Thursday, May 17, 2018

Spring in the Pacific Northwest: Still Here

After almost 10 years blogging here at Pacific Northwest Seasons, an overextended schedule and other issues have conspired to keep me away.  

I've been out and about, and I hope to be back blogging new posts more frequently again soon.

I've enjoyed some good spring hikes at a few favorite spots (Deception Pass Park, Leavenworth area in Washington), a few trips north to the Skagit Valley for spring garden goodies and tulips, and a fun road trip through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and back on up to Seattle.

I'll blog more about the road trip. In the meantime, enjoy a few shots from the last month, from both east and west of the Cascades. 

Looking up Tumwater Canyon from Icicle Ridge Trail.
Arrowleaf balsam root, Leavenworth, WA

Spring wildflowers, atop Goose Rock, Deception Pass Park

Bryce Canyon, Utah, sunrise

Road trip! Heading home on I-90 nearing Cle Elum, WA
 But just wanted to say hey for now. I'm still here.

I hope you are too. Check back in a week or two for more.

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. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

BC Road Trip: Rossland and Red Mountain

For years I've heard from friends about the fantastic skiing at Red Mountain and charm of Rossland. A few weeks ago in March, it was finally my turn to experience this fun mountain and great little outdoors town.

While I can't speak authoritatively about the mountain from just one day of skiing, I did have a splendid day skiing there in spring-like conditions. 

Locals told me that about 4 years ago, Rossland got "discovered" and now draws visitors from all over the world. Despite the uptake, Red still retains a local mountain feel.

After a scenic road trip from Seattle, our day skiing was bracketed by two nights in Rossland. We scored a room at the Prestige Mountain Resort on the main street in downtown Rossland, convenient to all the shops and cafes.

We ate very well. Our first evening, we enjoyed an excellent dinner at Gabriella's Restaurant in the lobby of the Prestige. My housemade butternut squash ravioli with wild mushrooms was excellent. I had to restrain myself from finishing it all and getting stuffed.

A brilliant mountain sunrise greeted us before skiing Saturday. Of course I had to grab the camera and snap some shots outside our window.

Before driving the few short miles to the mountain, we walked down the street for coffee/tea/breakfast at the Alpine Grind a couple blocks away. Outside a line had formed before it opened at 8 am, and it was definitely worth the wait. Good quality tea (I can't speak for the coffee but everyone seemed happy) and a toasted whole grain bagel with peanut butter and jelly hit the proverbial spot. (Personally I don't like a big breakfast before skiing).

And on to the mountain, which is literally the other side of the hill from town and less than 10 minutes driving. Morning clouds were cleared off by the time we hit the slopes, which took an hour or so to soften up. However, good grooming made it easy peasy to ski regardless.

There are three mountains at Red, and we didn't go up the actual Red Mountain due to a ski race set up over there.  After a few warm up runs down below, we headed up Granite Mountain, where the panoramic views of the surrounding Kootenay Mountains opened up.

The peak just below is Red Mountain.
For most of the day we stuck to the groomers, and made our way over to Grey Mountain for a few fun runs.

By early afternoon the conditions were softening up quite a bit. I made another foray back over to Granite Mountain and skied down the black diamond front side beneath the chair - Buffalo's Ridge to Main Run.

We quit while we were ahead, tired and happy. Oh, and gotta say, the Thai tofu veggie wrap sandwich I had in the lower lodge was about the tastiest, most healthful lunch I've ever had at a ski mountain.

Saturday night we had dinner at a fairly new place set in an old refurbished gas station/garage in "downtown," the appropriately named Fuel Gastropub and Diner. The salad was tasty, but the real standout dish was the pork belly tacos.

Despite the warmish day, it got chilly as the sun set. We bundled up to stroll and stop in a few shops along the way.

We were up and out early the next day, and while I would have liked another few days to ski, it was a good first taste of what this area has to offer. Next trip I'd like to return earlier in the year - January or February - to hopefully hit some fresh snow and try some of their famous backcountry cat skiing.

How about you, have you skied Red and spent time in Rossland? Would love to hear about it if so.

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

As I mentioned in my prior post, Rossland is about a 6 - 8 hour drive from Seattle, just north of the border in southern British Columbia. It's a historic former mining town turned year-round outdoors destination, but skiing was the original draw. Here's a link to the trail map for Red Mountain. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Road Trip: Seattle to Rossland, BC

One of my favorite things to do is going places I've never been before. I love filling in places on the map with real time adventure.

So I jumped at a recent invite to road trip to Rossland, a charming historic mining town turned outdoors mecca in the famous Kootenay Rockies Region of British Columbia, Canada. While our goal was skiing at Red Mountain, first I have to tell you about the great road trip there from Seattle.

When people outside the Pacific Northwest think of Washington, they usually think hipster-ish Seattle, coffee, rain, deep green forests, and the sea.  Of course our region is much more varied and dramatically different east of the Cascade Crest.

I pulled out my dog-eared copy of Roadside Geology of Washington to learn more about the country we passed through. Some 200 million years ago, much of what became Washington consisted of two large islands drifting in the Pacific Ocean. One after the other they "docked" onto the west coast of the North American continent, which was once almost as far east as Idaho.  

On first part of our trip, from near Puget Sound to Wenatchee on US Route 2 (the Stevens Pass Scenic Byway), we traversed the ancient North Cascades subcontinent. This micro-continent was one of the former islands that collided and merged into what is today the western edge of the Columbia River Plateau.

The former "west coast"
We snuck over to Leavenworth Thursday pm to get a head start on the long drive to Rossland the next day (with a few planned stops). A dusky pink alpenglow hovered over the mountains surrounding town as we arose early Friday, a good harbinger for the day ahead.

As we drove southeast towards Wenatchee, the sun was still below the surrounding mountains. After turning northward onto Route 97 along the Columbia River toward Chelan (our first stop), the sunlight was just cresting the hilltops along the river, to lovely effect.

This much more arid country east of the Cascades is characterized by rolling hills, rocky outcrops, and sparse vegetation. I call it the "dry side."

After a quick stop in Chelan for an errand and to grab a hot drink, we dropped back down to the river and continued northward. The town of Chelan lies at the edge of the glacial moraine formed by the receding glacier thousands of years ago that scoured what became Lake Chelan. [Interesting factoid: The bottom of Lake Chelan is lower than sea level.]

Lake Chelan

We followed the Columbia River, which is dammed into a series of submissive "lakes" along this route, until it drifted eastward toward Grand Coulee Dam and we continued north.

I call this shot "lonesome pine."
After leaving the river behind, we passed through the thoroughly eastern Washington small towns of Okanogan, Omak, and Tonasket. We're definitely not in Seattle anymore Toto.

Downtown Tonasket
A quick shout-out to Shannon's Deli & Cafe in Tonasket, where we stopped for a breakfast sandwich on the way to B.C. and for a slice of not too tart, not too sweet, just right berry pie on the way home.

And for you geology geeks, Tonasket marks the southern edge and west coast of the former Okanogan island continent (comparable to the North Cascades subcontinent) that also docked against North America about 100 million years ago.

At Tonasket we turned right (eastward) on Highway 20 and enjoyed beautiful, snowy, mountainous scenery as the highway angled northeast towards the town of Republic. There's a whole lot of not much out here but lovely scenery and scattered ranches and homes (see the shot at the top of this post).

These remote mountains of northeastern Washington are home to most of the wolf packs that have returned to our state the last decade or so. 

After a stop in Republic for provisions (snacks, a map), we turned north past Curlew and on up to the border crossing at Danville. Several deer were trudging through the snow along the Kettle River as we passed by.

Downtown Republic
Grand Forks, BC, just across the US border, was our destination for a few hours in the afternoon to visit family. This small town, among many others in this part of BC, is becoming a landing spot for refugees escaping the prohibitively expensive cost of living around Vancouver on the coast. Evidence of this transformation shows in some great coffee shops and cafes.

We enjoyed excellent coffee and tea at Kocomo's, owned by a friendly mother and son duo.

From Grand Forks on to Rossland, another 80 minutes of driving through the mountains, I was too distracted with anticipation to take any more photos. So you'll just have to check back in a few day for the next post about Rossland and Red Mountain. :)

What is your favorite road trip around the Northwest, or anywhere? Would love to hear in 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.

When You Go
Our total driving time from Seattle to Rossland was between 8 and 9 hours, factoring in stops along the way. We opted to drive north and go over Highway 2 instead of I-90 for an overnight in Leavenworth en route, then north on Highway 97 near Wenatchee, then east onto Highway 20 at Tonasket, then north onto Highway 21 just past Republic to the Danville border crossing, then east-northeast on Highway 3 past Grand Forks, then south onto Highway 38 to Rossland. Sorry, all the routes I searched for online don't show this exact route. Here's a map showing the region and a fairly close route that travels farther east before cutting north. 


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Winter in the Pacific Northwest: Get Outside

Have you gotten outside much this winter? 

Here in Upper Left USA, winter has been throwing us lots of rain, snow, and sun, so I've gotten good use of my rain and cold weather gear. Some hiking, some skiing, a getaway, it all has been fun between bouts of working overtime.

So today's post is a mélange of adventures around Washington since the first of the year. 

Hiking in the Rain
When a pineapple express hit in January, plans to go skiing one Saturday morphed into a hike up Boulder River off the Mountain Loop Highway near Darrington, Washington.

Heavy rain was predicted, which makes for good waterfall viewing. Plus it's more comfortable hiking in the rain than skiing in the rain. (Umbrellas can be your friend, but not on the slopes.) 

We were lucky, the rain didn't really start up in earnest until shortly before we arrived back at the car after a 7.5-mile hike. And yes, the waterfalls and the mossy green woods along the river were gorgeous.

This trail is fairly easy, with a gain of less than 1,000 feet (gotta get your heart rate up a bit). It's also very popular, even on this rainy day the parking lot was full and then some.

After Hike Eats
My friend Andy directed us to the Stilly Coffee House in Arlington on the way home, where we refueled with fresh cookies and hot drinks after a chilly, damp hike. I like supporting independent small businesses, and the Stilly was warm and friendly. (BTW Stilly is the nickname for the Stillaguamish River that flows through Arlington.)

Heading East to Ski
Early February we headed over to Leavenworth, Washington, for a few nights to catch up with some friends and ski Mission Ridge above Wenatchee. After the warm spell, there was a fast snowmelt around Leavenworth, leaving snow levels comparable to late March instead of early Feb.

But the brilliant blue skies were worth the trip. 

We drove up to Mission Saturday, where the snow was mostly hard and a bit  icy (they've since gotten more snow). For several runs I skied with a guy who knew the area well and took me on a some fun runs I wouldn't have found easily. Mission features friendly locals and smooth groomer runs.

The contrast between the mountain and the arid, dry land beyond is striking and so different than skiing on the west side of the Cascade Crest. Plus the views the other direction from the top of the ridge are lovely too, with Mt. Rainier dominant on the southern horizon.

After Ski Eats
Afterwards we met up with a friend down near the Columbia River in Wenatchee at the Pybus Public Market. We snacked at the Cafe Columbia, where I had a  very tasty spiced cookie, but there are numerous other options at this indoor marketa great addition to the Wenatchee food scene.

Hiking Leavenworth
After a great dinner Saturday night at Kingfisher Restaurant at Sleeping Lady Resort, the next morning we awoke to more bluebird skies. Normally we'd do some cross-country skiing, but instead the trail was clear enough to hike up the Icicle Ridge Trail above Leavenworth. 

While I'm an enthusiast for hiking in the rain, I must admit it was wonderful to be hiking in the sunshine again.

Skiing the Pass
To Northwesterners, "the Pass" could be several places. To Puget Sound dwellers, it might be Stevens Pass or Snoqualmie Pass, but on President's Day for us it was Snoqualmie

While the "real" skiing around these parts is at Crystal Mountain or Stevens, for a quick morning of fun turns, Snoqualmie is just fine. We arrived before the lifts opened to get a close parking space (Silver Fir Lodge is the way to go), and then skied the crossover to Summit East, which I will always call Hyak.

A morning of cold snowy bliss ensued. While we take Snoqualmie for granted, it really is quite scenic up there.

So there you have it. Just a smattering of outdoors activities around western Washington this winter. Oh, and today I just skied my best powder day ever at Crystal Mountain. Too cold and snowy for action photos!

 How about you? Where have you gotten outdoors the last few months?

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.


Friday, January 26, 2018

From the Evergreen State to the Garden Island: Kauai Winter Getaway

Here in the Pacific Northwest, winters are long and damp, days are short, and dark gray skies often rule.

Although it's still a good time to get outside, a winter getaway to somewhere warm and tropical is something we Northwesterners often indulge in. You'll find plenty of us over in Hawaii this time of year.

While I've been to Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii a few times, a couple friends and I jetted to Kauai recently, my first time there.

Boasting some of the heaviest rainfall on the planet, Kauai didn't disappoint when we were there. One day it rained so hard roads were closed in some areas. But I think falling asleep during a warm tropical downpour is just about the best sleeping weather. During my week there, I slept better and longer than I have for months, maybe years.

True to the spirit of this blog, it was a pretty active vacation, with several hikes I'll tell you about.

Waimea Canyon/Pihea Trail
With a 3-hour time difference, we were up and out early our first morning for the winding mountain road drive up to Waimea Canyon area to explore and hike. We stopped at several overlooks for some shots; the canyon really is as spectacular as the many photos I've seen. 

At the very end of the road, as far as you can drive on the northwest side of the island is the Pihea Trail. This relatively short trail (about 4 miles out and back) is not in very good condition due to extensive overuse.  

It was rough, rutted, full of gnarled roots, and of course muddy. We turned around before the final push because it got so bad, but not before we got some spectacular views of beautiful Kalalau Valley just a few hundred yards down the trail. Here's hoping that some trail maintenance/restoration work will be done there soon (they could use some WTA volunteers).

On the way back we stopped in the coastal town of Waimea and had the first of several marvelous fresh mango banana smoothies. (Didn't get the name of the place but it's next to the Shrimp Station.) Fresh tropical fruit in the tropics is the best!

Awaawapuhi Trail 
From Poi'pu, the next day we went back up to the Waimea Canyon area and hiked the longer Awaawapuhi Trail (about 6.5 miles RT). With an early start, we headed down the trail from elevation 4,120 feet through a tropical jungle down to a narrow ridge with stunning views of the Na Pali coast, at elevation 2,500 feet.  

For those of you with any fear of heights (hand up in the air here), don't venture all the way out to the very narrow rock bridge to the small rock promontory beyond. I started to cross it, but just couldn't. Signs warn hikers to not go beyond the railings anyway.

Watch your step because it's easy to misjudge, and there have been fatalities here. (Check out HuffPost if you want to see one of the scariest selfie videos ever at this trail.) But the views of the otherworldly cliffs are magnificent.

Mahaulepu  Heritage Coastal Trail
On the popular and increasingly developed south shore of Kauai, the Mahaulepa Heritage Coastal Trail is an easy but lovely hike along the only accessible undeveloped stretch of coastline. Our third day here, we literally walked from our ocean-view condo past resorts and a golf course in the Poi'pu area to this coastline trail.

As you can see in the shot above, tropical rain squalls were threatening, and we ultimately did get caught in a soaker. But it was refreshing on a hot afternoon. After the first quarter mile, we had this lovely trail along the coast pretty much to ourselves. Surprising since we just left a dense cluster of resorts and condos.

This easy trail (a bit of scrambling over rocks can be involved) is only 4 miles roundtrip. As always, generous use of sunscreen was imperative for this paleskin.

Kalalua Trail
This trail on the Na Pali coast of northern Kauai is the biggee that draws intrepid hikers from all over the world. Its 11 miles meander up and down along the steep and dramatic cliffs, with dicey sections (numerous fatalities here over the years). I can hardly claim to have hiked it, since we just drove to the end of the road and hiked up only half mile to the first viewpoint (time limitations).

I eyed with envy some backpackers passing us; backpacking this trail has been on my bucket list for years. Another trip...

And more 
There's a lot more I could write about Kauai. Perhaps another blog post in the works, although I don't want to stray too far from the Pacific Northwest here. A few quick highlights:

  • The local food shacks. I had an incredibly delicious fresh ahi tuna burger in Lihue at the Kalapaki Beach Hut near the waterfront. And the smoothies!
  • Snorkeling and surfing at Poi'pu. So I didn't surf, but the snorkeling was lovely and relaxing at Brennecke's Beach area.
  • Exploring Hanapepe Town. This charming historic town built by entrepreneurial immigrants who came to work the sugar plantations is a must visit. It has great shops, galleries, an indie bookstore, eateries, and more. At one shop, the lovely, relaxed saleslady suddenly started doing a hula dance to the background music, the aloha spirit in action.
  • The sunsets. What else can I say? The photo below doesn't completely capture the stunning skies. This view was from our balcony.

It's good to be home, but I'll gladly go back to Kauai for some more.

Have you been? I'd love to hear about your hiking (or other) experiences in Hawaii in a comment below.

Aloha, 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, January 9, 2018

In Celebration of Winter Hiking in the Pacific Northwest

When the weather is damp and cold, the sky is many shade of gray, and days are short, sometimes it's hard to fight our natural urge to hibernate. 

Fight it. Get outside on a dreary winter day and go for a walk or hike. Throw on rain gear, bring an umbrella, whatever.

For starters, you'll be rewarded with relative solitude and a healthy dose of nature. Within a couple hours of Portland or Seattle, solitude is an increasingly rare treat while hiking. 

And here on the west side of the Cascade Mountains, it's so green. When I lived in New England, I came home to Oregon for Christmas and was surprised at the lushness I hadn't fully appreciated while growing up. 

So last weekend I headed up to Deception Pass State Park at the northern end of Whidbey Island north of Seattle. I've blogged about hiking there numerous times before, but I'm drawn back often.

There are miles of low-elevation trails both north and south of the historic Deception Pass Bridge, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This day we wandered up and over Goose Rock, down through rich forest, and along bays and beaches. 

In the winter, the road down to the North Beach parking lot is gated closed, so we arrived early enough (about 9:30 am) to snag a spot immediately south of the bridge. 

We walked over 3 hours, and despite carrying umbrellas just in case (yes, real Northwesterners have been known to actually use umbrellas), had a rain-free hike.

Our route took us down toward Cornet Bay and back along the perimeter trail and under the Deception Pass Bridge. 

West of the bridge we dropped down to North Beach, where we walked until high tide forced us back up into the trail above in the woods.

At the end of the westerward point we scrambled over rocks for views up the Strait of Juan de Fuca before heading back. By this time, after noon, more people were about. 

But it still wasn't crowded. Come back on a warm spring/summer/fall day and it's a very different scene.

After Hike Eats
An abundance of excellent options are relatively close (generally speaking) to Deception Pass for some good chow.  Skagit County to the north and east is now well known as a farm- or sea-to-table food destination. Or down island en route to the Clinton ferry terminal, the Langley area offers some excellent places for a bite

We opted to head back north over the bridge to Highway 20 and cut south on Best Road through the heart of the Skagit farmland to Rexville Grocery. This deli/cafe in an old converted gas station has been a favorite stop for years, and locals often gather there at the counter. My half sandwich and cup of chicken noodle soup were just perfect on a chilly winter afternoon.

That evening I was "good" tired from all the fresh sea/forest air and walking for hours. Answering to hiberation mode, I fell into a deep sleep early and slept almost 10 hours. (Besides being outdoors in nature and moving, I always say one of life's greatest pleasures is a good night of sleep.)

I'd love to hear about your winter hikes/after hike eats in 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.

When You Go
Deception Pass State Park is about an 80-mile drive north from central Seattle, and the drive there takes about 90 minutes in good/moderate traffic conditions (early!). Remember to bring your Discover Pass to park, or expect to pay a $10 fee. You can find a map of park trails here, or find one at the parking area by the bridge.