Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rampart Ridge 5870'

    I again wasn't in the mood for an epic adventure so something familiar seemed like the best choice. I have been up the fisherman's trail to Lake Lillian a few times and I love the area of Rampart Lakes in Fall. I toyed with running all the way to East Alta but in the end I opted for a return to the Rampart Ridge Hi-Point. Exit 54 was open which I wasn't sure would be the case. There is however plenty of road work so keep a wary eye for workers and trucks. Once past the construction the road is in passable shape. I left the main line at the second switchback where I kept heading straight instead of following the mainline. In past years this road has had plenty of encroaching brush. Today the road was in much better shape saving the paint job on the old Subaru. Once the road makes a big bend there is plenty of parking.

I was a bit surprised to see a few cars. After suiting up I was off the trail starts flat but soon climbs steeply to a junction with Lake Laura the right junction continues to climb steeply until it joins the trail coming from Mt Margaret. A short ways later in flattens out and you can see Lake Lillian. In the past I tried making my way along the South shore but it is slabby and a slip would result in falling in the lake. Instead of making my way to the lake I headed East and climbed on good tread to make my way around the unpleasant slab traverse. After 100' of climb you can drop back down to lake level and continue towards the Northern Shore. The trail again splits with one staying near lake level to a nice campsite on the North Shore. I instead climbed steeply to gain the ridgeline above the lake. Once reaching the ridge the trail wanders through some nice tarns and meadows. The views are nice despite the smokey air.

   Once I reached another junction I decided to head up instead of dropping to the uppermost Rampart Lake. The trail is in good shape and spits you out onto the summit ridge. Once on the ridge I headed West to reach the highpoint. The summit is guarded from a direct ascent by some airy steps to reach easier ground.. I had hoped that the dog would stay below me becasue I wasn't sure if he could make it both up and down unscathed. Not feeling good about continuing I backed down and dropped pack in the warm sun. After a short break I thought I could drop down a bit a traverse to the Northern side on some nice ledges. This proved to be fruitful as I was able to find easier dog friendly scrambling. Once reaching the summit the views to Snoqualmie Pass are pretty cool.

  I retraced my steps back to my pack and relaxed a bit before the knee jarring descent back to the car. Just North of the lake I passed a couple of nice guys heading up. After a short conversation I made it back down to lake level.


  The ballance of the trip was hard on the old knees but I quickly made it back to the car. I was hoping to give myself plenty of time to return home to watch the Seahawks take on the Packers on Monday Night Football.

Approx. 5 miles 2700' of climb 3:45 car to car

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Smokey Mt Persis 9.17.12

   Back from my multiple vacations and settling into my new work schedule I was finally  back into a routine. I was eager to get out and summit something. Despite the stellar weather I wasn't looking for an all day affair. I hadn't been up Persis and since it included in the Homecourt 100 I had a worthy goal. I managed to get out of the house and make my way to Forest road 62 which I followed until it branches just before the concrete bridge around 4 miles in. The spur I took is rough but the Subaru had no issues. After a few miles the road again forks and I took the left spur heading up. Once reaching a switchback the trail head isn't much further. There is enough parking for around 4 cars and the trail starts a few feet past the parking spot. There was one other car parked as I suited up. The weather was ideal, maybe a touch too warm. The smoke drifting West from the fires in Eastern Washington was thick.

    The trail thankfully was mostly shaded in the late morning. I didn't know what to expect from the trail but for the most part it is steep but in much better shape than what I had expected. The first mile is the steepest but once reaching the higher slopes the grade relents. Not knowing the trail made route finding a bit more difficult. I ended up heading too high on the ridge topping out on 5017' . The pup was having some trouble with the boulderfield so I had to backtrack to help him navigate. While he has been over many rockslides, most where have been covered with snow. I bashed my way along the brushy ridge until I was able to find the trail that traverses beneath the ridge. Just below the tarns I passed a nice couple and their two dogs. Just after passing them I found a nice cool shady spot to let the dog cool. After the dogs had had some time to cool I made my way to the tarn a short ways above me. Thankfully there was still plenty of cool water along with some substantial snow. Thankfully the dog was able to drink his fill.

   I again had some navigating issues heading too far East and having to backtrack to find the trail. I reached the smoky summit in short order. The views were mostly blocked with the thick smoke. It sure seems like a long way down to Hy 2 far below the summit. I was able to get some nice peeks at the Index complex, making it even more apparent that I will have much difficulty finishing the Homecourt 100. After a short stay and some nice conversation with the couple I had passed earlier I retreated back to my shady spot below the tarns. Surprisingly the bugs were quite bothersome. Between a few horseflies and the swarms of small flies I didn't manage as much relaxing as I had hoped. Growing weary of swatting flies I headed back. The portion of the trail that traverses went much quicker since I was able to easily follow it. The steeper portion was taxing on the knees but I managed to make it out without any missteps.

A perfect fit on this beautiful September day.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Lake Pend Oreille, Scotchman Peak 7009'

After last month's stellar week long trip to Seaside I went back to work for all of 3 days before heading out on another family adventure. One of my closest friends had bought an auction item to stay in a lakeside home on Lake Pend Oreille. I was stoked when he asked if we would like to join them for 5 nights. I didn't know a thing about the lake including how to pronounce it. I did some research and found that it is a massive lake that provides trophy fishing for 11 species of fish. While I had a great time at the beach, I am much more at home at a mountain lake. After getting off very late on Friday night I wasn't able to sleep, so I was concerned with the long 5+ hour drive to the house.  We met in North Bend and topped off with coffee. I drove my friend and my wife and kids drove with his wife and kids. The time passed very quickly with some great converstaton to help us get caught up. I had no idea where we were headed so I just followed behind without a care in the world.

    I was excited when we reached the long bridge that leads to Sand Point, we must be close? The sheer size of this lake is amazing since it took another 30 minutes before we reached or house. When we pulled in I was in awe. The house was huge and it exceeded my expectations in every way. I think we could have added another 10 people and still been comfortable.  Instead of unpacking we all toured the house with sheer awe. I had to laugh when we made our way downstairs to find the "man cave" There were stuffed deer heads everywhere. The capper was a full size elk that was stuffed and was standing in an area that was made to look like a forest scene. While this certainly isn't my style it gave us all a great laugh and made us all feel like this was going to be a great trip. There was also a 50 foot dock that floated over some very promising looking water. After unpacking and settling in Joe and I made our way out to throw some flies. As good as the water looked nothing of note was hooked.

   Joe and I went into town to get supplies. I was shocked at the amount of stuffed fish I saw. This lake produces the biggest trout I have ever seen. Everywhere we went there are trophy fish on display. We had an immense amount of fun shopping, enjoying each person we met along the way. I think we both had a sense that this was going to be a memorable trip. After returning we had a wonderful dinner and family time.

  The next day was spent fishing, no luck for Joe and I. My youngest daughter was the only one who could manage to hook anything. Tears welled in my eyes when I say such joy in her eyes when she was able to land some small pikeminnows in her "honey spot". The wives left later that day to explore Sandpoint. I was overwhelmed with joy when my oldest was doing laps swimming from shore to the end of the dock and then would run back to do it again. After 8 laps I asked her is she wanted me to time her. She was so happy to push the pace and after posting a great time she wanted to do it again to see if she could do it faster. We both were beaming when her 10th lap was indeed the fastest. Evidently my daughter is more like me that either of us was aware.

   Luckily we found out that Silverwood last day was Labor Day. I had already purchased passes and we had intended on using them on Tuesday.  I am not a big water park fan so I decided to pursue something more pleasing to me. I had done some research and found Scotchman Peak was only 30 minutes away. It was a stout 3700' climb and boasted being the county highpoint as well as more than 4000' of prominence. This was a perfect target for me. After the family left for Silverwood I left with the detraction that I would be climbing alone. We couldn't take the family dog on this trip despite how well behaved he is. While I travel solo most often, I can think of only a few times where I haven't had the company of a dog.  After topping off of supplies in Clark Fork I headed up Lightning Creek Road and then took the Mosquito Creek road and followed the signs for Trail 65. There was one fork with no sign and I headed right. This of course was not the right way and after 4 miles I turned around. The trailhead was packed. I got out of the car and immediately stepped in a pile of crap. Not sure who or what had left it but it wasn't the start I had hoped for.  After doing my best to clean my shoes I geared up.

  The weather was ideal as I made it up the good trail. The trail is not overly steep but it does cover the 3700' of gain in less than 4 miles. Soon I was able to see portions of Lake Pend Oreille. I tried to keep the pace as high as I could. My brother introduced me to an app on my phone called Strava that enable you to time your climb and rank yourselves against others. While there was only one other who had done the climb, I really wanted to better their time. Soon the summit block comes into view and it is quite impressive. Once reaching the upper slopes I was stymied by a group of mountain goats who were intent on not letting my pass. I was very wary when one approached me and had malice in his eyes. This goat continued around behind me adding to my uneasiness since I was now surrounded.  I decide to climb above the trail and then go around and drop back to the trail. Thankfully the goats only followed me for a short ways before losing interest. While I will never be sure if I was indeed in peril, I will say that it was the scariest animal encounter I have ever had. I really pushed the pace wanting put some distance between myself and the goats. Soon I reached the summit where the wind had picked up. There was a solo on the summit but I wanted to eat my lunch lower on slopes out of the wind. I found a nice windbreak at 6800' and ate a well deserved lunch. I was also happy that I had beaten the posted time by 8 minutes. The descent went very quickly and I passed many of the people who I had crossed paths with on the ascent. If in the area I really recommend this one it is well worth the effort.

   The next day we had slated a rental of a pontoon boat for the day. Joe and I went out for a couple of hours eager to try our hands against the trophies we were sure to hook. I wasn't even dismayed when the boat renter told us that Summer is the worst time for big fish. After throwing out my rig I hooked into a nice 14' rainbow. I was set for a memorable day. Too bad that was the only fish we were to land on this day.   We trolled back to the house and marvelled at all the monster homes along the way. Evidently there are many with much more means than either Joe or I. We picked up the rest of the family and headed out for a 5 hour tour of the lake. The ladies were even more thrilled with the houses we saw. We all enjoyed swimming and generally catching the sights. Even though I tried hard I wasn't able to land anything. The sting of the disappointment was tempered by the great time we all had. After returning the the family we made one last stab at catching some fish and were only able to land a few small ones.

  The next day we decide to take a walk from the house to a trailhead near an area park. I was able to find the trailhead despite having very little to go on. We took the trail until we reached a junction where the trail splits with one going to a grave. Unable to throttle our curiosity we headed to the grave site. The grave was for a couple who had  donated the land in which the park was located.  I googled the names and was able to read the group the particulars. I was happy to show my kids why it is important to give back when you are abundantly blessed. After returning to the trailhead we continued on to the park and enjoyed some quality time skipping rocks and enjoying the beach.   When we returned the girls headed into town while Joe and I continued our assault on the fish. I grew weary of catching small ones and let Joe have free reign of the dock. I had a feeling that he would hook into something worthwhile. Joe let out a shout when he saw a big fish. I tried to make my way to the end of the dock as quietly as possible so not to spook the fish. Joe pointed in the water directly in line with his fly line. I shouted "strip your line" and Joe was rewarded with a strike. He landed the 20+ inch Pikeminnow. It was a great way to end the day. I couldn't have scripted it any better.

   We met the rest of family for a mostly disappointing meal in Sandpoint. I was excited when I asked the hostess how she was when we arrived and she stated that she was excited for the evening's impending storm. As we ate our dinner the wind and clouds steadily increased in force. By the time we made it home it was blowing 30 miles and hour with higher gusts.  This steadily increased as the night wore on. In fact the ladies wouldn't sit front of the bay windows because they were flexing so much. The power briefly went out but thankfully returned after a short time. To me this was a fitting end for our last night. I love storms and I couldn't have asked for a better one.

   With heavy hearts we packed up and cleaned the house. I think everyone was very sad to have to leave. We went into Sandpoint to have lunch together before the long drive home. I decided to head home on HY 2 instead of the way we had come. Initially this was great because it is a beautiful drive. However the last 8 miles to reach I-90 are all traffic lights adding considerable amount of time. This didn't have a bit of effect on the home arrival time because we were stuck in the I-90 closure for blasting before Snoqualmie Pass. I was not aware that they are doing closures on Thursday's. This waiting really sapped me and I struggled with the balance of the driving.

   As was the case with our Seaside trip we all hope to return next year.

Magnolia Hill (WA) Saddle and Hum Bug Mountains (Oregon)

At the end of last month my family and I were treated with a week long stay in Seaside to help celebrate my parents anniversary. To help with the festivities where my brother and his family, my cousin and her husband, my sister and her daughter, my cousin from Germany with her husband and kids and my favorite uncle from Germany. This plan had been in the works for 15 months and while I was never sure what my work situation would be I committed to attending the whole week. I was really looking forward to this trip for some time. Finally the time had come to leave but first we had to head up to Magnolia to allow my wife to finish one last job before we were to set sail. I wasn't enthused with heading the wrong direction to start but the fact that my wife was going to get a nice check made this more tolerable. Once arriving in Magnolia I took the kids and the dog for a walk allowing her the opportunity to work unbothered. I hadn't thought of any destination but as always I look to go up hill. It hit me soon after departing that there must be some hill in Magnolia. I googled it and sure enough Magnolia hill was very close. I was excited to share a unexpected peakbagging opportunity with my children before we even left town. For me life is all about the small things and this was in my opinion a stellar way to start my first family vacation in many years.

     The drive down was a bit uncomfortable because I had to shoehorn all the gear in the back and allow some room for the dog. I was overjoyed that we could bring the dog which was very unexpected. As has been the case he has exceeded my expectations in each situation that he has been in. He was well behaved and was endearing to everyone he came across on this trip. The kids were well behaved for their first road trip and soon we found ourselves in sunny Seaside. While their where plenty of us, thankfully we weren't all there for the entire week giving us more than enough space. I couldn't believe the weather, sunny, warm and not a breath of wind.

    The first day I had dedicated to spending time with the family on the beach. It was a joy to see my two girls playing in the surf with their older German cousins. It is nice to see my girls experiencing life's joys without trepidation. After I grew weary of making sand castles I went in to get my feet out of the sun. Evidently the fact they had never seen sun before made them ripe for burning. I decided that the rest of this day was best spent in  a sun kissed chair with a healthy Bourbon. I had a wonderful conversation with my Uncle and just relaxed.

   I had hoped to sneak out at least one day to stretch my legs. Before leaving I had done some research and after arriving in Oregon I had done some more. Each time I came up with Saddle Mountain. It was only about 40 minutes from the house and looked to have some substantial climb. I quickly made it to the trailhead and leashed the dog. I  soon made it to the junction with Hum Bug Peak and decided to that one first. It is only a couple of minutes to the top and it does provided some nice views of my next objective of Saddle Peak. I descended back to the main trail and started towards Saddle Mountain. The tail was in good shape and I passed quite a few parties, which was a bit of  surprise since it was midweek. The upper portions of the trail are quite rocky. To combat erosion there are long portions that are covered with meshed link, similar to a chain linked fence. This does a nice job of keeping the smaller rocks in place and giving stellar traction. In fact on the descent the traction is so good that I had some discomfort in my knees the next day. I attributed this to the fact that my feet were gripping so well. I thought it was similar to athletes who get turf toe on astroturf. There are some substantial ups and downs adding to the elevation gain. Once on top the views were great. I could see the Columbia River, Astoria and much of the Northern Coast of Oregon. I didn't stay long and was able to retrace my steps. I gave some thought of tagging the Eastern Saddle Peak but I thought I would leave that for my next visit.

   The balance of the trip was most memorable and everyone involved (except the visiting Germans) to make a return visit next year. I was most impressed with Seaside, it was clean, friendly and just a lot of fun. We walked nearly everywhere we went. Over the weekend the Mt Hood to Sea relay run was finishing and the town was a zoo. I don't know how many teams where involved but we saw a steady stream of contestants finishing for more than 12 straight hours. The festivities concluded with a fireworks display on the beach which as everything else this week greatly exceeded my expectations.

   Very sadly we packed Monday morning and had breakfast out before the long trip home. I decided to cross the Astoria Bridge on the way home. I thought the kids would find it interesting. What ever interest was subdued by the considerably longer drive on the Washington side to reach Longview.

Simply a wonderful trip filled with many great memories. After coming home I worked for 3 nights before my family's next great adventure. For that you will have to read in another post.


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