Lake Byrne via Lost Creek Ridge; a 4-Nighter and Midlife Welcoming.

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Is 40-trips-around-the-sun the half-way point? The statistics would say so. Forty seems like prime time for reflection, assessment, and projection. A trail-cairn of sorts marking an unclear route where past, present, and future can be measured.So how does midlife feel? Personally, … Continue reading

Not All Jewels Found in Necklace Valley

“Alpine” is typically used synonymously with at and above treeline. Or, where the trees begin to thin out due to the shortened growing season. “Subalpine” refers to that ecosystem just below where trees still rule.P1090466The Necklace Valley holds several lakes, many of which are subalpine. The lower elevation melts out earlier, a perfect option for early season wilderness overnighting. P1090400The trail begins with 5 miles of gentle up and down (only 600 feet gain) through old growth forest with a deliciously biodiverse understory. Then, the climb begins in earnest with as rooty and rocky a tread as you will find anywhere. Here is yet another root staircase.P1090467

The up seemed interminable with our 34 pounds of food and gear each. (Ursula the young dog nimbly and graciously carried 4 pounds of kibble including Dusky the old dog’s share).  But, finally we made it to the first gem appropriately called Jade Lake. P1090414

The clouds were low for the majority of the three days. So low and thick in fact, Gwen coined the phrase: to be clouded upon. Not unlike the rolling fog that saturates the Redwoods of Northern California, it dampened our tent and outer layer from time to time, but also kept hungry bugs at bay.P1090442This low visibility made route finding very tricky by hiding ridges and summits. Made worse by a lack of signage and our two unmatching maps. It was like one of them was painted in an impressionist manner; someone’s interpretation of how this area felt. P1090455

Detoured by an authoritative trail voice and disoriented, we headed up valley and finally figured out we were not where we had planned to be. Fortuitous then, that we ended up with the perfect campsite and a brief parting of the ceiling.

nv5Two nights out and long hours of daylight meant we could travel one leg of the spider like valley in the morning, and another in the afternoon. P1090450

Still socked in, we opted for the more forested route toward Al (really?), Locket, and Jewel (that’s more like it!). Half way around Locket the trail petered out at some unclimbable walls and wet, clouded on brush kept us from going any further. P1090457Returning to camp for hot food and rest, the opening skies energized us to explore up valley. The way began with much boulder hopping across fields of granite; extremely fun with “approach shoes” that must have the stickiest rubber known to mankind. If you look close, you will see my liberating hot-tea-only packing method. nv3Up and up we went until views were not going to improve anytime soon. Atop the waterfall below, is more of the Necklace that will have to be explored at a later date.

nv2And on the way back to camp, we used the expediency of an actual trail.

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Many, many, stream crossings in this valley.P1090475Wouldn’t go here without a map…or three!

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This area is bound to shine when the sun is out, but has the potential for crowds later in the year. Now, that’s my idea of jewelry!!!

Never NOT been frozen at Ice Lakes.

Once a year Gwen and I get out for an extended trip. This year it worked out to only be the long weekend over labor day; easily the single most popular weekend for backpackers and campers alike.il1The forecast was for showers the first day, some wind, 40 degree nights, and clearing by the third day. Not bad really if you have moderate protection and breaks in the storms. Continue reading

Truly a “mountain” bike…at Cutthroat Pass

I learned to ride singletrack on the sweeping bluffs of NE Iowa. While the network of trails around Decorah, IA were varied, fast, and full of solitude, they rarely offered views thanks to a dense deciduous cover. And until now, foothills in this mountainous West have been where my 2001 mtn bike has primarily traveled. P1070803P1070797

For the past 7 weeks, Ive been interning at a Physical Therapy clinic where panoramic views of the Cascades and poster-size maps of nearby mtn bike trails hang on treatment room walls. My kind of place! The therapists spend their downtime reliving their last adventure or scheming their next one via Google Maps.  Continue reading

Ptarmigan Ridge; impromptu reconnaissance

A crystal clear blue sky presented itself yesterday, begging a vantage from some high point. Forgoing my original plan of an easy lakeside stroll, I headed up to the nearest and highest trailhead around – Artist’s Point. This remarkable spot is typically plowed open by early summer, though some years it remains completely buried. P1020496For many folks, this is a destination in and of itself and understandably so. You clearly don’t have to go far to enjoy spectacular views. Summer sledding on consolidated sun-cupped snow is just not my thing, however. Perhaps it is an inherent lack of cushioning to my tailbone. Continue reading

Twisp, WA; home of the Lorax?

I’ve always thought the town of Twisp, WA sounded like it belongs inside a Dr. Seuss book. And truly, the idyllic mountain town always seems like a fantasy-land whenever I visit. Having spent very little time there, my distant vantage probably polishes the tangible charm to a spectacularly bright sheen. panoThe Methow valley is sun drenched, yet green, thanks to its proximity to the Cascade Crest (where: West = wet & East = dry) and a steady supply of snow melt from the high peaks. Surely this area has ranked atop lists of best places to retire for eons. I love to head East from our spongey density to this more sparsely forested landscape. Continue reading

Spring break at the beach (sort of)

Lake Chelan is a 55 mile long natural finger lake surrounded by foothills on one end and towering peaks at the other. At a depth of 1000 feet in places, the water is cold, clear, and seems the ideal home for a cousin of Nessy. I have yet to spot Chelanny, though.lc27There are a couple of resort towns at the southern arid end and a couple of super remote tiny mountain towns at the other along with a smattering of summer cabins. Continue reading

Polar Plunge at Gothic Basin

Today, I had to pass up the opportunity to take a “Polar Plunge.” Seeing the post-plunge video of friends jumping into a body of water during winter reminded me of a sublime day a few years back. Continue reading