Jul 25
Talapus Lake

Talapus, Olallie, Pratt, and Lower Tuscohatchie Lakes, 23-25JUL2020 with Patrick and Ethan

I was itching to discover more of the lakes in the Snoqualmie Pass region of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and decided to do this hike with several of the grandkids. We took off on Thursday, and when we arrived at the Talapus Lake Trailhead at 7:45, it was already filling up. The total hike to Olallie Lake was a little more than 3 miles, but we first passed Talapus Lake. The trail was not terribly steep with a lot of flat spots and a highly manicured trail surface. It took us a leisurely pace of about 1.5 hours to get to camp. We camped on the far side of the lake, where there was nobody else our first night. On Friday night, we were surrounded by 4 more tents filling the campsite. The kids went swimming, while I loafed. We did a several mile exploratory hike around the lake.

Highly manicured creek crossing on the way to the lakes. The surrounding was dense forest.
Olallie Lake

The next day, after breakfast, we did a 6-7 mile day hike to Pratt Lake and lower Tuscohatchie Lake. This trail had a bit more demanding elevation loss and gain. On approaching Pratt Lake, we had a lengthy segment of traversing talus slopes. The rock in this area was predominantly granite. We did lunch at lower Tuscohatchie Lake, and headed back to camp.

Talus slopes of granite surrounding Pratt Lake
Pratt Lake
Another view of Pratt Lake
Looking down the Pratt River valley toward the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River
The kids at lower Tuscohatchie Lake where we had lunch
Ethan back at camp, in a most hungered state

The kids again did more swimming, we made supper, and went to bed early. By morning, our campsite was plumb full. It took less than 1.5 hours to get back to the car, even with stops and photographic moments.

Patrick and Ethan back at the trailhead, eager for more adventures.

The drive home was uneventful. I had several objectives for this trip, the first being the desire to explore more of this portion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, which is within an hour of home, but usually flooded by Seattleites. Secondly, I wished for the kids to become more independent of Opa. Patrick shows strong promise, and he is ready to head out on his own into the woods for an overnighter. Hopefully, his parents will let this happen. I gave Patrick more responsibility, essentially not telling him much. Ethan will need a few more years to be set free in the woods, as he needs to realize that the woods must be taken seriously. Fortunately, he seems to enjoy being in the woods more than any of the kids, and thus my delight with taking him along.

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Jul 21

Summit Lake, with Liam Flanagan, on 20-21JULY2020.

Summit Lake has been a favorite hike of mine for taking beginning hikers. It’s only 3.1 miles, with 1300 feet of elevation gain. In fact, nearly the entire hike is climbing, though not steep. The drive to the trailhead 7 miles of a very poor gravel road, best taken with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. There was intense logging operations ongoing, but we were not stopped at all, and only passed one logging truck. Most of the gravel road was the width of one car with a shear drop-off on one side, so I was grateful for light travel on the road. We arrived at the trailhead by 9:45, which was already nearly filled with 10-15 cars. Liam led the way. It took him 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete the hike, and we then selected a campsite where I’ve camped with the other Flanagan kids. Other sites were nicer, but this was simplest with easy access to the lake as well as to the trail out.

On 22JULY, Liam will be celebrating his 11th birthday. Thus, I let him pretty much set the agenda for this hike. This was his very first backpack trip, so he was most eager to participate in exploration of the lake. First though, we set up our campsite, including our tent, and had lunch. I finally talked Liam into taking a walk around the lake. This gave us great views of Mt. Rainier, distant Mt. Stuart, the Alpine Lakes area, Glacier Peak, as well as Mt. Baker. It was approximately two miles around the lake. Snow was still melting, so we had a bit of time walking through snow, yet the forest was covered with Avalanche Lilies (mistakenly called Glacier Lilies in my last post-Glacier Lilies are yellow). Other flowers were in abundance.

Liam reaching the border of the Clearwater Wilderness, where Summit Lake sits
Liam contemplating the challenge ahead
Mt. Rainier in the background. The hills are alive, with the sound of Liam.
This view of Mt. Rainier was right from the lake
Rainier from the hill on the far side of Summit Lake
A view with Mt. Rainier, Summit Lake, and Bearhead Mountain between. You can see snow still around the lake. The temperature of the lake water wasn’t much warmer than that of the snow.
Spreading phlox
Subalpine Lupine (fairly sure)
Cow parsnip (fairly sure)
Woolly Yellow Daisy
Liam at camp, showing hunger pains
Liam finally relieved of hunger pains
Liam practicing his Chinese (inside joke)

We went to bed near sundown (8pm), and woke up at 6 am the next morning. We did a relaxed exploration of the campsites around the lake, ate breakfast and then packed up everything. It took us an hour and 10 minutes to reach our car, with me stopping to take lots of photos to slow us down. The ride out was again rough, but we made it to Buckley by 11 am, in time for a stop at Wallys. I treat all the grandkids on their first hike to a Waltimate burger, a HUGE hamburger about 10″ across. Liam was able to eat about ½ of it, keeping the rest to be eaten later. The burger, incidentally, was plant based, the portion which came from a cow came from a cow that only ate plants.

Liam wondering how he was going to eat the whole thing! They used to serve the burger with a knife and fork!

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Jul 17
Mt. Adams from Takhlakh Lake

Takhlakh Lake, 15-17JULY with Betsy and Gaylon

Betsy and I have been discussing an outdoor activity that we could do together, and we came up with a camping trip as an option we’d both be happy with. Campgrounds in Washington State are plum full! After searching for a while, I found a 2 consecutive night option at Takhlakh Lake, a lake I’ve never even heard of before. This lake is accessed by traveling 100 miles from home, including 7 miles of gravel road, and sits right at the base of Mt. Adams. It seemed like a godsend in a moment where every campsite within 100 miles of us was either filled, or at a place I’d have no desire of going to. I contacted my brother Gaylon, who is a world authority on car camping, and he agreed to meet us there. The drive was quite easy, and most of the journey from Puyallup to Randle was very familiar to me. Arriving at the lake, we realized that our reserved campsite was very small, probably explaining why it wasn’t filled. Still, I was able to get up the Kingdom 6 (without the garage) for Betsy and me, and also put up a 4 man tent for Gaylon. He arrived soon afterwards, and began giving us instruction in the fine art of camping.

Betsy relaxing with Gaylon’s tent in the background.
Betsy chillin’ with brother Gaylon
Photograph of the mountain in the evening, manifesting alpenglow.

That evening, we did not feel like cooking dinner since we were eating junk food all day. The next morning, I decided to take a hike up to the mountain. The trail followed partly a road, and then went straight up the mountain. The grade was not terribly steep and the trail conditions were quite good, with little mud and no obstacles to climb over. Eventually, the trail became steeper until I was able to achieve the timberline, and intersected the PCT. At this point, the PCT was completely under snow.

Glacier lilies lined the trail, and filled the large meadows at the timberline of Mt. Adams
There were plenty of shooting stars, as well as very early Indian Paintbrush, lupine, cinquefoil and other flowers unknown by name to me. The beargrass was also plentiful.
The NW face of Mount Adams from near the timberline. In the center is the Adams Glacier, second largest glacier in the state of Washington (next to the Carbon Glacier on Mt. Rainier). I’ve climbed Mt. Adams many years ago, the usual approach being from the south side. A lookout tower was built on the summit of Mt. Adams in 1916, which was manned for 8 years. Today, climbers are still greeted with the building on the mountain summit.
Now standing on the Pacific Crest Trail, completely under snow. I saw no footprints of recent adventurers who had attempted this portion of the trail.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/5252604777 shows my Garmin track for the hike. In all, it was 12 miles with 1600 feet of climbing.

That evening, Betsy and I cooked up spaghetti and meatballs, with a salad. The weather was perfect. Our entertainment that evening came from a host of chipmunks and birds in the area. The next morning, we woke up to rain. We had a quick breakfast, packed up our tents, and ran home. In all, we had an awesome time, with a great interest in doing at least one more car camping trip before the rainy season sets in again.

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Jul 14
Echo Lake

Echo Lake, Norse Peak Wilderness, 13JUL2020

I’ve been contemplating harder day hikes, and shorter 1-2 nighters to get me up to speed for a lengthier segment of the PCT this year. My decision is to try to get in the majority of Washington if possible. It has been a very weird year for doing the PCT. I have come to the conclusion that the greatest enemy to PCT hikers has been the PCTA organization, for NOT supporting hikers on the trail. This year would have been perfect for doing the high Sierra, except that trail support was entirely lacking. I also considered completing the most northern segment of the California segment of the PCT from Castilla to Ashland, Oregon, but, being locked up at home in fear that the Wuhan virus or something even worse might afflict me kept me from getting in enough training hikes to make a go for it. In addition, the snow was more than normal this last year, restricting choices on hiking trails. It was a very rainy late spring, turning most of the trails into lengthy mud puddles and diminishing any enthusiasm for being outside on the trails.

I’ve accomplished a lot of day hikes that I haven’t documented, including hikes to Annette Lake, Melakwa Lake, and a number of other places. Yesterday, I completed a hike to Echo Lake, which is immediately off a historical mountain pass (Naches Trail), used heavily in years past but now forgotten. A major fire went through the area in 2017, but fortunately left the hiking trail to Echo Lake alone. Some day, I’d like to do a 3 day loop which goes past Echo Lake, to Corral Pass, Noble Knob, and the to Lost Lake before returning back to the trailhead. I’m told that a moderate portion of that loop goes through burnt forest. In approaching Echo Lake, I saw only patches of forest fire, though the entire hillside on the opposite side of Echo Lake was clearly burnt.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/5233398313

I started the hike just before 10 am. I had never driven this road before, thinking that it was gravel. Instead, the access road was paved to the Echo Lake trailhead and then beyond for about a mile. The hike started as a fairly flat trail with a few ups and downs as it follows the Greenwater River. At about two miles, one arrives at Greenwater Lakes, the lower being a small pond, and the upper an area where the river broadens out into nearly a lake. There were a few campsites in this vicinity for less eager hikers.

Lower Greenwater Lake
Upper Greenwater “Lake”

The trail had bridges across the river 7 times as the trail zigzagged along the river, all of them but one were very nicely built bridges…

One of seven bridges
Several unstable logs, with a rope strung along to assist in getting across this stream

Along the trail, the grade became steeper. I passed the turn-off to Lost Lake. There was a Lost Creek Backpacking camp which had only one tent in it, and soon after, I encountered two young boys who were camped there. Those were the only two people I saw on the way in. Finally, 8 miles in, I arrived at Echo Lake. It was large and quite beautiful, save for the forest fire remnants on the other side of the lake. The bugs were few, and the campgrounds were quite nice. I was really tempted to jump in the lake for a swim.

Echo Lake. The distant hills were scarred with fire.
One of a number of nice campsites at the lake.

The trail out was greeted by many more people than I was coming in, most being close to the trailhead. Apparently, this is a very popular trail, and I can see why. Hopefully, I can return again and perhaps loaf a day or two at Echo Lake. Or, I could complete the loop that I mentioned above. Perhaps, I could do both!

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Jul 11
Mason Lake

Mason, Rainbow, and Island Lake, 10-11JULY2020

Thinking about short backpack trips that I can do until I return to doing a segment or so of the PCT, I have been exploring the trails that I have never been on within 100 miles of home. I have been attacking the Snoqualmie Valley/Pass area of late. I decided to do an overnighter this time up to some lakes. On Friday, I had a lot of little things to do, and so didn’t get away from home until about 11am. The exit from I-90 to the trailhead is just a few miles from the Snoqualmie Pass summit, and then a gravel road for several miles, replete with deep potholes, was greeted with caution, even for my off-road Tacoma pickup. Arriving at the trailhead, the parking lot, extending about ½ mile down the access road, was packed. Thankfully, I noted a hiker just departing, and so was able to park close to the trailhead in the main lot.

The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold, with few bugs on the first day. The hike in was 6.5 miles with over 2400 feet of elevation gain. It didn’t seem that far, even though all but a mile or so were uphill. The views of the Snoqualmie Valley were quite spectacular, and when one got up high enough, could then easily see Mt. Rainier. Once achieving the crest of the mountains surrounding Mason Lake, it was pretty much all downhill. At this time, the trail turned somewhat muddy, though the mud could be easily avoided. There were few bugs today to bother me. I set up camp, had dinner, and spent time exploring. Many of the campsites were taken at the lake. The trail itself was quite packed with day hikers, about 30% of them suffering from VIS*.

Looking across the Snoqualmie Valley. One can see I-90 at the base of the valley, and the Iron Horse trail providing a streak ¼ the way up the valley, which is a rail to trails project.
Looking across the Snoqualmie Valley, with Mt. Rainier in the distance
My tent, a Zpacks Duplex. Absolutely love it; it weighs slightly more than 1 pound, and can fit 2 people with 2 vestibules.
Just showing off my tent, with pad and sleeping bag inside.
My camp situation. I use an UrSack for my food. Though it was designed for bears, I use it to keep out smaller vermin, like chipmunks and squirrels. I use a JetBoil stove, and oftentimes eat simple packaged meals. This evening, I enjoyed a seafood bouillabaisse.

The next morning, I was up by 6:30, which is extreme sleeping in when I am in camping mode. My 7:30, I had breakfast (oatmeal, granola bar, hot chocolate, and coffee), packed up everything in my backpack, and then took off, leaving my backpack at camp, but using the hiking poles which were holding up my tent. I wanted to run up to Rainbow and Island Lake before returning home, which added about 2 miles in each direction from Mason Lake, and involved quite a bit of climbing in both directions on a roller-coaster trail. The trail was quite muddy, with occasional patches of snow to cross. I first reached Sir Richard Pond, then Rainbow Lake, and then took the side trail to Island Lake. I thought that Rainbow Lake was the prettiest, but Island Lake the most secluded.

Sir Richard Pond
Rainbow Lake
More of Rainbow Lake
Island Lake

There were a few people camped at both Rainbow and Island Lake, but with available spots that could have been occupied. I could have gone on the Pratt Lake but didn’t have my pack, nor enough time to make it there and then back home. So, I returned and picked up my pack at Mason Lake and headed back to the trailhead. On the return, starting at Rainbow Lake, there was a mass quantity of hikers on the trail. I also noted my more mosquitos, controlled easily with Picardin insect repellent. Just past Mason Lake, it was an endless stream of hikers. Oddly, nearly 95% of them suffered from VIS. The trailhead was extremely packed with cars, and on the drive out, the cars parked beside the road went on for nearly a mile, oftentimes making it a challenge when cars coming up to the trail were encountered. The lesson is that most of the Snoqualmie Valley trails should be avoided on weekends, and even during the week, the hiker should arrive at the trailhead before 9am.

All in all, it was a lovely hike. In a week or two, I would like to get up to Talapus and Ollalie Lakes, or perhaps even Pratt Lake, with time to explore the other lakes around. I need to take my grandson Liam on a child-Opa adventure within the next few weeks. Next Wednesday, I’ll be doing some car camping with Betsy and brother Gaylon for two nights at Takhlakh Lake, close to Mt. Adams. Meanwhile, I’m trying to decide what segment of the PCT I’ll be hiking this year. Hopefully, I might be able to finish the Washington State segment. It’s been a truly weird year for hiking, and hopefully, 2021 will return to normal.

P.S.; VIS = viral insanity syndrome, easily detected by noting hikers quickly covering their nose and mouth with a piece of cloth when approaching other hikers. There were several Muslim ladies on the trail, who were dressed as though they came straight from Saudi Arabia, and almost seemed natural on the trail!

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Jul 06

A. Lincoln, by Ronald C. White, Jr. ★★★★

This is a delightful 676 page biography of Abraham Lincoln, well studied and well written, describing Lincoln’s life from birth to death. The book reads quite easily, and inspires one to appreciate the greatness of the man who was to be our 16th president. I appreciated that the book was also heavily illustrated, and that the illustrations were not to be found in the center-of-the-book glossy pages, but abundantly mixed with the text.

I shall not detail and reiterate Lincoln’s life, being born in Kentucky, moving then with his family to Indiana, and then to central Illinois. White details how Lincoln was mostly self-educated, including studying law and passing the bar exam on his own. Lincoln dabbled in politics, winning a 2 year term in the House, mixing that with maintaining a highly successful law practice. Several failed attempts to achieve elected office ultimately led to his improbable but highly fortuitous win of the presidency.

Lincoln was considered an amateur in politics. He came under severe criticism for being inept and misguided. This continued on through the entirety of his presidency. Lincoln achieved an immortal status mostly after his death. Unfortunately for Abe, he entered the presidency during the onset of the rebellion with the South. Lincoln held preservation of the union as most important. Sadly, he was bedeviled by truly incompetent generals, the first (McLelland) was pompous and completely inadequate as a general, though he had the audacity to run against Lincoln for Lincoln’s second term in office.

It is odd that so much of the discussion regarding the civil war, that it was not over slavery, that it was a question of state’s rights, that the question of how to deal with the negro, the question of dealing with internal rebellion, suspension of habeas corpus, etc., remains questions that persist to today. Sadly, so many contemporary Confederate sympathizers of today present these issues as issues that were only critically analyzed and resolved by the South. I can appreciate the worn-out, hackneyed sympathies of the South but consider these assertions as mostly contentious rather than thoughtfully critical. Likewise, contemporary assertions that the South tended to be the most “Godly” against a heathen North, fail to recognize the deep religious convictions of Northern Generals and northern folk. Lincoln himself, though he grew up a Baptist and had no church affiliation for much of his life, attended a Presbyterian Church in Washington DC with Phineas Gurley as the pastor, a reverend who studied under none other than Charles Hodge. Many of Lincoln’s speeches bore witness to the heavy influence of Reformed thinking.

White excelled at providing analyses of Lincoln’s speeches, pointing out the literary techniques that made Lincoln uncannily exceptional as an orator. Indeed, White has written an entire book on the 2nd inaugural address, truly one of the greatest speeches of all mankind. Lesser minded folk will heap criticism on many of Lincoln’s greatest speeches, such as his Gettysburg Address; these very criticisms only attest to the absence of value if casting one’s pearls before swine.

Lincoln, toward the end of the war, was much concerned about the restoration of the south in acts of reconstruction. Sadly, he was assassinated before that could ever happen. We don’t know how things might have evolved differently had he been able to serve out a full second term as president, and speculation is unwise. What is tell-tale is how so much of the north, just like the south, really had no vested interest in the negro. True, many in the north detested slavery, and that, out of religious convictions. Both the north and the south refused to look on the negro as equal in value to any other human being. Whether they were most fit to be either slaves or second class citizens, there was little interest in helping the negro achieve a foot in society, only to have Woodrow Wilson’s segregationist policies extremely exacerbate the problem. Lincoln was correct in his 2nd inaugural address that blame is affixed to the entire nation, and not just the south, for the negro problem. Sadly, the problem hasn’t gone away.

I highly recommend this book. It is well written, though a touch tedious to read at times, and sometimes missing in details that I would have appreciated reading about. White paints Abe Lincoln as one of a few truly great Americans and Ole Abe deserves that distinction, regardless of those who would challenge otherwise.

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Jul 04
Monte Cristo Trailhead, Sam, Ethan, Patrick

Monte Cristo was a booming silver mining town at the end of the 19th century, thriving in a basin of surrounding majestic peaks. The town died early in the twentieth century, but some activity had persisted in the town, finally terminating completely as a town when superfund cleanup of the town and mining sites occurred in 2015. Between fires and cleanup, the town is now left to a few remaining wooden structures. It is distinguished in that it was the location for the very first Trump hotel, a massive structure of two stories tall.

The three oldest Flanagan kids (our grandchildren) were eager for a hike. Since I was with Ethan for a hike last week in the neighborhood of this hike, I knew that he was capable of doing this hike. I didn’t tell the kids that Jon had planned to meet us later int he evening after he got off work. The walk to Monte Cristo started at Barlow Pass and was along the bed of the old railroad tracks providing the only access to the town at one time. About 1/2 way to town, the train crossed the river which it was following, continuing along the east side of the stream. This bridge and the west side banks of the tracks had been washed out, forcing a crossing of the river on a large log. The designated campsite was just before town. The town itself is a national historic site, but also private property, meaning that the campsite had to happen outside on national forest land. Patrick, Sam, and Ethan slept in a 4 man tent, and I slept in my Zpacks Duplex tent. We explored the town, had dinner, and then Uncle Jonathan showed up about 8 pm, just before dusk.

Three Hobbits heading down the trail
The townsite is returning to the wild
Preserved signage from the town
The lodge, which some people believe was the old Trump hotel

With Jonathan, we decided to first explore a trail that heads west from town on the next day, taking us up to Silver Lake and Twin Lakes. Jon was up this way from last year. The trail was a persistent vigorous climb, but when we had reached about 4400 feet elevation, in the vicinity of Poodle Dog Pass, we hit continuous snow. Our hope of making it to Silver Lake or Twin Lakes was pretty much dashed. We could have plunged through the snow for a distance, but really wasn’t prepared for this. So, we returned down to town, did short excursions, cooked up dinner, and went to bed early.

A view of the surrounding mountains from near the top of Poodle Dog Pass
Poodle Dog Pass
Three fearless adventurers with Jon
Looking down on Silver Lake. In a month, it will be a perfect camping spot. The trail to Twin Lakes goes persistently upwards off to the left.

We woke up early on the 4th of July, and had most of our belongings packed, leaving up only our tents. We decided to quickly run up to Glacier Basin, south of town, before hiking out. The views were even more spectacular than yesterday. Snow-capped mountains completely surrounded us as we wended our way up the path. At about 4400 ft again snow was encountered. Just before that, the trail became very steep, with one section having a fixed rope to facilitate ascent and descent. Because there was a fantastic waterfall right there, I let Jon take the boys up a bit further before we all turned back to town. We were able to quickly pack up, and the hike out was less than two hours. After wishing Jon goodbye, the drive home was quite easy. It was amazing to see huge attendances to the trails coming off of the Mountain Loop road, with miles of cars lining the road from folk spending their 4th in the mountains.

Mountains completely surrounded us
A large waterfall on nearing Glacier Basin
Very happy hikers
Very worn out hiking shoes. They went into the garbage when I arrived home.
The trail to Glacier Basin was lined with Columbines.
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