Category Archives: Outdoors

Margaret’s Way

I hiked Margaret’s Way yesterday.

As is the case each time I hike this trail, I remember with fondness and gratitude former trail colleague and outdoors advocate Margaret Macleod. For over 20 years, Margaret was the Interagency Trails Coordinator for King County, City of Issaquah, and Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Through her persistence and talent for bringing people together, hundreds of acres of open space have been preserved for wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation just minutes from Seattle.

It wasn’t so long ago that the land traversed by Margaret’s Way was a private campground. When the campground became history, the land was acquired for timber harvest. Thanks to some quick action by local citizens, King County and the Trust for Public Land, the acreage was purchased and saved for public use and as a wildlife area.

The 216 acres were incorporated into the Cougar/Squak Corridor Park and was officially opened to the public in 2015 with the opening of Margaret’s Way trail. It was the perfect tribute to a woman who spent much of her life preserving open space for the next generation.

I know that nothing is permanent in our world. A puppy today, a dog tomorrow. Sleepy suburb 20 years ago, today a metropolis. I hope, though, that our public lands are more than a temporary status. The faster our cities grow and technology evolves, the more we need close-to-home wild spaces that help us connect to nature.

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Turn your face to the sun

I recently spent a week backpacking in a remote region of the Washington Cascades. My hiking partner and I were on the trail for three days before we encountered another soul. Now that’s some solitude.

We rose each morning and looked eastward for the sun. There were wildfires burning north of us in Canada and sometimes our early sunshine was smoke-hazy. On this particular morning, the last day of our trip, Steve faced the sun and saluted it with this yoga pose.

Meeting nature on her terms can be a humbling experience. I am reminded how small I am in the world and how vulnerable we humans are in a wild, natural environment. But immersing myself in this wild place is also renewing and uplifting. Time spent in the great outdoors clears my head and nourishes my spirit.

An Outside Kind of Day

If you read Outside Magazine, they often feature Outside weekends. These are packed, multi-sport affairs at some awesome destination and include sampling local food and craft beers at some hip joint.

Yesterday, I managed to pack an Outside weekend into a day.

bike-pugetsoundMy morning began with a meeting with my supervisor. The weather was overcast, dry and mild, so I packed my laptop in my pannier and pedaled to a local coffee shop–our meeting spot.

We reviewed this week’s work and discussed upcoming projects over our morning java. My caffeine beverage of choice was a double-shot soy latte. Mmmm!

Our meeting wrapped up a little before noon, so I decided to take the scenic route back home. I pedaled along the shores of Puget Sound, taking in the sounds of ferries, seagulls and passing conversations of pedestrians. The air was fresh and held a hint of saltiness.

I made the climb back up to my neighborhood, stopping at a quiet viewpoint. There was too much cloud cover to see the Olympic Mountains but I did get views of Bainbridge and Blake Islands.

It was back to work for a few hours until Steve arrived home for the day.

“Let’s do something,” he said. “What do you want to do?”

“Let’s go to the mountains,” I announced.

spring skiWe grabbed our nordic skis and packs and took off for Snoqualmie Pass where we were greeted by sunshine and warm temperatures. Excellent choice! I donned my sunglasses but left my jacket and gloves in the pack.

The snow was soft and, in spite of the rain that fell earlier in the week, pleasant to ski. We went swish-gliding down the trail.

We traveled quietly, stopping frequently to take in nature. The air was fresh and scented with trees. Birds entertained us with a chorus of chirps and songs. The sun warmed our faces.

We skied for several hours and only encountered one other couple on the trails. That’s a rare experience in this winter recreation corridor heavily used by residents of Pugetopolis.

In no hurry to return to the city, we swung into The Commonwealth at Snoqualmie Pass. We snagged seats with a window view of Guye Peak and Mount Snoqualmie, chowed on some great pub fare and quaffed some tasty locally brewed Dru-Bru. It was the perfect ending to my Outside day!

The seasons, they are a’changing

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After a busy week of work, I escaped the urban hubbub for a quiet afternoon ski in the mountains.

Winter wonderland! Or so I thought. Yes, there was still plenty of snow and clouds clung to the surrounding peaks. But there were small, but vivid, signs that winter had given notice to vacate and spring was preparing to move in.

The first telltale sign was the temperature. The air was chilly, but not cold. It didn’t take me long to remove my jacket and ski with only my long-sleeved wool top. I stopped yet again to remove my hat.

Snow and ice is the norm in deep winter in the mountains. But on this day, I was aware of water. The snow was soft and slushy at the trailhead. The trees were drippy as snow slowly melted and fell from their limbs. I listened to the soft “thumps” in the woods as nearby trees released snow bombs.

The distant sound of water tumbling over rocks became louder. Soon I was a crossing a creek on a bridge. A few weeks prior, this creek would have been buried under snow. I spied a watery hole in the once frozen solid lake.

I noticed bugs! There was an occasional flying one and I spotted small bugs crawling on the snow’s surface every time I stopped for a break.

It was after five o’clock when I finished my ski and, despite the overhead layer of clouds, there was still ample light in the sky. Yet another sign that the seasons are changing. As I toss my skis into the Outback, I am looking forward to my next mountain outing and wonder what new changes I will observe.

Vivid

bike-sunrise

As a bicyclist, the desired road taken is often the road less traveled.

Not the case with Mount Rainier’s Sunrise Road.  This classic national park road is narrow and twisty as it winds upward 3000 feet to Sunrise Park (elevation 6400 feet) and an in-your-face view of the mountain. In the summer, this road is also clogged with vehicles and looky-loo tourists–not so pleasant for a bike ride.

However, there’s a brief window of opportunity in May/June when the park service plows the snow off the road but keeps the gate closed to vehicular traffic. This in-between period before the upper elevation is opened for the summer season is a cyclist’s dream. It’s an opportunity to bike Sunrise Road car-free!

The Road Taken

A Tube of Lip Balm Saves the Ski Day

We hightailed it to the Methow Valley last weekend for a few days of skiing. What fun it was!

ski-the-loupWe spent our first day alpine skiing at low key and family-friendly Loup Loup Ski Bowl. The only chair lift leisurely carried us to the top of Little Buck Mountain and, on this day, above the fog layer blanketing the valley floor. We had the pleasure of skiing many runs alone–a rarity at the ski resorts on the west slopes of the Cascades.

Steve and I love the atmosphere at The Loup. It’s a community ski hill that is operated by a nonprofit, volunteer driven organization. Locals glow with pride when we tell them we made the trip from Seattle to ski their hill. And the skiing is worthy!

The next day we slapped on our skinny skis for some cross-country touring. With over 200 kilometers of groomed trails, the Methow Valley is home to the largest Nordic ski trail system in the nation. The trail network is adeptly managed by the nonprofit Methow Trails. This is what draws many to the valley in winter.

img_0447We opted to ski the trails at Sun Mountain to avoid an organized Nordic event that was using other portions of the trail network. I guess other folks had the same idea as the trailhead was a party. But we didn’t have to ski too far before the skiers thinned out and we had some quiet time on the trails. Snow fell quietly and an occasional critter scampered by as we skied up and down the rolling terrain. It was a pleasant afternoon.

On our last day, we awoke to a mix of rain and snow in the valley so we decided to drive up to Loup Loup Pass and ski the groomed Nordic trails at the South Summit Sno-Park. Several inches of wet snow had fallen and it was still falling. We could tell that the trails had not been groomed in a week or more, but we were game for a ski.

The wet snow stuck to the climbing scales on the bottom of my skis and pretty soon I wasn’t gliding. I stopped to search my backpack for some ski wax. Bummer! I didn’t have any with me.

“Do you have a tube of lip balm?” asked Steve.

I did! I pulled the Blistex out of my pack and handed it to Steve. He knocked the sticky snow off my skis, then rubbed the waxy lip balm over the scales. I was gliding again!

The lip balm is no substitute for ski wax as the snow started to stick again at times, but it saved my ski day and I was able to finish my ski tour.

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White River and Its Fatal Fish Trap

white-river-emmons-glacier

Mount Rainier National Park is one of my favorite outdoor places and, on a recent hike there, I captured this stunning view of the headwaters of the White River as it flows out of the Emmons Glacier.

Water is essential for life on Earth. We cannot survive without it. Sixty to seventy percent of our body weight is from water. It delivers and dissolves nutrients, cleanses and flushes out toxins, and promotes growth.

Humans aren’t the only form of life reliant upon water. The White River is a spawning ground for several species of wild salmon and home for other fish populations. Yet this life source for fish is also a fatal fish trap. In 2014 American Rivers placed the White River on its list of Endangered Rivers.

The cause: the deteriorating Buckley Dam which lies miles downstream of its headwaters at Mount Rainier. The antiquated structure has an outdated and decrepit fish trap that, instead of facilitating fish passage, is killing thousands of them.

The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the upkeep of the dam. American Rivers and its partners have called upon the agency to agency to modernize the structure by 2017 in order to avoid another massive fish kill. Learn more here.