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Just a meandering soul sharing my backyard. Visit my Flickr page too! www.flickr.com/photos/meanderingwa/

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Breakfast Couscous

For Ron

totally Oatmeal and crunchy free. A nice change of pace at home and in camp

1 C whole wheat Couscous

1/3 C Dry non-fat milk ( stay with me)

2 T brown sugar ( or more, sheesh)

3/4 tsp ( or more ,double sheesh ! ) cinnamon

1/4 C Slivered almonds

1/4 C dried blueberry

1/4 C chopped dried mango (I like Trader Joe's for these items) or other dried fruits

In a bowl mix all together, Store in zip lock or container

to fix single portion place 1/2 C in saucepan and add 1/2 C and a dab more water, Bring to boil cover and let sit off heat 5 minutes.

In camp you can place in cup, add boiling water and let steep, covered a little longer than 5 minutes if you do not want to use the covered pot option.

To prep whole batch add 1 1/2 C water bring to boil , cover and remove from heat

The dried milk adds a creamy essence and is not intended to replace actual milk. You can add the real deal after it is cooked if you like

My blueberry scone recipe mentioned in my previous post is from Cooks Illustrated.

Walking the Katwalk

...or at least trying.

What a frustrating weather year this is. Upper elevation trails are still not thawed out. While I always vow that my purpose for a hike is not to get to the end, turn around and return, it would be nice to achieve this one.

I went up Kendall Katwalk on 4th of July weekend but got turned back by a deep waterfall crossing. I didn't feel up to hiking in soggy shoes. This time I figured with a few weeks and warm weather I was bound to have better success.

Saturday I woke up early and had a Birthday Breakfast of Blueberry scones. My favorite indulgence and suitable for this days hike.

I was happy to see several cars when I arrived at the trail head on the north side of Snoqualmie Pass. At least others knew the trail was usable. I entered the woods and immediately encountered blooming Western Coralroot. While the environment was suitable these orchids were not as bountiful as I have encountered elsewhere in the lowlands this Spring.

I hiked along at a good clip, noticing that the Queens Cup was bursting at the seams and spilling down every slope around the trails.

Marsh Marigold liked the wet seepage areas, which were many on the lower portion of the trail.

I made it up to the waterfall crossing in good time and was happy to see usable stones above the waterline. The sky had not yet cleared and low clouds hung in the trees. There was some bird activity and I once again encountered a noisy Gray Jay family.

Between the second and third switchback you cross an old open avalanche slide area. This is Blueberry Heaven, the Holy of Holy.

Last September 27 I posted a report of this hike and showed you the bounty of blueberries I collected. I could have picked more but I was unprepared as far as having a container. I drank down all of my water and used my empty water bottles. I sloshed down from that hike and made my favorite scone recipe. More made it to the freezer and I believe I baked with them until April.

The path to the blueberry patches is along old downed trees. You stand on the logs and pick everything within reach. I am sure one could spend a lot of time in here, but the berries are so plentiful and plump, you get your fill in no time.

From this clearing you can look up and see Kendall peak (on the left) and just make out the green slope of the Kendall Garden (to its right)

The trail does several switchbacks and I crossed and recrossed the same waterfall / creek. I started encountering snow patches at the third switchback. They were well trod but gave that delightful crunchy "squeak scrunch" feel and sound. A treat to my ears anytime, let alone in mid-July.

You exit the timberline and have a last, long straightaway on the trail. Looking back you can see Mt Rainier. This day , in a matter of 10 minutes or so, the clouds burned off, which I captured in pictures.

From here you can see and hear I-90. Even though I had been hiking for 2 hours, it was still deceptively close. The trail winds up the slope following the noses of the foot of the mountains.

The long trial enters the area known as Kendall Garden. A steep open "grassy" slope is alive with plants. I saw Marmots playing around high up the slope. Near my feet carpets of Spreading Phlox spangled with dew

and Red Columbine just starting to bloom. Everywhere there were Heathers of different types. Happily there was little in the way of nasty bugs, only hover flies and a few early butterflies.

I reached the top of the long up trail and rounded what is the north face of Kendall Peak and once again hit frozen stuff. I knew it was the end of my hike, 1/2 mile short of the Katwalk. While this slope clearly had a foot path across it, I didn't feel bold for it. The slope was far too steep, I would estimate 50 degrees? and one slip and I would be gone.

I ate my sandwich, pleased that I had done five miles in 2.75 hours. There was no wind and the weather was perfect, but turn back I must.

I encountered many people on the way up and it was nice chatting with some and being able to give them reports. One large group was heavily laden with camera equipment and all had poles , ice as and even some treads and ropes. I told their leader that I had no doubt that they would have no reason to fear that last snow crossing.

I also met some folks that were horrifically under equipped for such a hike. Clearly not carrying "the 10 essentials" tennis shoes with anklets and a 12 oz bottle of water is not going to get you very far in any hike.

A young boy alerted me to a cool spider. He was chattering away as I approached continued to chatter away as he departed. I stopped at the web he had pointed to and found this interesting spider atop its web in some ferns.

It was in this spot I found Northern Green Bog orchids earlier this month. I was looking at them and I spotted another little spider. I was trying to get a good shot since green on green in green is a tricky combo.

I back dropped the flower with my hand the the little spider immediately took this defensive pose. I am kind of struck that he pretty much echos the size and shape of the blossoms themselves.

So I need to return to this trail in September to restock my freezer with truly wild local blueberries and Huckleberries. I would love to get up to Kendall Gardens a bit later this summer to take in the flowers in their glory.

And actually walk the Katwalk

I just keep missing the moment.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Return To Mt St Helen's

I last visited Mt St Helen's three years ago with a group from work. In May, on the anniversary date of the eruption, I posted some pictures from that trip. I returned this weekend along with some friends from work

Conditions were far different from my last visit. Due to our protracted Spring with its late snows, there is a large amount of snow remaining on Monitor Ridge, the trail up to the crater rim and on the rim itself. This caused me a fair amount of concern but communications with others who had recently climbed made me feel I could do this again.

I drove down early on Saturday as I wanted to visit Ape Caves. This lava tube is part of the Volcano Monument and was discovered in 1948. It is not named for Bigfoot, but rather a name for a Scout troop that frequented the area. This tube formed when lava flowed and cooled creating a tube which liquid lava could continue to flow through. After the activity ended, the tube remained hollow. A cave-in led to its discovery many centuries later.

A hole in the ceiling allows light in and moss and ferns take advantage.

The tube is a chilly 48 degrees year round. On a hot day it is welcome, but you have to take long sleeves with you. There is an easy tube and a more difficult one which requires some rock climbing and one wall to be gained with toe and hand holds.

Our group camped at Climbers Bivouac, 2 miles from Monitor Ridge. This area is open to permit climbers only and limit is 100 climbers per day. We made our reservations in late winter. All around the camp Avalanche Lily were in bloom. It was so nice to sit around the fire and watch stars, satellites and shooting starts dance in the sky. We could hear Great Horned Owls hooting. You could see the summer Milky Way.

Monitor Ridge marks the way, the little peak at the left (look between the tree boughs) needs to be gained after a two mile hike up through the woods. The first two miles in about 1hour, the next 2.5 in about three. It is faster coming down.

The rocky line is what you follow to the top. You can see that the snow is a main feature. Large posts mark the way. Many people opted for walking the snow on the other side of the ridge all the way up. I decided to stick to the rocks until the last mile.

I cannot imagine who worked on getting these posts up to the area and erected. They are huge. Prayer flags are found on most mountain summits but this pole on the way up had some as well.

The last 500 yards are tough. When clear, this is ash and pumice pebbles and is like walking in a sand dune. Now you use the snow steps. You follow in the footsteps of those who went in front of you. I found this very challenging both physically and mentally. If I strode in a comfortable hiking pace, my feet would often slip. I had to place my foot and pause, place the other and pause. Mental and physical exhaustion. I found myself staring at the ground and I knew that I would have a stiff neck today. My arms are also a bit achy from the use of the poles.

But oh the view from the top. There are few words for the view on such a clear day.

Mt Rainier, Spirit Lake and the east rim of the crater.

The dome. I can see the difference from three years ago. You can see steam , too.

The blast zone, lahar floodplain and Johnston Ridge.

Mt Adams to the east. See the small red flag to the left of the ski poles? You don't want to cross that point. Where we are standing is the true rim, everything else is subject to change. The man in the cap is our trip leader and if you look to the left of his feet you can see a crack in the shelf.

A dangerous snow cornice shows its layers. Notice how it is breaking apart and drooping? It will drop into the crater soon. The rim is marked with flags and in some places there was easily 20 more feet of snow before open sky. This is simply a snow shelf. In some places you could see cracks developing where it was going to break away.

I did some glissade on the trip down. This techniques can be risky but if you follow in the "buttpath" of those before you, it is simply wet and fun.

I am tired from the shoulders up. The tension in my neck and shoulders from staring at the ground and working walking poles remains. Happily my legs, and more importantly my feet, are in fine shape.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Little Si

Say "sigh"

I wanted someplace near to avoid the holiday returning traffic. I had never done this classic hike and I figured today was a great day to do so.

The morning was still wet and drippy.

Clouds threatened but never produced. By the time I got to the trail around 9:00 there were plenty of people already in the parking lot and starting out on the trail it quickly became apparent that this was a routine running place for hard core trail runners. The paths were great footing with only a few mucky areas. Much of the way is root and rock steps. It is 5 quick miles round trip and at 1200 gain, a nice little work out with a lot of variety.

There is a lot of evidence of the glacial impact on this area. Some flat rocks on the ground show glacier etching and the whole area is strewn with moss covered boulders.

They add a wonderful visual appeal and a fantastic change from other lowland areas.

Rock climbers find some good training areas here. These two climbers were planning their route up the rock face.

There were some very big trees in the woods, of a girth that says they were easily 200 years plus. Clearly they escaped the ax back when my ancestors set up their mill 20 miles to the west. This cedar had fallen and the exploded trunk was a wonderful contrast of color and texture. Western Red Cedar indeed.

There were not a lot of flowers and fungus but enough to keep my eyes seeking. Near the top I found a lot of Rattlesnake Plantain, an orchid, in spike and ready to bloom in a week or so. The exposed top of Little Si held quite a number of dwarf pine trees I would have expected further east. There were also Tiger Lily

and White Brodiaea, Tritelia hyacinthina,

both unexpected.

The trees of Mt Si were sending off a lot of vapors and this classic hike is a solid 3500 foot gain in 4 miles. It is for another day, perhaps a cool Fall day.

The best view is from the south face with a clear view east up the valley towards Snoqualmie Pass. Unfortunately the clouds are still not burned off when I reach the top.

There were a lot of people on the trail and you cannot help but chat as you walk along. One family with toddlers in their backpacks was training for the STP ( Seattle to Portland) Bike race in two weeks. Another couple told me about one of their favorite long hikes to a place called Otter Falls. It sounds great! This young man was very happy to show off the Monadilia fidelis he found.

There is a side trail called the Boulder Garden Loop. After climbing up Little Si and the easy and rapid hike down, the Boulder Garden gives you a punch. My legs were happy to walk and even jog along the trail, so easy. Then I hit them with the Boulder Garden trail. It starts with a climb then persists with even more climb. I felt like I was climbing back up Little Si except regaining that height in a short distance. The path wound around and between large boulders covered an many types of moss and fern. One tempting trail branched off and I have learned that is one way over to Mt Si.

What a nifty little hike. It could easily become a default where to go for a quick trail explore. The bounty of Rattlesnake Plantain certaily will require a visit for their bloom.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Soggy Boggy 4th Greetings

So the joke comes true, here in Western Washington, Summer starts tomorrow.

I took advantage of the half holiday on Friday and simply took the full day off. I had to go in to work today and I knew it would take me at least four hours so it worked well for everyone.

I knew the weather was going to be dreary on Friday but I was determined to see how Kendall Katwalk was faring. Trail reports I read sounded good. I had never visited this trail in the Summer and I knew there were some amazing environments to visit.

I posted about the Kendall Katwalk last September. It was here I found amazing blueberries and mushrooms. I knew this area was also good for views and a thrilling trek across the narrow ledge of the Katwalk itself.

The parking lot was totally empty when I arrived. This surprised me a bit since this hike on the Pacific Crest Trail is popular and a starting place for many backpacking trips. It was so chilly that I pulled out my polar fleece and threw on my rainproof poncho. It was raining that type of rain that does not really fall but simply floats about. Organized fog I call it.

I like being in the open woods on the Cascade Crest. You can see more inside the environment. Here large boulders can act as nurse boulders for trees.

Ferns were everywhere.

There were a lot of birds and in many places the sound of young. Even though it is cold and gray, nature cycles on. In one spot I heard noises that I was not too sure of , so I "pished" to see if I could call in or make some bird movement. Pishing is done with the voice and sounds like a scold call. Many birds will react to the sound by moving or even coming closer. I saw movement of a dark shape and then saw a more familiar Gray Jay. The first dark shape popped up and it was a baby Gray Jay. It sat on a limb near me and started begging, mouth open wings fluttering.

Well I knew my next responsibility. I opened my pack and pulled out my apple. I placed a small bit on my open hand and one adult came over, took it and plugged it into the beggars mouth.

I should not feed them but I cannot resist.

Pressing on I started encountering snow on the trail in open areas. Ahead I could heard a waterfall. I stopped when I finally saw it shooting over the wall of the ridge to my right.

Getting nearer my heart sank. This torrent was on the right side of the trail.

Where the water crossed the trail it was about 7 feet wide. Too far to leap across and there were no handy, flat rocks that were well above the waterline. Near the left edge there were a few usable rocks, but they were right on the edge and there was about a 10 foot drop. I knew enough to turn back then, I hate having wet feet and while I probably could have made it, risk is not my first or middle name. Returning, I immediately encountered two "well-set-up" * men. I told them I was not feeling sprightly for crossing. We chatted about the season and parted ways. Since I did not see them again I assume they made the crossing just fine. Returning to the parking lot there were still no others cars except that of the two men. One (or both) were firefighters!

Ah me. (Oh yes!)

Saturday promised better weather east of the Cascade Crest (as is usual) so I knew I needed to get up early to possibly beat any traffic and get to Esmeralda Basin. I visited this area extensively last July. It is a wonderful wilderness area that is easy to access and presents five different hike options. Each trail visits a different area in or around the basin and each has an ecology different from the other. All have wonderful views of the mountains. When I look upon some of them I always hope to see Mountain Goat.

The relatively flat Esmeralda Basin trail heads north circling Mt. Esmeralda counter clockwise. The prime feature of the basin trail is meadows and bogs filled with wildflowers. I also like that as the trail climbs upward you switchback several times. Each time you cross the same streams and at each level the surrounding ecology is quite different. Right now the lower area is rich with blooming Jeffrey Shooting Stars and Yellow Violets.

I also found Northern Green Bog-orchids. The bog meadows are saturated with water that is running off the hillsides.

Later there will be many other flowers and grasses in bloom. Cottongrass grows here. It looks like a grass stem with a cotton ball on top. I found two Fairslippers. Can you see this orchids little friend?

I hiked about three miles and was reaching an area I had pre-determined to turn back at. I wanted to visit a second trail I had never been on. The DeRoux Trail is two miles south of the Esmeralda trail head and slightly lower in elevation, perhaps 200 feet? What a big difference. The woods here were filled with blooming Vanilla Leaf and solid with Trilliums, which were past blooming. It must have been a sight to see in the previous month. Immediately after leaving my parking area I found Western Spotted Coralroot. These were the nicest examples I have ever seen.

There was a sprinkling of Columbine, asters, and Tiger Lily which I had seen along the North Fork Teanaway Road for the last eight miles in.

Rounding a bend in the trail I passed another bog meadow. I could see the shooting star and appreciated the size of the meadow. I moved on and coming around some trees I glanced into the meadow again. Something here was different.

I carefully picked my way deeper into the meadow and knew I found one of my favorite wildflowers. Here it is still a bit closed and flowers not yet out.

Elephant-head Lousewort. So aptly named. They stood well above the lighter purple shooting stars. Mixed in were the Green and White bog orchids. All told this day I saw five different orchid species. I took my pictures and carefully picked my back out, retracing my previous path.

I pressed on up the trail about two miles and decided that I would call it a day. I need to revisit this whole area in the next few weeks. Ingalls Pass and Iron Peak which form the east wall of the basin are two wonderful areas. Both provide magnificent view of Mt Stewart. Next to Mt Rainier, Stewart is the mountain that I never get tired of looking upon.

Tomorrow is a holiday. I hate being on the road in the afternoon but I cannot say no to a sunny day.

(* "The Curious Sofa" by Ogdred Weary)