Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Copper Ridge Trail to the Hannegan Trail along the Chilliwack River

We got a later than anticipated start on our long day (12+ miles) from Egg Lake to the Indian Creek Camp just off the Chilliwack River, 4000 vertical feet below the Copper Ridge Lookout. We were still on the trail before anyone else, so we took a bit of time to snap some photos.

We hiked past Copper Lake, a beautiful bright blue alpine lake on the ridge. We wanted to spend a night there, but due to a party of 10, the lake was tied up until a Friday, which didn't fit our plans at all. But we did stop by and fill up on water before the next 7.5 (dry) miles and a ton of vertical feet to go down!

That hike was among the longest 7+ miles I've ever done - Royal Lake included. The ridgeline hike was spectacular - though the best views were between Egg Lake and Copper Lookout. We snacked on huckleberries all along the way which were tart, sweet, and fabulous.

We eventually made it down off the ridge into the Chilliwack Valley. The change from sub-alpine  scenery to dense lowland forest was pretty abrupt, and made for a stark contrast. Within a half mile of entering the valley proper, Jeff and I had to ford the Chilliwack River, since there is no bridge across it at that point. Ranger Abby had told us that the river was knee deep and that the salmon were running.

We took one look at the Chilliwack and its puny salmon, and were not (terribly) impressed. We didn't want to get our shoes wet, so we decided to ford the icy river in our bare feet. Not smart. We didn't fall (it wouldn't have mattered much in that 4 inches of water!), but our feet sure were owwwy.

We knew there was another river to cross, which took maybe 30 seconds to walk there. THAT was the knee-deep "river" (Indian Creek) with some monster salmon just hanging around.

That was a seriously cool thing to see! I think Jeff and I probably could have caught one in our bare hands (Bear Gryll's-style baby!), but we both didn't want to smell like fish with a bunch of bears lurking in the woods. So we took off on the final leg of our epic day, and eventually made it to camp.

The next day we headed upstream towards our final campsite for this trip at Copper Creek Camps. We first had to cross Indian Creek - no more salmon that far upstream - over a very cool suspension bridge. Jeff's first steps he expected something a bit more firm...

...which of course didn't go too well!

I had to stop and grab some photos of the both of us.

Further up the trail we had the option to ford the river or cross on the cable car. The cable car is really for when the river is not fordable, but how could we not use the cable car to get across?

After that, it really was primarily an uphill walk to get back to Hannegan Pass, and then down to get back to our car. The weather, as you may recall, was a bit rainy on day one as we crossed over Hannegan Pass. The intervening days were all sunny and beautiful. We had some blue sky on the hike out, but as we neared the pass, the weather started to get cloudy and foggy. Literally steps from the car, it started to rain on us. So all in all, we couldn't have been luckier as far as the weather goes.

I know I had a great time! We got to hike one of (if not THE) premiere ridge hikes in all of Washington. It was rugged, it was remote; all in all just brilliant. Cheers,


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Copper Ridge Trail, North Cascades National Park

After our hike up to Egg Lake, Jeff and I took it easy. The next morning we woke up early so I could go snap some photos, and so we could take a day hike up to the Copper Ridge Lookout. That hike was a mere two miles or so, with about a thousand vertical feet of elevation gain.

Jeff and I enjoyed a couple of nice hot cups of coffee, then we headed uphill to the main trail. At the top we back tracked for this photo with both of us and Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker in the background. Yes, it was cold up there in the mornings, averaging in the low-mid 40's.

We then made our way towards the Copper Ridge Lookout, which as you'll see, is a phenomenal Ranger station for the NPS park rangers. The views along the trail were nothing short of stunning! When I was researching this hike, I had read that there were plenty of great views, but that certainly didn't prepare me for what we found.

We eventually made it to the Lookout which had some of the best views in the park, even into Canada. The rangers that sleep in that lookout cabin have to pinch themselves (when the weather is good)!

Poor little guy is all tuckered out! Jeff grabbed a short nap while I was snapping photos.

When we made it back to Egg Lake, it was good and warm. Jeff and I both jumped in for a short "swim". That water was just as cold as it was the day before, but after a warm day on the trail, it felt great to jump in and cool off.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

North Cascades National Park Hiking Trip, part 1

Jeff and I officially survived our trip to the North Cascades National Park! We hiked the Copper Ridge Trail Loop, which was spectacular. I had seen several write-ups about it in Backpacker Magazine, and new that that was the trail I wanted to walk.

Thankfully Jeff was up for the trip, as it would have been a long and lonely trip by myself. As it was, Jeff and I spent six days/five nights in the great outdoors. Our first day was a cloudy/foggy day that spit rain on us as we hiked up and over Hannegan Pass. A mile later we set up our camp at Boundary Camp just in time for the rain to hit us in earnest. Our site, while not optimal for hammock tents, was pretty optimal to block the rain. The rain stopped well before we went to bed, and that was the last of the rain until we were literally feet away from the car on the way out.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast (with some time to enjoy the views of Hannegan Pass and the little valley we were camping in), and broke camp well before our fellow hikers were rousing.

The hike from Boundary Camp to Egg Lake, our next camp site (really for the next two nights) was a short 3.5 mile hike, but it had a good bit of elevation change. We got in around noon, so we set up our tents, enjoyed a light lunch, and promptly took some naps. We woke up and decided to give Egg Lake a swim. At 5200 ft. in elevation, Egg Lake is a sub-alpine jewel. In the sun it was an iridescent green/blue with a bit of rusty red around the edges. It was also (almost) snow-melt cold, which made for a very cold swim. A very short swim too! Technically "swim" is a bit strong, "dip" might be more appropriate. But hey, now I can say I've swum in an alpine lake!

Later that day I walked around the rim surrounding the lake looking for some interesting photos. There were some flowers up there that I thought were pretty, and it looks down on our camp site, almost dead center. Our spot was up on a cliff overlooking a valley headed to Canada, with a snow-melt river on one side and the Egg Lake runoff on the other. I don't think there was a better spot along the entire Copper Ridge Trail goes as far as views and comfortable breezes go.

The skies stayed clear and blue that first evening, with Mt. Shuksan looming (the giant in the middle) in the background. If you look closely, you'll see Mt. Baker in there too. 

This final photo (if it zooms in good you'll see what I'm talking about) was from the same spot as the flower photo above, just zoomed in. That camp site was awesome!

I'll share some more photos in my next post, but this should do for now. Thanks to Jeff for giving up some time with your family to come explore the rugged hinterlands of Washington with me. And thanks to Catherine for taking on the kids while we hiked through the wilderness.



Sunday, August 11, 2013

Clowning around

Yesterday was a date night, and Catherine let me pick. So I picked a brewpub in Olympia that I wanted to try some of their beer (delicious!). Oh, and the garlic parmesan pub fries were really good too!

We had a wedding to go to today up by the Airport. Afterwards a lady came around with a goody basket of toys for the kids. Ian picked a kaleidoscope, which I eventually placed in front of my iPhone camera lens for some solid fun.

First it was Catherine's turn, but that photo didn't turn out too well. Then Ian, and then Leah.

I managed to get Catherine in front of the camera again, and I'm glad she did.

Once we got home I decided to take some photos of the kids all dressed up. Only they weren't really in the mood for that.

I got one semi-nice one of Ian smiling, but it is a (forced) school class photo smile, so I thought I'd put up the other Ian. The one who can't wait to get his shower and climb into his Captain America pajamas (we match!).

Leah is always willing to smile for the camera. Today was no different. Cheers,


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Wildflowers at Mt. Rainier National Park

I had heard that the wildflowers were finally at peak season, so I packed up the kids to do some camping and wildflower hunting. We tried the northeast corner of the park, so basically as far from home as humanly possible. It is quite the trek to get there, but ultimately well worth it. We scored a nice campsite at White River, after passing another site that was completely full. We grabbed the first available free site that we found, set up our tents, and then went about exploring the area.

First we headed to Tipsoo Lake on the far eastern edge of the park. We had a nice hike around the lake, which was basically a scouting hike for the following morning. It was fairly cloudy over by Rainier, but sunny where we were. After that we made our way to Sunrise, the highest point by road in the park. The kids did their Junior Ranger stuff, and along the way we hiked about a mile out to Shadow Lake. The northwest corner of the lake was covered in wildflowers, which made the place look and smell wonderful. I had to get a shot of the kids along the trail.

I had originally meant to spend sunset at Sunrise (don't get me started), but clouds were moving in and actually forming overhead, so I figured the odds of a pretty sunset were low. So down the mountain we drove so I could make dinner. There was a bit of firewood left over at our site from the previous occupants, so Ian, Leah, and I set up our chairs around the fire and watched some Ranger TV. The kids loved it!

Next morning we were up early so I could go shoot some photos at Tipsoo Lake. I figured there would be a couple of other hardy souls up that early, but I was not prepared for the horde of photographers that were up there! I still had a nice time, and the kids relaxed in the car while I traipsed along the trails through the meadows looking for some nice compositions. The weather cooperated with clear skies, meaning excellent views of Yakima Peak and Mt. Rainier in the distance.

From there we drove to Paradise and checked out the flowers there. I had a nice time, but the kids weren't enjoying the uphill walks at elevation. I cut the trip short by a bit and we made our way home. Almost everything is washed and put away back in its place. It was a nice trip, but as always it is nice to come home. Cheers,