Sunday, May 22, 2016

Northwest Mountain Lake Hikes: Bucolic Barclay Lake

Who doesn't love a pristine mountain lake fringed by thick evergreen forest? 

Add a persistent spring rain dappling its otherwise placid surface and misty clouds hanging just overhead. This, IMO, is a perfect antidote for the stresses of modern life. 

And yes, we're out of cell range up here too.

This morning's hike to Barclay Lake off Highway 2 west of Stevens Pass was wet, muddy, rich with brilliant spring green shrubs lining the trail, and relatively quiet. (See recent blog post about being outdoors/hiking in the rain.)

Give me an outdoors church of forest, rain, and a mountain stream/lake any Sunday morning.

This relatively easy hike, just a little over 4 miles round trip and less than 1,000 feet gained in elevation, gets pretty heavy use during the summer/fall. It offers a lot of bang for your hiking buck, so to speak.  

Enroute to the lake, we pass through lush, moss-draped forest, skirt trees growing snake-like over huge boulders, and cross a rustic log bridge over a lovely mountain stream.

While the trail is in decent shape, on this rainy day we have to tread carefully around numerous muddy spots, sidestepping the worst of the muck. But that's all part of the game, right?

On this damp morning, a few hikers pass us coming down after camping overnight at the lake. But most of the hike up it's just our group (the Alpine Trails Book Club, organized by blogger Ashley of Alpine Lily).

Closer to and around the lake we notice a lot of downed trees along the trail, evidence of the winter recently passed. 

At the lake we sit huddled beneath some hemlock trees to blunt the steady rain. After about 20-30 minutes of snacking and book discussion, we get chilled and start back down.

On the way down we pass a few families with kids coming up (great hike for kids, not too long). And us bloggers have to stop and shoot the profusion of green, slick wet with the diminishing rain.

By the time we get back to the trailhead a little less than three hours after we started, a few more cars are spilling down the gravel road from the small parking area. On a sunny day, quadruple the cars.

Surprisingly, I think this was my first time to Barclay Lake. I used to blow past lower, shorter hikes on my way to longer, farther, higher. But since coming back from debilitating and chronic tedonitis, I've been appreciating these more mellow gems. 

How about you? Do you have another favorite lake 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. 

Also joining the hike today were fellow bloggers A Day Without Rain and Tiny Pines. Check out their great Northwest blogs too!

When You Go

The Barclay Lake trailhead is about a 90-minute drive from Seattle during low-traffic periods (e.g., early weekend mornings).  You can find a topo map and driving directions here. I've found that mileage and elevation gain vary between different websites, but it's about 4.4 - 4.5 miles RT. The 4.2-mile dirt Forest Service road up has some pretty nasty potholes as of May 2016, so go slow and watch out for them. A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the trailhead. There is a bathroom (of course not a flush toilet) at the trailhead.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Waterfall Hikes in the Pacific Northwest

With rugged mountains and plenty of rain, here in the Pacific Northwest we're blessed with an abundance of scenic waterfalls. After all, the primary mountains that bisect the region north-south are the Cascades.

I've blogged about many waterfall hikes here at Pacific Northwest Seasons over the last 7+ years but never a compilation, so this is a quick run-down with links to more detailed descriptions.

Despite living here my whole life (except a few years in my early 20s), I've not hiked or seen it all by a long shot. Consider this a peek at what the region has to offer.

How lucky was I to grow up less than a 30-minute drive west from the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area?  It's waterfall grand central in the region.

Lower Multnomah Fall

In this 60-mile stretch of spectacular cliffs and plunging waterfalls, the Columbia River slices east-west across the Cascades. The river's cut through the mountains was aided by the massive megafloods from glacial Lake Missoula that scoured the Columbia basin multiple times during the last ice age.

There are many relatively short and easy hikes to gorgeous Gorge waterfalls. On the historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway, some of my favorites  are Latourell Falls (pictured above), Wahkeena Falls-Multnomah Falls, Angel's Rest (pass a waterfall along the way up), Wahclella Falls (short and sweet), and the classic Eagle Creek to the Punchbowl (go farther upstream if you've got time).

Wahclella Falls

Hiking the Gorge waterfalls always makes me feel serene and refreshed.
Of course there are too many gorgeous waterfalls in Oregon to name or count. No pics because it has been too long since I was at Silver Falls, but this state park east of Salem in the Willamette Valley is an epic place to see waterfalls.

Dropping down into central Oregon near Bend, try to catch the Green Lakes Trail early in the season while the snowmelt down Fall Creek is peaking (fairly soon).

Fall Creek, Green Lakes Trail
Maybe you pause to admire a small waterfall on the road up to Silver Star Mountain trailhead in southern Washington or hike past waterfalls on the Denny Creek-Lake Melakwa trail just below Snoqualmie Pass.

Trail to Lake Melakwa
While you can drive past splendid waterfalls in Mt. Rainier National Park on the way to Paradise, one of western Washington's most popular  waterfall hikes (for good reason) is Wallace Falls northeast of Seattle. This trail passes multiple waterfalls, with nice viewing areas along the way.

Wallace Falls
Farther east up Highway 2 from Everett on the Lake Serene Trail is Bridal Veil Falls, which, if you happen to catch after a heavy rain, is a spectacular raging torrent of water.

Bridal Veil Falls

Over on the western edge of the Olympic Mountains, breathtaking Sol Duc Falls is just a mile hike up from the same-named campground in Olympic National Park. Over there the rain is almost triple what we get in Seattle. Steep mountains + snowmelt + lots of rain = incredible waterfalls. 

Photo by Steve Nelson
 In far eastern Washington, Palouse Falls is a magnificent waterfall on the dry side. On my bucket list. Have you been?

These waterfalls are all easily accessible, well known, and mostly on the west side of the Cascades. Farther off the beaten path are countless more.

What are you favorite waterfall hikes? I'd love to hear below!

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. 


Monday, May 2, 2016

Northwest Reflections: Getting Outdoors in the Rain

As I write this, we're having another early mini-heat wave here in western Washington. Yet here I am celebrating a quintessential Pacific Northwest experience: being outside hiking, walking, running, kayaking, bicycling, or ______ (fill in the blank) in the rain.

I've camped many nights during torrential downpours, more than once when parts of my sleeping bag got soaked. Was I miserable? Yea, a little.  Would I do it again? Heck yes!

On a week-long backpack trip on the Pacific Crest Trail in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, we got stuck for two days at camp in a heavy rain. During a kayak camping trip off Vancouver Island last year, the proverbial tarp was strung over our tents for extra protection from the persistent rain. (Northwest campers have even been caricatured in this Blue Tarp Campers ad.)

I could go on and on about wet days and nights in the outdoors here. I've suffered many, as has pretty much everyone who gets outside on a regular basis. As we like to say when it's particularly nasty out:

"It builds character."

But here's the magic: When it's raining hard and steady, the rest of the world falls away and you feel so enveloped in the elements.  It's a very in-the-moment, Zen experience.

Although it's hard to photograph rain, I think I succeeded here.
Another not-so-secret:  With increasing traffic on our trails now that the word is out on our amazing corner of the world, hiking in the rain is the time to escape the crowds, find a greater sense of solitude.

Maybe you're one who likes having people around. One of my happiest teenage memories is squealing with laughter when several of us crowded in a little tent during a two-day downpour. 

Ever done worm rolls over other tent mates in your sleeping bags? When you're rained out for a day or two, you too will invent creative ways to pass the time.

Between the rains: an exercise in futility?

Just a couple weekends ago I hiked a beautiful trail that would have been packed on a nice day. Our group saw just a few others (and a geology field trip class) as the wind was blowing and the sky was spitting rain. It was magnificent!

There's a good reason why Gore-Tex, a major breakthrough in breathable rain gear, was developed here in the Pacific Northwest. Us Mossbacks are glad for that reason. We relish getting out on a rainy day. 

Bring it!

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.  

Have you had many wet days outside? Jump in with a comment below and tell us about your rain stories.

And the rain is predicted to return in a couple days. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Northwest Reflections: Changing Seattle

When I graduated from University of Washington in Seattle many years ago, I packed up my car, invited a friend to join, and drove across the country. I couldn't wait to start post-college life on the East Coast.

The Northwest (Seattle and Portland, my hemisphere) felt like such a backwater after I'd had a taste of Paris, London, and New York. While traveling through Europe after spring quarter abroad, I had to explain to Europeans that Seattle and Portland were on the west coast of the United States, "north of San Francisco."

Times sure have changed.

Today Seattle is experiencing explosive growth, and people are pouring in from all over. Almost every day I meet fresh young faces (and some middle-aged) who have moved here in the last few months or years. Many don't even know anyone here when they arrive.

Besides techies (Amazon, Microsoft, Expedia, etc.), I'm meeting newly transplanted baristas, hairdressers, sales clerks, poets (okay, baristas and sales clerks :), many of whom live in shared housing because this city is so expensive.

To say that Seattle is experiencing growing pains is an understatement. 

Some joke that Seattle's new city bird is the crane.
The Not So Good
Our major roads and highways are clogged much of each day with crazy-making traffic, and our developing transit system will take well over a decade to catch up with demand. The City isn't managing its growth all that well. The cost of living is shooting skyward (the median Seattle income is less than the income estimated to maintain a comfortable life here), squeezing out the lower and middle classes. Charming and quirky low-rise buildings and homes are being torn down and replaced with often not-so-charming big boxes. The pollutant load into our waters is growing. And the list goes on.

As a Seattle-born, Portland-raised, lived-in-the-Northwest-most-of-my-life gal (I lasted less than 3 years on the East Coast; I needed REAL mountains nearby), I'm finding all this rapid change unsettling. Our wonderful corner of the world, which I didn't fully appreciate fresh out of college, is totally discovered. 
On the map. The word is out.

(Lest I be insensitive, my sympathies to the native peoples who lived here for millennia before us European-American interlopers arrived and mostly destroyed their world/lifeways. My ancestors only landed here 148 years ago.)

Pioneer Square, Seattle

It's inevitable that cities change, evolve, grow or shrink, look different than they did 50, 100 years ago.  Everything is constantly changing. That's life on Planet Earth.

While the change has been building, seemingly overnight it feels...different around here. 

Often I hear people refer to "Pike's Market" instead of Pike Place Market.  Or radio announcers tell us to take "the 405" (CaliforniaSpeak) instead of just 405

It's much harder to find relative solitude in nature on the most beautiful and relatively close-in hikes in the Cascades on a weekend. It's often a steady stream of humanity and dogs on popular trails, sometimes with music blaring from an Ipod attached to a belt or pack. Litter (wrappers, food, etc.) is increasingly common along the trail. Parking at the trailhead? Good luck if you arrive after about 8 a.m.

I have to admit this rapid growth is starting to bother me. Mostly it's the traffic and crowds; our infrastructure isn't in place yet to sustain the quickly rising population. But I don't like hearing myself sound like a cranky curmudgeon. 

The Good
Change keeps us fresh and alive. With all the influx of talent and energy, there's a vibrancy in the region that's new. Wonderful restaurants and cafes, scads of great little coffee shops/bakeries, and lots of cool bicycle shops are opening around the city.

Coyle's Bakeshop, Greenwood neighborhood
More money is being funneled into the arts (although there have been some recent gallery/venue closures that are disappointing). There's a convergence of ideas, music, food, and theater that's exciting. At the opera this season I noticed more Millennials in addition to the usual gray-haired elders. This is good for the future of Seattle Opera.

And the Seahawks! When we went to the Super Bowl after the 2005 season, the national media treated us like Seattle was in a foreign country. In 2014, much different story. We're cool now!

Many of my good friends migrated to the region from places like Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Mexico, Michigan, and California. My life wouldn't be as rich without them to share local adventures and good conversation over coffee/tea/meals.

Some like UrbanVisions, a sustainable real estate development firm with an environmental/green ethic, are re-imagining the city with creativity, vision, and energy. Because growth is happening and will continue. (We just wish everyone had the same vision)

And despite it all, on most days I still usually feel like this living in the city of my birth:


So please, if you catch me kvetching (a very un-Seattle word) too much about traffic or crowds on the trail, give me a gentle nudge. Seattle and the whole region needs our thoughtful input on maintaining livability with the crazy growth. Complaining only goes so far; constructive criticism is better.

As Bob says:

 You'd better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone
'Cause the times, they are a-changin'....

How about you? (You really read all the way to the end here?)

Are you a lifelong Northwesterner? Moved here recently or years ago? What do you think about the changing Seattle/Northwest? Millennials, does it look different from your perspective?

I'm truly interested in hearing what you have to say. Jump in with a comment below!

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.  
Bainbridge-bound ferry from downtown Seattle's Colman Dock ferry terminal
Bring back Galaxy Gold, the Space Needle's original color!

Make Your Voice Heard
There are some big plans in the works that will shape the future of Seattle/the region. While the Seattle Comprehensive Plan Update has already been drafted and the comment period is closed, there will still be opportunities for public involvement through 2016. Sound Transit, the Puget Sound region's light rail transit agency, is putting together a major funding initiative (ST3) for the fall 2016 vote. For more information and ways to get involved, click here.