Search

Wonderland Trail planning? Along with my blog entry, take a 27 minute panoramic tour of the Wonderland on my Music page.

Wednesday
Feb252015

Return to Enchanted Valley/Olympic National Park

Enchanted Valley chalet rests on new spotA topic of discussion last year was the migrating Quinault River and how it had undercut the foundation of the historic Enchanted Valley Chalet. Read my trip report here on that April 7th, 2014 trip. The chalet was moved about a hundred feet from that position and is now safe from toppling into the river, at least temporarily. With still warm temps and a sunny Sunday (2/22/15) forecast, I decided to pop out to the Olympics and revisit the Enchanted Valley and snap some pix. This classic rain forest hike is longish in distance (26 miles roundtrip) but benign in elevation gain and loss, but what makes it a bear is the almost 4 hour drive, one way, to the trailhead from my house. Just like last year, I had to put in a 20 hour day. However, I further complicated matters by noticing that some critical items were missing from my pack when I stopped to adjust things about a mile into the hike. Worrying that I had left these items back at the trailhead or the vehicle, I backtracked to check, to no avail. Turns out I had left them at home while repacking, so with now a 28 mile day ahead of me I set off once again. The lack of snow on the trail is not unusual because of the lower elevation, but I enjoyed a 2 layer day on an uncrowded trail (saw 2 hikers all day), stopping to snap shots of ferns growing out of moss covered trees and occasional blow down scrambling and mud hopping, the usual results of winter rains and winds before annual trail maintenance. When I arrived at the Chalet I lingered for maybe 30 minutes snapping pix and enjoying the day, but cognizant of the remaining 13 miles back to the vehicle and another 4 hour drive home. The chalet is resting on its moving accoutrements of steel beams and wooden blocks, waiting for a more permanent resting spot, if indeed one is available on this ever shifting eroding flood plain. The river is running straight again rather than the turn it took by the chalet to undercut the foundation, but who knows what future path it will take? Now it seems I rather enjoy coming here on off season times and perhaps might even spend a night sometime, if I can sit still long enough.

steel beams and wooden blocksthe eroding Enchanted Valleytypical moss covered tree on trailjolly green giant

Thursday
Feb192015

Summerland 2/18/15

Summerland is an extremely popular hike in Mt. Rainier National Park during....the summer. It offers spectacular views and is under 10 miles for the roundtrip. Winter is a whole different animal; usually. The Pacific Northwest is "enjoying" very mild weather and low snow accumulations. I wanted to see firshand what was up so a trip to Summerland was in order. However, access is limited as HW 410 is closed from the Crystal Mountain turnoff, meaning that access to this area of the park is usually limited to snomobiles or people on snowshoes or skins willing to trek 9 miles into the park just to access the trailhead. For me it was a matter of mounting my mountain bike and enjoying snow free roads until less than half a mile from the trailhead. The following shots are frame grabs from video I took a week earlier when I checked out the road with my buddy.

HW 410 gate closurejunction for White River park entrance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

overflow on road

ditritis before the gateWhen I hit the trail I knew that the lower portion was mostly snow free but really didn't know what to expect as I ascended. What my feet found were isolated patches of snow all the way to the bridge crossing of Fryingpan Creek at 5000 feet and then continuous snow from that point. There were faint tracks, probably made by a couple of skiers from the prior weekend, and I followed these until I disagreed with their route, ascending a steep gully. I descended and explored until I found a suitable crossing of a feeder creek and from that point it was fairly straightforward and easy travel up the valley. The actual trail to Summerland ascends via switchbacks but when snow is present it is much easier to simply go up the valley and curve left to Summerland. The snow conditions couldn't have been better, with just enough grip and give to walk upward. In fact, the snow was so amenable to boot work that I was able to run my route in reverse on the way back. I trudged upward in an arc to about 6000 feet where it was easy to cross a gulley and then made a descending beeline for the Summerland shelter. Although snow covered the entire area, the depth is rather low, with no tree wells to speak of in Summerland. What with the warm temperatures and sunlit day, this hike reminded me of a late June or early July trip. I basked in the sun for a leisurely lunch and trotted back to the trailhead, all the while marveling that it was mid February and I was dressed in but a base layer and a wind shirt. With the favorable conditions the speed of the hike was also summerlike: I started the bike at 8 AM, hit the trail at 9:30, had lunch from noon to 12:30 and was back at the trailhead by 2 PM. After another snack break and with only a few hundred feet of climbing on the bike out of the park to the junction with HW 410, the downhill romp to my vehicle had me done at 3 PM. This was a 28 mile trip (18 biking) with 3800 feet of elevation gain. The fact that this was doable on February 18th is what makes it remarkable. Now, we need some snow!

Summerland trail shot above 3000'Summerland trail shot above 4000'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

looking back on ascending printsSummerland shelter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt. Rainier from the valley

Monday
Feb092015

Wonderland Trail Primer: 2015

Wonderland Trail/Spray ParkThis is the time of year where people are making plans for potential trips, so I wanted to share some points about Wonderland Trail planning as I get lots of the same questions over the next few months from people perusing my site.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jan192015

Beyond Clothing: Outdoor Technical Wear

Beyond Clothing sign at Seattle retail storeThe people at Beyond Clothing in Seattle have sat down with me on at least 3 occasions and spent their valuable time talking about the company, showing me around, and treating me like a VIP when I'm anything but.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan012015

DeLorme InReach: Invaluable

position reports sent from the Pasayten WildernessI had been putting off purchasing a satellite communicator for a few years as I just didn't see the need until my daughter and I planned a trip in 2014 to Washington's Pasayten Wilderness for 8 days. My wife would have no contact with us for over 9 days, and questions arise like, at what point do I get worried? At what point do I call someone? What if something happens to you on day 2....by the time I realize you are in trouble it would have been over a week?

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Dec312014

A Frozen Farewell to 2014

With my daughter back from school for the holidays we managed to get in a couple more hikes before we say farewell to 2014, once again taking advantage of excellent weather for the Pacific Northwest: clear and cold.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Dec072014

Willis Wall Year in Review: 2014

Following last year's "Willis Wall Snippets: 2013" and "Happy Holidays from Gossamer Gear" I decided to start an annual review/Holiday message, incorporating video and photos I've had the pleasure to collect over this past year. Here's wishing all readers a Wonderland Holiday season and best wishes for 2015.

Thursday
Dec042014

ZPacks Arc Slim review

Arc Slim on the Wonderland TrailA natural tendency when one acquires a new piece of gear is to share one's excitement, perhaps via blog. I try to wait until I have enough experience with a piece of equipment before I do an actual review, and an appropriate amount of time has passed to render an opinion on the ZPacks Arc Slim pack. I've put a few hundred miles on the pack, including a full day of drenching rains. In a nutshell, not too shabby.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Dec022014

ZPacks Duplex Tent review

campsite above Ross Lake, WAWell, I've used the ZPacks Duplex for a year now with enough time to render some observations. To qualify, I am not talking many nights, as I use a number of different shelter systems depending on the trip. Probably the best test was this year's Pasayten Wilderness hike with my daughter where we spent 8 nights out. That said, my general impressions are this may be as close to the ideal backpacking tent as a manufacturer can come. The reasons?

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Nov232014

2 Rare Transition Hikes

DeLorme map with position report timesHIKE 1: (12 miles/3000')

When I write rare, I mean the opportunity to do a great hike in weather that seasonally is not so cooperative. For October, this turned out to be on the 19th. My daughter was home for a few days from school and was craving a taste of North West outdoors, it didn't matter if it was in rain, she just wanted to get out. Staying within a two hour drive, we traveled to Mt. Rainier National Park to try something new, a loop hike starting at Mowich Lake that would take us up above 7000 feet with a possible summit of Observation Rock if time allowed.

Click to read more ...