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!!!

Baker River: Variation on an Old Theme

This had happened recently:

P1090120An old-growth Doug Fir just obliterated the previous log bridge with cable railing. As if to say, “You call THAT a bridge?! Try this!!!

So, we took the opportunity to deviate from the meandering trail and head down to the crystal clear and icy braided Baker River. Here’s Gwen doing the airplane to keep balance atop shifty cobble: P1090123There were many stream crossings:P1090184Leaving the trail afforded us this choice picnic spot:P1090143And world class views:P1090134

With literal cold feet we chose to head back a different, no-so-watery-way. Log bridges to the rescue! P1090194“Josh, are you sure?”P1090199This trail and non-trail remains one of my all time favorite places.P1090220

Anderson Lakes Snow-venture

The day began with a hazy pall. The type not promising the views one might hope for when giving such an output. No matter, when the clouds gather, it begs micro rather than macro.

The dogs were not bummed as infinite wild smells awaited exploration. Then when bored just exhibited a little sibling sparring.

After enjoying an extremely refreshing dip, pockets of blue drew me onward and upward. Termed “sucker holes” in climber-jargon, they elicit hope and frequently disappoint by narrowing their aperture.

This time the gamble paid off…and conditions were perfect for glissading on the descent: dry powder atop a consolidated, anchored and surprisingly smooth base.

And by all means, get up and shake it to Adham Shaikh’s super sonic fusion!

Why choose? at Anderson & Watson Lakes

November and the high country is still accessible? I’ll take it! It has been a supremely soggy fall, but the temps have not fallen enough to lay down the typical dozens of feet of snow that can make alpine travel so difficult.P1080099 At the last minute I packed a map, and on that map were several 4,000ft jewels. Continue reading

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

Flatlanders in the mountains

This weekend we have family visiting from Iowa who obligingly packed their hiking boots…P1020548Iowa is known more for its depth than its height. Historically, there have been several feet of dark loamy topsoil covering much of the state. Unfortunately, this important resource is dwindling frighteningly fast through our subsidizing of the Big Ag juggernaut with its GPS-driven monster tractors and petroleum-fueled pharming practices.  Continue reading