Wonderland Trail Snow Outlook 2015

Glacier lillies already at Indian HenrysOne to two months ahead. Pretty much sums it up when it comes to this year's snow levels in most parts of the Cascades. Usually I take a trip up to Panhandle Gap in June or July and report on the snow conditions, but this year it hardly seems necessary. Yesterday my daughter and I took a jaunt to Indian Henry's Hunting Ground on the Wonderland trail, nestled in a picturesque area at 5400 feet. There were no snow patches until above 5000 feet and what remains is patchy and sparse, with depths of no more than a foot. If current warm weather trends continue, this snow will be gone in a matter of days. I dare say one could hike the Wonderland beginning in June and experience the same kind of conditions normally seen in late July. Problem areas may occur due to the lack of park personnel this early, as in facilities are not open and trail maintenance has not begun. Expect blow downs and possible river/creek crossings where the bridges have been washed out, although these will be high priority as soon as the crews get out. There is always a problematic area on the Wonderland below Martha Falls in the Stevens Canyon area that sees erosion and washout every year. Additionally, the steep areas on the trail between the North Puyallup camp and Klapatche park may be difficult to navigate if snow is still present. However, this can be bypassed if necessary by taking the St Andrews trail out of Klapatche Park and circumventing via the West Side Road to the North Puyallup camp. And of course the park service always issues navigation warnings concerning snow over Panhandle Gap. In a nutshell, anyone hiking the trail during the "usual" season starting in late June should enjoy snow free steps.

sparse snow at Indian Henrys and melting fast



Panasonic LX100 Initial Review

I finally pulled the trigger on the Panasonic LX100 after much consideration. I lugged a GH2, sometimes with good lenses but mostly with a pancake, on many a trip these past few years. Everything is a compromise and I needed a camera with a smaller form factor for backpacking. I'm probably like a lot of users, not quite point and shoot but not real savvy on the ins and outs of manual control. I know the basics of aperture and shutter speed but I'm sure I could get a lot more out of my camera, and consequently a lot better photos, if I spent some quality time with it. The LX100 is versatile enough that it begs further investigation into its guts. A quick search will bring up in depth reviews, but why do I like this camera?

• light weight, small form factor

• fixed lens/quality glass

• telephoto capability (albeit not much)

• macro capability (within 3cm)

• point and shoot if I want to

• full manual control when needed

• EVF (essential with the sun is blazing and reflecting off snow)

• decent sensor for low light

• 4K video

I haven't spent much time in the manual but have had a chance to take it out for a spin. If this is representative of your use, here's a sampling of photo, time lapse and video with no tweaking whatsoever beyond cropping. So far I am quite pleased and hope to up my photo game in the process.

Chandelierflower in greenflowersgreenerymoon over Seattleto seed

Seattle sunset


Camp Muir in 6 Minutes

Continuing this year's trend of hikes with conditions seemingly months ahead of the weather schedule, I left my skis at home to hike up to Camp Muir, the popular base camp for climbers at Mt. Rainier National Park. I wanted to test my legs on a good outing as I just underwent minor surgery and will not be able to hike, climb, or bike for weeks. I also wanted to make use of one of the new mounts I got for my GoPro, clipping it to my pack strap. With the camera set to take one photo per second, I departed Paradise (5400') and did a single push to Camp Muir (10,100') in 2 hours 55 minutes, only stopping once to change out the GoPro battery. Some other new equipment used on this journey: a Panasonic Lumix LX100 camera and a 3 liter Geigerrig pressurized bladder. The weather was sublime and I was comfortable, sometimes even sweltering, in just a base layer and a windshirt. Very much like a hike in June or July. After arriving at Muir I lounged, ate lunch and took photos, chatting it up with a HS friend of my daughter's who just happened to be there with her dad. On the way down the conditions were too sloppy for a good plunge step and I found myself sinking up to my knees on occasions higher up, but this goes with the territory. My footwear consisted of Inov8 running shoes (GoreTex lined) and some gaiters. One might get the impression from the time lapse that this is a benign hike, but the weather can turn nasty higher on this mountain and people have perished on the Muir snow field in years past. Hikers, exercise caution and good sense, especially when it comes to sun protection! But if you have ever wondered what this hike is all about, take the 6 minute journey.

view from Anvil Rocktypical Conga Line on the Muir snow field

Camp Muir public shelter entranceon the drive: Alder Lake early morning


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.

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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


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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.

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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.

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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 the time I realize you are in trouble it would have been over a week?

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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.

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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.