes are so colorful, they look like flowers. I love this part of the trail.

As we headed towards Dock Butte, Mount Baker was appearing behind us. Each time we looked back, more of it was visible, requiring another picture. Unfortunately, the clouds never lifted off the mountain and we only got tantalizing glimpses of the top.

The shadows kept large parts of the meadows frozen. It’s fun to focus on the frosty foliage.

We finally reached the long trail across a huge, steep meadow before we had to climb the butte. We crossed trail with the group of people who were headed to Blue Lake. They had missed the turn and hiked another 1.5 miles trying to find Blue Lake. There were more hikers who had done the same. I think the Forest Service is endangering people by not displaying proper signage.

There is one place where we have to scale a very steep rockface. Our boots are pretty good on rock but I’m never sure how wet and slippery the rockface is. Dave took my hiking poles and backpack and I scrambled up the rock. Good.

We reached the top of Dock Butte and found two guys there, an older and younger man. Two large antennas were swaying in the air. They were trying to reach people on a shortwave radio. Eavesdropping, I could hear that they reached San Diego. I asked them what they were doing and the older man explained they are in a group called Summits On the Air. It is an amateur radio operating award program. It grants points to people when to hike to the top of a peak and establish radio contact with a few people to confirm where they are. Many of them scale mountains like Mt. Baker. They get 1-10 points for each summit and those few who amass 1000 points receive the title “Mountain Goats”.

It made me think about all the interests that people develop while they are outside. Hiking, running, biking, rock climbing, fishing, kayaking, swimming, diving, paragliding, photography, geocaching, It sounds so obvious but people are so much better off when they spend time in the outdoors. I know most hikes lighten my spirit. (At least until the final mile or two.)

We made the requisite photographs and eventually headed down. I used the trusty “butt technique”, sliding down the scary, steep part.

We eventually reached the parking log, where an older and younger man were preparing to take off to Blue Lake. The older father-in-law said he had come from Florida to Washington to spend time with his daughter and her husband. He asked if we had any dramamine. He had gotten carsick just riding up the road in the truck. We wished him well and headed home, glad we don’t get carsick in cars.

 

October 1     Lake Wenatchee and Stevens Pass

The weather was supposed to be rainy and we woke up to a cloudy day. Not expecting much, we drove a short way to the Wenatchee Lake River Trail. As soon as we got on it, the foliage got very pretty. Since there was no sun, everything was very saturated and contrast was not a problem. The vine maple came in green, yellow, orange, red, crimson. The only issue was how to compose it dramatically.

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Eventually, we reached Lake Wenatchee. Not terribly exciting. Very little color on the surrounding hills. Oh well, it was a nice walk.

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Our next move was to drive over to Stevens Pass. It was supposed to be wonderful with fall color. Well, there were extreme hills and there was some fall foliage on view. However, there was almost no places to pull over and stop on busy WA-2. We continued over the pass and stopped at Deception Falls. The primary falls actually run right under the highway. Not terribly enticing.

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We did the little half-mile walk along Deception Creek. Okay, but not great.

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We gave up and went home.

October 2    Icicle Gorge Trail and Tumwater Campground

We woke up to a sunny day and got on the road around 8:30 or so. Our Photographing Washington Guide recommended fall color along Icicle Creek. AllTrails showed a 4.5-mile loop trail along the creek so off we went to find it. As we turned onto Icicle Creek Road on the outskirts of Leavenworth, four deer looked up from munching on municipal grass. We haven’t been seeing many deer so far on this trip.

Icicle Canyon started to narrow right away. We stopped at a parking area for the Enchantments but decided a 19-mile hike was not for us. We weren’t sure how far our hike was. It turned out to be 17 miles down the road but it was a good road with lots of turnouts to access the creek. We finally parked at the Icicle Gorge Trailhead and began to walk. The foliage was in pretty good color and the trail was flat and pleasant.

After a quarter mile or so, we reached the Icicle Creek bridge. We had brought our tripods because of the possibility of making slow water images and I soon found mine had a broken strut on one leg. I guessed it had broken the day before as I maneuvered the tripod at Deception Falls. I’ve had this tripod for a long time, so I can’t complain too much.

The rocks at the bridge were striated and marked in really interesting ways. The force of the water over eons had carved all kinds of curves into the rock. That held our attention for quite a while.

After eating lunch, we continued for a while down the other side of the creek.

The strap on my tripod is too short to carry it comfortably and I soon got tired of lugging it and I decided I didn’t want to do the entire 4.5 loop. I offered Dave the option of continuing up the trail another mile or so while I returned to the car and drove to pick him up at the next bridge. That worked out well. I got up to the Rock Island Bridge right when he did.

It was still early afternoon so we tried one more suggestion from the guidebook. Tumwater Campground is right on WA-2, follows the Wenatchee River and apparently has nice fall foliage. We parked by the closed gate and walked in. It had the look of long disuse. Apparently, it’s been closed since the 2014 Chiwaukum Fire. Prone to flooding, it was considered too dangerous to open and then became too much of a mess. But it was quiet and colorful in there.

As we neared our exit point, I could feel tiny drops of rain, though it was still blue overhead. Tired out, we returned home, just as the clouds reached us and the showers began. It was going to be a chilly night.

September 27  Blue Lake Trail

The Blue Lake Trail is only 2 miles long but rises 958 feet. Near Washington Pass, it didn’t take us long to get there. We started hiking around 8:30 a.m. The first mile of the trail went through forest and was in shadow, but when a clearing opened up, the mountains were in light.

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After a while, we began to see larches.

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A few other groups passed us while we were hiking but they seemed to be headed for an unmarked trail to Liberty Bell. Okay by us. When we reached Blue Lake, we were the only ones there.  Because of the delicate meadows and the number of people coming here, a lot of areas are roped off. But there’s a large rock on one side of the lake that provides a nice view of the larches on the other side. And better yet, their reflection. Behind them, mountains line up.

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But wait, there’s more! The talus slope stays in shade most of the day and semi-permanent ice creates interesting patterns.

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People were showing up in droves and there is very little available space to enjoy the lake. We headed up what we thought was a short side trail and noticed a sign pointing to Tarn Loop Trail. The trail rose high above the lake and views of Liberty Bell and the other peaks opened.

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There was noone else around, so it was very quiet. This was great! Then we noticed a steep path down to a different part of the lake.

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The light on and texture of the water differed radically from place to place. I was entranced.

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Reluctantly, we moved on. The Tarn Loop wasn’t big. We reached the tarn, a small pool, not beautiful in and of itself, but it was reflecting the mountains if we were willing to squish through mud to get a good vantage point.

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On the other side of the tarn were some boulders where I could just sit and soak up the huge view. It was quiet and peaceful. This is one of the reasons I love hiking.

The hike back down was uneventful except for the large numbers of people coming up the trail. Large groups, lots of mothers and children. I admire parents who haul their children on their back up 1,000 feet or more. I try to picture my 90-pound mother doing that with me when I was young but I don’t think she would have enjoyed it much.

We reached the trailhead in mid-afternoon. As we unloaded our gear, Dave pointed up. “Look!” A couple of paragliders were circling Liberty Bell. I flashed back to our hike up Sauk Mountain two years ago. We sitting at the top, eating lunch, when a paraglider went by at our level. It’s always neat to see them flying.

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September 28-30     Back to Winthrop

It was Dave’s birthday. We were running full on the black and gray tanks. A lot of clothes needed washing. The weather was getting cloudy. It was time to return to Pine Near in Winthrop. At the lower elevation, it was warm and humid even with the clouds.

We walked to the Duck Brand Café in town to celebrate Dave’s birthday. Since we are usually on the road for our birthdays, we celebrate wherever and whenever is convenient for us. On the way, we passed a small house with a small fenced yard  where three deer were chowing down. I’d have liked to see them leap the picket fence but left them alone.

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The light was getting low as we reach the Café.

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Duck Brand wasn’t fancy but the food was good. Dave had ribs and I had a Mexican plate. Dessert consisted of a huge piece of mud pie. It was warm enough to enjoy it all on the deck overlooking town.

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The next day I took the long, 8-mile drive to Twisp to check out their provisions. Success! I finally found our favorite Dare chocolate cookies. I wanted a butternut squash but had to pass up the gonzo-sized ones here. I wouldn’t have anywhere to put the huge vegetable. Apparently Hank’s Harvest Foods had or has a taxidermist on the premises. The top shelves in the center of the market were covered with stuffed deer. But the display in front of the store by the pet food and gift cards was inexplicable. The placard didn’t really explain where the lion and the warthog came from.

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We intended to go west on WA-20 into North Cascades National Park but it had showered quite a bit during the night. A weather check showed 70-90% chance of rain for the next 3 days We changed our plan and went south to WA-2. This road goes the Central Cascades and is notable for its fall colors. It was very cloudy but never rained as we drove along the Methow River.

We figured that people would be leaving the Leavenworth area on Sunday and we wouldn’t have trouble finding a campground. We found a nice site at Nason Creek, a Forest Service campground that’s 8 miles west of Leavenworth on WA-2. Only $11.50 per night with our senior card.

 

 

September 19-21    Back to Civilization

It was a short drive east to Ellensburg. After checking out a dreary RV park next to a motel next to a gas station, we opted for the Yakima River RV Park. It was next to a bull pasture rather than the river, but it had trees and patches of grass and was close to train tracks, a periodic noise we like. We settled down to processing our images and writing and uploading our blogs.

I had to find a laundromat because the RV park didn’t have a laundry. Using the Garmin, I toured around, looking for two defunct or nonexistent laundromats. That caused me to see a fair amount of the Central Washington University. It was a nice campus and a sunny day so students were ambling about. The old downtown, while not exactly charming, still had many old brick buildings.  Using the iPhone, I found an acceptable laundromat  right across from a Fred Meyers store. I love Fred Meyers. It’s like a huge, modern version of a general store. We needed a squeegee for the inside of the RV and after wandering around the large automotive area, I found one in the bath section. I know Target is similar but Fred Meyers seems more old-fashioned to me.

On Friday, we headed north, skirting and winding along the edge of the mountains. It was a pretty drive. Dave had secured reservations at the Pine Near RV Park in Winthrop, that is the first real town on the east side of the North Cascades Highway 20. We were lucky to find a place for the weekend – it’s both leaf-peeping season and early Octoberfest and tourists fill the towns on the weekends. Pine Near is very pretty park with flocks of plastic pink (and one blue) flamingos mingling with real deer munching on the verdant grass.

September 22-23    Finding our next campground

In Winthrop, it was pretty sunny when we awoke. We lolled about for a while, then betook ourselves to Highway 20. We wanted to check out a couple of forest service campgrounds, Klipchuck  and Lone Fir. There are several spectacular hikes near Washington Pass in the mountains that are 35 miles away from Winthrop. When you are really tired after a long hike, 35 miles is a long way. We wanted to be closer.

Klipchuck fit the bill. It had 46 mostly spacious (for us) sites and wasn’t even full on a Saturday. It was at 2900 feet elevation and only 17 miles from our hikes. It was sprinkling on and off there but wasn’t even cold. Lone Fir is even closer, but at 3500 feet was rainier and chillier. Rainy Lake and Rainy Pass are 10 miles away and it’s no joke that if there is a cloud in the sky, it will drop rain in the area.

We continued on to Washington Pass, a dramatic highway switchback that rises to the Washington Pass Overlook. It was chilly and showery there and the light was harsh, but we tried to make some worthy images. The aspen and larch were just beginning to change at the higher elevation. The shrubbery, however, were various colors of red and gold.

We reached the large parking area for the Maple Pass/Lake Ann hikes. Even on a rainy, cold Saturday, the parking lot was full. We squeezed our petite Rav4 into a space, bundled up and took the .9-mile walk to Rainy Lake.

Not expecting much, we were surprised to see a small tarn with a decent waterfall at the far end. We started talking with a couple and a small boy who had a fishing rod propped up on a rock. It showered about 3 times during the 20 minutes we were there but they were quite content, sitting on a bench under a tree, with a blanket to keep them warm and sort of dry.

We headed back to the car, had our coffee and cookies, and drove back to warm sunny Winthrop. It seemed the right time to enjoy a tot of Glenlivit with cheddar and a crisp Envy apple.

Late Sunday morning, we departed Winthrop and drove the 18 miles to Klipchuck Campground. It was sunny and warm and we had a quiet afternoon and evening. We began to gather stuff for Monday’s big hike.

September 24    Maple Pass Trail

I really wanted this hike. Two years ago, when we did it, the weather was rainy and cold. When we reached Heather Pass, we huddled under some trees to eat lunch and Dave completed the loop while I retraced my steps. He dealt with enough snow to worry that he’d have trouble following the trail.

This time, the weather was optimal. My only concern was whether my feet could handle 7.2 miles and an 1800-foot rise in elevation. I strategically bandaged various toes and brought along a flock of bandaids. We set off at 9 a.m.

The hike begins with some long switchbacks through dense forest and then turns south through a rocky landslide area, covered with brilliant foliage.

My jacket came off pretty quickly as I warmed up. We eventually got to look down on Lake Ann, a classic mountain lake at the bottom of deep talus slopes.

This is one popular trail. Some had their dogs. There was one group of ladies, a couple of runners, and several hikers that looked older than us. Some just seemed to be out on a 7-mile stroll. A lot of people for a Monday morning. Everyone seemed to be in a great mood.

We eventually reached Heather Pass and ate our lunch. People were coming and going all around us. The view of a different valley was superb. Now we were seeing some glaciers.

After lunch, we continued to climb. It was spectacular. The trail continued to circle Lake Ann, providing better and better views.

We reached a point where we could see four huge valleys taking off in various directions. The weather was perfect, a little warmth in the sunny areas, a little coolth in the shady areas. The sun was a little lower. I tried to do justice to the views. I’ve never seen anything like this.

There are many signs warning people to stay off the fragile meadows; it takes ages before trampled alpine foliage can reclaim a path. It is hard to stay on the trail when you can stand on the edge of the abyss 20 feet away. We tried but occasionally gingerly tried to rock hop over to see the view.

Lake Ann moved out of sight as the trail looped up another ridge. New valleys and mountains came into view. We continued to rise. And rise. And rise some more. As we were now hiking above 6,000 feet, my breathing became more labored.. We finally reached the high point, 6,850’. Wow! We celebrated and rested by munching some gorp. (Where did the name “gorp” come from, anyway?)

I was not looking forward to the descent. My feet had not hurt going up, but now we would be going down 1700 feet. I knew the trail was steeper going down than coming up. But the first 1.5 miles were wonderful. The light was getter better and larch trees were glowing green and gold. There were dark rocky areas and white glaciers to use as backgrounds.

We reached one point where we could look down at Rainy Lake, more than 1,000 feet below on the right and down at Lake Ann on the left. Mind-blowing! As I was focusing the camera, a large dark moving object entered the image. Startled, I let out a screamy yelp. Then I realized that a fly had landed on the camera lens. In the next image, it happened again. I hadn’t dripped honey or anything else on the lens so I don’t know what attracted them. I’m only sorry I didn’t get an image of it.

After that, we began an endless descent on switchbacks. We were in deep forest and the trail was full of roots and rocks, so constant vigilance was required. The likelihood of tripping increases as I get tired and footsore. This is when the hiking poles are invaluable.

We kept descending. We got further glimpses of Rainy Lake below us but it didn’t seem to be getting closer quickly. I just trudged, paying attention to nothing but the trail under my feet. After one endless switchback that I hoped was the last one, we made the turn and finally reached the paved Rainy Lake trail that meant our car was only a quarter mile away.

We celebrated our return with a delicious orange that went well with a chocolate cookie. Camp was only 16 miles away.

September 25    Sitting

We did very well on our 7.2-mile hike but we were very tired and knees, calves and feet wanted a day off. We obliged and sat in our sunny, quiet campground. We read, colored (me), blogged, marveled at our images and moved minimally. It was great.

September 26     Walking the Pacific Crest Trail

The forest service had told us that we could drive up to Hart’s Pass and hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) without much elevation gain. Our legs were still stiff from Monday’s hike so that sounded good to us. Forest Road 5400 was a 25-mile drive up there, which doesn’t sound bad except about 15 of those miles were unpaved with copious large potholes and/or washboard texture. But as we rose up 4,000 feet, the scenery was beautiful. Lush forest thinned out and we ran into aspens. We had to stop for them.

We appeared to be in a huge valley ravaged by fire many years ago (I’m guessing). Above us were small groups of silvery snags surrounded by healthy live trees.

The bottom of the valley was dead tree trunks and grasses and lots of colorful shrubs. I had never seen anything quite like it.

The steep hills had orderly rows of dead trees, evergreens and mixed conifers. It was like someone had a plan.

We turned off of FR 5400 and onto the road that goes to the PCT. The scenery only got better.

We finally reached the trailhead and hit the PCT. It was a brilliant wonderland of larches. The yellows were blinding. We quickly got to the talus slope that provides a gray and white background for the trees and foliage.

As we lollygagged along the narrow trail, we kept crossing hikers going the other way. At this point, the PCT is only 35 miles from Canada. Some people were obviously long-term PCT trekkers. There were single men and women. There were a few couples. Most seemed fairly young. Some nodded and didn’t speak. One wished me “Happy trails”. I spoke with one guy who seemed to be somewhere in his thirties. He said that he had got on the trail at the Mexico-U.S. border on April 3. Assuming he finished in the next few days, that’s just short of 6 months of walking. Few who try the PCT walk the entire U.S. portion of the trail in one take. I congratulated him.

After less than a mile, we came to a 180-degree turn in the trail. Voila! A whole new view and huge valley opened up.

We didn’t go very far on this side. The view looked like it wasn’t going to change radically from what we first saw and we were still footsore from the Maple Pass Trail. We turned around and looked out at the expansive landscape.

We had crossed trails with a couple of older (than me) women who said they did this hike annually. We passed them again while they were having a snack. “Going back so soon?” one asked. “We have to get back for our coffee break.” I replied, half jokingly. “That’s an odd timetable” one responded, not understanding coffee addiction.

The drive home took quite a while, but this was one of the best days of the trip.