Saturday, October 25, 2008

And then there was one...Oct1st-4th

After a long hiatus it is time to bring things up to date- I'm just running a month behind...

Oct 1st: Got Amber back to Seattle and safely on her way. Now I just had to figure out what to do with myself for the next couple days, since I would be flying back to the Midwest, but not until the 4th. I started heading toward Mt. Rainier and stopped in Auburn WA to look up some trail info at the library. I had to do it the old fashion way and look in books since Mike had the computer with him, so i grabbed a couple Washington mountain biking books and started hand copying away. After getting 3 good trails into my notebook I went back out to the car, where I found there to be no more basil. I had set our basil plant in front of the van to get some sun, and an hour later when I came back it had vanished, there was only a little dirt smudge where it had once sat- Someone stole my basil!!!

I couldn't believe it, I was really bummed, especially since I had planned on using some of it that night for dinner. I figured the best thing to do was to leave Auburn behind me and head on to Mt Rainier. If only it was that easy, I think it took me about 45 minutes to get out of this stupid town. All of a sudden the whole state was driving through, and it always seemed that whatever direction I wanted to go, was the way I couldn't go. Finally after a whole load of toil, I was out of there on the open road again. Things went fairly smoothly from that despite getting lost one more time. (It's amazing how much more difficult driving is when you're by yourself with no one else to check the map.)
Finally I could see it

Mt Rainier

My big head blocking Mt Rainier, with the vanagon behind

I finished off the day by driving around and finding the trail I wanted to ride the next day, and of course finding a nice place to camp by myself in the big scary forest.
This is what I found, I have to admit I was pretty nervous to be alone at first, and I did hear a few noises I'm sure I wouldn't have noticed normally, but I just made dinner and read a book and everything was fine.

I probably would have slept even better if it hadn't been for little nibbling noises that I kept hearing in the car- I thought we had left our rodent problems at Bacon Creek, apparently not.
Oct 2nd: The next morning I got up and got ready to ride, hoping that the clouds would just stay cloudy and not rainy. I made sure to bundle up with lots of layers just in case. So the book at the library described this ride as a 23 mile loop, but with 10.2 of it being on a road. I figured that didn't sound like much fun, so I decided to create my own loop. I parked in the empty lot, and hoped that no one was going to happen by that would check to see if I had filled out my permit (since I hadn't).

I started off on what seemed like a great trail. Lots of roots and rocks and very piney- it smelled great. Then I started up 6.6 miles up, but I figured it has to be better than the road right? Well, it's hard to say- I don't think this is really a biking trail. Of the 37 switchbacks I made 2. And I like switchbacks, they are usually my favorite part of a ride. I started counting them to pass the time I was spending walking my bike. It was still really pretty, just unbelievable impossible on a bike, and then I came to the ladder. It was technically a staircase, but the steepness leads it to be more accurately described as a ladder. Trust me I was huffing and puffing a bit once I got my bike to the top of that. Then things started to improve, it wasn't exactly flowy, but getting a lot closer to flowy, and then I started to get some views.
Like this- not me, but that was where I was, and what I saw

It was about this time I started thinking about all those stories of the people who go on these solo adventures and don't tell anyone where they are going...and then something horrible happens...and no one knows where to look for them..... and how it's the middle of the week, and I'm the only car in the lot....I made sure not to get too close to the edge.

Then I got to the top and got to go down the other side, and that was fun. I made 12 of the 22 switchbacks going that way, so I started to feel at least a little better about myself.

3.5 hours and about 14 miles after I started I was back at the van and off to see if I could find another trail for tomorrow. The problem was that Crystal Mountain trail did not seem to exist, I could find Crystal Mountain Resort just fine, but no trail. I finally gave up and just found a place to camp and figured I'd find it in the morning.

That night more nibble nibble, more run about and keep Emilie up.

Oct 3rd: So I went to sleep to the sounds of mouse nibbles and woke up to the sounds of this guy

standing on the rear view mirror and tapping on the windshield. (Not my picture).
Along with my steller jay alarm clock, there was another kind of tapping on the van, it was raining, and did not look like it was gonna give up any time soon. Not the best time to go on a 15 mile ride into the unknown. So I decided to go explore Mt Rainier National Park instead.

That dark lump in the middle of the picture is a black bear- yeah I know, stunning picture, but a bear picture is still a bear picture.

I decided it was a time for a hike, so I loaded on all my rain gear, and hit the very wet trail

All the colors were changing

The trail was neat with lots of amazing views, and then suddenly everything changed.

This was right in front of the paradise-stevens glacier.
At this point I turned around and headed back. I could have made a loop out of it, but I figured I was soggy enough. Once back I changed into nice warm dry clothes, and continued my circuit through the park.

This was my view of Mt Rainier

This was supposed to be my view of Mt Rainier

Foggy but pretty
That night I drove back to Tacoma and stayed with Beth and Dave. That is, after I stopped by Wal-mart and picked up some humane mousetraps for my little friend.
Oct 4th: Unfortunately my cleverly planted traps were empty, with the peanut butter sandwich still in place (sigh). I couldn't worry about it any more for it was time to get to the airport. Elizabeth was kind enough to take me and let us leave the van there.
My route had me change planes in Vegas, I'm pretty sure it will be the only time I'm every in Vegas, what a weird place!
Look, Vegas, pyramid and all!

Michael and Mary were waiting in Little Rock AR when I arrived with Joey and Baxter in tow. Next, on to more Arkansas adventures.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Big adventure in Amberland

After climbing and a good nights rest, Amber and I were in charge of getting Mike and Elizabeth to the airport. They were flying back to St. Louis to be with the family because their mom was having surgery (the surgery went well, and she is currently recovering great). This was gonna leave Amber and myself on our own for a couple days, and most importantly meant I was gonna get to drive some- YAY!
We decided that since we were still pretty close, and because it had been one of the greatest places we had been, to head back to Bacon Creek. Home of the best tubing in the world. We had a blast and did just about everything you could think of. Sight seeing, mushroom looking at, hiking, tubing of course, and even a little wave train riding- that's right, that wave train.
This was about the most we saw of the actual city of Seattle, well that and the airport of course
On our way out of town
Bacon creek was just as scenic as the last time, and it was actually sunny this time around.

This view was just a little ways down from our campsite

One of the days we decided to go into North Cascades NP and do a hike for part of the day. We found one pretty close on the map that didn't look too long. We found the road leading up to the Thorton Lake trail at about noon. That was when our trouble began. Now you have to take into account two things with this story. First I don't drive the vanagon very often, and second this wonderful beast of ours has all of 67 horsepower. So we start up this gravel road that is supposed to take us to a trail head, and I'm having a little bit of trouble. The road isn't full so much of pot holes but giant dirt wave-train mounds. I have to keep the speed up to go up the hill, but I have to keep the speed slow so that our heads don't hit the roof going over the continuous line of speed bumps (I'm hoping Mike doesn't read this part of the blog). Finally we got to a point where I needed to put it into first to get up the next hill...and we were already in first- we decided this would be a good time to pull over and just walk the rest of it. After a quick lunch we were headed up the road at about 1pm.

Well we figured we had to be pretty close since we had been driving for a while, so we just kept walking and walking. Finally about an hour and a ridiculous amount of elevation gain later we arrived at the trail head-yay. This was when we found out that this short trail was actually 5 miles one way, we were thinking 5 miles total oops. But at this point we had already walked forever on the road, so we decided to go for it.

One of the many forms of moss we saw along the way- this one kind of reminds me of hair standing on end

View from near the top

Amber being Amber-no one else can do the bunny nose quite like she can

Finally we got to the lake, and it was beautiful

So we decided to take a quick dip- it was very refreshing =very cold, but nice too

and the water was super clear

Sun bathing or stomach crunches? You decide

So we had made it to the top, now we just had to get down, with an hour worth of daylight. Yikes! It had taken us about 3 hours to cover the 5 miles. Our only hope was that it would be descending the whole time. So we collected ourselves and literally took off at a run down the trail. Well I was jogging, Amber was doing this crazy power walk thing and leaving me in her dust.

Almost dark, but almost down

Somehow huffing and puffing and stumbling along we managed to make it back to the trail head in 1 hour. It was still light enough that we could read the sign at the trail head, and soon that too had faded into darkness. But at least we were off the trail now, and just had to walk on the road in the pitch black. Finally with a complete lack of depth perception, we saw those beautiful round eyes of the van glimmering at us through the darkness.
And then of course how could forget the main event- the creek

and the tubing
Amber donned Mikes helmet and life jacket and bravely tackled the rapids

You can tell this one is me because of the lovely pink life jacket and the constant scream

Amber trying to go hands free...for a little bit

And the all time favorite we tackled the river together

We had a really good time, and even went down some unexplored huge rapids

The day before we left the creek I had decided to have another look at the wave train that I had once been so happy to miss out on my kayak. I decided what the heck, I'm in an inner tube- I'm invincible!

It was the best tubing I had ever done. The waves were so big they dropped me down and everywhere I looked all I could see was water, then it threw me up to the next wave and the roller coaster continued. And somehow I manged to stay on the tube for the whole thing. In fact it was one of the smoothest rides I'd ever had- Amazing! Amber filmed the adventure although she also had the job of saving my life if anything went awry, see how responsible we are.

Of course what trip to bacon creek would be complete without a little mouse for company. Our little 4 legged eating machine friend returned once again. I thought there was a chance that the first time was just a fluke, but I think it's safe to say the mouse remembered us good and well. The first night I didn't even hear him, but the second night the little monster made sure his presence was known. Next morning a whole bag of trail mix and the m&ms were gone. Apparently this mice didn't like the raisins.

To break up the drive and so that Amber could see the ocean we headed back towards Seattle and stayed at Deception Pass State Park. I'm sure it was very pretty, but as soon as we left Bacon Creek things got rainy and foggy. So it was kinda difficult to say. Of course it was pretty in it's own mysterious fog enveloped way.

You can call me a dork if you want to, I really like the different textures in this picture

Amber Adventure was a thumbs up all around

Monday, October 13, 2008

Seattle and beyond Sept 24th-27th

Searching for a real bed and a hot shower we showed up on Mike's sister, Elizabeth's doorstep in Tacoma Washington. She and her family have just recently moved into a really nice house right on the Puget Sound.A sampling of the view from the house

One of the days we went down to the sound with Patrick and Katie. Mike was trying to teach Katie how to skip rocks, and Patric was having a really good time burying things and then digging them back up. Oh yeah, we saw some seals too. Every now and then you would see a head pop up and then disappear again.

Then we watched a pretty sunset and headed back to the house.
One of the reasons we wanted to stay near Seattle was that Amber was flying in to visit us. We picked her up at the airport on Sat (the 27th). From there we headed out of the city to let Amber have a taste of outside climbing. About 45 minutes later and without too much difficulty we found the place we were looking for. Then we wandered around in the woods for another half hour or so, and managed to actually end up where we were hoping. Not bad considering the directions didn't mention anything about the tromp through the woods. Then we started climbing

This was a neat climb called tunnel of love, where you actually climb through a hole created by a chokestone. The only problem was that the whole bottom part of the climb was really wet, which made it a lot less fun.

Amber stemming like a pro

The wall we were on was called interstate- and unfortunately that was what you heard a lot of, it was a pretty view anyway though.

It has become Mike's new favorite pastime to make a whistling alien noise- action shown here

That's a loooong way down

Safely back on the ground
I think Amber summed it up best when she described the climbing as a "horizon expanding experience". We had a really good time and even found our way back to the car without trouble.
We drove back to Tacoma to spend the night at Elizabeths and made a very yummy pizza for dinner.