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 CafĂ©, 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.


Suezy Proctor said...

I love reading and looking at your year in a glance Jill. I love all the photos…some bring tears to my eyes wondering will I ever see these places again? While they all make me smile and reminisce, your Valentine’s Day hike in Coulee Country is my favorite because I spent a ton of time there when I was younger and love that environment.

2015 Highlights for me - moving cross-country to Madison, Alabama. Shockaroo! As a native of Seattle, a child of pioneer families, it is hard to believe I would ever leave the PNW. That said, the PNW is always with me, and like you, I have thousands of pics and memories to last a lifetime. Now, my most favorite thing to do is explore this new country, and let me just say – it is beautiful. Rolling hardwood and pine forests for hundreds and hundreds of miles in every direction. Pristine – almost florescent, white-washed spires of every kind of church jolt the eyes from the ever present green of the forests.

Does your statement, “…years really do fly by faster because each passing year is an increasingly smaller percentage of your live as a whole.” make sense? In my view, I see it differently. Life gets bigger because the older I get, the less roadblocks there are, so things are more wide open. We learn what we like and don’t like…we’ve been there done that, kind of thing. So, when given the option of a wide open schedule, we can narrow down our options because so many other things have been taken off the list. Just think about your bucket list and how many things you’ve crossed off. The list is getting smaller, giving you more time to focus on the ones remaining. Okay…my two cents.

My bucket list has new adventures added to it because of our new home base. Mostly they involve hiking history…. portions of The Trail of Tears, The Natchez Trace, the southern Appalachia and taking one road trip a month – one section of the state at a time. The Tennessee River is awe-inspiring – full of mystery and beauty. The ghosts of Huck Finn and his pals are everywhere. I want to kayak around the Lake Guntersville area to go looking for Huck.

One thing I am going to have to figure out – there are NO shoulders on the roads here…not in towns, not in the country, not on the highways. It is hard to pull over to take pictures. The jaw-dropping views and vistas seen from the window of my car when I am driving remain stored in my memory.

Our door is always open, the light is always on, there is forever a spot for you here if you care to visit.

Sending love and Happy Trails to you in 2016. I can't wait to see where they take you!!


JoJo said...

Your pictures make me so homesick. Not a lot of highlights for me this past year....I had a difficult year with my mental health. But I did have a lot of fun in Salem in Oct w/ one of my best friends. And my husband and I took a great day trip up to Provincetown this past fall too. Happy New Year!

jill said...

Suezy, Oh I love your long and thoughtful comments and willingness to jump on in. I really hope to come help you explore your new region. Have done a little hiking in Great Smoky Mt. National Park when I spent a couple weeks in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for work many years ago. And as always, love your positive attitude. Happiest of new year's to you, too! xo

JoJo, Thank you so much for your regular comments. It makes me happy that you get some enjoyment out of my blog. I'm sorry you had a rough year but glad you had a good trip with a good friend and enjoyed a trip to Provincetown. When I lived in Boston for a couple years I never made it there but it sounds like a great destination. Happy New Year to you, too, and wishing you good health in the year ahead.

Lainey Piland said...

What a wonderful year for outdoor adventures! I'm looking forward to following along with your hikes and travels in the coming year... very grateful to have connected with a fellow blogger who loves the beautiful PNW as much as I do. :) Happy New Year, Jill!

Rabbits' Guy said...

Finally got to Leavenworth with lots of snow and a great hike up the Icicle Creek!

Anonymous said...

I’d have to say one of our highlights of the past year was getting the boys outfitted with backpacks, plus upgrading mine. We only made it backpacking once, but look forward to many more trips in future years. We’re just returning from ice skating today, and are going skiing tomorrow. What a nice change from last year!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I love to see you out in the snow. Off to a year filled with great energy, glowing good health and enough water and enough sunshine to make it all enjoyable. Mary lou