Browsing Category

North Cascades

Cabin Trip, North Cascades, Running

Sun Mountain 25K

Uuugh, I have officially reached that place where I am so behind on adventure recaps that it’s getting hard to get back into it. So I’mma just start and see how this goes.

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

First up: Sun Mountain!

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

Highway 20 opened just in time for us to do the beautiful drive through the North Cascades to get to Winthrop. I had forgotten just how gorgeous it is – we haven’t seen too many big mountains lately, so maybe I just appreciate it more now?

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

We stopped at the Diablo Overlook for a picnic and I was in awe. Nora loved it too, because we told her that Davis Peak was Svinetoppen (Swine Mountain), which the pig in her bedtime stories likes to climb.

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

We stayed at the Patterson Lake cabins, part of Sun Mountain Lodge, which was the perfect choice for us with two small kids along for the adventure. The cabins are right on the water and on the Sun Mountain trail system, so you can run in all sorts of directions right from your doorstep.

Sun Mountain 25K 2017

So, race day. Unfortunately little Norbert did not get to run her first kids’ 1K due to a…toddler malfunction, but I had all sorts of fun on the 25K. (By “all sorts” I’m obviously including Type 2 Fun.)

Sun Mountain 25K 2017

I ran the first half with two old friends from back in the TNAB days, which was a great motivator to beat the cutoff at the aid station – I was genuinely nervous about that, but we made it with lots of time to spare. I pretty much always run by myself, so it was interesting to note how much farther I could go without stopping when I was trying to keep up with others. It’s the best kind of peer pressure.

Sun Mountain 25K 2017

Once I got past the aid station, I kind of fell apart a little bit. The heat really got to me, and my knee, which has been bothering me whenever I’ve run anything longer than 8 miles, was not happy with the steep, downhill mountain bike trail that we were on for what seemed like forever. I don’t really remember much, because my body doesn’t really function well in the heat. A lot of us westsiders were struggling under that unforgiving sun after training in cold drizzle all winter and spring.

Sun Mountain 25K 2017

I ended up walking so much of the rest of the course that it was downright embarrassing, especially the last two miles – I could even hear people cheering at the finish line but I just could not get my legs to run. I ended up crossing the finish line at 3:33:10. My only goals for this race were to have fun (Type 2 Fun counts!), to beat the aid station cutoff, and to use it as motivation to get me out on the trails for guilt-free postpartum endorphins and alone time, so that’s a win on all counts.

Sun Mountain 25K 2017

(Of course JK decided on a whim to run the Dirty Turtle 25K the following weekend with no training except for two runs on Mount Patterson, and he finished in 2:44:something even with over 5000 feet of elevation gain. Way to make me feel slow, dude! But whatevs, I’m here to live up to my Trail Snail moniker.)

Sun Mountain 25K 2017

After I got my well-deserved high five from race director James Varner, I spotted a super excited Nora running toward me for an even better high five and a big hug. The best! She was all about the post-race pizza party, so we walked (I waddled) over to a shady spot to spread out on a blanket and get our feast on. They even had gluten-free vegan pizza topped with kale and roasted garlic! And there was bluegrass music! And happy people! And little Noras dancing! Total bliss.

Sun Mountain 25K 2017

Also how amazing is this finisher’s glass? #hearteyes

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

As the party wound down, we went back to our cabin and took an ice bath in Patterson Lake while Lily napped. Aaaah. So awesome.

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

The next day, after a combined effort by my spawn to ensure I got less than one hour of sleep, I somehow felt really, really good. We ended up having a perfect, relaxing vacation day, something we really didn’t think would happen after that night. It’s that Sun Mountain magic!

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

We went for a short but beautiful family hike, swam in the lake again, and then both girls actually napped simultaneously so JK and I could read and relax on the porch. Aah.

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017 Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

JK kept gushing about the run he had gone on the night before, so once the girls were in bed (and they actually stayed in bed this time, thank jebus), I headed out for a run of my own.

Patterson Mountain run

Patterson Mountain run

I had hiked up Mount Patterson before, back in 2012 while JK ran the 25K, but it was overcast and hazy and it didn’t make that big of an impression on me. But this! This was amazing.

Patterson Mountain run

Patterson Mountain run

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

Golden evening light, fields of balsamroot everywhere, lupine-scented singletrack…it was trail running perfection. I had the mountain to myself (except for an assortment of animal friends), so I took to running the downhills with my arms flailing every which way and yelling wheeeeeee at the top of my lungs. Best run of my life.

Patterson Mountain run

Patterson Mountain run

The next morning we had to leave, but we made sure to squeeze in a visit to the pool up at the main lodge before the long drive home. That view, man.

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

So, Sun Mountain. I love you. Let’s make this an annual thing (but hopefully with more sleep next time).

Sun Mountain Long Weekend 2017

Hiking, North Cascades, Running

Ptarmigan Ridge to the Portals

I am slowly but surely waking up from my marmot-like winter hibernation, so while I’m stretching my paws and getting my hiking mojo reset, I’ll play catch-up with some of my favorite trips from this fall.

The same, but different.

Since we had our furry running coach, Brutus, with us, we picked a trail we knew would be excellent for running, the Ptarmigan Ridge trail on Mount Baker, but due to the heat (omgz way too hot for September – little did we know it would rain the rest of the month) and my getting over a cold, we ended up just hiking most of the day…

Oh yeah

…with lots of breaks to cool off in streams and roll around on snowfields.

Them dogs be bananas

I love this trail. Similar to Paradise and Sunrise on Mount Rainier, Ptarmigan Ridge lets you cheat your way through thousands of feet of forest and drive straight up to the timberline. Alpine views from start to finish!

Last flowers of summer

Last time we were here, we stopped and camped at the turquoise lake, but this time we had our eyes set on the Portals, which you can see in the distance in the photo above. Last time we also didn’t have any views until the last fifteen minutes of the hike, so we were kind of blown away this time.

Inviting trail

Still, I was feeling pretty blah from my cold, so Brutus and I took a very satisfying nap while JK and the Italians explored the Portals.

Snooze Rock

The hike back to the car was breathtaking (the views, not the trail – it’s mostly flat) – Mount Shuksan ahead…

Mmm, Shuksan

…and Mount Baker in the rear view mirror, all taken in while snacking on trailside huckleberries. Hells yeah.

Mount Baker, you are magnificent

Oh, and marmots, marmots all around. All in all, it was an excellent summer for marmot sightings.

It's been a good marmot year

It was hard to leave, so we stopped the car at Heather Meadows to watch the sunset and feed the hounds before driving the long road home to Redmond.

– The Portals | 12 miles | 1600 feet elevation gain –


This was the perfect ending to the best and most fulfilling summer of my life – so far.

Backpacking, Hiking, North Cascades, Top Trips

Sahale, at last!

This is going to be picture-heavy, because holy mackerel, what a place.

All smiles

I’ve wanted to hike to Sahale ever since I saw my friends’ photos from it back when I first started hiking. Unfortunately, it’s just never happened, mainly because it’s in North Cascades National Park, which means no dogs, not even nutrias, allowed.

Doubtful Lake

The crux of this hike is actually getting the permits. Anyone can dayhike to Sahale Glacier, but if you want to camp, you’ll need to secure one of the coveted permits from the ranger station.

This is by far the most popular hike in the park, so people line up in front of the ranger station in the morning like Apple fanboys waiting for the latest iPhone.

Lupine perfume

Our trip came together at the last minute. I caught wind of Janelle and Jessie’s plans, and finagled my way into their group. Then, the day before our hike, I read on Facebook that Tony was on his way up to the North Cascades to try for a permit himself. I called him, begging, and luckily for us, he was happy to not go solo. He scored the last available permits and saved the day!

Janelle hiking up Sahale Arm

The hike itself is just…wow. Even the view from the parking lot is to die for. After hiking up 36 of the least efficient switchbacks mankind has ever seen (you will enjoy them on the way up, but curse them on the way down), it’s non-stop views all the way to camp.

Awesome campsite

Progress will be slow, as you’ll need to take out your camera every three minutes. Be prepared for bugs flying into your mouth, since the views of the massive, neighboring peaks are literally jaw-dropping. Bring a bandanna to wipe the drool off your shirt.


My favorite part of the trip was the early morning. Tony and I shared a campsite, and at 5 AM, we lazily unzipped our rain flies and watched the sunrise from our tents. Aaah.

Glacier Peak and Mount Rainier

Sunrise was followed by a breakfast of bean soup, coffee, and quiet time – just me and mountains as far as the eye could see. Happiness.

Happiness is

…and, shockingly, my breakfast of beans and coffee quickly necessitated a visit to what must surely be the finest toilet in the whole world.

There are some wonderful outdoor privies in Washington (I recommend Hidden Lake Peaks, Headlight Basin, and various crappers in the Enchantments), but this is the ultimate loo with a view.

Loo with a view

Perched on my, uhm, throne, I could see mountain goats wandering around way down along Sahale Arm, but in camp, we had to make do with these marmots.

Mukmuk looking for marmot cousins

A marmot to see us off

Eventually it was time to pack up and head back down. Sniff sniff. I will be back.

Me and the Arm

This place is worth the permit hassle for sure.

Jessie in the meadow

Halfway down Sahale Arm, we were greeted by the goat herd, adorable kid included. So cute! So fluffy! (Please don’t gore us, mama!)

Found 'em!

A gaggle of goats

Mama and kid

Then, past Cascade Pass, Tony discovered that he can talk to pikas – this guy popped out every time Tony meeped at him.


36 buggy and seemingly interminable switchbacks later, we were back at the trailhead, swigging delicious Vitamin Waters from Janelle’s cooler. That girl knows how to plan ahead.

Huge thanks to the crew for realizing this dream I’ve had for six years – and for being very entertaining hiking partners (even though Wishing and Hoping was stuck in my head for days).

Back to Cascade Pass we go

– Sahale Glacier Camp | 13 miles | 4100 feet elevation gain –

Life, North Cascades

Sean McCabe

JK and I stumbled across these prints in a gallery in Winthrop last month, and I decided to buy them as a birthday present for myself. They took me right back to one of my favorite hikes.

Heather Pass © Sean McCabe Studio Heather Pass, our version

(Heather Pass © Sean McCabe Studio | Carlos and Ingunn below Heather Pass)

We were saddened to hear that the artist, local climber and art teacher Sean McCabe, passed away in 2009, leaving behind his wife and two daughters.

A view from the top, our version A View From the Top © Sean McCabe Studio

(Looking down from Black Peak | View from the Top © Sean McCabe Studio)

His gallery is full of beautiful artwork from the Cascades, so take a peek if you’re a local mountain lover.

I’m going to hang these canvas prints in our living room, a reminder of our past and future adventures when the weather is dark and dreary, and a nudge to live life fully while we can.

Hiking, North Cascades, Running

Sun Mountain 25K…

…aka Coulda Woulda Shoulda. Our trail race debuts were supposed to be Yakima Skyline 25K (murderous hills) for JK and Sun Mountain 25K (low elevation gain, rolling hills) for me, but we found ourselves in Maui the weekend of the Yakima race (the horror!), and then I didn’t do anything resembling training in preparation for Sun Mountain. My mind has been elsewhere this spring, and my runs on the Powerline Trail have turned into ambling walks.

Ugly walk to the trailhead

Consequently I found myself hiking up Patterson Mountain while JK raced instead of running out there with him. JK hadn’t done much in the way of training either, so he estimated that it would take him 3.5 hours to finish – we agreed that I would be back from my hike after three hours to make sure I wouldn’t miss it.

Patterson Lake

This gave me enough time to hike part of the Patterson Lake trail (to get a paparazzi shot of JK running), then hike up Patterson and enjoy a leisurely lunch with Wellie on the summit.

JK's first race

The weather was a bit gloomy (Sun Mountain my ass!), so I focused my attention on the ground – I’ve never seen so many spring wildflowers in one place!

Shooting stars Lots of Lewisia

After munching on an avocado sandwich (me) and a jerky stick (Wellie), we hiked back to the race headquarters and made it right on time…

Patterson Mountain trail

– Patterson Mountain(++) | 8 miles | 1400 feet elevation gain –

Hot trail, cool dog

…except JK had finished 20 minutes earlier! He totally underestimated himself and finished in a very respectable 2 hours and 39 minutes. Whoop whoop whoop! He didn’t even seem tired, which I find absolutely disgusting.

Maybe next year, when I have finally gotten my act together and am shuffling along on the 25K course, he should try the 50K. We could and we should, right?

Copyright Matt Hagen

(Luckily Matt Hagen was at the finish line to capture what I missed.)

– Sun Mountain 25K | 15ish miles | 2000 feet elevation gain –