Visit to an oasis

Growing up in north central Idaho an oasis was something I only saw in cartoons and perhaps on some television show. I have driven across the deserts of central Washington, southeastern Oregon, and Nevada many times but never came across anything similar to an oasis I would recognize from the cartoons of my childhood. They remained somewhat of a mythical place.

That changed last January when Barb and I visited the Palm Springs California area. We visited several oases in the area but by far the most interesting and pleasant were the West Fork Falls and Palm Canyon trails.

Since it has essentially the same trail head as Palm Canyon Trail and is only 0.1 miles long if you go to the Palm Canyon Trail area you must check out the West Fork Falls Trail. Barb and I were wandering around and I noticed something odd. I then began taking a bunch of pictures of the trees. Barb thought I was acting a little more strange than usual with the sudden interest in taking so many pictures of the trees. I had to explain. Check out the pictures below:

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Naches Peak Loop Trail

Last Sunday, after hiking the Mount Rainier Skyline Trail the day before, we hiked the Naches Peak Loop Trail. It was a much easier hike, and while very pleasant, was no comparison in the Skyline Trail. Any other day it would have been an incredible hike. But after the Skyline Trail experience it was merely great.

For the most part the trails were wide and flat. There were a few narrow and rugged spots but nothing that caused us real concern. The views were wonderful. In places the wildflower were so plentiful the air was filled with their scent even as you walked by.

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Mount Rainier Skyline Trail Loop

Barb and I have visited Mount Rainier several times. There have been others but here are the ones I have blogged about:

Over the weekend we went again. This time Barb reserved a campsite (reservation required and they are booked six months in advance) so we would be closer to the Skyline Trail Loop and could get an early start and find parking. We still had to park about a half mile away from the trail head.

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She has been wanting to go on this hike for years but it never seemed to work out. We took the upper loop and probably were within 2 miles of Camp Muir.

The weather was stunning. The air was clear, the temperature was pleasant, and there was no wind. The views were stunning.

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Mirror Lake

About three weeks ago Barb and I went on a hike to Mirror lake. It was suggested by one of her sisters and we happily headed east from Bellevue traveling over Snoqualmie Pass to exit 62. As we went deeper and deeper into the woods we started thinking “We might have been here before.” When we came to the parking area we were sure of it. We didn’t remember the name of the hike or lake when we made the choice for this destination.

Oh well, we are here so we might as well go on the hike.

If you plan to visit this location heed this warning:

From the lower parking area, you’ll notice a small sign pointing toward the Mirror Lake trailhead. Follow the wide, rocky dirt path approximately 0.5 miles to meet the trailhead for Mirror Lake. There is a small parking area adjacent to the trailhead that saves the extra 0.5 mile walk; however, it is strongly recommended that this not be attempted unless you have a jeep or other all-terrain vehicle.

Emphasis added. The road has huge ditches and large rocks in it. It is also overgrown with bushes that will probably scratch your vehicle if you push through them.

We walked the half mile or so to the small parking area adjacent to the trailhead and promptly went on up the hill to the right following the road:

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Hike to Lake Ann

A couple years ago Barb and I hiked to Annette Lake. A couple weeks ago we hiked to Lake Ann. Since it was late in the year we expected there would be few people. We were wrong. Short of national parks, this was probably the most crowded parking and trail we have ever been on. Still, the weather was nice, the views were great, and we enjoyed hike.

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Mount Catherine

Last Sunday Barb and I hiked up Mount Catherine. We were hoping that by driving east of Snoqualmie Pass and getting up near 5000 feet in elevation we could get out of all the forest fire smoke around home. No such luck, but it was a nice hike anyway. We probably will go back sometime when the air is clear and we can see something in the distance other than the haze.

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The drive to the trailhead really requires a high clearance vehicle. Even with my Ford Escape we bottomed out once on some particularly high rocks. The trail is pretty nice. It’s not a walk in the park with a wide smooth path, but it’s not one of those trails which “you have to believe it in order to see it” either (been there, done that, got lost, it wasn’t our favorite outing). The last little bit near the top is steep and it little more than dirt steps in the side of the mountain. No big deal when it’s dry but it could be treacherous when it’s wet.

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Crater Lake

Last Saturday and Sunday Barb and I hiked various trails around Crater Lake. I’d been there a couple times before but hadn’t really done any hiking.

Our first hike was to The Watchman Lookout:

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At over 7000 feet above sea level there was some snow but nothing blocking the trails:

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The weather was wonderful with visibility probably exceeding 100 miles.

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With such clear skies the water was intensely blue (this is straight from my phone camera, no color adjustments):

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The incredible blue color is not new. 1853 prospectors named it “Deep Blue Lake” and in 1862 another set of prospectors named it Blue Lake. The color is because the water is extremely clear and deep. In the deepest part it is 1,943 feet deep. It is so clear that person in a submersible vehicle at the greatest depth was able to see the flag on the vehicle with only the sunlight which made it to those depths.

The island is called Wizard Island. The crater on the top of the island is called Witch’s Caldron. If you take a boat to the Island you can explore the entire island. We decided not to invest the time (the better part of a day) to go on that excursion.

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From the other side of the lake we saw the island named Phantom Ship, a bald eagle, and some very tiny flowers:

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There were several other geological features to be seen in the park which we visited on Sunday but the highlights as seen above can easily be viewed in a single day without strenuous hiking.

Big obsidian flow

Yesterday Barb and visited the Big Obsidian Flow in central Oregon. As is the case with many volcanic fields it is somewhat other worldly. It’s a flow composed of about 25% obsidian mixed with pumice. It is an easy hike and very worthwhile.

There are huge chunks of the black natural glass all around you:

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You need to be careful when stepping on it because it is very slick. You are told not to bring your dog with you on the trails because, well, broken “glass” is everywhere.

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The native Americans who lived nearby used the obsidian for tools and traded it with other tribes.

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Because the chemical makeup of the flow is distinguishable from other sources scientists were able to trace tools found hundreds of miles away to this flow.

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Hiking on Mount Hood

Barb and I hiked on Mount Hood today. The weather was great. The air was clear enough that we could easily see Mount Jefferson over 45 miles away and Three Sisters and Broken Top (to the left of Mount Jefferson) nearly 90 miles away:

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Here is the same view of the mountains with a 125 mm lens instead of a 43 mm lens:

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We talked to another couple hiking down as we were going up who told us that yesterday there were 60 MPH winds. We were very lucky with our date selection!

We hiked up to the the ski lift junction at just under 7000 feet elevation. I wanted to make it above 7000 feet so I went on up the hill a short distance to what my phone GPS said was 7054 feet above sea level.

My view from there:

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Yes, it was July 3rd and there were lots of skiers. Here are some more:

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And here is a cropped version from the lower center of the picture above:

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Quote of the day—Barb L.

I like these kind of trails the least. These are the kind where you fall to your death.

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Barb L.
July 4, 2017
While on a hike near Tolmie Peak Lookout
[While I admit she had a point, I didn’t feel the impending disaster she did. But then, she was convinced I was “channeling my inner mountain goat”.

The picture below was taken by Barb at nearly the same time as I took the picture of her above:

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It was a great hike with epic views. And you don’t need to traverse the areas shown above to get the epic views like this:

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Highly recommended day hike.—Joe]

Wallace Falls revisited

Yesterday Barb and I hiked to Wallace Falls again. The trees are still extremely mossy, the falls are still beautiful (they had more water going over them this time), and I’m pretty sure the last quarter mile or so of the trail has some stairs where there were slippery rocks before. Also last time I said it took about two hours each way. But we were in and out in a little less than three hours this time. And although I was a little bit stiff for a while when we got back I was fine by the evening and today. Last time I was hurting bad enough to take ibuprofen for a few days.

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Hike to Annette Lake

Last June Barb had originally wanted to hike to Annette Lake for her birthday. But there was too much snow so she opted for her second choice, Cedar Butte.

Instead of 3.8 miles and 900 feet of elevation gain Annette Lake is 7.5 miles and 1400 feet of elevation gain. So they say. We discovered there was about 1600 feet of elevation gain and we reached an altitude of over 3700 feet. I’m not sure about the distance but 7.5 miles sounds about right.

It was easy trail to find and follow. Just follow the signs:

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Barb’s birthday hike

Barb decided she wanted to go on a hike for her birthday. She spent a lot of time trying to find just the right hike. Not too short, not too long, not too long of a drive, not too much elevation gain, and absolutely required was “a nice view”.

She settled on Cedar Butte. It was only 30 minutes away from home, 900 feet of elevation gain, and 3.8 miles round trip. It seemed pretty reasonable. But what about the view? I’ll let you decide.

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Quote of the day—Chelsea Karthauser

I’ve been trained for bear encounters. So if we see a bear, what you need to do is, gather around in a circle with me in the very center.

Chelsea Karthauser
May 17, 2016
Guide for Gastineu Guiding in Juneau, Alaska.
[We went on a hike to see a glacier with Chelsea (her nickname is Whalebait, interesting story on how that came about).

If you ever get the chance ask her about the time she fell off the trail in the snow, lost almost everything, including her shoes, was saved by Devil’s Club, made her way around the mountain to the tram, where people took pictures of her but wouldn’t help her.

We enjoyed our hike but most of the time we could have easily mistaken the scenery for that which we could have found with ten miles from home. We could have seen the glacier with a ten minute hike instead of a three hour hike. Now, the people from Texas, Arizona, and Florida saw some things quite different from their home area.

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Thanks Chelsea.—Joe]

Joe and Barb’s unexpected bonus

Barb and I went on a walk to Poo Poo Point via Chirico Trail yesterday.It was a little more elevation gain than we wanted (1760 ft.). But it was supposed to have a nice view at the top. The weather was nice so we decided to go for it. We figured we should leave the house before 9:00 AM to be able to get parking easily.

We arrived at the parking lot about 8:15 to find the lot full and the sides of the road filled with cars. “What’s going on?” [Grumble, grumble] We found a place a couple hundred yards away that let us park for $5.00. [Grumble, grumble]

We were at the trail head at 8:27 and saw people with radios who explained this was the landing zone for paragliders and to not dilly-dally around as we cross the zone. [Grumble, grumble]

The hike was more than I was really prepared for. I got winded easily and sweat profusely even though the temperature was in the low 60s. There were a lot of people on the trail. [Grumble, grumble.] It was a nice trail though:

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We stopped to rest many times and it took us an hour and 45 minutes to make it to the top.

It was a nice view. It was a very nice view:

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But there were all these people:

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Oh. They were launching paragliders from here! Cool! No more grumbling.

This was an unexpected bonus. More pictures below the fold:

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Sea level to 9800 feet

Barb and I were on vacation for the last week. Friday (October 16th) we left home about noon and drove to West Port, Washington (on the coast) to visit friends for the weekend.

I saw a couple stickers on a car that indicated I was near “my kind of people”:

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On Sunday morning we drove to the Seattle-Tacoma airport and flew to Las Vegas, arriving about 7:00 PM. We then drove to Brian Head, Utah arriving about 2:00 AM local time.

It was an interesting drive from Las Vegas to Brian Head. Just getting the rental car was an adventure. We “got a good deal” on a Jeep (I need lots of headroom) via Fox Rent A Car. When we checked in they told us it was an extra $10/day for a second driver. So much for the “good deal”.

We loaded all our stuff into the Jeep and started to leave when I noticed the low tire pressure light was on. I reported it and they said to take a different Jeep. We loaded our stuff into and started the car and the “Oil Change” light came on. We reported it and checked out the only small SUV remaining, a Rav 4. By adjusting the seat to the lowest position I could sit in by tipping my head to the side just a bit. And it smelled strongly of cigarette smoke. We were discussing going to a different rental agency when another Jeep, freshly washed showed up. We inspected it, found nothing wrong, and moved all our stuff into it and drove away. It wasn’t until two days later that we discovered the right rear door would not lock. We won’t be renting from Fox Rent A Car again.

The weather apps on our phones warned of heavy rains and flash floods all the way to Cedar City. The speed limit was 80 MPH on much of the interstate freeway in Utah but with the heavy rains I seldom drove over 55 MPH.

We needed to get some groceries and according to our research prior to leaving home there was a 24-hour Wal-Mart Super store in town. We arrived about 12:40 AM to find the store was closed. We drove around a bit and found a grocery store which was open. Barb went in and started shopping while I parked the car. When I walked in I was told they were closing in seven minutes. Barb and I coordinated our searches and dashed all over the store picking up various items. It was a bit of a hodgepodge of stuff and few things that weren’t quite what we thought we had grabbed off the shelves but it was good enough and we laughed at ourselves as we went through checkout.

We continued on to our condo at Brian Head, climbing up to 9800 feet above sea level, with the last mile or so pushing slush and snow ahead of the Jeep. We got into bed about 2:00 AM.

The next morning, Monday, we felt ill. I recognized the symptoms. It was altitude sickness. I would get dizzy every time I changed from a sitting or bending over position to standing. I was sometimes gasping for breath. We considered just staying there and getting better before we continued on to the National Parks. Barb looked up the symptoms and treatments on the Internet. Symptoms are similar to having drank too much alcohol and a hangover. Hmmm… so that’s what a hangover feels like. I’ve never had a hangover before. The treatment is to go to a lower altitude. You can avoid it by acclimating more slowly. Gain about 3000 feet per day they said. Great. We exceeded the recommended altitude gain per day by a factor of 3.27. No wonder we were feeling messed up.

All the National Parks we were visiting were at a lower altitudes so we decided to continue on schedule in the hopes of feeling better when we got to lower ground. We went to Bryce Canyon, at an elevation of over 8000 feet, and went on a three mile hike down and then up out of the steep canyon.

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We felt much better…

Details on our adventures with lots of pictures to follow in more blog posts.

Bainbridge Island Swamp Lake

Last Sunday Barb and I went for a hike on Bainbridge Island. We were meeting friends from the peninsula and as this is about halfway between our homes and them liking the outdoors as much as we did we decided to go on a short hike through the woods to Gazzam Lake.

We planned to leave at 8:30 AM to catch the 9:35 ferry but we were ready to go at 8:20 and left early. We arrived at the ferry dock, paid for our ticket, and were told we were going to be on the 8:45 ferry. Essentially we arrived just a few minutes before it was scheduled to leave and just had to drive onto the ferry and it took off. Excellent timing! The only problem was we were now 50 minutes early to meet our friends.

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Grandson Bryce’s first hike in the woods

Since his parents don’t really care for hiking in the woods Barb and I took it upon ourselves to take Bryce on his first hike. It was a short walk, about 1.1 miles round trip. He walked the entire way except for when I carried him about 100 feet at the place the trail was very narrow with a steep drop off to sharp rocks on one side.

He seemed pretty happy with the whole adventure. He did seem to think throwing rocks in the water was more interesting than looking at the waterfall though.

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WP_20150808_11_16_27_ProHe switched things up a bit by throwing a stick too.

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Photo by Barb

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All indications are that he had a good time.