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Hiking tips

Hiking, Hiking tips, Life

Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest

In honor of National Wildflower Week (yes, apparently that’s a thing), I hereby present a short guide to my favorite wildflowers. I am as far from an expert that you could possibly get and don’t even own a book on flora, so I’ve learned the names of these from my hiking partners. In other words – if any of these are wrong, blame my friends.

First up, lilies. I love lilies. My absolute favorite flower is the Tiger Lily (left), and I have yet to see one without emitting a high-pitched squeal of joy. These just say SUMMER to me. I’ve only seen the Chocolate Lily (right) once, but look! So cool! So elegant! So named after my favorite food group!

...and even more. Chocolate Lily

The Glacier Lily starts popping up in late spring/early summer depending on the elevation (we saw a bunch of them last week on Sauer’s Mountain) and make quite the impressive display in an alpine setting.

Kyes and Columbia?

Even prettier, the Avalanche Lily! I’ve seen huge fields of these in Spray Park and Summerland on Mount Rainier.

We're pretty

Columbine (left) signals the beginning of summer to me. I usually see these popping up on Poo Poo Point in June, then giddily follow their development as the snow melts in the higher climes. Calypso Orchids (right) can be deceptively hard to spot and a pain in the ass to photograph, but man alive, so pretty. I usually find these east of the crest, but have been surprised by them once or twice on exotic Tiger Mountain.

More columbine Calypso Orchids

Aah, Beargrass. If you ever decide to hike Bandera Mountain (or any other open-sloped trails along I90), do it in late June when it turns into a veritable wonderland of these purdy stalks.


I have a special affinity for Paintbrush since one of our very first hikes (to good old Noble Knob); I remember the trail being lined with beautiful shades of red, and it was one of the moments that made me fall in love with these mountains.

Indian Paintbrush Magenta Paintbrush

Winner of the best smell category: Lupine. I’ll never forget the scent of sun-warmed lupine on the Wonderland Trail. It was like walking through a cloud of perfume, except it was light and airy and not gross (I really hate perfume).

Professor Lupin

Shooting Stars will always remind me of the Teanaway, which automatically puts them on the favorites list. They’re quite easy on the peepers, too.

Shooting stars

A lot of these flowers excite me so much because they symbolize the changing of the seasons, and Trillium is the official herald of spring. When these start popping up in the Issaquah Alps, I know lighter, greener days are coming.

My first trillium of 2012

Another spring favorite – Balsamroot! These flourish east of the crest, and warrant at least one drive across the mountains every April or May for a petal pilgrimage.


Last but not least, my second favorite flower – actually, as far as I can understand, this is when the Western Pasqueflower has gone past the flower stage; these are the seed heads! Also known as Western Anemone, I usually call them fuzzbuckets or hippie heads, especially when there’s a whole flock of them gathered like a miniature Woodstock Festival.

Western Anemone

Hiking, Hiking tips, Pregnancy

Hiking in early pregnancy

I really hope I’ll be able to hike throughout my pregnancy, not just because it’s excellent for my physical health and that of the wee babby, but because, as I have learned over and over again throughout the years, it’s like Prozac to me. That said, right from the start I was surprised how much more difficult it felt to hike for two. I had somewhat naively thought it would feel just like normal, but with an increasingly heavy backpack carried on my stomach. Hah!

View from Oyster Dome

First lesson I learned: don’t make any grand plans; every pregnancy is different. Some people don’t even notice much difference at all, while others spend nine months fighting lethargy, throwing up, and on bed rest with pelvic issues. So just hope for the best and do what you can.

Second lesson: ehrmagerd, the tiniest of hills suddenly feel like Everest! On flats, downhills, and even while running (once my, uhm, tender mammaries allowed me to do so), I feel pretty much like normal, but once I hit the slightest of inclines, my heart rate skyrockets and I have to slow down significantly in order to keep breathing properly. The weirdest thing is that this started happening even before I knew I was pregnant – I just thought I had overdosed on Christmas cookies. Ok, so I did OD on cookies, but still.

Third lesson: it’s so worth it. Being outside and moving makes me feel so good. Beyond the usual endorphin boost, hiking helps my lower back pain, I sleep better, and sometimes it seems to help with morning sickness. Sometimes.

This is my first pregnancy, so I am obviously not an expert, but here are my tips so far:

Don’t compare yourself to anyone – not to your pre-pregnancy self, not to some other crazy fit pregnant woman, not even to the elderly and infirm who suddenly start passing you on trail.

Leave your expectations at home! One day you’ll feel like you have wings, and the next you might feel like several vital organs are about to fall out of you and you just have to take it easy. Listen to your body and just enjoy your surroundings and the fact you get to be outside.

-The old “keep your heartrate below 140” rule is outdated, but make sure you don’t push yourself so hard that you can’t talk comfortably – this will happen way sooner than it usually does (damn you, uphills!), so beware.

Bring more snacks and way more water than you usually do. I even have to bring water on my standard 2.5 mile dog walk down to the river and back, which seems ridiculous but is absolutely necessary.

Use hiking poles for extra balance, this obviously isn’t the time to slip and fall.

Carry a running pack without a hip belt (I like the ones from Ultimate Direction) when you can instead of a normal daypack, especially when your belly starts rounding out.

If your pregnancy is anything like mine, pick less crowded trails so there are fewer people around when you puke. At my worst, before I was introduced to the life-saver that is Diclegis, I was throwing up twice per mile. Not my proudest moments.

Post-lunch relaxing

The loop we did at Oyster Dome last weekend was perfect for me right now. There are some really steep bits from Samish Overlook up to Oyster Dome, but I took it nice and easy – I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to looking obviously pregnant so that when people speed past me, they’ll know I have an excuse and am not merely corpulent and incredibly out of shape.


Welcoming spring on Oyster Dome has become an annual tradition for us – hopefully we’ll be back next year with a baby carrier! This time we brought a stove so we could make soup and just hang out for as long as we wanted in the sun before moving on to the lakes.

The rest of the loop is all flats, rolling hills, and downhill switchbacks, and it felt amazing to really stretch the ol’ legs again. Most of our recent hikes have been to Poo Poo Point – all steep, up and down – so this was a welcome change and gave me a good idea of what types of trails to look for in the months to come.

Oyster Dome, Lily & Lizard Lakes Loop | 7 miles | 1650 feet elevation gain –

Inquisitive nutria

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Hike-a-thon, Hiking, Hiking tips, Reviews, Running, Solo

Five things that have improved my enjoyment of hiking this summer

(…because I obviously hated hiking before.)

My second hike of Hike-a-Thon, a variation on the Melakwa Loop, an old favorite of mine, was just incredibly enjoyable. The weather was perfect, the views inspiring, the company (just Wellie and one pissed-off marmot) excellent, but I was also struck by how effortless the hiking itself felt. Part of it is that I’m in better shape than I used to be, for sure, but I’ve also made some changes that make for a more comfortable time on trail.

1) Instead of lugging over three liters of water with me on hot summer days, I bring my Sawyer Squeeze filter with me and filter as I go (provided I know there will be water available – there usually is, since I mostly hike in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness). This filter only weighs three ounces (and the Sawyer Mini will be coming out soon, weighing in at two ounces, $20!) and is really easy to use. Less water to carry means faster, more comfortable hiking, and I get to drink fresh, delicious mountain water instead of tepid tap water that’s been heating up in my Platypus container.

Double Kaleetan

2) I switched from hiking boots to minimalist trail runners in 2011 and I love it. I used to roll my ankles all the time back when I wore boots, but, knock on wood, it’s never happened in trail runners – increased ground feel lets your feet adjust to the terrain. They’re also marvelously light and breathable, so my feet no longer feel horrible at the end of a long day. I usually don’t even take my shoes off before I get home, while back in my boot days, that was the first thing I did when I reached the car.

Alan! Alan! Alan!

3) Trail runners allow me to run the downhills (I would run the uphills if I could, but that’s not likely to happen unless I lose a significant amount of poundage). JK and I were talking about how much we love this last weekend as we were running the six not-very-interesting miles down a mountain – what would probably have felt like a neverending death march while walking turned into something fun instead; the running itself becomes one of the highlights of the trip (endorphins!). An added bonus that doesn’t seem to make sense, is that if I run back down to the car, my legs actually feel fresher than if I had walked – maybe because I’m using slightly different muscles and a different gait?

Lower Tuscohatchie

4) Hiking in a skirt! I can’t believe I never tried this before. I’m using the Moving Comfort Sprint Tech Skort and I can finally hike and run without having to endure chub rub chafing.

Olallie Lake

5) This one is new to me, but after trying it on my last two hikes, I’m a convert. All summer I’ve been eating total crap on my hikes – I can’t stomach granola bars anymore, so I’ve been eating Snickers instead, supplemented with energy gels. I finally realized that since I wouldn’t eat Snickers in “real life”, I shouldn’t be gorging on them when my body is working hard. Enter real food! These Chocolate & Sea Salt Sticky Bites from Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook of On-the-Go Food for Athletes are tasty (because CHOCOLATE and SALT), efficient, and have a much less scary ingredient list than a packet of Gu or a Snickers bar.

– Melakwa to Pratt Loop w/Olallie Lake | 15 miles | 3600 feet elevation gain –

Big, big thanks to my Hike-a-Thon sponsor Mark who loves this area of our mountains as much as I do!

Thanks, Mark!

I’m currently at 92% of my goal, and there is still time do donate and support our trails!