Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hiking Mt. Rainier: Burroughs Mountain

"It's a five-wow day!" says my friend Mark as we're pulling into the Sunrise parking lot on Mt. Rainier. With blue skies overhead, a pleasant 70-ish degrees, and a day of hiking ahead, it doesn't get much better.

For maximum wow-ness, hiking up Burroughs Mountain on a bluebird day is ideal. This is my third time hiking up to Third Burroughs (beyond First and Second Burroughs to the trail's end), and each trip has been equally brilliant.

At elevation 6,400 feet on the northeast side of Rainier (which reaches 14,410 feet), Sunrise is higher and less visited than Paradise on the other side of the mountain. While several trails start and intersect here, the Burroughs Mountain trail goes the highest and closest to the jumble of crevasse-riddled glaciers on the mountain's flanks.

Even views from the parking lot are spectacular. A few weeks ago there, a visiting monk from Asia asked a friend to snap a shot of him sitting cross-legged on the pavement with Rainier in the background.

"If you don't have an ice axe and can't self arrest, the park is telling people not to hike up the Burroughs Mountain trail," says the friendly volunteer at the main trailhead. "There's snow on the trail and the potential for a dangerous slide down onto rocks."

I know they're being extra cautious. However, a couple minutes later we ask some hikers coming down the trail if they went up Burroughs.

"Yea, it's doable."

As we head up the dusty trail from Sunrise towards Frozen Lake and Burroughs beyond, we're definitely not alone. On a beautiful summer weekend, people from all over the USA and the world are out there with us Washingtonians.

Pretty much the whole trail beyond the initial stretch from Sunrise has sweeping, panoramic views. In about 1.5 miles we reach a junction just beyond Frozen Lake, and follow several other hikers on up First Burroughs.

When we arrive at the first patch of snow across the trail, it does indeed look a little dicey. I intentionally don't look down as I carefully tread on the slick, narrow track. I'm glad for my hiking poles, even though they mark me as a terminally unhip oldster.

The second and third snow crossings are shorter and easier, and soon we're atop the table-like summit of First Burroughs, with Second Burroughs not far ahead.

Atop First Burroughs

On a brilliant day like today, there's a festive atmosphere atop Second Burroughs. Everyone stops here for a break to revel in the splendid views, maybe snack and sip more water. At 6 miles roundtrip back to Sunrise, this used to be the turnaround point for most hikers, but today a steady stream is continuing on toward Third Burroughs.

Atop Second Burroughs, with Third Burroughs in the distance to the right.
After reaching elevation 7,400 feet on Second Burroughs, the trail drops about 500 feet down to a short plateau before the final, much steeper slog about 900 feet up to Third Burroughs at 7,820 feet. And today there's a significant snowfield over the trail. Onward.

Reminds me of trekking in the Himalayas
Slip-sliding up the steep snowfield is not fun. Some people were smart and brought slip-on traction for their boots. I'm lagging on the last few switchbacks before the summit, partly due to the intense sun reflecting off the high elevation snow (which gives me a bad sunburn on the back of my knees). Have I mentioned I'm a total heat wimp?

"Do you want to stop?" says Mark, being solicitous.

"I'm NOT coming this far and stopping," I shoot back, trudging up.

And then suddenly there we are, on a ridge that looks like you could hop and skip on straight up the mountain.

Which makes me feel like this:

Surprisingly, the crowds dissipate pretty quickly when we continue on a ways along the ridge. In about 30 minutes of lunching, gaping at the massive mountain/glaciers in front of us, and snapping photos, we only see one other guy up here.

On the back side of the rocky summit, the ridge drops precipitously, with a dramatic view down to the toe of Winthrop Glacier hundreds of feet below.  It has definitely retreated quite a ways since I was first here in the 1990s. (Yes, climate change is happening, and our glaciers are fast receding.)

Coming down the snowfield is much more fun than going up.  Mark zooms down in big leaping-sliding steps. So I follow, jamming my heels into the snow and sliding too.

Despite the 500 feet back up Second Burroughs, which is pretty mellow as far as climbs, the trip back is smooth sailing. We're not in a rush, so take a leisurely break on Second Burroughs again to soak it all in--this day, this hike, this massive volcano with impressive glaciers, dormant for now. Soon enough, we'll both be office-bound.

Snowfields across the trail on First Burroughs.
By the time we get back to the car, almost 7 hours have passed, about 2 hours longer than the same hike 2 years ago. We took lots of breaks, took lots of pictures, the snow slowed us down, and  I'm admittedly not in as good shape as a few years ago due to knee and foot issues. Mark's GPS indicated that we had hiked 9.9 miles.

"Do you want to walk to the end of the parking lot to hit 10 miles?" I joked. Nope. Both of us just want to liberate our feet from boots and get something cold to drink.

After Hike Eats
On the way back to Seattle, we stop at the classic Naches Tavern in Greenwater, the first town on the drive back down the mountain on Highway 410. Yea, the food is so-so (I got a grilled hot dog because they were out of veggie burgers and Mark got a cheeseburger), but the drinks are cold and there's great outdoor seating in the shade. It's worth a stop just to step inside this rustic old bar and grill, which was originally built in 1919. In the winter, it's hopping with skiers from Crystal Mountain.

Personally, I find hiking at and around Mt. Rainier exhilarating. Do you have a favorite Rainier hike?

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.  

When You Go
Although Mt. Rainier is only 53 miles from Seattle as the crow (or raven) flies, by car it's closer to 90 miles. There are a few different routes, but we took I-5 south to Auburn and cut southeast through Enumclaw and up Highway 410 to the White River entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park. We left Seattle around 7 am and got to the entrance around 9, by which time we had to wait about 15 minutes in line to enter the park. It was a sunny summer Saturday, and they restrict entrance when the parking lots fill up, so go early. Entrance to the park costs $25 for a single car, but it lasts for 7 days.

Here's a link to a map of the park and vicinity on the park's website. When hiking on the mountain, be prepared for changes in weather, even if it's a warm sunny day when you start. Now go have a wonderful hike!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Central Oregon Coast: Intimate Views, Stunning Vistas

When I was growing up near Portland, one of the highlights of summer was a trip to the Oregon coast. We got to indulge in saltwater taffy and fresh crab, but going to the beach was it.

To us western Oregon kids, the beach wasn't some puny stretch of sand on a lake or river. A real beach meant the windswept and feral Pacific Ocean coastline, where powerful waves relentlessly break onshore.

As we neared the coast, I'd get increasingly excited and fidgety waiting for that first glimpse of the magnificent Pacific. I still get that rush of exhilaration arriving at the western edge of the continent. 

The Intimate Views. Recently I spent a weekend with some childhood friends on the central Oregon coast, just south of Newport. Added bonus: We were there during the lowest tides of the year.

After dinner the first night, our host Judy said she'd be leaving for the beach at 7 a.m. sharp the next morning. Somehow 7 a.m. turned into 8 a.m., but no matter. When I dashed down to the water's edge, I was as giddy as my inner child.

 "I've never seen the tide this far out!" exclaimed Judy, who lives less than a mile away. A feast of exposed tidepools and rocky outcrops, some covered with otherworldly sea life, was spread out before us.

 We poked around for about an hour in the brisk ocean breeze, taking lots of pictures and inhaling all that clean air. I was happy to see the starfish (seastars) rebounding after the mass die-off a few years ago.

While the beach is the main event, the intimate views are not just in tidepools on the coast. In a lush coastal forest at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area south of Yachats, I found treasures too.


Less than half mile inland from the ocean, I enjoyed an easy hike one afternoon on the Giant Spruce Trail with friendly local Dennis. We passed huge Sitka spruce trees hundreds of years old as we walked on the trail above Cape Creek. Western redcedar is my totem tree, but Sitka spruce is a close second. The biggest old trees harbor so many plant communities in their sturdy branches that they remind me of Hometree from the film Avatar.

The Stunning Vistas. If you've not driven Highway 101 along the Oregon coast (part of the Pacific Scenic Byway), be forewarned: It's hard to keep your eyes on the road with such dramatic views. Plunging rocky cliffs, deep green forests, wide sandy beaches, and cute, kitschy towns blend in this spectacular mix of scenery.

After an excruciatingly slow drive from Portland through awful traffic, I hit the coast at Lincoln City (does anyone else remember the Pixie Kitchen?) and drove south along 101 toward Newport and beyond.

View north from Cape Foulweather
Cape Foulweather, which sits on a 500-foot-tall cliff above the ocean, is an easy stop off the highway. I walked down to the historic gift shop, which was originally opened as a coffee shop almost a century ago, and snapped a few shots before continuing.

After hiking with Dennis at Cape Perpetua the next day, he suggested I follow him up to the viewpoint overlooking the ocean. I'm so glad he did.

There's something about a breathtaking view that stirs wonder and awe akin to looking up at a dark sky full of stars. We walked a short path to the West Shelter, an open stone hut set on the edge of the cliff, and took in the immensity of the ocean and drama of the surf below.

While most of the weekend was about relaxing with friends, I came away with a healthy dose of Oregon coast magic. Never enough, but I fueled up on that bracing fresh air, brilliant sunshine, comforting ocean fog, and the sweet song of Swainson's thrush echoing through the coastal forest. 

When I get stressed or wound up (as I'm prone to), I'll pull that Oregon coast elixir off a shelf in my brain and take a strong whiff.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.  

I'd love to hear your experiences and memories of the Oregon coast, or any coast, in the comments below. :)

When You Go
While the beach where we went is accessed through private property, here is a map showing good tidepools along the Oregon coast and a link to an Oregon State Parks popular tidepools website. We were just south of South Beach State Park.

Check out this link to Cape Perpetua on the TravelOregon website that has a map you can expand to see Highway 101 on the coast. I barely scratched the surface visit of the trails and sights in my few hours there. Park ranger-led walks are offered on weekends from June through August.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Port Townsend Afternoon: High Tea at Pippa's

Here in the Pacific Northwest, an English-style High Tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C. is an iconic regional experience. Many here have fond memories of the High Tea with their mothers, grandmothers, aunties, or the whole family. Last summer I took my niece up there for the day, and we relished the splurge.

However, for an equally special indulgence at about half the price and with more refined tea, try the High Tea at Pippa's Real Tea in Port Townsend, Washington, which lies south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Victoria.

When I studied abroad in England, I used to splurge on the marvelous tea with jam, clotted cream, and scones. On an earlier visit to Pippa's this year, when she mentioned their authentic clotted cream (she spent 3 months perfecting the recipe) and fresh scones with tea, I knew I had to come back. 

So I invited my niece Willa to join me again. When we arrived for our 3 pm reservations last Saturday afternoon, we were ushered back to a table set with fresh linen and flowers. (Must say, at the Empress High Tea last summer, our table wasn't as tastefully draped with linen like at Pippa's.)

With an impressive selection of black, green, white, and herbal teas to choose from, Willa went for the white peach tea and I chose my fav, jasmine pearls. When I said I was having a hard time deciding on a tea, our friendly server mentioned I could just have another pot of different tea later. (Unlimited tea is part of the High Tea service.)

Light and crisp jasmine pearls tea.
Then an enticing three-tiered tray full of artfully arranged treats arrived and the nibbling began. On top was a variety of little tarts, shortbread, cookies, and fresh berries. In the middle were several petite fresh scones with that dee-lish clotted cream and berry jam, and little tea sandwiches rounded out the feast.

It was indeed a feast for the senses. I enjoyed a couple mini-sandwiches (chicken salad, egg salad, cream cheese and pickles, salmon salad), a small currant scone slathered with clotted cream and jam, and a cookie. Then I exceeded capacity with a tiny chocolate tart and slice of shortbread.

I think perhaps drinking a whole pot of jasmine tea pretty quickly filled me up too. But it was so crisp, floral, and perfectly brewed.

My aunt and Willa's great aunt Sylvia, a Port Townsend local, joined us for tea, and Pippa stopped by our table to say hello.  When my niece mentioned an upcoming environmental studies trip to South Africa, Pippa enthusiastically offered her samples of several South African roibos teas to take home.


While I certainly can't indulge in a high tea more than once a year or so, it was a lovely afternoon in a lovely little town with my niece (who'll be off to college soon) and my aunt. Two thumbs up for Pippa and her beautiful teas.

When You Go
High tea is served at Pippa's on Saturday afternoons at 1 pm and 3 pm for $38/person. Reservations are required. A less expensive alternative is the cream tea offered daily, which includes two scones with clotted cream and jam and unlimited tea  for $15 and doesn't require reservations. Or stop in and enjoy a pot of tea with a variety of baked goods or snacks. Pippa's is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10:00 – 5:00 (ish) at 636 Water Street in Port Townsend.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Northwest Originals: The Blessing of Sketching

This is the first in a new monthly series featuring Northwest Originals: Unique Pacific Northwesterners who I think add a special spice to life here.

Roy DeLeon stands rooted in place, still except for the quick and graceful strokes he makes on a sketch pad, which sits on a hands-free holder strapped around his waist. Within 30 minutes he's completed a lovely ink and watercolor sketch of the lush scene before us: a small waterfall pouring into a pond, surrounded by an exuberant collection of ferns, trees, grasses, and other plants I can't name.

While Roy works in ink and watercolor, I decide to join in and draw too. My pencil on paper drawing isn't quite, shall we say, as lyrical and practiced as Roy's. But that doesn't matter.

"What's most important is that sketching is seeing and meditation," says Roy. "The point is to facilitate my seeing and listening to the sacred that surrounds us all the time. Being present. That's what I call prayer one on one." 

As a Benedictine oblate (lay monk), Roy says it's his mission to seek peace and pursue it. He hasn't always been that way.

Roy DeLeon

When I first met Roy in the 1990s, he was a creative, innovative graphic designer for a big multinational engineering firm. We worked together for several years before I moved on, but I remember his quiet intensity.
Inside he was a pretty stressed out guy.

In the early 1970s Roy met his future wife Annie in college then immigrated from the Philippines to the U.S, where he and Annie  were married and started a family (two daughters). Seattle drew them north from California in 1985. Over the years he worked hard to provide for his family, and ultimately the work stress fed into a scary mini-stroke 20 years ago.

To regain his health and lessen the risk for future problems, Roy took up yoga and meditation for stress management. He taught yoga for many years and wrote a book about praying with the body that integrated his yoga practice.

"Done regularly, yoga and meditation transforms you," Roy tells me. It definitely transformed him and led him to the Order of St. Benedict. Today he radiates peace and serenity. It's calming to be in his presence.

Roy sketching at Bellevue Botanical Garden
While Roy doesn't consider himself particularly religious, he says he follows the essence of Christ's teaching: Love.

"I'm on the Catholic bus, but we're all going to the same place. My view of God is cosmic." He reads the Dalai Lama, for example, who said: Don't change your religion, just dig deeper into yours.

Which brings us to Roy's sketching.

Now that he's retired, Roy sketches two hours every day. A year ago he joined a local group of Urban Sketchers, founded by Seattle Times sketcher Gabriel Campanario, and meets up with them occasionally too.

I've been charmed by his daily sketch posts on FaceBook of everyday life with a short blessing. He mixes prayer with humor, poetry, and wise anecdotes. Take this one from the day we sketched together last weekend:

Let there be peace
in London.

Let there be peace
on Earth.

Let there be peace
in the universe.

Let there be peace
in everyone's heart and soul.

(Japanese Tea House, Bellevue Botanical Garden)

"How do I make art Benedictine? By seeking peace and the divine in the everyday and applying it to my daily life," Roy explains. "That's why I sketch and post on FaceBook with a short blessing. I'm being a little sneaky with my art. I'm spreading the good news."

On daily trips to Starbucks with his wife, he used to sketch people there and post with a little story or blessing. Many suggested he approach Starbucks about a book by the "Starbucks Sketcher." But he didn't like the idea of adding money into the mix.

"That would have changed the taste. I want to keep a purity of intention."
At the Bellevue Botanical Garden, by Roy Deleon
I have to interject here that while Roy is all about seeking the divine, compassion, and humanity, he's also a playful and humorous guy.

"A weakness of mine is buying and accumulating art supplies." He loves opening sets of fresh paints and new brushes. "It's my dark side," he jokes. When I pull out my sketch pad, he immediately knows it's an old brand no longer sold.

More Bellevue Botanical Garden by Roy
"For me," Roy says, "sketching is visio divina - seeing the divine. Have a contemplative stance. Be open and ready for the surprise of the divine. What comes of that is being open to what is plunked in front of us, moment by moment."

We've been talking over tea for almost an hour, and after Roy says this, he pauses and then says softly, almost to himself:

"It's such a quiet way of living. Go past the noise and see the blessing."

And from the man himself:

 Roy is currently sketching/recording scenes from the quirky Country Village shops in Bothell, Washington, where he lives. This charming and popular local destination could be sold to a townhouse developer and torn down in the next year.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hiking the Northwest's Greatest Hits: Boulder River Trail

On a breakout sunny spring day, here's my idea of nirvana: Walking beside a pristine mountain river swollen with spring snowmelt in a lush green forest. Throw in a magnificent waterfall streaming in rivulets down a steep cliff along the way. Cue a dramatic interplay of sun and shadow in equal measure filtering through the trees and down the canyon.

The Boulder River trail on a fresh spring day offers all this and more. 

Like the profusion of flowers, ferns, moss, and native shrubs lining the mostly level trail above the river. Delicate native maidenhair fern glow vivid lime green against a mossy rock face seeping water.

We arrived at the trailhead shortly after 9 a.m. on a brilliant Saturday morning to join the Alpine Trails  Book Club, an inspired creation of Alpine Lily blogger Ashley. Fellow blogger Laura of Tiny Pines is the current organizer, and she picked an interesting read and a lovely hike.

I was surprised we found a parking space just one car away from the trailhead this "late," especially since this hike was recently featured in Sunset Magazine. But there we were, and off we went upriver.

Basically the trail meanders on an old logging road through a verdant temperate rainforest about 10 to 100 feet above the river, which courses through a narrow canyon. Lovely western red cedar and other native evergreens intersperse with alders, bigleaf maples, and more native shrubs.

 At a few points along the way, steep side trails offer opportunities to scramble down to the river's edge. With a tweaky knee, I didn't go all the way down, although the others did.

But the real star of the show was the spectacular Feature Show waterfall about a mile up the trail across the river. Plunging well over 250 feet down to the river below, it widens into multiple streams farther down.

It was hard to get a decent shot of the whole thing with the bright sunlight. But I tried.

I hope you get an idea of how stunning this waterfall is, especially right now when the spring runoff is kicking into high gear.

After a couple hours hiking upriver, we stopped where the trail begins to meander away from the river's edge to snack and discuss the book. Laura and Andy said the trail is not as scenic beyond this point, about 3 miles or so from the trailhead.

Heading back downriver, we passed (and were passed by) increasing numbers of hikers. This is expected on a such a beautiful spring day not much more than an hour from Seattle. A few obstacles along the way were easily crossed, reminders that trees grow and die, fall over, and regenerate the forest floor.

Not far from the trailhead on the return, we passed a classic example of a nurse tree, with a gorgeous cedar growing out of the remnant old growth stump. I can only imagine the magnificence of this forest before the loggers came through decades ago and took most of the big trees.

By early afternoon we're headed back home, passing parked cars stretched about a quarter mile down from the trailhead. 

As usual, I felt energized and refreshed from the hours walking through such beautiful place away from the city. To paraphrase my friend Jenifer, "I wish I could breath in this clean forest air every day." Because really, the air out there truly smells, tastes, and feels so clean and nourishing.

Like I said, nirvana.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.  
When You Go
It took us about an hour and 15 minutes to drive to the trailhead from north Seattle. Bonus: No parking pass (Discovery or Northwest Forest) is required! From I-5 northbound, take the Arlington/Darrington exit 208, going right toward Arlington, then stay on Highway 530 through Arlington. At 23.6 miles from I-5, turn right onto French Creek Road, just after milepost 41. Follow the bumpy gravel road about 3 miles to the trailhead, which has parking for about 15 cars. While there is a vault toilet a mile in from the turnoff on French Creek Road, there are no facilities at the trailhead.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pausing, Reflecting, and Gardening

Welcome to Pacific Northwest Seasons! Perhaps you're wondering why I've not blogged much this year?

My absence has been due to a combination of things: My freelance work has dramatically picked up and spilled into evenings and weekends. A troublesome knee has kept me from getting outdoors and hiking/biking/skiing as much as I'd like. 

And I've been reassessing what exactly my purpose is for this blog anymore. As a former popular local food blogger told me a few years ago, "I think the blogging moment is over."

When I started blogging in 2008, I was happy to share my secret places and encourage people to get outside and enjoy this special corner of the world.

2013, on an overly popular peak

Now many of our trails and beautiful outdoors destinations near Seattle and Portland are suffering from overuse. I've written about this before and my struggles with the explosive growth and changes in our region. I've become that crabby lady who reflexively scolds newbies for cutting off-trail between switchbacks. Ugh. I make myself inwardly cringe.

So I'm less inclined to write about it all right now. Instead I've been playing in the garden, just outside my front door.

The beginning, 2012

Some raspberry plants gifted from my stepmother inspired me to start the garden, which I wrote about a few years ago. (Although my eldest sister will claim credit too.) Since then, the raspberries are assertively trying to take over the whole front yard, and I dig up and give away many raspberry starts each spring.

Want any? I have about six thriving little starts waiting for new homes now. (No kidding. Message me in the comments below if you're in Seattle and interested.)

Interestingly, the garden has evolved into a major stress reliever. When I'm out there watering, weeding, or harvesting, it all feels so healthy and natural. Sometimes I get buzzed by iridescent-feathered hummingbirds. This thrills me.

It makes me happy to see things growing under my care, and of course, I enjoy eating and sharing the bounty. I've been having delicate spring greens salads for a few weeks now. Hmmm.

Don't consider me retired from getting outdoors, exploring the region, and sharing the experiences with you. In fact, I hope to go hiking to see the wild rhodies in Deception Pass State Park this weekend with fellow blogger and nature geek Dave of Wild Fidalgo.

I also have lots of ideas about environmental issues to write about, unique Northwesterners to feature, and more. And a blog redesign/update is overdue.

So tell me, what are your thoughts on gardening, getting outdoors, the Pacific Northwest, and/or this blog? Your feedback in the comments below gives me inspiration to continue.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.