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The pups

Hiking, The pups

Summer lookout

Hike-a-Thon begins this week, so I need to get caught up on these trip reports! July has been absolutely amazing, but all of these adventures (plus a healthy dose of procrastination) have created quite a blog backlog. Let’s get to it.

Paintbrush at the lookout

Thorp Mountain is a laid-back summer favorite of mine. A pleasant trail to a great swimming lake, followed by a slightly less pleasant but definitely beautiful trail to an old fire lookout with tremendous views.

Synchronized swimming

We’ve hiked here three Julys in a row, and at this point it just wouldn’t feel like summer without a trip to Thorp. This time we brought Ada along, and she spent the entire hike finding and fetching sticks of various shapes and sizes.

Yes Ada, that's a perfectly reasonable stick to fetch

You shall not pass!! Oh, you found a stick?

The wildflowers around the lookout were slightly past their prime, but still put on a good show.

Thorp Mountain Lookout

We had a lunch and lazed around on the summit for a while (well, everyone except Ada – she was fetching sticks), taking in the views of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Mount Rainier, and my new best friend, Mount Adams.

A Raisin in the Sun

It was Basil’s birthday, so he got some extra snuggles and treats to celebrate. We don’t actually know when he was born, so we’re celebrating his adoption day instead. This lovable little raisin of a dog has brought us lots of happiness since we adopted him a year ago, and he and Wellie are inseparable. Best brothers, best buds.


Unfortunately, the birthday boy is allergic to mosquitoes, so when the breeze died down and the little bastards came out in full force, we just had to get out of there. Benadryl is not a good birthday present!


We jogged down most of the trail, but I was having my first bad run in a while. I got my first side stitch since winter (I must have been holding my breath on the loose, sandy downhill bits), and my hair tie snapped, leaving me with an out of control, frizzy mane that was incredibly annoying in the heat.

The last two miles felt good, though, especially when we got to the swimming hole by the trailhead. I just took off my pack and walked right in to cool off. The water was absolutely freezing and absolutely heavenly. Basil hid in the shade while JK joined me in the pool, followed by Wellie who jumped in to rescue us.

Trailhead swimming hole

And Ada? She was still fetching sticks. Some things never change, like summer traditions (hopefully!) and obsessive-compulsive dogs.

– Thorp Lake & Lookout | 8 miles | 2300 feet elevation gain –

The hike is over but she's still finding sticks

Backpacking, Hiking, Hiking with baby, Mount Rainier, The pups, Top Trips

Above the fog with a puffy dog

Last weekend it was time for our annual trip to Noble Knob, this time to share our favorite trail with Carlos, Deborah, and our favorite Small Person, Nathan.

Almost breaking through

In spite of the “mostly sunny” forecast, we spent the approach walking inside of a cloud. A very, very cold cloud. Luckily the trail had lots of eye candy to offer even though Mount Rainier was hiding – all my favorite wildflowers were on display: western anemone, columbine, paintbrush and the always beautiful tiger lily.

John, Paul, George and Ringo Columbine
Magenta Paintbrush Stormy Tiger Lily

We seemed to be right at the cloud line the whole time, and the sun was this close to breaking through…

Golden hour through the fog

…but by the time we made it to camp, we were firmly enshrouded in the fog. It felt more like late September than July, and the nutrias, devoid of fur and fat, spent the evening puppy-piled in JK’s sleeping bag. Brrr. Nathan stayed warm in the tent in his sleeping bag and fancy backpacking suit.

You can stuff your iggies in a sack, mister!

But ahh, Noble Knob came through for us yet again! When we peeked out of the tent in the morning, we were above the sea of clouds, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness peaks rising up as jagged islands in the distance.

Above the clouds

Now that the sun was out, it was warm enough for Nathan to come out and play. Happiest baby on the rock!

Best buds

He also got to take a good look at what will likely be his future playground, Mount Rainier.

Nathan is growing so fast

Wellie and Basil had to pose for photos…

Freshly caught nutrias

…and I got to engage in my favorite pastime, al fresco reading.

Book club with a view

While I reread Wild and Deborah was on baby duty, the boys (minus Nathan) hiked up the Secondary Knob. I took photos of them and tried to make it seem like a harrowing climb…

Boys (minus Nathan) on the ridge

…but actually it looked like this:

Little Knob

It might have been an easy ascent, but the mosquitoes were ferocious. By the time they made it back to camp, Basil had been gnawed on by so many bugs that his whole face swelled up. Nathan graciously donated some of his Baby Benadryl, and JK and I packed up as fast as we could.

Poor, poor Basil

We left the others on the summit since packing up and hiking out with a baby takes a bit longer and we didn’t want to take any chances with Basil. Surprisingly, he didn’t seem bothered by the situation at all, he was his happy self and in full-on explorer mode.

He got lots of sympathy from the White River 50 Mile runners we met along the way, and by the time we got back to the car, the antihistamines had worked their magic and Basil looked almost back to normal. From now on we’ll always carry nutria-appropriate doses of Benadryl (10mg) with us, and put cedar oil on Basil to keep the bugs away. Poor little guy.


Noble Knob | 7 miles | 500 feet elevation gain –

Hike-a-thon, Hiking, The pups


JK, Wellie and I hiked to Thorp Lookout for the first time last summer, and it was one of my favorite hikes of the year. I don’t know if it was because of the trail itself or simply because of the timing – we hiked it on the day after the terror attacks in Oslo and what was to be the day before we learned that JK’s dad had passed away. I’ll always remember Thorp as a safe, carefree haven between unbearable amounts of sadness.

This is exactly why we need access to nature – a way to escape “real life”, clear our heads, recharge our batteries, fit extraordinary adventures into our ordinary lives, and restore faith and hope in those moments when the world doesn’t seem to make sense anymore. And this, in turn, is why we’re participating in this year’s Hike-a-Thon fundraiser.

Hike-a-Thon 2012 Ok, fine, I also have selfish reasons – I want to hike as much as possible this month and maybe even fit into the sausage casing of a t-shirt they sent me by the end of it – but first and foremost, I hope to raise a little bit of dough for Washington Trails Association to support their trail maintenance and advocacy. If you want to help out, click here or on the picture in the sidebar. Any amount is appreciated (and if you want to join WTA or need to renew your membership, $40 will get you a one-year membership and a subscription to the excellent Washington Trails Magazine)!

Anyhoo, back to Thorp Lookout. Exactly one year later, we returned to that wonderful trail, this time with Dani, Jasper, and of course our lovable new nutria, Basil. Just like last year, we swam in Thorp Lake, one of the warmest alpine lakes I know. We learned that Basil is not a swimmer (and I use that term lightly) like Wellie; he prefers to spend his time rummaging through our packs in search of foodstuffs instead.

Shouldn't nutrias be used to water?

Once we were dry and fed, we made our way up to the lookout, enjoying a tremendous wildflower show which I failed to adequately document – you’ll have to go see it for yourselves.

Flowers with a view

We spent what seemed like hours on the summit, talking, taking photos, taking naps, eating human feces (only Wellie. Dig a cat hole, people!!), evading dog kisses (ugh) and taking in the views and the stillness.

= Summer

Turns out Thorp is a great escape even when you have nothing to escape from.

Thorp to ourselves

My boys

Thorp Lake & Lookout | 8 miles | 2300 feet elevation gain –

Basil's first summit snooze

Hiking, The pups

Basil the Buff hikes the bluff

After much nagging from friends, JK and I finally drove to Whidbey Island and hiked the Bluff Trail to Ebey’s Landing, lauded by many as their favorite hike. It seemed like the perfect place to take JK’s mom, who was visiting us from Norway.

Tall grass, golden light

The hike sure was gorgeous, but I found it somewhat difficult to focus on the views when Basil’s disturbingly bulging thighs were powering along ahead of me. Our new furry (well, not so furry actually) companion looks like a juiced-up bodybuilder!

Buff Basil

We adopted the little guy from Italian Greyhound Rescue Northwest, where we also found Wellie in 2009. Basil – British pronunciation, à la Basil Fawlty – is 7 years old and fit as a fiddle, missing a lot of fur and the tips of his ears…but what he lacks in hair and hide, he makes up for in pure snuggliness. He seemed comfortable with us right from the start, and it’s an absolute joy to have two little nutrias running around the house again.

Simuljumping It's a Basellie!

“Me and Wellie was like peas and carrots.”

Dogs on a log

Ebey’s Landing is definitely going on our list of Excellent Hikes for Visitors, since:

a) It’s purdy.

b) It’s doable for anyone, including a guy who was moving so fast that I didn’t even notice until I was right by him that he had a prosthetic leg. What a badass. He even ran after his kids.

c) It’s in the Olympic rainshadow, so chances are it’s sunny there while we’re being massively rained upon in Redmond.

d) You can refuel at Cove Thai after the hike. So that’s what we did. *rubs belly appreciatively*


Ebey’s Landing | 5.6 miles | 260 feet elevation gain –

Wonky Wellie