No Thank You

Barb and I like to hike. Mountains are far more interesting that deserts, forests, and lowland trails. Mount Rainer, Yosemite, and Glacier National Parks are at the top of the list for us.

I stumbled across this and immediately eliminated any and all desire to try the big one. Even if I were to be rejuvenated to a state several decades younger and I had excess money to spend on the adventure the answer to an invitation would be a very firm, “No thank you.”:


Tolmie Peak Lookout

Barb and I visited Tolmie Peak Lookout six years ago. Yesterday, we hiked up there again. We left a little after 6:00 AM and arrived at the trailhead at about 8:00 AM. The last 19 miles were gravel with “high clearance vehicles recommended.” The speed limit was 25 MPH, but in places, I thought 15 MPH was plenty fast.
The sign at the trailhead said 5.8 miles round trip. They lied. My GPS step tracker said it was 3.47 one way.

The first part of the trail was really nice. It got a little more difficult in places. But it’s not so bad that we really complained about it. We knew the reward at the end would be well worth it.
Down toward the trailhead:

And on and up to the lookout:

We started out at just over 5,000’ elevation. This is the sign at Eunice Lake

The lookout is at 5,935.
Near Eunice Lake, we were swarmed with mosquitos. We applied insect repellant, but it was far from completely effective. Barb described it as her being their buffet.
This is Eunice Lake with the lookout on the skyline just right of center:

About halfway up the hill from the lake, we saw Mount Rainer to the Southeast. No matter how many times we have seen it, it never fails to impress us. This is from more than nine miles from the peak with a cell phone camera. The peak is nearly 9,000 feet above us.

To the Northwest was a valley filled with a river of fog.

We arrived at the lookout just before 10:00.

The lookout isn’t particularly special compared to many other lookouts. But the view is very special.

It is hard to capture it with a cellphone camera, but this is a very round valley carved by a glacier.

Last time, Barb got uncomfortable with the trail beyond the lookout. I turned around to stay with her. This time, I went on without her. I after traversing this section of the “trail” I stopped and reevaluated my life choices.

I had gone further than last time, but I didn’t see the risk/reward benefit analysis being all that favorable. This was the view forward shortly before I turned back.

Lake Twenty Two

On July 4th Barb and I hiked to Lake Twenty Two in the North Cascades.

We arrived at the trailhead by 8:20 and found the parking lot full. A couple hundreds yards down the road the day use picnic area had one spot we could squeeze the car into.

The trail is claimed to be 5.4 miles roundtrip and has a difficulty of “moderate”. They lie.

My GPS tracking app says it is 3.3 miles one way. Had the trail been on even ground instead of random sized, irregular shaped, rocks half of the distance we would have granted it a moderate classification. The constant attention required to our footing and the work to keep our balance make it above what we considered “moderate” difficulty.

That said, it was a very nice mountain lake with waterfalls and snow:




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Franklin ghost town

Yesterday I had to deliver a simple, homemade Christmas gift which the local UPS refused to accept. Barb agreed to come with me and found a hike we could go on which was fairly close to our gift delivery route. It was Franklin Ghost Town. It was short enough that we could delivery the gift and complete the hike before the heavy rain forecast for the afternoon hit. It didn’t include any stunning views but it was interesting enough and had excellent trail conditions.

First a clue about the simple homemade gift:


And on to the trail and the ghost town:

20201219_102839The area used to be the site of a coal mine and small town. At the peak the town population was 1,100 people.Over the course of over 100 years the mine produced over 4 million tons of coal.


The number 2 shaft was over 1,300 feet deep and went 500 feet below sea level:


You could see as deep into the mine as you had enough light for:



I found it odd that there was an obvious “vein” of coal left in plain sight. I have never seen coal in nature before but close examination convinced me the dark patch just above and to the right of center in this picture is the real thing:


We didn’t really see anything we could imagine was part of the town. We found this which I image to be a filled in mine shaft:





It was a pleasant, short, hike for a somewhat dreary December day.

Lakes trail

We arrived at Mount Rainier National Park on Thursday. Our first hike on the way into the park was thwarted by closed gate on a Forest Service road:


We found a different trail nearby and walked in about a mile or so and crossed a small stream. We found a log to sit on and ate our lunch. It was a hot day and snuggled down in the bottom of the ravine with the creek a few feet from us made it a lot more pleasant.

After lunch we continued on to our campground, set up camp, then ventured out to a nearby trail which promised great views of Mount Rainier and multiple lakes. The temperature climbed to 98F. And we were going to be climbing up a mountain trail. Hmmm… Well, the hiking is what we came for. And it wasn’t going to be any cooler at our campsite.

The view of the mountain from Reflection Lake was nice and was visible from the parking area:


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The mountain has a hat

In the last few months I’ve occasionally posted about Mount Rainier 50 miles to the south of where Barb and I live. Last year at this time we went camping and hiking on the mountain. Last Thursday went back to the same campground for more camping and hiking in Mount Rainier National Park. We returned home yesterday.

One of our big joys was to see Mount Rainier up close with a “hat’”: Over 30% of the pictures Barb took are of this “hat”. Although my percentage is lower I took 27 pictures of the mountain with its “hat”.


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Lopez Island

On June 5th Barb and I took the day off work and went for a drive to Lopez Island. Lopez is the third largest of the San Juan Island archipelago. A map is here.

We had been there together before (and here) in 2015 and camped. This time it was just for the day. Going earlier in the year resulted in the temperature being a little cooler. With a little bit of wind it was occasionally on the cool side of comfortable but with a flannel shirt or sweatshirt it was still nice.

We saw many of the same things and hiked many of the same trails. It was our first real excursion together since the COVID-19 outbreak. The lack of traffic, both on the highways and the ferries, reflected the current situation. It seemed that we almost had the island to ourselves. It was a wonderful vacation from the lockdown.

The trails were wonderful. The views were wonderful. And the companionship was awesome.


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Walking across the crater

For our first year anniversary (wedding pictures here) last February we went to Kailua-Kona Hawaii. It was the first time in Hawaii for me. I wanted to wait until their stupid gun laws allowed me to carry but Barb did such an awesome job bargain shopping that travel, lodging (in a nice condo), and meals for the week came in at under $1000 (IIRC) that I decided it was worth sacrificing my principles.

It wasn’t quite what I expected. I expected numerous huge beaches. I expected jungle like forests. I expected flowing lava and blobs of red hot rocks flying through the air. I was wrong.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t see and do some really neat things. We did. The high point for me was walking across a volcanic crater. This crater:


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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.


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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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.


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:


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


The weather was wonderful with visibility probably exceeding 100 miles.


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



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.


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




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:




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.


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


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.


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:


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


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:



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


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


Quote of the day—Barb L.

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


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:


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:


Highly recommended day hike.—Joe]