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Adventures in Neah Bay

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Yesterday was a long one. The party kicked off at 2:30am PST to watch Arsenal drop their FA Cup semifinal to ManU 1-0. This was not the pre-dawn mood I was hoping to find myself in.

By 6:30am the auto was loaded and off towards the Olympic Peninsula with distant Neah Bay in sight. After four hours of driving and one car sick passenger, I crossed the boundary to the Makah Indian Reservation. Californians will be delighted to know that even in this most remote corner of the country gas prices are still under $2/gallon. I strolled into Washburn's General Store to pick up my $7 recreational permit to display in my vehicle/ensure my car isn't looted at the trailheads. I overheard a cashier in there talking about how she can speak Spanish, German, Dutch, Japanese, and Makah. I wish I had pressed her on this subject as now I have unfinished business at Washburn's.

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Now it was off to Cape Flattery-the northwestern tip of Washington. There is a 4-mile gravel road to the trailhead but the 1.5-mile roundtrip hike is as luxurious as can be--boardwalks with four observation decks along the way. The milage:scenery ratio on this trail is off the scale. By far the most spectacular almost wheelchair-friendly short hike I have enjoyed. And I made a new friend along the way. The final observation deck gives you a view of Tatoosh Island and the Cape Flattery lighthouse--just a half-mile offshore and the northwestern most point in the continental United States. The U.S. Coast guard still operates the lighthouse but the island is closed to the public.


With suntan lotion and sand castle building supplies in hand, it was then time for a trip to one of "America's Best Beaches". So technically, getting to Shi Shi Beach (pronounced Shy Shy) requires a 13-mile one-way coastal hike but I obviously cheated here and used the shortcut through the Makah Reservation. The legit way is still on my list of things to do.

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Finding the trailhead proved to be quite an adventure. The main road to it had just been closed by a downed utility pole and power line. The Neah Bay police officer at the scene of the incident asked me for help. I assumed he was joking and proceeded to ask him for directions to the trailhead, he explained an alternate route to me, and I was on my way. After navigating several unpaved and unnamed roads, I ended up at the closed road again. The police officer again asked me for help in clearing the road and again I shrugged it off (in retrospect I realized that he did in fact really want my help). I asked him for directions for hopefully the last time. This was like receiving instructions from Yogi Berra: "when you see a fork in the road, take it." I can't really fault the guy as giving directions on nameless gravel roads you've been driving on your whole life to some guy with Ohio license plates is far from a simple task.

However, this time the directions were clear enough to get me to the trailhead. It is about a 2.5 mile one-way stroll down to the coast. It is a straight forward and well-marked trail starting with nearly a mile of boardwalks and bridges with plenty of skunk cabbage along the way. There was about a mile of non-boardwalked trail that was extremely muddy but in those places there were beaten paths off the trail to avoid the mess. The same person who got carsick on the ride there also managed to lose a shoe to the suction power of the mud.

The sky was clear and the temperature was in the 60's so it was a gorgeous day to check out Shi Shi. Once arriving I enjoyed my Safeway-made hoagie before further exploring of the Point of Arches, tidal pools with starfish, and such. Considering I don't know how to swim, I am far from a beach guy. But Shi Shi made me want to take off my shoes, sit in the sand, and read a John Grisham novel. Well worth the trip and effort.

On the way home, I picked up some dungeness crabs from a fisherman in Clallam Bay. The two of them were a little rowdy in the backseat on the trip back to Seattle but they were treated to a very warm reception on arrival. Delicious.

Orcas Island & Mt. Constitution

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Yesterday brought 80 degree weather to the northwest so I ventured out with company to Orcas Island--one of the San Juan Islands in the Puget Sound. Getting there required about 80 miles driving north of Seattle on I-5 to Anacortes where you ride an 80 minute auto-ferry across to the islands. Somehow we managed to miss the notorious hordes of people that usually flock there come nice weather. No complaints there.

Upon arrival on land, I scored some delicious fresh red snapper tacos and passed on the opportunity to buy a "Bush-Cheney 1984" sweatshirt. About 4,000 people live on this remote island--highlights were plenty of poseur hippies and a lady in May Day apparel riding a goat-drawn carriage down the street. I asked for some trail advice from a local who described herself as an "avid hiker" and who instead expressed skepticism in my group's hiking abilities. We all set forth to bag Mount Constitution in record time and prove her wrong.

We arrived in Moran State Park and set forward on the trail--about eight miles round trip with a 1,700-foot vertical elevation gain. The first life we bumped into on the trail was a banana slug. That turned out to be the only wildlife we would see--with the exception of one unsubstantiated report of a baby beaver building a dam.

The trail was a constant uphill grade almost the entire way. We marvelled at some seemingly out of shape mountain bikers racing down the hill in amazement that they were able to cycle up the steep and rocky trail. Then almost three-miles into the hike, we heard some rumbling and saw an automobile zip by about 500-feet away. This is obviously an odd thing to see in the presumed backcountry. Turns out there was a road there with another trailhead. Those bikers would have ridden up the paved road and then downhill on the trail. Not nearly as impressive a feat. The trail had been fantastic thus far so there were no regrets about not using this previously unknown shortcut.

Another 1.5-miles later we had our eye on the final destination--an observation deck (and possible Verizon antenna) built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s with promised sweeping views of the Puget Sound. The views didn't disappoint but the photos I took really don't do justice. Here is one and if you squint in this one you can see Mount Baker. We also had pretty clear views of Vancouver Island, Bellingham, and the rest of the San Juans. On a really clear day you supposedly can even see Mount Rainier from a distance.

The kicker about this hike to the observation tower was that there turned out to be a parking lot attached to it....and a paved road. So it turns out we could have just driven up to this point. But again, it was a good hike so that wasn't really discouraging. We worked on our tans up there for a little while before making the much quicker descent back down to our starting point. Upon looking at the ferry schedule we realized our time was short and dreams of eating at a tavern advertising the best burgers on Orcas Island were dashed. Dinner was instead had at a grocery store--I enjoyed my ham wrap while others were less than thrilled with their soggy roast beef sandwiches. We easily caught the ferry with ten minutes to spare.

It was a long day but a fantastic destination. I will probably stay away from there during these summer months as the Bed & Breakfast crowds start to really pour in, however. The evening was capped with finally watching Chris Rock's latest HBO special...good times.

Hey, Bear!

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My Anchorage to Seattle flight was a full one and I found myself in the 40th row--that put me on the plane at about 12:25am. I was in a middle seat next to an extremely wide woman who couldn't even put the arm rest between us down. Ugh...it was late and I was exhausted so I thought it would be easy enough to sleep through the discomfort. The punishment continued as mechanical issues kept us on the plane until a delayed takeoff...of 4:00am. Ugh.

Ultimately, that's all just a blip on the radar. In addition to the fat lady on the plane, over the course of the journey I rubbed shoulders with other animals such as: brown bears, ptarmagins, arctic ground squirrels, caribou, humpback and orca whales, puffins, sea lions, otters, and even a few elusive wolves.

It was near midnight last Thursday by the time I had the keys to my rental Neon in hand. After an exhaustive search, we found a 24-hour Taco Bell for a foul midnight snack. George Bush's nomination acceptance speech lulled us to sleep as we spent the next 5-hours at the Days Inn before awakening for the 230-mile drive to Denali. The corporate guy in the group managed to explode a breakfast burrito in the gas station microwave. Absent another b'fast burrito, he deemed a microwave beef chimichanga a suitable substitute. The nanny had a Mocha Frappucino and a Red Bull. I went with a Hostess 8-pack of chocolate mini-donuts. Luckily, we made up for the subpar morning eats with some killer halibut for lunch at a restaurant near the park's entrance.

Denali's backcountry is pretty unique compared to your average park. There are no private vehicles allowed inside the park and there are no maintained hiking trails. The park is divided into 43-units with quotas for how many people can camp in each on a given night. Due to our late start, we were facing a sort of sloppy seconds as everything is first-come and first-served. After much debate, we settled on Unit 8--Polychrome Pass. The park ranger issued us our BRFC (Bear Resistant Food Container, if you're not in the know) and we hopped on a 3:30pm Camper Bus to take us out into the depths of Denali. It was on this 3-hour bus ride we met Benny and Jenny from Tejas. They were a pretty ordinary couple, but for whatever reason, we found ourselves talking about them the rest of the trip as if we've known them for years.

Shortly after seeing a grizzly cub running up the hillside, bus driver Chuck pulled the bus over and we were suddenly on our own in the wilderness of Unit 8. We cruised down a drainage ditch and skipped over braids of the slow running/almost dry East Fork River. Walking on untouched tundra is pretty slow going. In the end we were averaging just a shade over 1.25 mph with our packs on. The sun was quickly approaching the horizon and the temperature dropping in the process so we pitched the tents and started to settle in. I sparked up the backpacking stove to cook up some cheddar and potato soup--which proved to be a nice warm meal but a complete headache come dishwashing time. Before I was able to get a cup of hot cocoa, the nanny kicked a clump of dirt into the pot and dashed my chocolaty dreams. We ran into all kinds of problems getting all of our "smellables" in our government issued BRFC, but we flexed our liberal arts educations and improvised the best we could.

On the snowy open tundra, the temperature slipped below the 20-degree mark as we huddled into one tent. At this point we were all just trying to get the feeling in our hands and feet back to normal. Throughout the night, my feet constantly fluctuated between toasty and numb...quite annoying. We all wondered out loud how Benny and Jenny might have been coping. Alas, morning came and we were quick to get our show on the road and warm up. We were delighted to retrieve all of our cookware and the BRFC without a hint of them being fiddled with by Yogi Bear (they were kept 100-plus yards away from our tents). No time for sod-filled Swiss Miss, we scarfed down some Cliff Bars and started cruising back to the main road where we would thumb down another green Denali bus.

Eric the bus driver was a dry, straight-talking, completely matter of fact kind of guy. He rocked! The bus we caught was filled with about 10 non-camping tourists who caught this bus at 6:30am from the Park HQ. Our new bus-mates told us how they watched grizzly bears taking a morning jog on the park road right in front of the bus and better yet, saw a pack of wolves dining on a caribou just a stones throw away. Eric's description to us of witnessing the wolve's feasting was a stoic, "it was sweet". This bus seemed like good luck so we made the loop and rode back with them to Park HQ. Earlier on our hike back to the road, I was rambling to the crew about how much I wanted to see a wolf in the wild. Eric's magic bus made that happen. First we caught a glimpse of the caribou carcas. Then a quick scan with the binoculars found two wolves in the distance still loitering around. I don't know how this happened, but before we knew it, there were private vehicles pulling up to the scene with professional photographers hopping out and setting up their tripods. This scrawny black wolf was itching to grab another bite of his caribou but was no doubt terrified of the sudden peanut gallery that developed. Regardless, I was thrilled to see those bad boys.

A few hours later, we were back in the parking lot loading up the Neon. Good times. Along the way back to Anchorage, we hit up Angela's Heaven in the village of Trapper Creek where we gorged ourselves with delights such as reindeer sausage pizza. The place was run by a German woman who moved to this town of 300 several years back. Not a one of the businesses we patroned during our trip were the products of Alaskans--either Euros or lower-48ers were the entrepreneuers. Anyway, after cleaning ourselves up in our smoking room at the Holiday Inn, we ended up eating even more delicious pizza late night in Anchorage at the Moose's Tooth. The next morning we would be off to Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park. More on that tomorrow...

Alaska - Part Deux

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After a night's sleep in a dank smoking room at the Holiday Inn-Anchorage, we were heading south on the Seward Highway. It's a pretty spectacular drive and we were fortunate to have clear blue skies to enjoy it. I kept on cruising, passing every RV in sight, save for a stop in Girdwood for a breakfast bear claw. The next stop was for food again--Yoli's Deli in Seward--for some lunch to pack on the hike. Now it was off to the true destination--the Harding Icefield Trail at Kenai Fjords National Park.

Driving up to the trailhead, I caught the first glimpse of Exit Glacier. At the trailhead, we had our first and only real encounter with Alaska's infamous bugs. Thankfully these were of the non-biting variety and just tiny flies, but annoying nonetheless. While swatting away at the flies, we laced up the boots and powered on the2-way radios. And it was off to the Harding Icefield Trail--about 8-miles round trip with a 3,000 foot vertical elevation gain. The corporate guy played the role of the Kenyan marathoner racing to the front of the pack. Us plebes remained a comfortable distance behind while maintaining communication via walkie-talkie. We also often used the radios when within arm's reach of one another...much to the apparent annoyance of other hikers.

The trail cruises parallel to Exit Glacier until you're eventually sitting above the Harding Icefield--named after Marion, Ohio's own Warren Harding, the first American President to visit Alaska. It had been a solid seven years since I was last on this trail. As a high school student I spent part of my summer working trail crew and living right on this very trail. This all brought back some sweet memories as I came upon the old campsite (helluva view, eh?) and work-project. And here's another view of the stone-retaining wall we built. It was lunchtime at the top as the corporate guy was amazed at how large the Dagwood Sandwich he ordered was--until that moment when I filled him in, he wasn't hip to the Sunday comics and Blondie. Considering the all up-hill climb to the top, it was a leisurely paced jaunt back down.

Back at the car, we began the quest for accommodation. The bug situation turned us off of the camping idea. After doing a cost-benefit analysis of a hostel and bed & breakfast, we went the yuppie route after one to be unnamed member of the party proclaimed "money is no option." We gorged ourselves at the Salmon Bake Restaurant which hyped itself as having cheap beer and lousy food. Neither was the case.

On day two in Seward, we dropped some dough to board a boat and check out the fjords portion of Kenai Fjords. It was an 8-hour trip, but as far as really touristy things go, this was pretty sweet and worth the benjamin. Sadly it was at about this time that my digital camera began to sputter out on me. So I have no visual proof of seeing breaching humpback whales and orcas. Not to mention the diving puffins and barking sea lions. But I can tell you that it was sweet. The final stop before returning to shore was Holgate Glacier. The boat idles here for twenty minutes while everyone aboard crosses their fingers to see the glacier calve (i.e. a chunk of ice fall off). We lucked out and an enormous piece of the face plummeted into the water. Brilliant!

Back on land, we hit up the Harbor Street Creamery for what proved to be a spectacular peanut butter milkshake. Our time in Seward and Kenai Fjords was numbered. It was back on the road to Anchorage for our flights home. Along the way, the radio was tuned to Girdwood Community Radio. Soon on the air were the Nervis Rex, a local ska band. Just imagine a really bad version of Offspring and you've got the idea. The stoner DJ was soon on the mic complaining of stolen bicycles in town. Just a hilarious rant followed by a timely announcement for an upcoming Girdwood Land Use Committee Meeting. I soon after pulled off the road in a vain attempt to immortalize the final sunset of the adventure...here is the result of my final picture. Ansel I am not.

Snowmobilin

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One mis-click and I killed my trip report from the weekend....

Bottom line is that there were snowmobiles zipping along at 60-mph, sometimes running into trees, a pizza joint only accessible by foot/snowmobile, exploring a lava tube, and myself finding the Brian Boitano within (ice skating-wise...not gay).

Also, you'll see a link for friends & family gallery on the navigation bar above. If you haven't received an email from me with the password and feel you qualify as said friends & family, hit the contact link above to let me know.

Otter Falls

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Just 34-miles east of Seattle, you can stumble upon this 1600' waterfall. Water slides down this massive sheet of granite into an equally ill-named Otter Lake--no otters in sight. It's an easy hike of ~10 miles that even a 5-month puppy can knock out. A few more pictures posted in the gallery. I sadly didn't have the camera ready when I saw my first bobcat. Not knowing anything about these boys I didn't chase it into the brush for a close-up. Exciting nonetheless.

Oyster Dome

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Anyone still here?

The weather has been gorgeous, so Saturday I cruised north on I-5 to Chuckanut Drive. By no coincidence, it is here that you can find Chuckanut Mountain. And I love saying Chuckanut.

Oyster Dome was the target (photo taken on my last trip there a year ago):

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This time around, I wasn't content just looking up at Oyster Dome. I had to cruise up to the top which is hyped to have some nice views of the Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, and onwards to Canada.

I get up there to find a group of a dozen just perched at the best view point slowly eating their trail mix and patting themselves on the back for making it up. All told it was only about 7 miles round-trip, but with a nice 2,000+ foot vertical elevation gain. I was up and back a shade under 3-hours and pretty winded. A couple Dean Karnazes wannabes who blew past me probably did it in half that.

Highly recommended and easily accessible...plus you can hit up Taylor Shellfish Farms on the way home for fresh oysters. Also recommended is the Rhododendron Cafe--surprisingly creative food in this rural locale.

Chuckanut.

Kalaloch Beach

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Four of us and a dog set off for the Olympic coastline on Saturday later than planned AM. By all accounts, our karma tanks were overflowing with goodness through the weekend. The rain we all feared only came down on the drive there, some sprinkles while we were snoozing, and again on the drive home. And it was all butter in between.

We pulled into Kalaloch to find that the RV crowd had already squatted on all the ocean view sites (note: RV camps aren't a preferred destination but seemed appropriate this go). After making some laps around the campground, we settled on a quiet site across the way from an ecentric fellow, who possibly calls this campground home. He sent us home with a pamphlet of his opinions on redheads and why the African nation of Chad should be the capital of the world (one reason is easy space travel). C'est la vie.

Anyway, it was off to Ruby Beach for amongst other things, kite flying. I'd never flown a kite, but it was surpringly entertaining. And the weather again couldn't have been any more timely.

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Last time we were on the Olympic Coast, we saw nothing but dead marine life. Opposite scenario this go with some sweet tide pools--here are some starfish. Any wannabe marine biologists know what this is?

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After a few hours on the beach and an easy hike to the world's largest western red cedar, we did dinner old school Boy Scouts style with foil packs on the campfire. The lesson for next time is to bring salt/pepper shakers when car camping. Then after a few more hours of discussing marshmallow roasting techniques, it was bedtime. Come sunrise, we planned to be razor digging.

6:17 am on Sunday would have been peak digging time, but I don't think anyone set an alarm clock. We made it out there by 8:30, I believe. One old guy who was on his way out told me "you're late." At this point, we had a nice section of the beach all to ourselves.

While Zizou was running around chewing on washed up dungeness crabs, we were on the prowl for tiny holes like this. In retrospect, I should have set a penny next to the hole for scale, so you'll have to take my word that it's a rather tiny lil' guy. So when we found a little hole or dimple like that, we'd jam the pvc clam gun into the sand to find the razor clam within.

The first ten minutes was slow-going and a bit discouraging. I was beginning to feel bad that I dragged people out in the morning for this nonsense. Then in an hours time, we bagged 30 clams with at least a 90% success rate on holes dug:clams being in said dug hole. Basically, the moral of the story is to go ahead and sleep in. Late birds get the worms too, and with much more elbow room, in the process.

Our request for a late checkout was denied, so we had to be out of camp by 11:00am. But we still managed to get down a hungry man's breakfast of eggs, hash browns, sausage, and juice boxes before pulling out at 11:07am. It was all business driving home and we were back in Seattle at 2:36pm.

After some indoor soccer at 5:00pm, it was razor clam chowda time. With bacon/bacon fat, onions, celery, potatoes, half & half, butter, and clams as the ingredients, how can you go wrong? I'll be eating said chowder 3 meals/day for the next week. Yummy.

For my friends, the gallery has been updated with more pics from the weekend.

Silver Falls

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On Friday night at around 5:30pm, made a late decision to join some others camping. Only at 7pm was the car loaded and us out the door...with a 4 hour drive to Silver Falls. To give you an idea on the geography, here's a map that shows about where we were.

On arrival to the campground at 11pm, it was a complete ghost-town. And a completely gorgeous camp that sits right on the water. Highly recommended. After mooching off our campmate's Coors Light pancakes, we knocked out a very short hike to Silver Falls:

And back in Seattle for dinner and a 10pm indoor game. And then another game last night at 8pm. Very bold.

Few new pics added to the F&F Gallery.

Boulder River

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I packed up the snowshoes and dog in the Matrix and set sights on Heather Lake. I forgot to put my tire chains in the car and that proved to be a limiting factor. As I stepped on the gas nearing the trailhead, the Matrix began to sliiiide back downhill. I was rolling solo, so cut my losses and just put it in reverse for the half mile down the hill back to the mainroad.

Having just purchased Zizou his first pair of shoes, I was determined to help him break 'em in. I called and interrupted my sister painting her face for the USC-UCLA game to get directions to Boulder River.

It's a low elevation hike, but there was still a nice dusting of snow.

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It's an easy rolling stroll through the woods, so perfect after a frustrating start to the day. Just one other car at the trailhead when I arrived, but never bumped into them.

The Gorge

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We scooted out of Seattle at 4:15pm on Friday heading towards The Dalles, Oregon (pronounced The Dallz). While in cental Washington, I killed my first chukar, but sadly my car was the weapon. After arriving on petro fumes in Yakima, the Matrix was gassed up, and we pulled into Cousin's Country Inn at 8:26pm. For the same price as Super 8 or Motel 6, Cousin's was definitely the right choice--clean room, serious water-pressure, and even a DVD player.

Andrew's Pizza in Hood River is where we concocted a pie with the unusual combination of canadian bacon, mushrooms, and roasted garlic. Hood River is an interesting town--supposedly the wind surfing capital of the universe and also the home of Dakine and Full Sail Beer It reminded me of Kalispell, Montana with the mix of hippies and posh restaurants. Post-dinner, we popped into the Trillium Cafe for a Dave Matthews cover band. It's a family restaurant by day/bar by night with a cool mural a la Where the Wild Things Are. And don't even think about stepping foot in Hood River (or any other small town along the Columbia) unless said foot is wearing Chaco's or the like. Luckily, I just got a pair...and they are amazing.

My attempts to rally the troops for a 6am wake up failed. We settled for a modest 7am followed by breakfast at Cousin's Restaurant. Good breakfast food, huge servings, drinks in mason jars, and a low price. Perfect. And after delivering my waffle, the waitress presented "syrup in a bear" to the table with aplomb.

As usual, I struggled to find the trailhead for the hike I had chosen for us. The directions on this description for Observation Peak are rubbish. Randomly, we bumped into someone else who was looking for the same trailhead, and luckily she tipped us off to an alternate access point. This point turned out to be the "long up and down" of 13 miles round-trip. So (very partly) due to the sleeping beauties hitting the snooze, we were sadly only able to do about 8 miles of this and never really got out of the low-land forest (think lots of ferns and mosses). I'm going to have to study the maps more and head back out there to tackle this one again--definite promise.

On the way back home we stopped for more pizza and beer/root beer at Walking Man Brewing in Stevenson, WA. Fresh place and definitely recommended. After paying our $1 toll on The Bridge of Gods we were back on the road heading home. Droopy eyes forced a stop at Costco in Vancouver, WA for petro and the accidental purchase of chocolate yogurt with berries on top (not recommended). Back in the garage at 8:30pm on Saturday night...and Zizou is arsed out.

Wallace Falls

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Wallace Falls was a nice 8.5 mile loop just a shade over an hour from home.  It was great to sleep in a bit, leave the house at 11am, get a nice hike in, and be back home before 6pm.

This was my first time really snapping waterfalls.  Botched a few settings, so looking forward to trying this again soon…

 Wallace Falls

 
We also encountered a surprising amount of snow above the falls—just past the warning sign saying only experienced hikers should proceed (complete with newspaper clipping about some teenagers who got lost). 

Anyway, we proved to be quite experienced.

Strollin' in the Snow

Astoria and Long Beach Razor Clamming

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We had a free night at a Red Lion Hotel to burn before the end of March, so we booked a night in Astoria, Oregon—near Long Beach, Washington where we'd do some razor clam digging.  This is all in the very northwestern corner of Oregon and southwestern corner of Washington.  Some pretty cool geography you can see in our route map:


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We drove down to Oregon on Saturday morning—the weather was horrible.  Nothing but wind and downpours.  So our trip to Fort Stevens State Park (marked B on the map) was a bit of a bust.  On a nice day we would have had great seabird viewing and even quite possibly whales.  For the most part it was too treacherous to even take out the camera—but we braved one shot with rain on the lens from the Astoria Column.

Making up a bit for the foul weather, lunch and dinner in Astoria were both home runs.  Bowpicker Fish & Chips served up fried albacore tuna in a batter much like the fried taro you get at dim sum.  Without any discussion we proclaimed it the best fish and chips we've ever had.  And for dinner we hit up the Columbian Cafe—this place holds maybe two dozen people in four booths and a lunch counter.  It's classic Pacific Northwest stuff, with a funky decor and a chef/owner you can watch in action cooking up all sorts of fresh and local fare.  We were in a piggy mood, so Lillie enjoyed their special blend of cured bacon and homemade fettuccine, and I ordered up some pork cheeks.  Wowza.  This is really a must go restaurant when in Astoria.

We then retired to our room at the Red Lion—which had a pretty nice view, actually.  It sits right on a marina overlooking the 4.5 mile bridge that takes you over to Washington.

View from the Red Lion Astoria

By 8:30am the next morning we were on the Long Beach Peninsula looking to find some razor clams.  We were shocked to realize it has been almost four years since we last did this.  Perhaps that showed as we only got five clams—two of which we mutilated during the dig.  Big props to Lillie who spotted four out of the five!  It was horribly windy out making for some poor conditions—and the clams were staying pretty far down making it difficult to find any of their shows.  Oh well…good times.  Plus Zizou got to munch on various ocean debris.

Always kinda cool just to park your car on the Pacific (Zizou looks like an Ewok or something):

And here's our relatively sad looking results at home before cleaning.  Must say they weren't so sad when fried up for dinner—delicious.  So delicious that I forgot to take a photo of the final product.

 

Klug-usamys go to Wenatchee

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This weekend, six people and three dogs piled into a giant Ford van fueled by vegetable oil in search of desert flowers.  Destinations were Beezley Hills outside of Quincy with an overnight in Wenatchee.

Roslyn Brewing Company is always a good stop along I-90 (fyi: Roslyn is where Northern Exposure was filmed):

Then after a snack from Arby's, we stopped at Beezley Hills in hopes of catching some wildflowers.  Probably a tad early for the big show, but good times nonetheless:

Mexican restaurants galore in Wenatchee, so we settled on El Fuente before retiring at the Econo Lodge for the night.  The next morning, just a few miles out of town we did a nice uphill hike in the Saddle Back area—really fantastic views of the town and river.

We recharged at the Anjou Bakery in Cashmere.  This is an absolute must if driving by on US-2—assuming artisan crafted bread and cheese is up your alley.  Then things got a little corny further down US-2 as we stopped at Munchen Haus in Leavenworth.  The town might not be quite our style, but it was a nice day, and we were able to sit in the Beer Garden with our dog(s).

(In case you were wondering, our fearless Veggie Van driver was Lillie’s brother, with his girlfriend and two dogs riding shotgun.  Lillie’s parents took the second row seats with an occasional granddoggie in lap.)

Black Canyon Wildflowers

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It was our last weekend at home with Zizou for the month, so today we set off to to check out some more wildflowers.

Black Canyon was the destination—about 25 miles outside of Ellensburg, WA on a sometimes paved, but mostly unpaved little road.  The last mile of road was especially rough.  You can see a bit of it in the below photo from the trailhead:

The hike itself was 6-miles round trip with about a 1,500 foot climb.  Two hours up and a quick hour back down.  The only snake we saw wasn't a rattler, so that's always a bonus in Central Washington.  Plus there were very few others out on the trail with us.  A very solid overall hike for this time of year.

An old homestead cabin off the trail:

Grass widows:

Sagebrush violets tucked into some ferns:

Shooting stars:

At the top are some nice vistas looking down to the town of Ellensburg.  Had we invested another ten minutes to pop over another ridge, we probably would have had a great view of Mount Rainier.  But it was rather chilly up there and we turned back.  Next time.

Cutthroat Pass

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This is the first in a series of belated posts after a busy (for us) August…

For many years, I've had my eye on this 11 mile one-way hike from Rainy Pass to Cutthroat Pass in the North Cascades.  It's snow free and hike-able for only a window of time in August/September, and this was finally the year we suckered some friends into doing it with us.

After needing my Matrix battery jumped (for the first time ever) outside the Mazama General Store, we started hiking at 3pm.  You might be thinking, "wow, that seems like a late start for an 11 mile hike".  And you would be correct.  But don't worry, we had TWO compasses packed.

At the top of the pass, it was pretty darn windy and chilly. It was a bit cloudy up there, so we were denied super scenic vistas but we did at least hear marmots whistling in the distance.  It's a very excellent hike across the board.  Here we are, in various states of fashion:

Descending from the top we met some campers who seemed quite concerned about seeing hikers in sandals and shorts towards the end of the day with 5 miles of hiking left in front of them.  They didn't know who they were talking to…

With the last drop of sunlight, we arrived at our shuttle Corolla.  Phew.  The bad part being that it was well after 9pm when we were back at camp, and we still needed to cook up dinner.  Good part Mark is a trooper and single handedly hooked up authentic (?) biryani in a single pot.

Meanwhile, Lillie was busy with important things like s'mores.

Labour Day Around Whistler

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The weather has been amazing out here the past several weeks.  Except, of course, for the long Labor Day weekend.  Dreams of camping and strenuous hiking were quickly dashed.  Luckily, we scored a great Plan B at a rustic townhome in Whistler courtesy of Mark and Jen (mostly Jen, though).

Saturday afternoon we went out for a stroll and came upon some canoe rentals at Alta Lake.  The weather was looking sorta clear so we rented a couple of them.  We had a nice little paddle across the lake and down a narrow river.

Photo courtesy of Mark & Jen

Zizou's enjoyment of the affair was questionable at times (he'd much rather be in the water).  Somehow, this is the third Labor Day in a row that we've all been on a watercraft together—powerboat in Tahoe 2007 and river raft in Idaho 2008 round out the list.

Photo courtesy of Mark & Jen

At this point it was time to cruise back up the river and back across the lake to the dock.  The only challenge was that the weather wasn't really cooperating with us.  While Mark and Jen are professional paddlers and just cruised right out of there, the competencies in the Klugusamy canoe left much to be desired.

The first three times we thought we were out of the mouth to the river and into the lake, the gale force winds quickly blew us backwards into some reeds.  There was much frustration and cursing in our canoe.  On the other hand, the always optimistic Zizou seemed to enjoy this windy part the most—he had his nose in the air just taking it all in.

After a brief time out and rational discussion of our game plan, we were back in the lake…phew.  Mark and Jen seemed to be relieved that we weren't forever lost.  And we were on our way back to the dock/rustic townhome.

Sunday took us to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park north of Pemberton, BC.  There are three alpine lakes on this supposedly excellent trail.  Sadly we only saw one of them, and it was all Zizou's fault.  Part of the trail is a huge rock scramble and it was a bit too nerve wracking watching him work his way through it, so we turned around.

Can only imagine what the upper and middle lakes look like because the lower one is just gorgeous.  Here Ziz took a swim while some random hooligans did some of the pot.

Back at the rustic townhome, I drank Baileys while Lillie and Jen made Red Lobster style biscuits, and Mark whipped up some soup from scratch.

Then Lillie ice grilled Jen while everyone else tried to have fun playing Taboo…

The rest of the Whistler trip was just more eating and sleeping.  Props again to Mark for playing chef.  A trip through Vancouver on the way home Monday wouldn't be complete without some Japanese food.  We hit up Motomachi Shokudo and it was awesome.  Here's my $10 pork ramen in a charcoal broth:

Great celebration of Labor/Labour.