Aug 29
Melakwa Lake

I generally don’t publish my day hikes, but this will be an exception. Yesterday 28AUG2020 I took a hike up to Melakwa Lake, a total walk of about 9 miles and 2700 ft of elevation gain. The trail started at the Denny Creek Campground, which is situated between the west and eastbound segments of I-90, deep in the valley and unseen in either direction on I-90. The campground is fairly noisy from the I-90 traffic, which leaves me uncertain as to why it is so popular.

I had attempted to reach Melakwa Lake much earlier this year. The trail was then not well cleared out, and I had some challenging scrambles around windfall and a weak bridge across Denny Creek. This was all corrected on yesterday’s hike. Also, I then made it only half way, arriving at a necessary ford of Denny Creek. Knowing that I would be hitting snow soon after the ford, and that there was no bridge and thus no way to keep my feet dry, I deemed it most prudent to turn back. On this venture yesterday, I creek was low enough to hop rocks, and somebody actually had a log across the creek, though I opted to hop the rocks, and managed to stay dry. Several beautiful waterfalls were passed on the way up to Hemlock Pass.

crossing under westbound I-90
Looking down the Denny Creek Canyon
Looking up to Hemlock Pass
A very uninspiring Hemlock Pass, though a great relief after an arduous climb

The climb to the top of Hemlock Pass was persistent, with the crossing of several talus fields. Even outside of the talus fields, the trail surface was commonly either very rocky, or irregular with upraised tangled roots. After the pass summit, the trail had little elevation loss, traversing eastward to the lake. Before reaching the lake, there was a trail headed off to Lower Tuscohatchie Lake, mentioned in a recent post describing a hike to Olallie and Pratt Lake. The lake was most beautiful, and my greatest regret was that I didn’t spend more time exploring the lake. It is a lake that I would love to return to in order to camp at. I had lunch at the lake and headed back down. It took me 3 hours total to reach the lake, and 2.3 hours to get down.

Another look at Melakwa Lake. The camp sites are located in the trees on the other side of the lake.
One of the two waterfalls passed on the trail up to Melakwa Lake

For a Friday hike, the trail was still very crowded. About 95% of the people hiking manifested VIS (virus insanity syndrome). There was a WTA work crew on the trail doing rock work, and Leanne J., a leader that I really enjoyed working with, was directing the project. If she does the Pratt River Trail again next year, it will be one that I will be quite interested in joining. So, I will make a plug for volunteering with the WTA. Many of my friends enjoy hiking the trails of Washington, yet have NO clue as to the amount of work that goes into building and maintaining the trails. Much of this work is volunteer work. If you hike the trails and enjoy it, then shame on you if you are not spending at least a little of your time volunteering with the WTA. It is not hard work, but VERY rewarding. You learn a lot about the nature of trails, about good and poor trail design, and about the various “structures” that make up a good trail. Please consider it!

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Aug 20
Nothing like a Bitburger beer and Montecristo Cigar at Rampart Lakes to celebrate your birthday!

I had wished to do one more backpack trip with the grandkids this year, and finally was able to negotiate getting Patrick and Sammy away on a trip up to the Ramparts above Rachel Lake. The weather was supposed to deteriorate during our visit but that wasn’t going to bother us. We had planned for two nights.

I had backpacked into the Rachel Lake area a number of times over the years. I had all of the children up to the lake or above (up to the Rampart Lakes) on a number of occasions. I’ve taken my friends up to Rachel Lake. The last time I was up to Rachel Lake was about 3-4 years ago, when I had a close doctor friend and his wife up to the lake. I didn’t realize that Patrick and Sam had never been to Rachel Lake, and realized that a return appointment was due.

We left the Flanagan residence at 6 am on Wednesday 19AUG, and arrived at the trailhead at 8 am. It took us 4 hours to get to our campsite at the Ramparts. This was the site where my first trip up to the Ramparts with Diane and (?) was picked to place the tent. The kids explored the area, went swimming, and I soaked up the beauty of the place.

Fresh appearance on the start of the trip
Mandatory photo on arrival to Rachel Lake
Climbing high above the lake. The canyon in the left background is Highbox canyon which we hiked up.
The kids swimming in the lake
My tent beside the lake
More of the lake

We all slept well that night, with just a gentle wind keeping things cool. There was a small amount of rain though it was forecast that heavier rains would be coming the next day. Today was actually my birthday, though Pat and Sam did not know that. I left the agenda entirely up to them, whether they wished to swim, explore, etc. The first choice was to go up the pass. This is quite a scramble. I had climbed the Rampart Ridge pass in the past, and it just seemed a bit different, though I’m not sure what it was. After returning to camp, we talked about what else to do, and the kids decided that since rain was coming our way, we could hike back tonight rather than tomorrow. I took a pause for a beer and cigar that I had brought up to celebrate my birthday, packed up, and headed back down the trail. It took a little more than 2.5 hours to get back to the car, even with stopping for lunch.

Morning hike up to the Rampart Ridge pass. Note the heavy cloud cover today, which broke slightly on the way out.
Highbox Peak is in the distance to the far right, followed by Alta Mountain. Rachel Lake cannot be seen but is down in the valley surrounded by the visible peaks.
On the climb up Rampart Ridge Pass, we even encountered some snow late in August!
More views on top of the Pass
Pat and Sam on the Pass
Back down at the Ramparts looking down on Rachel Lake
Lunch stop at the waterfall at the start of the climb out of Highbox canyon.
Photo op at the Hornet’s Nest Falls. We had first hiked to Rachel Lake to take Rachel to her lake. On coming down, we had stopped here for a snack and Rachel received a hornet sting, thus the name of the falls. Poor Rachel!
Not quite so fresh at the end of the hike.

So, the strongest lesson for me is how much I enjoy taking the grandkids out hiking, and seeing how much they enjoy it. Yet, I am now realizing that they have matured to the point that Pat and Sam could/should start heading out on their own. Perhaps they will find friends that they could start hiking with.

I also realized that Rachel Lake is not a terribly easy hike. I was thinking about taking up several granddaughters next year, and still may do that, though I would hate to have the difficulty of the hike control their judgement about how fun it is to go backpacking. That is one I’ll have to sort out next year.

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Aug 12
The Northwest face of Mt. Hood. Illumination Rock sticks out on the right skyline, and McNeil Point dominates the left side. You are facing the Sandy Headwall. This photo was about 1 mile from my first campsite.

Timberline Trail around Mt Hood 10AUG2020-13AUG

The Timberline Trail encircles Mt. Hood, and is one of my favorite trails, especially since it is a loop, and you end up right back where you started. The trail has a number of variants as well as recent modifications, so it is a bit challenging to identify the exact length. I did not bring a Garmin unit (except for the inReach mini) and so could not chronicle my own progress. The trail is at least 40 miles long and entails at least 10,000 feet of climbing. People have run the trail in a single day. That was not my cup of tee. I first did this trail somewhere between 1974 and 1975 with Jack Frane, and then in the late 1990s with Kent Dawson. I attempted it recently with Jon (my son) which needed to be aborted, and with Russ Andersen two years ago, which also needed to be aborted early on. This time, I decided to do it entirely solo. I thought long and hard about bringing my real camera along but ultimately opted for simply using my iPhone as I had done on the PCT. I kept my base weight in the pack to about 16 lb., and anticipated 2 nights on the trail, similar to what I’ve done previously, but had enough food for 3 nights, knowing that I wasn’t a spring chicken any longer.

09 August- day 0 – Today I drove down to Vancouver to spend a little time with my brother Gaylon. We went out to eat some Mexican food along the Columbia River and then crashed at Gaylon’s apartment. 

Mt. Hood in the distance with the Columbia River in the foreground
The I-5 Bridge across the Columbia, viewed from our restaurant
Brother Gaylon keeping me in line

10August –  I was up at 6am and after a little coffee, headed out to the mountain. I was able to start the trail at Timberline Lodge at 8:30am and had spectacular weather with not a cloud in the sky. I did the Paradise loop variant, which was totally awesome and stunningly beautiful as compared to the now current standard course of the trail, though it involves a bit more climbing. I’m not sure why this isn’t still the standard course of the trail (followed by both the PCT and Timberline Trail), as it used to be when I hiked the trail in the 1970s. The descent down to the Sandy River was tedious as usual. This time, I had no problems crossing the Sandy River dryly. I arrived at Ramona Falls at 1:30pm, had lunch, and then started up the trail to camp on the Northeast side of the mountain. This was a long tedious climb for the remainder of the day. The Muddy Fork needed to be forded (i.e., needed to get my feet wet) and was a touch precarious. I took the cutoff to the trail; by this, I mean that the trail loops back on itself as it wraps around Bald Mountain, and the trail coming and going are within several hundred feet of each other and a small easy hill climb and descent. Most people will use the cutoff. The reason this loop occurred is that the Muddy Fork variant used to be the standard course for the PCT until the PCT was rerouted. For a number of years, the Muddy Fork trail was closed because of dangers on the trail, so that, when I hiked the trail in the 1990s, it was advised to follow the new PCT route and rejoin the Timberline Trail on the other side of Bald Mountain. For a significant distance, the Timberline Trail past the cutoff was all uphill and no water sources. This is a little bit atypical for the Timberline Trail since water seems to be everywhere around the mountain. My great concern was being able to find a campsite since there were many people on the trail. I have never seen so many people on the trail, as the other times I hiked the trail, you were mostly alone. I found a small tent site about a half mile before the Cairn Basin shelter, next to a couple of guys doing the trail counterclockwise; the campsite was also close to a stream. So had dinner, talked a bit with the guys, and then crashed.

Looking down on Timberline Lodge at the start of the hike
The view of Mt Hood from Timberline Lodge
Huge fields of flowers on the Paradise loop
Looking south to Mt. Jefferson
Mt. Hood on the Paradise Loop
Beginning descent into the Sandy River canyon
Ramona Falls. Not the best lighting for this beautiful falls.
Yes, the Cutoff trail IS official!
Near sunset, looking north
My tent

11August- I slept well, woke up at 5:30, and was on the trail by 6:45. Unlike my time on the PCT, I heated up breakfast, which consisted of oatmeal, hot chocolate, coffee, and a granola bar. The morning hike was greeted by multiple stream crossings, often demanding fording since rock hopping wasn’t possible. There were huge flower meadows around nearly every corner, and views of the mountain were nearly constant. I could see the Sandy headwall (a climb I wish I would have done) and the Sunshine route (a climb that I did), both up the north face of Mt. Hood. For a few years, the Timberline Trail was closed owing to a washout of the trail around Eliot Creek. The diversion that was created was miserable, and in my estimation, still rather dangerous. After a long slog up the Eliot, I finally arrived at Cloud Cap on the northeast side of the mountain. There was a campground here with a road, and I was able to have lunch on picnic tables. By 1 pm, I was off again. The trail now covered the east side of the mountain, ascending high up above the timberline, to form the highest point on the trail. The descent was along Gnarl Ridge and wrapped around Lamberson Butte. Newton Creek ended up being another challenging river crossing, but a side branch of non-silty water formed the site where I had camped twice before.

Mt Hood north side in the morning sun
Flowers everywhere!
In the distance one can see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. Nearby, the effects of recent forest fire are seen.
One of many river fords that I needed to do.
It’s still Mt. Hood!
Log to assist in the Eliott River crossing. Descending the loose rock was most challenging. Chris and I loosely hiked much of the day together
Cloud Cap campground
Mt. Adams in the distance. The trail ascends well above the Timberline, and several places, I needed to walk through snow
Highest point on the Timberline Trail
Gnarly trees on Gnarl Ridge, looking down to Lamberson Butte (far left ridgeline)
More Gnarl Ridge. In the distance, I am again seeing Mt. Jefferson as well as the Three Sisters
The immense nature of this scene is best seen in person. It is a steep-walled canyon that was carved by the Newton and Clark creeks.

12August-Today was another 6:45 start. It was overcast today with a little bit of mist, making for perfect hiking conditions. I had only 6-7 miles more to go, but knew that there was substantial climbing, and the White River was often the most challenging river to cross. The route was less hilly for a distance when crossing the ski slopes of Mt. Hood Meadows. In summertime, these slopes are massive fields of flowers, punctuated by many small streams cascading down the mountain. There is a substantial drop down to the White River. The challenge was not so much the river crossing, as the need to descend and the reascend the steep cliffs of loose rock cut away by the river. I apparently chose a far less advantageous spot to cross than a couple that I was walking with, who seemed to cross effortlessly. From there, it was 1000 feet of climbing back to Timberline Lodge. The ride home went without problems, with a most happy Wanderer.

Today was cloudy, and less perfect views of the mountain
Lots of small streams lined with flowers. Water wasn’t an issue on this hike.
The beauty remained intense. This is within the Mt. Hood Meadows ski area, a scene that goes unnoticed by skiers
Fields of flowers on a ski slope
Flowers and Mt. Jefferson as well as the Three Sisters are seen in the distance
The challenge of crossing the White River. The loose gravel banks were the greatest problem
Mt. Hood as seen from where I stopped for a brunch – tuna fish sandwich and candy bar
A welcome view of finally seeing the Timberline Lodge, with a large canyon between. The trail went around the top of these canyons.
Last peak at Mt. Hood.

Final thoughts-Of the two round-the-mountain trails that I know of, the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood, and the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier, the most common characteristic is the nearly constant rise and fall of the trail. The Wonderland Trail has been more effective at avoiding most of the dangerous stream crossings by placing bridges across the major rivers. When I hiked the Timberline Trail in years past, I don’t recall the challenges of a number of difficult stream crossings, which consisted of very rapidly flowing streams and no means of hopping rocks or walking logs to get across. The Timberline Trail is much more challenging than the Wonderland Trail in that regard. Also, more challenging is the many areas of the Timberline Trail, where the bed of the trail was nothing but loose rock or sand. Between fording streams and then walking a sandy trail, my feet became quite frightfully dirty. A positive distinction of the Timberline Trail is its profusion of large fields and patches of flowers. The flower count on the Timberline Trail seems to excel that of nearly every other trail that I’ve hiked. I also noted that the variety of the type of flower was more extensive than other hikes in my memory. If you are into flowers, this is the “must-hike” hike for you. Between the flowers and the constant beauty of the mountain, one cannot fail to reflect on the loving care and the creation God offers for his children. Possibly the least positive aspect of this trail is the number of people doing the trail. There were people everywhere, and I didn’t go for more than ½ mile without seeing at least one group of people on the trail. Interestingly, nearly 100% of those I saw suffered from the Virus Insanity Syndrome. There were also masks littering the trail from poor wanderers who will now surely be stricken by the dreaded Wuhan virus. Is this unique for Oregon? I don’t know.

This will probably be the last time I hike this trail unless somebody eagerly requests that I hike it with them. I doubt that that will happen. I will be content with hiking trails closer to home. Maybe the Wonderland Trail needs to be hiked one last time by me. I’ll decide that in a year or two.

On last observation. You might have noticed that you never see me in any of the photos. That’s what you get when you solo hike. I also don’t like to take selfies.

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Aug 03
View south from the low Divide

The Olympic National Park is huge, rugged, and nearly impenetrable, the interior of which has only recently been greeted by the foot of man. O’Neil took a military troop up Hurricane Hill in 1885, forming what is essentially the road that we now use to get to that location. Washington State became a state 1889, and the desire to have a deeper look into the interior of the Olympics prompted the Seattle Press, a local newspaper, to sponsor an expedition across the Olympic Mountains. A group of 5 people signed up, and with a mule, 4 dogs, and lots of supplies, headed off into the mountains, intending to take a route up the Elwha River, and then down the north fork of the Quinault River. They were successful, though the expedition took them 6 months and many trials. This expedition is nicely chronicled in a number of books and online. We essentially repeated the fundamental track of the expedition, though going in a reverse direction (south to north) and having the pleasure of trails, bridges, and precise routes nicely laid out for us. What we still had to contend with was the fiercely rugged nature of the Olympic Mountains, along with the need to ford both the upper Quinault and upper Elwha Rivers. The Seattle Press expedition could not have picked a worse time of year to do their expedition, which probably could have been done in far less time during the spring/summer season. In the trail books, we hiked a total of two trails, the north fork of the Quinault to the Low Divide, and the Elwha River trail from the Low Divide to the trailhead at Whiskey Bend.

Day #1 – 6.6 miles, North Fork Quinault Trailhead to Elip Creek. The day started with me meeting Russ at his house, and together with his wife, we drove two cars to the completion trailhead on the Elwha River. The road was washed out, and so the completion trailhead lay about 7+ additional miles (which we would have to walk) to the car. I then got into Russ’ car, and we drove around the Olympic Peninsula to the starting trailhead on the north fork of the Quinault River. Wishing Kim goodbye, we started our trek about 2 pm, leaving us only a few hours of hiking. The trail started out somewhat flat but quickly changed into progressively more and more climbing. After passing a group of kids close to the trailhead, we ceased to see anybody on the trail. Once settled into camp, a group of two guys descended the Elip Creek Trail from the Skyline Trail to settle into camp with us.

Rather fresh and clean in appearance
Trailhead sign
the lower north fork of the Quinault River, suggesting hills in the distance
Russ, chilling out for our first night at camp, the Elip Creek flowing in the background

Day #2, Elip Creek Camp to Low Divide Camp, 10 miles. The climbing progressively got steeper, but was characterized by multiple ups and downs. The Quinault River could be seen frequently to our right, until we reached 16 mile camp. Here, we had to ford the Quinault River (i.e., no bridge across the river), had lunch at 16 mile camp, and then proceeded to much more vigorous climbing to ascend to the top of the Divide. All the while, the mountains could be more and more clearly seen. At 16 mile camp, we saw a man and his son who were doing a prolonged ramble through the Olympics, and eventually was greeted by a hiker who was just behind us on the trail, and then camped on the Low Divide. In essence, there was almost nobody on the trail.

Mountains appearing to the south as we climb out of the Quinault River valley
A blessing that the Press Expedition did not share. Without bridges, the trip would have been immensely more difficult, since many of the streams cut deep canyons into the mountains
The thinning of vegetation as we near the low Divide
Waterfall cascading off of the face of Mt Seattle
Another view of Mt. Seattle
Large meadows on the Low Divide
Russ settling in on the Low Divide. The mosquitos were not too bad.
My tent settled in on the Low Divide
A bear sauntered just 20 feet from our camp. I saw one other bear the next day down along the Elwha

Day #3, 18 miles; Low Divide camp to Elkhorn Camp. Coming off of the low Divide in the northerly direction proved a little more challenging than expected. We were on the trail by 7 am, and was soon greeted by a sign announcing the actual low Divide, representing the watershed between the Quinault and Elwha systems. There were two beautiful lakes that we passed high up on the Low Divide. We were warned that the trail was not too good on the other side of the Divide, and our experience proved that to be completely correct. The trail definitely needed serious brushing as it descended very rapidly off of the Divide, and there was much windfall across the trail, forcing us to crawl under, crawl over, or hike around the fallen trees. Toward Chicago Camp (at the base of the descent) there was windfall that was so extensive that a trail could not be found without extensive searching and crawling around the dense forest bed. Ultimately we reached the Elwha River, where a fallen tree permitted us to walk dryly across the upper Elwha, which is usually a river ford. We reached the Chicago Camp at about 9:30, taking 2.5 hours to descend 4 miles. We then needed to make up time to arrive at Elkhorn Camp before nightfall. There was still extensive brush obscuring the trail, as well as river fords, and obstructions from windfall. We arrived at Elkhorn Camp at about 5:30 pm quite exhausted. Elkhorn Camp was a ranger station with other buildings but otherwise was not the nicest camp to stay at.

Yup, the actual Low Divide
Lake Margaret high on the Low Divide
The other side of Lake Margaret, looking back at Mt. Seattle
Russ, carefully fording the Elwha
A beautiful bridge across the Hayes River, with a steep rock canyon
A cabin at Elkhorn Ranger Station
The Elwha from my tent site

Day #4, 18 miles, including 11 miles from Elkhorn Ranger Station to the trailhead at Whiskey Bend, and then 7 miles of road and detour trail walking. I expected the remaining 18 miles to be a flat river walk, somewhat akin to the Hoh or the Quinault Rivers. It was everything but that, attesting to the wild rugged nature of the Olympics. The only thing common to the Olympics is that everything is green, and everything grows well within the peninsula—after all, it IS a rain forest. We were up at 5:30, and after a relaxed breakfast of oatmeal, a granola bar, hot chocolate, coffee, and medications, we were off and running. We passed a number of different campsites, many of which looked quite appealing for camping, but some were run down with downfall owing to the challenge of park access with the road being washed out. We stopped several times for meal breaks, which included either peanut butter and jam, or tuna fish, rolled up in a tortilla shell. Bread will squash, and so tortillas make the perfect alternative that will last a long time and still taste well. Of course, vitamin S (Snicker bars) or a similar treat continues to fuel the walk and enjoyed while resting beside a creek or river, delighting in God’s handiwork. We passed an old homestead along the river, and then reached Whiskey Bend, the end of the trail, at about 11:30. Russ and I took a long break here. Everything was eerily quiet. Since leaving the Low Divide campground, we had seen only one person. We were in our own little wilderness thanks to the road washout. After walking five miles of gravel road (which was actually quite beautiful), we arrived at the now flatter pavement and continued the road walk another 2 miles to the detour. It was here that we now started to encounter many tourists. To our dismay, the detour forced us to do much more climbing, and in 0.8 miles eventually arrived back to the pavement a short distance from our cars. It was a quick trip back home, and to a sweet wife and warm welcoming shower.

Very dense rain forest. Everything was intensely green
Humes Ranch building
At Whiskey Bend trailhead, but with 7 more miles to go to reach our car
Remnant of the upper Elwha Dam
Looking down the narrow canyon which housed the upper Elwha Dam. Both the upper and lower Elwha dams were removed in order to allow the salmon to again run upriver. both the lower dam, built in 1910 and this dam, built in 1927 have since been removed.
Russ and I have now reached our vehicle along the lower Elwha. Motivated by a careful diet of spoons over forks, we have been able to nutritionally power our bodies to perform such super-human acts like walking across the Olympic Mountains and still come out smiling! For only $37.99 Russ and I will gladly impart our knowledge of this simple but special diet for avoiding disease and maintaining health and vigor well into old age.

Was the backpack worth it? Of course. I felt a little bit like I was back on the PCT, with all its daily routines and planning contingencies. I had dreamed for years of doing this hike. There is great joy when exploring an unknown area of the world, and on this hike, the sights and terrain were completely different than what I anticipated.

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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 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 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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Jun 29

Goat Lake, Washington, 6/27-6/29/2020, with Jon and Ethan

I am in the process of taking each of the grandchildren on a backpack or adventure trip with me. That trip would be with the grandchild alone (as a kid). On this trip, our son Jonathan accompanied and was able to keep Ethan more entertained than I could have done. We planned on spending two nights, but decided that one night would be better, if we could start very early in the morning, since this is a popular camping locale. Ethan and I drove up to Arlington to meet Jon on Friday afternoon. We crashed in his living room, but was off to the trailhead by 7 am. I took a little more than an hour, and 4 miles of gravel road to achieve the trailhead. We started hiking just a little past 9 am, and was at the lake by 11 am. The campground was quite large, which took us some time to decide on a preferred camping location. Jon had his tent, and I brought a 3 man Big Agnes Copper Spur tent.

The remainder of the day was spent exploring the area. Jon and Ethan did a little bit of adventuresome hiking, while I mostly kept the camp under close watch.

Jon’s tent
Hiking pals
Making use of camp chairs. The dirt was so soft, the legs of the chairs would sink completely and throw off the sitter. Ethan did not have that problem.
Another view of the lake

We had lots of freeze-dried food samples for dinner, none of which were palatable to me. I’ll stick in the future to the diet I ate while doing the PCT. Ethan had a great time, and always was very cheery, never complaining. I was able to talk a lot about the subtleties of fine backpacking, and we were able to develop the sport of tortilla frisbee. If fact, he was most eager to return another day for more backpacking. On the trail, Ethan always let the way and kept a 2.5 – 3.5 mph pace, which is unusual for a normal kid like him. He was an absolute delight to hike with. We are already planning another hike together!

Ethan and I at the completion of the hike.

The hike itself was not bad. At a little more than 5 miles each way, it was mostly uphill going in and downhill coming out. Going in, we did the Lower Elliott variation, which kept us quite close to the river. Coming out, we followed the Upper Elliott route. Both trails were moderately muddy, but we were able to keep reasonably clean. The upper route was more even, representing that it used to be an undeveloped road at one time. The weather was mostly cloudy, but it rained quite a bit during the night. The campgrounds had a privy, and we were very close to an easy source of water. In all, this hike was a great choice for a first hike with Ethan.

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Oct 02
Me on McAfee Knob, Appalachian Trail

This was the year I was committed to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. So, what in tarnation am I doing on the other coast, hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT)? Well, in late August, I discovered that the Wilderness Medical Society was doing a 4-day trip on the AT with lectures in wilderness medicine. I figured that I could use an update on wilderness medicine, and so called up my best friend Dr. Peter Tate to see if he wished to also do it. For him, it meant CME credits, for me it meant having some time with an old friend and getting a sample of one best portion of the AT, a 30 mile segment around Roanoke, VA. Peter bit. So, we were both signed up. I was to fly into Lexington, KY, stay one night in Lexington, and then ride with Peter down to the farm in Stanford, KY, stay two nights there, and head out from there to the conference. I arrived safe and sound in Lexington on 19SEPT and reconnoitered with Peter. The next day, we were off to the farm. Peter was in the early stages of building a new house the last time I was at the farm a year and a half ago. It was now in the nearly complete stages. It truly was a masterpiece, especially considering that Peter did most of the construction himself. He even included a swimming pool which the house wraps around. On the interior, he made certain walls at an angle off of 90 degrees, creating a wonderful character to the house, with the swimming pool sitting at that oblique angle from the house.

The house that Peter built, nearing completion. It appeared to be complete inside.
The inside kitchen area
Hiking the farm

Our full day at the farm included an about 7 mile hike through the pastures and woods on Peter’s land. We carried our backpacks fully loaded just to condition our bodies to the upcoming adventure. The next day, we headed out to our group meeting point at a camp outside of Roanoke, VA, called Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing (WAEL). The first and last night of the adventure were spent at WAEL, with the first night in a cabin, and the last night in our tents. Peter drove the Tesla, which seemed to have some software problems on the trip. I also realized that long distances in remote territories are NOT Tesla’s forte. After an uneventful night, we headed out for the trail. We were going to hike the trail southbound, with a starting point at Daleville, and ending at Dragon’s Tooth, then hiking out the Dragon’s Tooth access trail. The first three days all entailed about 9.5 miles of hiking, and the last was much shorter.

WAEL main meeting hall

Our first night was at Lambert’s Meadow. It wasn’t really a meadow, and there was confusion as to where we were to camp, the instructions suggesting that it was at the cabin, rather than a ¼ mile before that, where most people stopped. I couldn’t help but think of Lander’s Meadow in the middle of section f (California) and a truly beautiful meadow lined by majestic Ponderosa pines. Peter and I and Jay camped in the correct spot, and met Smoking Joe, a NOBO, and in desperate need for food. I had way too much food, so Joe pumped me some water in exchange for a bunch of food. I missed the lecture that evening since it didn’t really start until about 8:30 or later, and I was sound asleep by then.

A view of Carvin Cove Reservoir below, which the trail wraps around.

The second hiking day, Peter and I took off at a leisurely pace, encountering two of the three sites of note in Virginia, the Tinker Cliffs, and McAfee Knob, the third being the Dragon’s Tooth, which we would see our last day. McAfee Knob seems to be iconic of the AT, so both Peter and I were photographed on the knob. Our second night was at John’s Spring. Though named after a spring, this was a dry campsite, and the last real water was at Lambert’s Meadow. We had to watch our water consumption. The site was a little small for the group of 23 of us, there was a shelter there where a few of our group slept, and we all managed ok. The lecture was on bears.

Valleys were on both sides of us, and always civilized with farms filling the valley. The trail usually followed the ridge line.
Peter on Tinker Cliffs
Lots of nice sandstone rock in the area

The hike the third day proceeded to have an interest in reaching the next water source, which was about 6 miles out of camp. Since the weather in the mornings was cool, there was not too much water loss, though I was down to my last half liter. We were to camp at Lost Spectacles Gap, a more roomy spot, though also a dry camp. The trail went through some nice meadows, and crossed a road where a short walk led to a restaurant/grocery store/gas station, where Peter and I decided to diverge and seek libations not found on the trail. We brought some beer back to camp to enjoy, and had a great time. Unfortunately, I ordered a hamburger for lunch which was larger than I anticipated, and when Peter and I stopped at a particularly majestic lookout point, I proceeded to throw up half my meal. Oh well. We arrived at camp fairly early, enjoyed a couple cigars, and laid low. There were no lectures, but instead, there was a mock bear attack session, where we had to make decisions regarding the traumatic injuries and administer initial care to the victims. It was a fun venture.

Meadow hiking
Peter relaxing at the viewpoint having a beer while I was throwing up
A very relaxed Peter contacts Karma his wife

The last day was short, which us waking up a bit later than usual, ascending a rather treacherous portion of the trail to arrive at the Dragon’s Tooth. Arriving back at camp, we picked up our backpacks, and hiked out. We again were able to easily reach the store that we were at a day ago, and picked up a case of beer for the other hikers. We had yet another lecture on orthopedic injuries. The shuttles picked us up, hauled us back to WAEL, and we settled in for the evening. At this time, Peter discovered that his car, which was plugged in to be charged while we were hiking, had now totally drained of charge. After a few desperate measures, he had a tow truck haul him and the car to Richmond, VA. It was decided that with the uncertainty of repair of the vehicle, I would ride back to Lexington with Jimmy, a medical student at U of Kentucky in Lexington. I stayed for dinner, and enjoyed two more lectures, one on water filtration, and the other on Jessie’s thru-hike of the AT. Eventually, Peter arrived back to Lexington (quite late at night), and took me to the airport then next morning, on 28SEPT. I made it home intact!

Some of the trail was a class 3 climb! The white markers indicate the trail.
Peter in front of Dragon’s Tooth
Riff riff back at camp, waiting to hike out.
Ending the last hike of the season

Thoughts

First, about the WMS adventure. It was enjoyable, and provided me a chance to appreciate the AT for the first time. the WMS always does a first class act in their meetings. The nature of this meeting in the form of a backpack trip was a touch more chaotic. My only wish was that it would have been a touch more organized, with a stronger communication channel from the leaders about what was up, what was going on, and deciding on giving the trail lectures before it got pitch dark. Perhaps a 6 pm lecture time would have been most appropriate. At the time of the evening lecture, “map” sessions reminding us of the plan for the subsequent day would have been in best order. In spite of the problems, the infectious enthusiasm of the leaders for wilderness medicine was most notable. In all, I would call it a most wonderful adventure.

What about the AT? Having just hiked a 1000 miles of the PCT, could I make comparisons? Actually, the two trails are totally different. The strategy for doing them are different, the environments that you go through are different, and the personality of the trail is different. Most of the time, it is easy to get 15-25 miles a day on the PCT. Because the AT is less manicured, you would be doing well to get in 12-18 miles a day. The AT keeps you for the ;most part much closer to civilization, and in the section of the trail that we did, you never seemed to have ever left civilization. The AT is described as a long green tunnel. It is mostly deciduous trees, as compared to conifers for the PCT. The AT has many shelters (about every 8-12 miles) where the PCT has practically none. It seems that one must have a much different mentality when approaching the AT as compared to the PCT. In all, I did not acquire a bubbling enthusiasm to return and do the entire AT. After all, I still have large incomplete segments of the PCT to get done, if I even decide to do them! I will sign up to hike the PCT next year, but may spend most of my time camping with Betsy, and giving Betsy a summer of my life. I may get some cycling in, but plan to not leave home for more than a few weeks at a time. Betsy and I have depleted our Wanderlust, and wish for slightly more simple adventures from here on out. But then, who knows what the future will bring?

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