Thursday, December 28, 2017

So Long 2017: Another Year of Pacific Northwest Adventures

As the year turns, here we are again. Yes, the seasons do seem to fly by more quickly with each passing year.

While I had a good, busy year, the blog has lagged. I can't say exactly why. Social media burnout? Work overload spilling into evenings and weekends? New distractions in life? Probably a combination of all.

Regardless, sharing annual Pacific Northwest highlights is a tradition here at Pacific NW Seasons.  I hope you enjoy, and I'd love to hear about your 2017 highlights, too, in a comment below.

When I'm not skiing on weekends, I've been hiking lowland forests in the winter the last couple years. It's getting harder to find forests to hike near Seattle or Portland that aren't overly crowded or threatened by logging and development. 

I spent several hours on a January day walking the sometimes confusing trails of the lush Port Gamble Forest, which sits on a northern finger of the Kitsap Peninsula, across Puget Sound from Seattle, Washington.

Save for a few mountain bikers, we saw no one else.  I'm happy to report that several thousand acres of this forest, which was slated for continued logging, has been permanently protected as of late December 2017.

Continuing the lowland hiking theme, I enjoyed a lovely day hiking windswept Ebey's Landing on the western edge of Whidbey Island with the Alpine Trails Book Club. This is a perennial favorite hike any time of the year, but it's quieter in the winter.

This trail offers a nice combination of upland and beach walking. The views up the Strait of Juan de Fuca are spectacular.

In March 2017 it rained. A lot. We had a record-breaking rainfall last winter.

On one of those rainy, mucky days, I joined some friends from Blue Heron Zen Community to team up with the Friends of Jackson Park Trail and Thornton Creek Alliance and pull invasive weeds along the Jackson Park Trail in north Seattle. 

It was wet and muddy, sometimes it felt like an exercise in futility, but it felt good to be out there with other civic-minded people. We smiled and laughed a lot, then ate pizza together huddled under a tarp.

I highly recommend taking a few days each year to volunteer.

Indeed we had April showers in 2017 as our wet spell continued into spring. Rain be damned, I went to the University of Washington Quad to catch the cherry blossoms in bloom. This has become a tourist pilgrimage now, so the rainy day kept the crowds down.

Another destination that's especially brilliant in the spring around here is the Bloedel Garden on Bainbridge Island. On the way there in April, we stopped and visited the grave of Chief Seattle (Sealth, Suiat'l) in Suquamish on the Kitsap Peninsula.

I was moved thinking about what this region was like in his lifetime and how it has changed. I felt connected in a small, not-so-nice way, as I've been told that his daughter worked as a maid for my great-grandparents on Alki in West Seattle.

Our heavy rains abated, and May brought beautiful weather for some great hiking in western Washington. Besides another hike with the Alpine Trails Book Club to Boulder Creek, rich with waterfalls, I rambled along the Mid-Fork Snoqualmie River Trail outside North Bend east of Seattle.

Years ago this was harder to reach with miles of dirt road; today much more is paved. But the reward is still great. You can walk miles through a lovely forest with occasional views like below.

To help a longtime friend celebrate a milestone birthday, a group of us journeyed south to the central Oregon coast for a weekend. When I moved from Portland to Seattle for college, I used to miss what I called "real beaches," the dramatic Pacific coast beaches along the Oregon coast.

I snuck out for a hike at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area just south of Yachats, where the views southward are stunning. Well worth a visit, and if you go, plan to spent a whole day exploring if you like to hike.

With snow retreating from the higher elevations, I joined a friend for an exhilarating hike up to Third Burroughs on Mt. Rainier. If you do this hike, you must go on a clear day for the brilliant views.

At about 10 miles round-trip from the Sunrise parking lot, this hike is a great workout. As always, go early!

Several friends joined me for a fantastic hike up Beckler Peak on Fourth of July, just below Stevens Pass.  En route below the summit, we passed this little guy.

I used to say that August was my favorite month, although these days I trend toward October. But ah August, the rich, well-seasoned later summer, is a great time here in the Northwest.

We were plagued by intensely smokey days from forest fires raging throughout the region, but on early morning of the total solar eclipse day, skies cleared for perfect viewing in western Oregon. What an absolutely awesomely amazing thing to witness!

We were camped at a farm near Silverton, Oregon, and also got in a lovely hike in Silver Falls State Park. Go if you can...early.
Some say September is the shining star month here in the Pacific Northwest. Often we have Indian summer conditions, the pesky summer bugs have mostly gone away for the year, and it's a fantastic time to hike, kayak, or whatever outdoors pursuit you like.

A highlight for me was a gorgeous, invigorating hike up Mt. Townsend on the northeastern edge of the Olympic Mountains. 

On a sad note, the Eagle Creek Fire engulfed large swaths of our treasured Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area forests.

A nice day in October is a treasure. I now claim October as my favorite month for the fall colors, the touch of winter sometimes creeping into the air (skiing!), the end of the fall harvest (Washington apples!), and much more. 

In 2017 I got over to the Leavenworth area and beyond to Stehekin on the upper end of Lake Chelan. I love north-central Washington for its drier climate but beautiful rugged mountains. Great hiking too.

Usually our first snow in the mountains comes in November, and 2017 was on target as usual.

On a chilly clear November day, the Snow Lakes Trail above Icicle Creek outside Leavenworth was pretty much all ours. In the summer this trail is full of hikers and climbers, some en route to the Enchantments or just the Snow Lakes above. But again, off season is the time to go for more solitude. (If that's what you like.)

And here we are as I write this. It has been a hectic, whirlwind of a month with the holidays. 

I've not gotten out much except for a few good walks in Seattle's Discovery Park. Not a bad place to walk, really. In fact, I'll get more enthusiastic and call it an urban treasure featuring a lowland forest, prairie bluffs, beaches, and stunning views.

It's time to think about skiing, which I hope to be doing over New Year's. But also, for me,  the turning of the year is a time to take stock of the year past and the year ahead. 

What will 2018 bring? Stay tuned for more Pacific Northwest (and beyond) adventures.  Wishing you and yours a happy, fulfilling, fun, and peaceful new 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.