Monthly Archives

September 2011

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Hiking, Me

Friends keep friends afloat

Whenever I feel down in the dumps (which has been much too often lately), I give in to my introverted marmot tendencies and retreat into a depressing hibernation mode. I eschew all social activities, preferring instead to mope around alone (well, often accompanied by chocolate), feeling sorry for myself.

Oh Flytepacker, how I've missed you

This has led to many a missed adventure, especially this summer. Fortunately my friends are patient, forgiving, and incredibly kind. And, magically, they are able to turn a somewhat mundane hike along I90 into one of the best afternoons I have had in a long time.

Thanks, friends, for not letting me sink.

Friends. I like 'em.

Snow Lake (old trail) | 7 miles | 1800 feet elevation gain –

At last! Better than therapy

Hiking, North Cascades

Hidden Lake Lookout

Now onto a much better hike, this time chosen by Dani, who – strangely – doesn’t seem to hate us even after the Bullshizz Bushwhack.

Delirious Dani

Hidden Lake Lookout is her favorite trail, and after years of talking about hiking there together, we finally did it this weekend.

This is Dani's favorite trail

The trail wends through flowering meadows (in late September – this is a strange year), lingering snow (strange year indeed) and big piles of rocks before reaching the old fire lookout, perched atop the somewhat sinister-looking peak that Dani refers to as the Eye of Sauron:

Approaching Mordor

There’s also a lake, hence the name Hidden Lake Lookout. Unfortunately (or fortunately, since it would have meant extra elevation gain) we couldn’t go swimming since the lake itself is inside the national park boundary where dogs aren’t allowed.

Hidden Lake

Luckily pooches are permitted all the way up to the lookout, so Wellie and Jasper could enjoy the spectacular views of the North Cascades.

FKNA Hidden Lake Lookout

Wellie and Jasper are usually excellent friends until a) Wellie decides that Jasper is too close to his food or b) Jasper’s herding instinct takes over. Good thing Wellie is much faster than that stout bastard.

Wellie and Jasper touching fur Save me, paaaaapaaaaaaaa!

Summit! (Please don’t fall.)

Please don't fall

The views from the lookout were incredible – the next time we go here, it will hopefully be to spend the night. Sleeping in the Park Butte Lookout stands out as one of my favorite hiking experiences, so I don’t know why we haven’t made the effort to snooze in more of these fantastic shacks.

Can we live here?

The number one (or number two, depending on your needs) reason to visit Hidden Lake Lookout? The most glorious toilet experience you will ever have. Now that’s what I call poo with a view.

Poo with a view

After eating, relaxing and gawking at the peaks in every direction, we moseyed back down towards the car.

Looking for marmots

The weather had been perfectly summery all day, but on the way out a big, grey cloud started moving in and we even felt some raindrops. I guess it really was the first hike of autumn, even though the trail was lined with wildflowers instead of huckleberries (seriously, it’s been a strange year).

It's almost too pretty

Hidden Lake Lookout | 9 miles | 3300 feet elevation gain –

What's with all the elevation gain from the toilet?

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Hiking

The Bullshizz Bushwhack

Sometimes hikes just aren’t that great. These are usually the ones JK picked.

The other side of Talapus

Back in August, Dani and I were somehow suckered into accompanying JK on what he assured us was one of his favorite hikes from last year, a partly off-trail loop connecting some lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

While the talus field was still fun

The talus field up to Island Lake doesn’t look that long, but it seemed to go on for miles and miles and miles and miles. The heat, the bugs, and the exhausting effort of raising and lowering my corpulent self up and over several million* boulders compounded to make an even grumpier Ingunn than usual.

Ready for the fun part? Talapus Lake, our route in the background

I don’t mind bushwhacking or talus-hopping – to a certain degree, mind you – since it usually gets you to beautiful places that aren’t often visited. But this? This brought us to Island and Rainbow Lakes, two wooded bodies of water easily reached by the smooth, well-maintained trail we hiked on the way back. Who on earth wants to bushwhack through devil’s club and stumble over boulders for miles on end for no apparent reason? More importantly, who on earth is stupid enough to go along when their husband suggests doing just that??

Oh well, at least the swimming was good.

– Stupid, Unnecessary Loop | 10 miles | 2200 feet elevation gain –

Island Lake Loop

See that steep part on the map below Island Lake? That’s where we crawled straight up, using veggie belays (which we soon learned were not to be trusted) and digging our fingers into the loose dirt for traction, some of us (ok, just me) hyperventilating with sheer panic, only to reach an unspectacular lake inhabited by several relaxed hikers who had moseyed in on the actual trail.

JK doesn’t get to pick hikes anymore.



Mobile California

Unfortunately this post about our fantabulous long weekend in California will have to be similar to the Mobile Maui post. This time it’s not because I’m a lazy photo editor, but because we came home to a failing double-backup hard drive system. I’m hoping the resident geek, JK, can fix them since they contain all of our photos. And our videos. And our music. Most of the photos are backed up on flickr, but not the RAW files I haven’t processed yet…including the ones from both our Norway trips this year. Ach. I’m trying not to think about it.

In the meantime, I don’t have enough space on my laptop to process our new RAW files…so here are my cell-phone photos from the trip.

Tahoma! Now THAT'S what I'm talking about

JK spent last week in Anaheim at a conference (his talk is available here in case you’re nerdily inclined), and I flew down to meet him on Thursday. I amused myself by the pool while he finished up his conference duties, and on Friday afternoon we drove up to Santa Barbara. We spent ’04/’05 at UCSB, and this would be my first trip back to the place we used to call home.

Justin and JK through the ruins Santa Ynez views

Our old friend Justin let us stay at his place AND he took us hiking. Good man. He even made sure to take us to the drier, sunnier wine country so we would escape the dreaded marine layer which appeared to have followed us from Seattle. Luckily it had cleared up by the end of the day, so we were able to stockpile lots of vitamin D for winter.

Flower squeezers Holy wowsa, Anacapa rocks!

We also took a boat out to Anacapa Island, part of Channel Islands National Park. Why did we never go here when we lived so close?? It was so pretty that I want to go back for kayaking in spite of all the great white sharks. Maybe.

Arch Rock Isla Vista sunset

An inordinate amount of time was spent eating as we visited several of our favorite vegetarian restaurants in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica. I usually lose weight when I’m on vacation, but it quickly became evident that this was not to happen this time around.

So many places to call home... 9/11 memorial at Pepperdine University

The gorging continued on our flight home since we flew jetBlue. That means BLUE CHIPS, which we can never find in the store anymore (probably a good thing) and which taste even better when you’re cruising above Yosemite during sunset. The perfect ending to an excellent trip.

Love flying jetBlue! Sunset over the Sierra Nevada

Backpacking, Hiking, Mount Rainier, Solo, Top Trips

Ingunn in Wonderland

Sometimes last-minute, totally random adventures are the best. Summer arrived late in Washington, and I was faced with an absolutely fantastic stretch of good weather…and no one to play with. JK volunteered to dayhike somewhere with me and then leave me to my own devices before picking me up a couple of days later. I decided on an area we rarely get to explore, since dogs (even Wellies!) aren’t allowed – Mount Rainier National Park.

Meadows at Sunrise

I randomly chose the Northern Loop Trail from my guidebook, and scored walk-in permits for the exact two camps I wanted.

Burroughs Mountain hikers

I started out nervous. I’ve backpacked solo before, but only for one night…and on a trail I already knew. This trip would cover all sorts of new ground for me.

Flower power

JK waves goodbye

JK accompanied me as far as Skyscraper Mountain, then released me into the wild on my own. I loved it. Going at my own pace, stopping wherever I wanted, strolling past flowers and glaciers and marmots and, oh, that big volcano.

Mukmuk summits Skyscraper Mountain

I moseyed on up to my first camp by Mystic Lake and had dinner (ugh, those Mountain House meals are way too big for one person) and a swim before snuggling up with my Kindle in the tent. Bliss.

First bridge

Right before dawn, I woke up to the sound of bugling elk (I didn’t know this until I asked the ranger “What’s the animal that sounds like a cross between a coyote and an elephant?”) and the oh so familiar nauseating pounding of a migraine – the aura must have occurred while I was sleeping, so it was too late for my medication to be effective. Ugh.

Mystic Lake in the morning

I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the climb up to Yellowstone Cliffs that day (or the 16-mile hike out the next day), so I spent some time looking at my maps to find a bailout option. In the end I decided on a very easy downhill day to Carbon River Camp, then keep following the Wonderland Trail out to Mowich Lake the next day – via Spray Park or Ipsut, depending on how I felt.

Marmot nom noms

Luckily the ranger patrol cabin by Mystic Lake was manned (and handsomely so). The ranger radioed in to change my permit and to get someone to contact JK to tell him to drive to Mowich instead of Sunrise. Thank you, ranger man!

Huh, I guess it's not as bad as I thought

Now I just had to stagger down to my next camp. I lazed around with the myriad marmots (and mosquitoes) along the way, but spent most of the miles worrying about crossing the Carbon River on the evil suspension bridge. I had seen photos of the Tahoma Creek suspension bridge before, and assumed that this one would be just as horrifying.

I did it!

Fortunately I needn’t have worried; the bridge was fun, even for a weenie like me. Huzzah!

Western Anemone

I made it to camp at 1 PM, no other humans in sight. I collapsed in my tent and spent the rest of the day reading, sleeping, drinking as much water as possible and trying to eat something.

The infirmary

Still a bit peaky at dinner

The next morning I woke up feeling so much better. I felt hung over from the migraine (or maybe it was from all the drugs), but good enough to chose the high route over Spray Park.

Willis Wall This trail ain't ugly
Pretty pretty trail Double Volcano

The day started off with over 3000 feet of elevation gain, so I decided to wear my Merrell Pace Gloves – I had brought them to use as camp shoes – to lighten the load on my feet. This worked brilliantly; even in my sickly state I felt great during the climb. I think I can thank those shoes for making me feel so light on my last TNAB, too.

Spray Park

The Beekeeper of Spray Park

Soon enough I made it to Spray Park and was greeted by bug swarms of biblical proportions – I finally got to show off my fashionable new headwear – and lots of dayhikers. Clearly I was getting closer to civilization and the end of my journey.

Goodbye, Tahoma

I tried to freshen up and wash off the trail grime by swimming in Mowich Lake, but when JK arrived to pick me up he assured me that I smelled as if I had hiked the entire Wonderland Trail. And I really do wish I had. I loved the trail, bugs and migraine and all. Next year, perchance?

– Sunrise to Mowich Lake | 25 miles | 6000 feet elevation gain –

Sunrise to Mowich Lake

My friend just posted this on Facebook and I found it fitting, given the title of my post and all:

‎”Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”