Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mount Ellinor with a side trip.

I was invited on two hikes on Monday, one a hike half way up Mount Washington, the other a hike up Mount Ellinor.  Mount Washington has more appeal but friends from out of town were coming to do Ellinor, so I chose Ellinor so I could visit with them.  Ellinor is always busy, but if I’m hiking with a group I don’t mind the crowds as much.

I got off to a late start and I had to get gas, so I hightailed it up the mountain in my tiny station wagon.  My Jeep is for sale and I don’t intend to drive it again.  So now the plan is to beat my little car to death on all the back roads.

  I ended up passing one person in my party on the road but I did not recognize them.  I was hoping to meet up with them so we could do the planned shuttle between the upper and lower trail, but it was not to be.

The group all convened at the upper trail.  The group consisted of all men all at least ten years younger than me.  I decided to get a slight head start so I would not hold them up too much.  They caught up to me at the junction between the winter and summer route and then they just kept going and going and going without me.  What kind of group hike was this?

I fell in with a man who was not part of my group and hiked with him for a while but he was a know-it-all and would not let me get a word in edgewise and he did not have anything to talk about that was of interest to me, so after about 20 minutes I stopped to let him get ahead. 

I took a few pictures but the lighting was not good and the view to the east was hazy.  It was the wrong time of day to be taking pictures.  There was some ice on the summit block but I made it up in running shoes.  My group was on the top and they greeted me. 

There were other groups on the top too and there was no place to sit.  It was hard to even take a picture without a person in it.  There was also no place to brew my tea.

 I’m not one for crowds or braggadocio, so I opted to head back down after about ten minutes on the top.   I wore my running shoe compatible crampons to help me get down the 15-30 feet of ice near the summit.
One of my group members went down with me but soon he left me in the dust.   The others stayed on the top.  Before the one who headed down with me left me behind, I told him that I intended to go off trail and not to worry about me as I had a Delorme unit I could activate if there were any problems.

So many people were going up that I had to keep stepping to the side and there were people blocking the way down by standing in the middle of the trail taking pictures.  Most people were friendly and none of the dogs tried to bite me, so that made a nice change.  Still, I enjoyed this hike about as much as I enjoy fighting the crowds at Pike Place market.

I knew I had to get off the trail and find some peace so I could salvage something other than just exercise out of this trip.  I left the main trail and headed left onto the little known trail that goes from Mount Ellinor to Mount Washington.  Once off the main trail I did find some peace and some wild life.  I almost  immediately got buzzed by a Northern Goshawk that probably had a nest in the trees.   The hawk buzzed Patches too, that was rather exciting.

I walked on the old trail until I reached the old campsite on Mount Washington and I had my tea there near one of the many old campfire rings. 

I made it back to my car with an hour to spare before sunset.

4.3 miles with 2,300 feet elevation gain.

Near the old shelter on Mount Washington

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Sick of the crowds of unwashed dogs at Lena Lake, but fully aware of the low snow levels, I headed for the Lake of the Angels.  This is a decision I would not normally consider in February. But this is not a normal February.  Snow levels are very low.

I started my hike at 9:30, sunset was at 5:30 and I wanted to be out before dark because quite frankly, the grave at the trail head kind of freaks me out.  Carl Putvin died near here, his family tried to pack his body out but it was too much work so they buried him in the woods. Later it was decided to build a train track across his grave site, so his remains were moved about 1/4 of a mile up the trail.

Outlet stream

Carl was only twenty one years old when he froze to death on his way back from picking up supplies in town in January of 1913.  His grave is small  and in the one hundred years since he was buried  the trees have filled in his grave site.  Only a small marker and a small pile of moss covered stones mark his grave.

They the Putvins had a home in a meadow above where he is buried, I wish I knew where that was.

I had no more than the usual trouble making it up the headwall and into the valley of the pond of the false prophet.  But after that I did have some trouble.  The trail was snow covered and on a steep slope.  I wished for my ice axe until I realized that the snow was slushy.  The snow was deep and slushy and with many hidden hazards beneath it just waiting to break my leg.  I nearly gave up.

 I was alone, the snow was deep and treacherous, I could not find that trail and I was way up at 4,800 feet in February.   How many women would even dare to come up here alone in February?  I was going to be late for the school board meeting.

  Wait a minute!  The GPS said 4,800 feet, that  meant that I was just 100 feet in elevation below the lake.  I had to push on!  I pushed my way up the hill and through the snow with brute force.

The lake and my pretty purple mug
I was rewarded with a nice view of the lake.  It was windy at the lake so I had a quick cup of hot coffee, gulped down my lunch and headed back down the snow field making  a bee line for the valley.  I had 3 hours to make it out before sunset.  I finished my hike at 5:30 PM.

This is a very difficult trail, rock climbing is required, route finding is difficult and there is a creepy grave at the bottom of the trail. Don't even attempt this hike unless you are a well seasoned hiker with excellent route finding skills and in top hiking condition.  Dogs are not allowed.  A high clearance vehicle is often required to reach the trail head.  In a normal February this trail would be under 20 feet of snow.  The lake is in a cold pocket, so cold that it has it's own permanent snow field just above it.

Waterproof footwear is highly recommended even in the summer.

My photos are for sale as super high resolution digital files with a license to print.

Thanks for reading.

6-8 miles RT with 3,200 feet elevation gain

15 photo panorama

One of the steeper sections of the trail

80% grade in places

I almost turned back just above this point.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Update on my homemade daypack

This is what my pack looks like now:

This is what my homemade day pack looks like now.  I've replaced the front pocket and both side pockets with stronger material.  I also made a new interior pocket that is lighter.  The interior pocket came off a couple of times then I attached it to the strip of webbing that holds my shoulder straps it place and it has stayed put ever since.

I am very happy with my pack because it was built just for me. It has all the features that I want and it is exactly my size.  I had to repair this pack about every other month at first due to some design flaws. Now it does not need as much repair work and  I know how to make a stronger pack next time around.

Things I would do different include sewing the pocket edges into the body seams instead of outside of the pack.  I knew that was the right way to do it from the start but my old sewing machine could not sew through 4 layers at once.  I would also use stronger material to hold the sit pad in place, it rips from time to time and has been patched up with duct tape.

I bought a new sewing machine shortly after I made this pack  sewing machine shop was amazed that I was able to make any outdoor gear with the crappy machine that I had.  My new machine cost me just $75 but it is a tank.  My old machine was like a 2 stroke engine, it revved way to fast and was hard to control.  My new machine is like a 4 stroke engine or maybe even a Caterpillar truck engine.  I can have total control over the speed from super slow to almost too fast.

For years and years I suffered with my Dressmaker brand machine.   This new old Kenmore machine makes sewing so much easier.

One of these days I will make myself a new day pack with my new machine and my new skill set.  But for now I just love my current day pack too much to retire it.

I am really enjoying the freedom of not having a hip belt on my day pack.  I like to be able to just shrug the pack off when ever I want to.  At first I did not like the extra weight on my shoulders but now I never even think about it.  The only bad thing about no hip belt is that when I am brush crashing if I lean over too far the pack can come off over the top of my head.  Keeping the shoulder straps tight will prevent that though.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tunnel Creek

Gas is cheap and my Jeep is kind of sort of running again until the next time it breaks down.  Thanks to Phil my Jeep even has high beams now. The night before this hike I decided to go to Tunnel Creek.  Rain showers were in the forecast all week.  I decided that the best plan to avoid the rain was to get high enough that the rain would be snow.  Tunnel Creek sounded good.  I’ve only hiked Tunnel Creek three times before, with the first time being so long ago that I barely remember it.

My alarm clock went off and it was time to hike.  But I had a headache and I was groggy from taking an extra half of a quarter of a pill to go to sleep after 1AM.  Maybe I should just go back to sleep, yep back to sleep, so I hit the snooze button and slept for ten more minutes.  Then I decided it was too late to go hiking.  But wait, the last time I did this trail I did not start my hike until 10:40, so it was not too late to hike.

I was tired, needed to make good time and did not want any drama, so I did not tell anyone I was leaving. I got out of bed, made myself a coffee and slipped out the front door with Patches.    My Jeep started and that is always a good sign.    I ate some almonds for breakfast during my drive.  When I reached Brinnon I saw that the bus I normally take there had just arrived and it was waiting to go back to Mason County.

I passed Mount Walker and that always feels strange as it was my designated northern limit for a day hike until I realized that it was my unconscious limit and then I shattered that limit.  I turned up Penny Creek road and sailed past the stated address of the guy I bought my home from.  It looks like a trailer that the gravel pit boss works out of; I rather doubt that anyone actually lives there.

I hit the trail at 9:55, a full 45 minutes earlier than the last time I did this hike.  There was no snow on my drive but there were some big rocks in the road and some mostly cut out fallen trees to drive around.

I was tired and it took forever to reach the shelter.  Then I realized that the shelter is actually near the end of the hike.  After the shelter the route begins to really climb.  I opted not to carry any water at all on this hike to make up for the weight of my umbrella and boots.  My umbrella was packed so I could keep my camera dry.  My boots were to keep my feet warm.

I reached the top and then stopped for tea.  Soon it began to snow. GOOD!  I was hoping for snow and it had been looking like the promised showers were not coming.  But they did come.  Finally some snow.  I wish winter would come.  Patches picked up a dozen ticks on our last hike.  YUCK.  January is supposed to be the safe time of year to hike the old roads, the ticks were supposed to be hibernating.

Patches stayed pretty warm in her yellow feed store coat that is one size too big.  She only shivered a tiny bit and that may have been because she wanted my food.  I fed her three Cliff bars.  She drew Oatmeal raisin flavor for this hike and she does not care for those.  She would rather that I poison her with M &M’s.

Chocolate is mildly poison for dogs but Patches is not concerned about that.  Next time I get a deal on expired Cliff Bars at 4 for $1.00 I buy her the peanut butter ones, she loves those.  I think Cliff bars are dogfood, so I try not to eat them for any price.

I enjoyed the view for a bit but then I remembered that I was wanted at the Elks Club at 6PM in Shelton.  They wanted me to volunteer to take some pictures for them.

So I packed up and headed down the hill in the snow.  By the time I reached the shelter the snow had turned to rain.  The rain soon eased off and I was able to hike out without getting too wet.  I wore my rain coat and pants but did not need my hood.

Shelter from the rain on the way back

On the hike out I had plenty of time to think and I decided to quit thinking about becoming a wedding photographer and to actually do it.  So who wants a wedding on the cheap by a first time wedding photographer?

I raced back home and made it to the Elks club with a half hour to spare.

I saw no one else on the trail all day long and that’s the way I like it.  Still, it might be awhile before I go back, it’s a fair amount of work and a long drive for not much of a view.

My Jeep rolled over to 199,000 miles on the drive home.

7.5 miles with 2,600 feet elevation gain

Hiking out with a light frosting of snow

Harrison Lake

Hookeria lucens moss with sporophytes

Same date, same place, last year

Snow showers at the end of lunch

Not much snow for 5,000 feet in February. 

Track and elevation from the last time I did this hike.