Category: Uncategorized

Railroad Grade hike 14 August 2018

Railroad Grade is a hike that skirts the lateral moraine of the Easton glacier of Mount Baker. This was my first hike with the SnoKing Happy Hikers group; my friend Brenda introduced me to this fun group.  The route starts with a walk in the woods and then a stream crossing on the trail to Park Butte. Luckily, the bridge was in place! After a few miles of walking, there’s an intersection; we turned upward on Railroad Grade. After about a mile of climbing, we took a side trail to the shaded High Camp area where I had nice lunch with Carol, Brenda and Ed.  We saw lots of nature: marmots, butterflies and lots of intriguing plants.

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Route up Railroad Grade (purple) recorded by Gaia navigation app, plotted using CalTopo
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Happy Hikers ascending Railroad Grade
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Siesta view of Mount Baker from High Camp

After lunch and a siesta, Brenda and I continued up to the trail to the climbers camp at 5800 feet. We explored this alpine, rocky area. We scrambled up the rocks alongside the glacier; I eventually went up to about 6400 feet while Brenda decided to stay a bit lower. We saw lots of climbers, many of them practicing climbing skills on Easton glacier. After a few hours up high, we descended down to the high camp area for dinner. We then decided to walk out. We had a little navigation challenge after crossing the bridge but after a few minutes we spotted the trail into the woods and out to the car. This was a great first hike with the Happy Hikers,  a group I hope to do many more hikes with.

As I often do, I made a number of naturalist observationsiNat20180814

Easy Pass UPWC 28-29 July 2018

With a name like Easy Pass, it must be easy… perhaps in a relative sense.

Summary

On 28 July 2018 I set out with my friends Linda, Roger and Rob on my third UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge EasyPass.  We fastpacked the route, starting at Easy Pass trailhead and camping overnight at Junction camp. We finished the next day at Colonial Creek campground. My elapsed time was 28 hours 51 minutes. Overall, it was a wonderful 40 km trip, despite hot weather and a plethora of flies.

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Easy Pass to Colonial Creek Route

Easy Pass route

Details

We set out from the Easy Pass trail at 8:01 AM on 28 July.

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Intrepid UltraPedestrians John, Linda, Roger and Rob

Our route up the Easy Pass Trail climbed up steeply for about 6 km, until we reached  2100 meter Easy Pass. Near the top, there was an observation camera from the Cascade Carnivores project; situated to look for wolverines, martens and other rare carnivores.

After a nice rest and a bit of exploring at Easy Pass, we headed down switchbacks  into Fischer Basin. During the day, I made more than 40 botanical observations.  This entire section had some spectacular views.

 

Had a nice brekky and some great views of the mountains.  Around 8 Am, we started descending down the Thunder Creek trail. The forest ecology during the descent was quite different and I made about 30 botanical observations on 29 July.

 

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Thunder Creek was raging

 

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Forest ecology on Thunder Creek trail

I was out at the Colonial Creek trailhead at 12:51 PM, elapsed time was 28 hours 51 minutes.  Overall, this was a great two day fastpack trip and another fun UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge. Not running allowed me to observe the ecology closely while enjoying the company of three excellent companions. Next UPWC trio is

Lessons Learned

  1.  First time using Gaia app on my phone.  Gaia worked well and I was able to download .gpx and .kml files.
  2. Decided to use a bear vault, added several pounds of weight. My base weight was about 11 kg. without food and water. I am going to lighten up a bit for nest backpack.
  3. Brought a battery pack and was able to recharge my phone. Unfortunately, forgot the correct adapter for my camera so my photos were mostly lower quality cell phone images. I had been hoping to obtain some high quality macro images with my new Olympus TG-5 camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking East from Easy Pass
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Looking West from Easy Pass

As we walked through the Fischer Creek basin we moved from alpine to  meadow and then forest ecosystems.

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Fischer Basin alpine meadow descending from Easy Pass
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Forest Ecosystem

About 2 km east of Junction Camp we encountered a gnarly section of trail. There was a poor run-out if one should slip and the trail was eroding as we walked on it. Looking back, we light have been better to climb up and around this segment.

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We reached Junction Camp, having walked about 23 km from the Easy Pass trailhead. Along the way, we took a number of breaks due to the heat. I didn’t bring a thermometer but I’d estimate it was more than 31 degrees. I had a leisurely dinner and a good nights rest. I borrowed a bear vault from the Parks Service to store my food.  (Concerned about bears and other creatures getting into my food).

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Mountain View from Junction Camp, maybe Tricouni Peak, with hanging glacier?

Had a nice brekky and some great views of the mountains.  Around 8 Am, we started descending down the Thunder Creek trail. The forest ecology during the descent was quite different and I made about 30 botanical observations on 29 July.

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Thunder Creek was raging
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Forest ecology on Thunder Creek trail

I was out at the Colonial Creek trailhead at 12:51 PM, elapsed time was 28 hours 51 minutes.  Overall, this was a great two day fastpack trip and another fun UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge. Not running allowed me to observe the ecology closely while enjoying the company of three excellent companions. Next UPWC trio is Alpine Lakes Grand Tour starting on 2 August 2018, 4 days after the Easy Pass challenge.

Lessons Learned

  1.  First time using Gaia app on my phone.  Gaia worked well and I was able to download .gpx and .kml files.
  2. Decided to use a bear vault, added several pounds of weight. My base weight was about 11 kg. without food and water. I am going to lighten up a bit for nest backpack.
  3. Brought a battery pack and was able to recharge my phone. Unfortunately, forgot the correct adapter for my camera so my photos were mostly lower quality cell phone images. I had been hoping to obtain some high quality macro images with my new Olympus TG-5 camera.
  4. Instant mashed potatoes are delicious.
  5. Made sure to keep drinking plenty of water with electrolytes, I felt great on this hike.

 

 

Loowit trail fast pack July 2017

Getting ready

On Friday evening 14 July, I noticed I had a test from my friends Linda and Roger – they were asking if I wanted to do the 28 Mile Loowit trail around Mount St Helens the following day. I’d need to arrive at there house about nine hours later. I decided, sure, why not. My wife Mary Ellen was fine with this, although it confirmed her suspicions that I’m slightly crazy. I signed up for my first UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge.

I have most gear ready to go… until I picked up my Salomon vest pack (about one year old) and had the shoulder strap fall apart. Well, time to dust off my old Gregory pack, 13 years old, but still functional. Carried my OR bivy sack on the bottom of the pack and hung a warmer jacket on the pack. Added a little extra food than I would normally carry on an all day run. Here’s my gear:

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Our trip – Summary

Linda, Roger, and I started out from the June Lake trail head at 8:16 AM Saturday. We started counterclockwise on the Loowit trail about 9:09 AM Saturday and completed the Loowit about 7:07 PM Sunday, about 33:58.  We were at the car about 7:54 PM.  We went about 20 miles the first day, camped just after crossing the South Toutle river, and hiked 12 miles the second day. There were a few technical challenges, most interesting was entering, crossing and leaving the South Toutle river. I liked these challenges, Linda gave me a new name: Pumice Dancer. Here is our route, using a GPX file that Roger created:

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Many thanks to my ultrarunning mentors Roger Johnson and Jeff Wright, along with fast packing mentoring from Linda.   Really appreciate the UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge community for advice and encouragement.

Trip – Lessons Learned

What went well

  • UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenges are fun and challenging
  • Fast packing worked out pretty well
  • Have gear ready to go is nice, including extra gear
  • No stove was no problem for an overnight

Areas to improve

  • Need to obtain and learn to use a GPS unit (in addition to map and compass)
  • Should have worn running tights for evening and morning
  • Didn’t need to have my bivy bag in its own zippered bag.
  • Had enough food but could have worked in a better variety

Trip – Some Details and Photos

I’m adding some more photos with brief descriptions, these are sequential from start to finish.

Day 1

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Linda and Roger at our first major channel crossing, we did quite a few of these. I earned the name Pumice Dancer from Linda for my love of these…

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Still some snow left on the Loowit Trail but nothing too bad.

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Myself, Linda, and Roger on the dry east side of Mount St Helens. We had great weather as we circled the volcano.

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Climbing up to Windy Pass, Mount Adams in the background. We had great views of Adams and Rainier throughout the day.

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First view of Spirit Lake. On the left side of the lake is Harry’s Ridge, which I hiked two days before. I remember looking out from Harry’s Ridge thinking: “Boy, it would be fun to hike around Mount St Helens.” Here I was doing it two days later, thanks to Linda and Roger.

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In the blast zone…

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Ready to cross the South Fork Toutle river, near the end of a great day.

Day 2

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We had to use ropes that were installed four times, they were very useful.

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No words required…

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We ran into runners training for the Volcanic 50K race on 5 August.  They are part of the Go Beyond Racing group and I managed to get some good photos to them. I volunteering to carry water up to the Ape canyon aid station with some of them on 29 July.

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Rock hopping time… I liked this for some crazy reason.

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Made lots of botanical observations (that will be a separate post). This is my favorite, bluebells (Campanula rotundifolia) which I observed only on these south side rocks.

 

Mind over matter: Issy Alps 50k June 2017

“If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”

My friend Roger and I set out on the Issy Alps course on Friday afternoon 2 June 2017.  My goal was to complete the 50k course while Roger was attempting the much more challenging 100 mile course. We started out from the Mailbox Peak trail head at 5:48 PM. In the picture below, I’m on the left wearing a blue shirt; Roger is on the right.

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We were pretty familiar with the route, this was our fourth time up this year. We followed the new Mailbox Peak trail, as we had done before. This is a deviation from the standard Issy Alps course, it does add about 4 miles more. (Just realized this may disqualify me from official completion, may have to do this another time). We took a little less than three hours to head up, wanted to conserve energy for Mount Teneriffe, our next peak. We reached Mailbox Peak at 8:40 PM. Had a great view of Mount Rainier at sunset. I looked through the mailbox and had some lemon GU that had been left there.

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We donned our headlamps and ran back down to the Mailbox trail head.  We were feeling pretty good. We did resupply our water from the vehicle; thus, our attempt can’t be called unsupported (but we were pretty close).  It was about 10:30 PM when we left; heading down Middle Fork road and up the Granite Creek trail.  Along this area, we heard gunshots and twice saw vehicles cruising slowly with spotlights. Perhaps some midnight hunting? We went up Granite Creek and found trail and then found the turn back down. (We had missed this on a previous attempt… don’t do that). Headed down and hit the road and went across the bridge. There is construction going on, but it was no hassle to get through.

We crossed the creek with no issues, thanks to whoever added some stepping stones, this is now a lot easier to cross. Headed through some unofficial trail; they were NETTLE-some (there were some stinging nettles that we couldn’t avoid.) Headed upward and hit the CCC road at 1:40 AM. Felt pretty good here, we were able to run the roads down to the Mount Tenerriffe trail head. I felt much stronger than previous attempts. One lesson I learned was to really keep up with nutrition and hydration. I was using Perpeteum and eating my usual baby food and other soft snacks. (I have achalasia – one symptom is difficulty swallowing. )

Reached the Mount Teneriffe trail head at 2:40 AM.  Headed up and did water refill near the base of the falls. We were both using Katadyn Befree water filters. Above the falls, it is a tough climb to Mount Teneriffe.  There was a little bit of snow on the last summit section. We hit the summit at 6:35 AM after a slow, steady slog up. There were two other people up there. Rested a while here. It was foggy, not much of a view. I did see some neat wildflowers, including Indian paintbrush at the summit.

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There was still plenty of snow as we navigated down from Mount Teneriffe towards the Talus trail that would take us over to Mount Si.  The snow crust was hard, so no postholing on this trip (unlike a previous attempt when we were travelling on the snow in late afternoon.) Did another water refill along the way. We reached crowded Mount Si at 11:10 AM. My energy was flagging at this point but I knew I needed to rest a bit and get ready for Little Si.

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We headed down the old Mount Si trail towards Little Si. I hit a tree root wrong and fell. Ended up with a bruised elbow. I was definitely slowing down but was pretty determined. I wasn’t running any more but still putting one foot in front of another. After all, how hard could it be to go up Little Si…. well, a five year old passed me at one point but I made it up to Little Si summit at 1:55 PM. It was our fourth summit of the day.

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We made it to the Little Si trail head at 3:11 PM. Thus, I think I can lay claim to the Slowest Known Time (SKT) for the Issy Alps 50k  at 21 hours and 23 minutes. Roger kept going while I headed home for a shower and a meal. I felt pretty good after the run. The next morning, I joined Roger and ran another 11 mile section of the Issy Alps 100 mile course through Tiger Mountain as he continued his much more challenging adventure.

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I learned several important lessons while completing this run (on my fourth attempt).

  1. Do adequate training that includes elevation gain. I was unprepared for the elevation gain on my first attempt and had to bail out on Mount Teneriffe.
  2. Keep up with nutrition and hydration. This was really an issue on my third attempt, I got behind heading up Mount Teneriffe, and it was an issue.
  3. Pay attention to route finding all the way. This isn’t like a race course where you just need to follow trail markers.
  4. Slow and steady works for me. OK, maybe I went too slow this time but I had some margin of energy left. I felt great the next day running with Roger on Tiger.
  5. I need to carry some type of GPS tracking device. I have a SPOT beacon but did not pay for tracking, I’ll need to get that option.

Thanks to Jeff Wright who got me started on trail running last summer. Roger Johnson got me out on some great runs in the last year. Both Roger and Jeff have been my mentors, you don’t learn trail running from a book!  To George Orozco, who laid out this challenging course, thanks – you did a great job.

Finally, I realize I probably need to do the Issy Alps another time because I didn’t follow the exact route. We used the longer (less steep) new Mailbox trail when we started. Also, I don’t have a GPS track for this run because I don’t have a GPS tracker.   Still, I had a great time and this is a course I would like to do again. As I build my skills, I want to work my way up to the 100k and maybe one day the 100 mile course.