Browsing Category

Alpine Lakes Wilderness

18071316793_ac6782f1ed_k
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Hiking, Hiking with baby, Top Trip Reports

Nora the Explorer

Our year of introducing Nora to our favorite trails and places continues! When it comes to Melakwa, it’s definitely more of a favorite place than a favorite trail. I usually visit these lakes when I do the Tuscohatchie loop, so I can’t even remember the last time I hiked the trail back down. It’s pretty rocky and kind of sucks, especially when you’ve become used to the soft, rolling, luxurious trails of the Issaquah Alps. But the destination more than makes up for it – upper Melakwa Lake is one of my Official Happy Places.

Melakwa Lake

The last time I was here, it was just me and Wellie running the Tuscohatchie Loop. I was doing a lot of soul searching, trying to come to terms with the possibility that I might not ever become pregnant. The mountains, the lakes, the sun, the tiger lilies, and one loud marmot were my therapists that day (and on so many others). By the end of my run, I was so high on endorphins that I knew I would be able to handle whatever the universe sent my way.

Melakwa Lake

Thankfully, the mountain gods chose to send us this wonderful little creature. I can’t quite describe the feelings I experience when I return to a place like this with Nora in tow. “All the feels” will have to suffice.

Melakwa Lake

Normally I wouldn’t even be able to get to Melakwa in May (without an ice axe and a sizable pair of ‘nads), but thanks to the low snow this year, it looks like mid-July up there. The parking lot was overflowing by the time we reached the trailhead at 9, but the trail is long enough that it didn’t feel crowded, especially once were past the Slippery Slab which is the destination for most of the families with older kids. That’ll be us in a couple of years, but for now we’re enjoying being able to do regular hikes with a non-ambulatory baby on our backs.

Melakwa Lake

Once we popped out of the woods, we just got roasted in the sun. We worried that Nora would be too hot, but the thin wool layer she was wearing seemed to keep her pretty comfortable. I’m definitely on the lookout for a thin, breezy set of hiking clothes for her for the summer though, something that will protect her from the sun and bugs but still keep her coolish on sweltering days.

Melakwa Lake

She woke up a little while before we got to the lake, and was very…vocal about not wanting to be in her carrier anymore. Luckily she cheered up once we got to the lake, and after eating lunch and getting a fresh diaper, she turned into the happiest baby ever.

Melakwa Lake

Nora <3 Wellie

Melakwa Lake

Whenever we hike with Nora, I go into it with low expectations of how much time we’ll actually get to spend at our destination, but she was happy as a clam hanging out by the lake. I think she likes watching the water. This bodes well for the summer ahead.

Melakwa Lake

Most people seemed to stop at the first lake, so my favorite best-seat-in-the-house rock was available for lunch and playtime. I even got some relaxing done, once I was able to stop manically taking photos of Nora whenever she did something adorable.

Melakwa Lake Melakwa Lake

Once Nora started showing some sleep cues (she always begins by subtly grabbing her ear, which quickly escalates to rubbing her eyes and yawning), we packed up and headed back down so she could nap in the carrier. We put in headphones so we could listen to music while she slept, then hiked back to the trailhead, all smiles (except for intermittent grumbles from me whenever I would trip over a rock and curse the fact that I hadn’t brought hiking poles).

Best baby hike yet, rocks and all.

Melakwa Lake

– Melakwa Lake | 9 miles | 2500 feet elevation gain –

Melakwa Lake

16405122656_559a60d148_k
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Hiking with baby

Weekend highs and lows

Oh, Super Bowl. It was a hell of a game, but that ending…ugh. Beyond functioning as snark against the Patriots, the word ‘deflated’ really does sum up how we felt on Sunday night. And all day Monday. And a little bit today, to be honest, but I’ll blame that on the weather.

On Saturday, before the monsoon began, the weather looked pretty different. In fact it looked like June up in the mountains along I90. The Ira Spring trailhead parking lot was overflowing as if it were a hot summer day (but who cares about crowds when most of the hikers are wearing 12th Man jerseys)! The forest road is, as expected, pretty awful right now, but apparently Nora thought she was riding in a giant Mamaroo and kept sleeping until we reached the trailhead.

Juneuary

We really shouldn’t have been able to schlep an infant to Mason Lake in January at all, normally those hillsides are covered in huge amounts of unstable snow. Yet there we were, comfortable hiking all the way to the lake on bare trail. I have never seen this little winter snow in Washington before.

Mason Lake

The only uncomfortable bit was right at the lake, where we were hit with some sort of evil wind that seemed to pick up an arctic chill from the lake and blast it right at us. Of course this happened just as Nora made it very clear that she was in need of some milk and her very first al fresco diaper change.

Hello Tahoma

Between a foam sleeping pad, a puffy jacket, and using our bodies as shields, we were able to keep her nice and toasty, but the lakeside was no place to linger with a wee one in tow.

So this is...January??

Even without a relaxing lakeside lunch, it felt great to get out for some exercise. I don’t think all the little stabilizers around my joints are back to normal yet (it could be some lingering relaxin hormone, too), but apart from that, I feel like my old self, at least physically – 97% of my mental capacity is perpetually concerned with Nora.

The remaining three percent is split between wondering where I can get my next hit of chocolate, and trying to understand what the hell that last play of the Super Bowl was about.

It's us again!

Mason Lake | 6.5 miles | 2400 feet elevation gain –

Seahawks, thanks for an amazing season. You’re totes still the bestest.

Go Hawks!

10339832926_ad5b68c9af_k
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Hiking, Teanaway, Top Trip Reports

Larch Rx

Sorry to keep jumping wildly from season to season, but I never got around to writing about this trip, and it was just too purty and too important to skip.

October was rough. Actually, the whole autumn season was rough. The hormones I was taking made me feel all sorts of not great, so I spent those darkening months gaining weight, fighting lethargy, and feeling very down in the dumps.

Too many photo breaks

Very few things were able to motivate me to get outside. One was mushroom hunting, which I’ll come back to later, and the other was the chance to finally see the golden larch trees in Headlight Basin in perfect weather. I had been waiting for this chance for years, so I gathered up what energy I had left and let JK steer our trusty Subaru towards the magical kingdom of the Teanaway.

I had a moment of hormone-induced (yes, I’ll blame it on that) bliss/sadness/bittersweetness in the car when Pink Rabbits by The National was playing just as Mount Stuart first popped in to view, the light hitting it just right. It was one of those sappy American Beauty plastic bag situations when you realize that there are so many beautiful everyday moments in this world, even though it sometimes feels like shit. I will admit that I shed a tear or two, and I had that wonderful song playing over and over in my head the whole day. I still get emotional whenever I hear it – thankfully, I can still blame it on hormones.

Bare trail for now

Hiking felt so good, even after being couch-bound for so long. My legs warmed up fast, and my lungs reveled in the clean, crisp October air. Soon enough, the endorphins hit and I was talking a mile a minute as we switchbacked up to Ingalls Pass. I felt like myself again.

Headlight Basin

The ridge above Headlight Basin was crowded, as it always is during larch season, but I can’t really complain about sharing a good time in the mountains with fellow grinning, elated hikers. We had all hit the jackpot – larch trees at their peak, a blanket of fresh snow, and blue, blue skies. The colors looked slightly dull from above, but when we dropped down into the basin (which we actually had to ourselves) and the light hit the trees, the larches looked like they were on fire. Amazing.

Walking in a golden wonderland

Unfortunately, I don’t have the vocabulary to convey just how therapeutic and spiritually uplifting a day like this can be for me. I know it must be difficult to understand if you’re not a fellow nature-lovin’, endorphin-hungry, overly-emotional sap.

I meet people who say they hate hiking, they hate the heat of it, the cold, the sweating, the hard work, the bugs, and the dirt. We humans all have different outlets for frustration and inlets for inspiration, and hiking is mine.

When the light hits just right

Especially when I can share it with this guy.

It's such a perfect day

Headlight Basin | 7.5 miles | 2400 feet elevation gain –

Our own little corner of the woods

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Hike-a-thon, Hiking, Running

Yeah I shake my little tush on the Katwalk

Ehrm, I seem to have stopped blogging. Let’s just pick up where we left off and pretend this hike didn’t take place two months ago.

To the PCT!

PCT!

Kendall Katwalk is one of the most popular hikes by Snoqualmie Pass, but, even though we’ve hiked here for six years now, this was our first visit. True to form, we left late, something that usually pays off in golden afternoon light and glorious sunsets. This time we missed the morning sun and had to make do with limited views and cold fog instead.

Misty Red Mountain

We’ve turned into wimpy fair-weather hikers (aided by two excellent Seattle summers in a row), so this weather was unusual for us…but it was honestly really nice to hike without feeling like I was drowning in my own sweat.

Wellie looks for pikas

If definitely felt like fall, and the critters were prepping for the long winter to come. The pikas were frantically collecting impressive mouthfuls of noms to keep them going until summer, while the marmots were plumping up nicely for their upcoming snooze.

Prepping for winter

Man, you guys are awesome

A freezing fog rolled in just as we reached the impressively engineered Katwalk, so we just had a quick snack before running most of the way back down to the car (luckily I had brought headphones so I could get Right Said Fred out of my head). I’ll have to come back on a purtier day.

The infinite abyss

The great thing about having hiked 20 miles the weekend before? It made these 12 miles feel like nothing. W00t!

Yeah I shake my little tush on the Kendall Katwalk

Kendall Katwalk | 12 miles | 2700 feet elevation gain –

Big thanks to my Hike-a-Thon sponsors, Jessie…

Thanks, Jessie!

…and Gabi!

Thanks, Gabi!

9579652078_e50accf692_k
Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Hike-a-thon, Hiking, TNAB, Top Trip Reports

TNAB

Oh, right, TNAB. I vowed to go to more of these Thursday evening hikes/sufferfests…then we went to one this winter, and promptly stopped. Why? Laziness, that’s why. Mostly, though, it’s because of the drive – rush hour traffic makes it difficult to be at the trailhead by 5:45.

Rampart Ridge? Worth fighting traffic.

To the family we met at the trailhead who warned us about the yellow jacket nest on trail, thank you so much! JK and Basil (who has the worst luck with bugs) still managed to get stung, as did some later arrivals, but Dani, Wellie and I managed to skulk into the woods and bypass the Nest of Evil. Luckily Basil seemed to be doing fine, but we gave him Benadryl just in case and kept a close eye on him the rest of the night.

If you’re hiking the Ramparts through “the backdoor” this fall, be careful, the nest is located right at the junction with Lake Laura, and the yellow jackets will repeatedly sting any man or beast who walks by. Last I heard, some thoughtful hikers had marked the area with flagging.

Stairway to heaven

Moving on, the meadowy bits below the summit were full of scampering marmots, but I didn’t get a single good shot of them. Clouds and forest fire haze foiled my photography plans and cast the mountains in gloomy light…

NABing and gabbing

…until sunset, when the sky ‘sploded in breathtaking pinks and purples. Whoa. When TNAB is good, it’s really good.

Mordor?

When TNAB is good...

There was the usual drinking and chatting, oohing and aahing, joking and reminiscing (even some snoozing, courtesy of Basil, who was still high on Benadryl), and JK and I realized that we had missed this more than we thought.

TNAB!

We vowed yet again to attend more TNABs…and then Mother Nature decided that she would serve up epic storms every Thursday from then on.

If we’re going to fight traffic, it’s going to be for something a bit more pleasant than “rain Armageddon“. So…maybe next week. Or next year?

Pink!

– Rampart Ridge | 4.5 miles | 2,200 feet gain –

Rainer with LAVA!!!11!

Humongous thanks to my Hike-a-Thon sponsors, Kelsie…

Thanks, Kelsie!

…Lauren…

Thanks, Lauren!

…and Lyn! Y’all rock!

Thanks, Lyn!