Tuesday, December 27, 2005


My daughter found a nice cauliflower mushroom today. It was right next to a geocache that she also found. This is our first cauliflower mushroom. I've made a soup with it and it's yummy. The mushroom has a nice crispy texture and it added a lot of flavor to the broth of the soup.

This is not our mushroom but a picture I found of one on the web.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


For the solstice I was given a GPS! I decided to try my hand and geocaching today and am enjoying it. I "hiked" 6.7 miles today while pushing a stroller and looking for geocaches. I actually found one. I've also planted a couple in the area. A new way to get exercise as I started my searches on foot rather then driving to the geocache areas.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Staircase Area

Sunrise over I would like to see every trail in the staircase area and the only easily accessible trail left (this time of year) was the four stream trail. But the four stream trail is only four miles round trip and I prefer much longer hikes at this point. To make for a more interesting day I hiked the four stream trail and then turned around and hiked to slide camp on the other side of the river. I was going to hike to spike camp for a total of 12 miles but I decided that I did not want to go quite that far since there was an unexpected extra 2.4 miles to hike today and I did not want over do it with my mother visiting and the wear and tear of the holidays around the corner.

I left the house (with my mother in charge of babysitting) before day break and was treated to a wonderful sunrise over Lake Cushman. I was not surprised when I found the gate to Olympic National Park closed but I had not planned on the extra mileage. It was a 1.2 mile hike to the Ranger station from my car. There were elk at the gate but these were the only elk I saw all day.
fourstream trail in the snow
Four stream trail was nicer then I expected. I did not realize there was a trail running down both sides of the Skokomish. I had pictured the four stream trail to running perpendicular to the river. I enjoyed seeing the North Fork Skokomish from the other side. I hiked down the trail until it seemed to no longer be a trail and then I turned around.

There was snow on the ground starting before the Staircase parking area and the snow made the hike very pretty. I especially enjoyed hiking through the beaver burn area with the contrast of white snow on burned stumps. At one point on the trail there was an old cedar snag that I could stand inside of but unlike the snag at big log camp on the other side of the river this one was open and would not make a good rain shelter.

After finishing the four stream hike I headed up to slide camp on the other side of the river and cooked my lunch while sipping hot chocolate. After lunch I turned around and hiked back to the car. The road hike to the car and back was not unpleasant but next time I'm going to hike on the shady lane trail instead of the road. The shady lane trail parallels the road but on the other side of the river. It is a wonderful trail set in glorious old growth. The shady lane trail used to be part of the dry creek trail but it was cut off from the dry creek trail by logging and logging roads. The dry creek trails old growth is all gone and only stumps remain.

Wilderness Information Center Closed for the SeasonI noticed a side road or trail that spurs off the North Fork Skokomish trail and I hiked up it a little ways. I don't know where it goes and it's not mentioned in any of the books or trailhead signs that I have seen. Maybe I will go back and some point and hike it so I can find out where it goes.

On the road hike back to the car I passed an older couple who were hiking in. They asked me if I had seen any elk. As far as I can tell they were the only other people in the park while I was there.

I hiked from 8am to about 12:30. Total mileage today about 10 miles with almost no elevation gain. I wished I had hiked longer. With all the things that have happened lately and with the holidays looming I really could have used a good long hike to clear my head.

I doubt that I will get to go on a hike next week. But I am looking forward to doing some hiking with my oldest daughter on the week after Christmas while she is out of school.

On Jan 1-3 my family is going to stay and the interrorum cabin on the Duckabush. Maybe we can all unwind there.

Friday, December 9, 2005

Dry Creek Trail Olympic National Forest

Dry Creek Trail Sounded just awful according to my favorite guide book the "Olympic Mountains Trail Guide" by the late Robert L. Wood. Wood states that trail starts out in a cat (bulldozer) track, there are old growth stumps to show you what the forest used to look like and "the grinding of logging trucks or the whining of chain saws" will keep you company on weekdays. So even though I wanted to see every trail in the North Fork Skokomish area I had avoided the Dry Creek Trail.

The trail is not really that bad and I will go back to explore it in the summer. Maybe they are done logging in the area. On this hike I had to use one of my "ten essentials" the one that I really did not want to ever have to use. More on that later.

I got up at 6:30 and tried to gauge if I felt good enough to hike. I had been sick for a couple of days and could not tell if I was still sick or just groggy. I decided to hike but not to push myself too hard. I planned on going about 5.5 mile if I felt well. There was snow on the ground as I passed my low elevation matsutake site in my car and I wondered if I was going to need my snowshoes on this hike. While driving to the trail head I got caught behind a REALLY slow moving vehicle. I'm not an aggressive driver and I was wanting a cup of coffee so I pulled over to pour myself a cup of coffee out of my thermos in hopes that the REALLY slow moving vehicle would be long gone by the time I was done with my coffee.

No such luck the REALLY slow moving vehicle (to be referred to as a piece of shit from here on) had not turned off and was blocking my way again. Enough is enough I thought to myself as the piece of shit crept along at 5 mph down the dirt road to Staircase. I passed the piece of shit and went on my merry way. I arrived at the trail head and was almost ready to go when I saw that the piece of shit was coming my way... Damn, I'd rather not advertise that I am a female hiking alone so I scurried off to the trail. Right away I realized I had left my wrist watch in the car but I did not want to go back to get it and be spotted as a female hiking alone and I figured I had a pretty good sense of time so I did not go back. It was too early in the morning for me to think rationally.

I made it what I thought was about 2 miles (actually 4 miles) down the trail and then lost the trail in the snow but soon discovered that the trail appeared to cross the river here. There was no way to cross without getting wet. I really did not want to get wet only to find that the trail did not cross the river but I had no choice if I wanted to have a good hike. I did not want to turn around after only 2 miles! I took off my shoes and socks and crossed the ice cold river.]

I was right, the trail did cross the river in that spot so I did not get my feet wet and cold and numb for nothing. The snow got deeper and deeper and deeper the further I went. After seven miles I decided the snow was too deep and I gave up and turned around the snow was about 3 feet deep and I was sinking almost up to my knees. I felt that I had gone only 5.5 miles.

(This is where I decided to turn around)

  I had the trail all to myself so I stopped and cooked lunch right on the trail. For lunch I had instant coffee and dehydrated fried rice. I drank up the coffee while the rice was cooking and I packed up my rice and hiked down to a campsite with a view and and had my lunch there . While at the campsite I tried to guess what time it might be. I figured it was 12:30, then I remembered that my digital camera keeps time so I turned it on. The camera said it was 2:30. Oh no! Sunset was at 4:22 and I had just barely turned around, it was going to be dark in two hours! Well I decided then and there that my camera must not have been set back to daylight savings time, but I was not totally sure.

(Mount Rainier hiding in the clouds)

I picked up the pace hiking back and it was fun half walking / half skiing down the trail. I saw some bobcat, rabbit and squirrel tracks on the trail and there was some nice old growth above the douglas fir line. But there were also rows and rows of huge old growth stumps below the douglas fir line. This is what my great-grandparents generation left behind for me.

On the way back down I noticed something that I did not see on the way up. A cross with the name Kristin Delaney on it. The cross said that she died there in September of 1986 and she was a member of the class of 1987. I was in the class of 87' (or would have been if I had been allowed to go to high school), this poor girl would have been 17 when she died. I wonder what her story is?

At about 4:00 I tried to decide if it was really 4:00 or 3:00, was my camera set to daylight savings time or not? Was the sun going to set in 15 minutes or in one hour and 15 minutes? The surrounded hills made it hard for me to tell just how low the sun was. I decided I had one hour and 15 minutes. That was wishful thinking. The sun went down and I was out in the woods with a half mile to go, or so I thought. I had totally misjudged my mileage and the time! I had actually hiked 7.5 miles before I turned around and my camera was set to the right time. I was closer to two miles from the trail head as the sun went down.

Hiking out in the pitch black was interesting.  I heard large animals crashing through the woods all around me but I knew they were elk. I really startled those poor old elk with my headlamp. The elk ran out onto the dry but snow covered lake bed while I hiked through the dark woods. It really was a pretty sight but it was too dark to get a picture. Suddenly I heard tremendous amount of noise coming from the lake, I had startled a flock of geese, no two flocks of geese. I think my headlamp really spooked all the animals.

(some mystery mushrooms growing on an alder)

A light source with extra batteries is one of the ten essentials that all hikers should carry according to the guides. I was glad to have my Pezle Zipka Headlamp but not really happy with it's performance. I was happier with it when I first got it but now it flickers some and does not seem as bright. The light has been great for reading in the tent but I wish I could have seen further down the trail with it. I've heard that there is a lack of contrast with an LED headlamp compared to a hand held flashlight, maybe the lack of contrast was the problem or maybe I was just worn out and too fatigued to see well. My cars headlights did not seem bright enough either.

If I do this hike again this winter I will bring my snowshoes. I did a lot of postholing and my feet were wet for most of the hike but I still managed to stay warm from exertion. When I got home and took a good look at the map I was surprised to find I had gone almost the length of the trail for a 14 mile round trip hike. I really thought I had gone only 11 miles round trip. I'll bring my watch or trust my camera's time on my next hike!

In doing further research to see if my favorite trail guide has been updated I discovered that the Author has passed away. He passed away on the winter solstice of 2003. That makes me feel sad tonight. I was already feeling sad though. Yesterday was the 9th anniversary of my Paternal Grandmother's death and tomorrow I go to a memorial for both of my maternal grandparents who passed away in the last half of this year.

(Robert L. Wood)

Monday, December 5, 2005

New Boots and Mittens

I made it to REI in Tacoma and with the exception of the dingbat at the customer service department the customer service was great. I got rid of my leaky heavy old REI Spirit II GTX Hiking Boots - 3 pounds.

I traded them in for a pair of Vasque Ion Mid XCR Hiking Boots

light weight waterproof boots. 1 lb. 14 oz.

The divvy in customer service tried to tell me that it was only reasonable for me to expect my old boots to last a couple of years. I told her that they had only 100 miles on them spent the majority of those two years sitting in the closet but she still insisted that I'd gotten a lot of life out of them. She could not find the member number of the REI member who bought the boots for me. I wish I could have ripped the keyboard out of her hands and looked him up myself. Because she could not find his member number I had to except credit instead of getting cash back. I could have gotten my new boots for $99 online but had to pay $125 for them at REI. I did however have me money left to play with. My old boots were obscenely expensive, I never would have paid that for the horrilbe clunky old things.

With the left over money I got a pair of really warm REI brand mittens for myself and my oldest daughter and a stuffed bird for my youngest daughter.

I might try out my new boots on my next hike. I don't hike in boots so these are really for snowshoeing. I hike in running shoes and my feet thank me for it. Maybe I should snowshoe in running shoes too but psychologically I am not quite ready to make that leap. Also I just could pay over $100 for a pair of running shoes.

I'm a bargain hunter and I buy my hiking gear at ebay, campmor.com , reioutlet.com and froogle. I sure like REI's return service though!