Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Happy Trails 2015: A Year of Northwest Adventures

It seems like just a couple months ago I was compiling my annual end-of-the-year photo montage for 2014. And here we are again already.

Sure, I'll say it again: time flies. But I figure that the years really do fly by faster because each passing year is an increasingly smaller percentage of your life as a whole.  

So here's my run-down of 2015 highlights in pictures, with links back to posts with even more shots of these highlights.

What would make this even better is hearing about some of your 2015 highlights in the comments below, too. Even if you're not in the Pacific Northwest.

One of my goals here at Pacific Northwest Seasons is to inspire you to get out and enjoy your region, wherever you are. And along with that, I hope we're all inspired to share our stories because everyone has interesting stories to tell. It's about everyday stories, adventures, and life. I hope you enjoy a bit of my year in pictures.


Mt. Rainier from top of Crystal Mountain, WA
With a fantastic day skiing New Year's Day at Crystal Mountain, an annual trip with friends, I had high hopes for a good ski season ahead.

Nope. It was the warmest, driest, worst winter for skiing on record.

Our attempt at hiking to Melakwa Lake above Denny Creek, just below Snoqualmie Pass, in mid-January was thwarted by time constraints and muscle cramps, but it was doable. A few others on the trail that day passed us on their way back down.


Punch Bowl on Eagle Creek, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, OR

With mild weather settling in, February was the beginning of a fantastic hiking year.  I returned to hike Eagle Creek (with the masses now) in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area for the first time since high school with, appropriately, a friend from high school.

And there was also that fantastic weekend over Valentine's Day hiking in the Coulee Country of eastern Washington. Delicious.

Frenchman's Coulee, near Vantage, WA


Mt. Hood from Rocky Butte, Portland, OR

Who can resist the view of a snowy Mt. Hood on a clear late winter day?  Lots of trips to Portland in 2015 for family (and some friend) visits. I try to sneak up the Gorge to hike whenever I can, but on this particular trip I met a friend up at historic Rocky Butte.

And of course the continued mild, clear weather made for perfect kayaking in Skagit Bay and hiking on Orcas Island.


Heather Lake, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, WA

When I took a friend visiting from Alaska on a day hike in the Cascade foothills to Heather Lake east of Everett, WA, I was shocked at the seemingly mid-summer hiking conditions. This north-facing alpine lake was completely snow-free in mid-April, which is definitely not normal. But as I'm starting to say, we're not sure what the new normal is anymore.


Broken Group Islands, just off Vancouver Island, B.C.

Unseasonably mild weather = a beautiful, epic week kayak camping in the  Broken Group Islands on the west coast of Vancouver Island up in B.C., Canada. A wilderness by the sea. Seeing no one else for four days besides our group. One day of stormy weather and five days of sunshine. A series of stunning sunsets. Priceless.

And then there was that fantastic weekend hiking near Bend, Oregon, with hikes at Smith Rock State Park and the Green Lakes trail. These hikes are definitely discovered, so hit the trail early to beat the crowds if you go.

Crooked River, Smith Rock State Park, OR


Almost to Cascade Pass, North Cascades National Park, WA

June 2015, with *normally* late July conditions in the alpine corners of the Cascades and Olympics, was just perfect for hiking. On assignment for the Washington's National Parks Fund, I spent an overnight in the North Cascades National Park and joined a park trail crew leader on a trip up to Cascade Pass and beyond to assess trail restoration work.

Later in the month I was out on the western Olympic Peninsula reporting on the complex and important salmon habitat restoration work going on in the Upper Quinault River watershed. I'm proud that Pacific Northwest Seasons featured this valuable project when bigger regional news outlets like the Seattle Times and other publications and media haven't.


Pacific Crest Trail just beyond the Kendall Katwalk, WA
July was an incredible month for hiking in our mountains and for doing just about anything else outdoors, with warm nights that we haven't experienced that much in the summer here in the Upper Left Corner USA.

My peak hike was to the Kendall Katwalk (and beyond) on the Pacific Crest Trail as it heads north from Snoqualmie Pass into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. This is a gorgeous stretch of trail that passes through lush forest up into rocky alpine high country rimmed by craggy granite peaks. Highly recommend if you're up for a good 11-12 miles.


Ferry to Orcas Island, San Juan Islands, WA

Come August I was in dire need of some soothing after a family death.  I took a retreat to Orcas Island where I hiked, ate wonderful meals at excellent Doe Bay Café, and spent an afternoon sketching and lounging. I firmly believe that putting in miles on the trail is good for helping heal anything weighing you down.
Later in the month, as forest fires were raging in the overly dry mountains, I stuck to the woods for a hike on the Talus Loop on the flanks of Mt. Si to try and escape the smoky skies.


On the Pacific Crest Trail just north of Stevens Pass, WA

In September, autumn seemed to crank up early after our hot, dry summer. A hike on the Pacific Crest Trail north from Stevens Pass to Lake Valhalla was lovely in the misty alpine chill. An added bonus was the fun we had mingling with the many PCT thru hikers who were close to the end of their 2,600-mile+ walk from Mexico to Canada.
Mid-month I crossed off a bucket-list item with a road trip through Oregon and along the northern California coast into the redwoods, which of course involved a hike.


On the trail to Blue Lake, Washington Pass, North Cascades, WA
October is just golden here in the Northwest, quite literally. In certain pockets of the Cascades of Washington and the Wallowas of Oregon, the golden larches are brilliant this time of year. Early in the month I hiked the popular Blue Lake trail at the height of the larch season. We were definitely not alone. No matter, it was brilliant.

Later in the month was my first trip ever (!) to Deer Park on the northern Olympic Peninsula, where I joined a scientist from Olympic National Park to discuss their glacier monitoring program.


Bridal Veil Falls, just off Highway 2 to Stevens Pass, WA

By November our unusually dry weather pattern was replaced by a series of wet storms that slammed the region, causing river flooding and highway closures (which continued into December). Just a day after a big rainfall and a day before another, a few of us took to the trail to Bridal Veil Falls on the way to Lake Serene.

That's a lot of water coming down hard and fast.


Weekend after Christmas at Snoqualmie Pass, WA
And it's a ski season again, for real this time! True, a strong El Nino is upon us and things are turning dry again. But snowpack right now in the Cascades and Olympics is over 130 percent above normal. So we head to the hills.

Look for a blog post soon about my lovely little hike to Wahclella Falls east of Portland up the Columbia River Gorge on a rainy, wet morning.  Lush, verdant green to follow.

So I'd love to hear about your 2015 highlights in the comments below. Start or join the conversation!

In 2016, let's all get outside more, revel in the joy of movement, connect with friends and strangers in kindness, smile just because, pay it forward, laugh out loud, cook tasty and healthful food, give thanks, tip a little extra for good service, sing in the shower (and elsewhere), and hug those you love...and maybe some that you don't.

Wishing you a happy 2016. Truly.

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.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Happy Solstice! Winter Arrives in the Pacific Northwest

With the winter solstice upon us here in the Pacific Northwest, it's the peak of our annual "dark days."  And we're getting epic snow in the mountains and rain in the lowlands that make it seem even more cave-like outside.

These short days make many of us want to hibernate, in the natural rhythm of northern seasons. I say it's perfect sleeping weather, or it's candle season.

Still, in the spirit of the season we get out, despite the messy weather and long nights that enclose us up here in the Upper Left Hand Corner

With the busyness of life, I've not gotten outdoors adventuring so much the last few months. So for today, I'll just share some random shots from around the region to celebrate the coming of winter.

Just because.


Seattle sidewalk art, in the rain. Columbia City neighborhood.
Yarn bombing. Old King County Courthouse, downtown Seattle.
Nightwalk along the Willamette River, Portland

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, along the Columbia River

Hiking in the  mist, Moran State Park, Orcas Island

Stevens Pass
Heavy frost, Carkeek Park
Silver Star Mountain
Besides sleeping, it's great reading weather.
Lake Crescent
Upper Ski Bowl, Mt. Hood

St. James Cathedral, Seattle

So I'll be lighting a candle to bring warmth and light to the short dark days.

How do you celebrate the winter solstice?

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, December 7, 2015

Northwest and Seattle Traditions: Swedish Pancakes Anyone?

Chances are better than even that you have some Scandinavian blood or are familiar with the culture if you were born and raised in Seattle.

That's changing now with our massive influx of tech workers the last few decades. But even if you're not Scandinavian at all, that shouldn't stop you from enjoying a beloved Seattle tradition: the Swedish Pancake Breakfast at the Swedish Cultural Center (aka the Swedish Club) on the first Sunday of each month.

For 20 years now, the current version of the pancake breakfast has drawn a diverse crowd from all over the city, and even region. As we bought our tickets at yesterday's breakfast, the volunteer ticket sellers asked us where we came from. My cousin's friends Beth and Mike, up from Eugene, had traveled the farthest so far.

A big part of the charm at this breakfast, besides the very tasty and crepe-like pancakes, is that it's such an unpretentious, truly local cultural event. You'll mingle with elderly Swedes in traditional Scandinavian sweaters and garb, neighborhood families with kids, maybe a few hipsters, and friendly club volunteers.

Bengt Hag welcomes everyone at the door.

Be prepared to spend 10 to 20 minutes in line.

When you enter the vintage 1960 building, it's reminiscent of an old school building downstairs where the breakfast is served. The food and the setting are not hip or fancy. But the ambiance is friendly, the crowd is happy, the pancakes are excellent (and also available in a gluten-free version), and you'll probably see some traditional Swedish dancing.

Pancakes, lingonberries, strawberries, ham, OJ, Swedish kaffe (coffee) and oh that whipped cream!
Traditional Swedish folk music with a smile!

We shared a table with a family from the neighborhood and feasted on the kind of breakfast that many used to enjoy at our grandparent's (in my case, my Swedish "Gooma")The breakfast includes tickets for seconds, but none of us indulged. Heck, I couldn't even finish my firsts.


After breakfast, I went upstairs on my way out to use the less-crowded restroom and see some of the club's holiday decorations. 
All in all it's a fun way to start a Sunday. But then you should probably take a good long walk or exercise afterwards to offset the carb/sugar hit.
While I've been meaning to check out this breakfast for over a year now, it was a snarky tweet I read that got me thinking about Seattle traditions new and old:

I'm going to celebrate the Christmas season by tweeting about Seattle traditions. Not like anyone there knows them.

Wrong! So here's to enjoying a classic Seattle tradition.

Tack för att besöka 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
As noted on the links above, the Swedish Pancake Breakfast takes place the first Sunday of each month. Cost is $9 for adults, $7 for members, $5 for kids 5 to 12, and FREE for kids under 5. Breakfast includes pancakes, berry toppings, maple syrup, butter, Swedish coffee, orange juice, ham, and tea.  Plus seconds if you can handle it. The Swedish Club is at 1920 Dexter Avenue on the east side of Queen Anne Hill (click link for map) just below SR 99 and above Westlake/Lake Union, immediately north of downtown Seattle. There is ample parking in the lots below the club or across the street. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

It's About Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It wasn't always that way. As a child it was all about Christmas, but these days I treasure simply sitting down to have a nice dinner together with family and/or friends. 

And of course on this holiday, it's about giving thanks for...whatever. Anything. Everything.

I think just sharing a meal together around a table with others is something to be grateful for. How often do you do that each week? 

So first and foremost, I'm grateful to dine with members of my extended family this Thanksgiving season. Especially after everyone has put time, energy, and love into preparing a special meal.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, Thanksgiving time is often stormy, damp, and windy, and occasionally sunny and cold.  

For our tempestuous and ever-changing weather, for our drenching rains and stark blue skies afterwards, I am grateful. For foggy days that shroud the landscape in a comforting mist, like a favorite blanket, I am grateful.

This year I've been challenged by deep loss. For the wild and precious lives of my stepmother Bonnie and brother David, who passed away this year, I will be forever grateful.

For our abundant and beautiful mountain trails, those who put time and energy into maintaining them, and my friends who join me on hikes, I am grateful.

For the Salish Sea, on whose beaches I played as a child and whose waters I now cruise in my sea kayak, I am grateful. May we strive to ensure safe and clean water for the formerly abundant marine life and a better, healthier marine ecosystem for the struggling but surviving wild salmon and Southern Resident Killer Whales (orcas).

And extra thanks for Granny, the presumed 104-year-old Southern Resident orca who still is out there, raising and mothering the J pod. Her long life is a tremendous inspiration to thousands.

Back to mountains again, for Mt. Hood (Wy'east), on whose forgiving slopes I learned to ski and whose trails I first backpacked as a teen, I'm especially grateful. 


I could go on and on in this vein, posting hundreds of photos and thanking everything, like...

all my family and friends, 
those who work hard to make this world a better place, 
grocery checkers and other service workers who give me a friendly smile at just the right moment, 
the sun, 
the sky, 
the moon, 
the stars, 
my productive garden, 
Columbia Gorge waterfalls, 
Washington State ferries, 
banana slugs, 
sword ferns,
wild rhododendrons,
the remaining old growth forest,
western red cedars (Thuja plicata),
ponderosa pines,
Northwest berries,
laughter, especially babies and toddlers laughing,
long and late summer sunsets,
the wind that caresses and jingles my wind chimes, and...and....and it's hard to stop!

So for now I'll take leave, log off, and plan on spending a social media, web-free holiday. I'll try to be fully present with those around me, including any whales I might see on the ferry ride to Bainbridge (wishful thinking).

How about you? What tops your list of gratitude this year? Wishing you and yours a lovely Thanksgiving and holiday season ahead.

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.