Wednesday, December 29, 2021

2021: A Pacific Northwest Year in Review

So long 2021. I can't quite settle on how I feel about you. After 2020, we all had great hopes for you.

For me and most of my friends, who can no longer be called young by any stretch of any imagination, life in the time of SARS-COVID 19 is still more tamped down than the "before times." We had a brief few months of semi-euphoria in the late spring and summer after vaccination. 

And then came delta, followed by pesky little sister omicron.

But I'm not here to write about the pandemic. I'm here to share a year in photos and a few videos of my special corner of the world, which I haven't left since late 2019. Please join me!

January: Into the Woods
To be honest, most of my year was into the woods. But for January's sake, we'll start with several trips cross-country skiing the lovely forested trails at Cabin Creek, a few miles east of Snoqualmie Pass (which is southeast of Seattle in the Cascade Mountains). This gem of a trail system, tucked against the side of Amabilis Mountain (which I've skied up and down too), provides an excellent workout in as little as an hour or as long as you want to keep skating and gliding or tramping.


February: Across the Sea
My winter routine involved lots of walks around northwest Seattle where I live, punctuated with trips every few weeks to Port Townsend to visit my aunt and friends for Monday morning coffee. This involved leaving my house and boarding a ferry across Puget Sound before sunrise (the 7:10 a.m.), which provided opportunities to shoot the changing hues in sky reflected on the horizon. 
Westbound on the Edmonds to Kingston ferry.

I always stop at a quiet overlook on Port Gamble Bay and walk about 20 minutes on the bluff trail to greet the day, camera in hand.
Port Gamble Bay

March: Into the Sea
In March I met a group of swimmers at Golden Gardens near my north Seattle home who were actually, like, swimming in Puget Sound and not just plunging in and out like I'd been doing. My neighbors were the nexus of the group and invited me to join them. So I resolved to take a few extra strokes each week to build up my endurance and time in the water.

This began early in March on my birthday, which happened to be an unseasonably brilliant day:

...and the day was topped with one of the most gorgeous sunsets over the Salish Sea I witnessed all year.

April: Across the Mountains
Come early spring, I started embarking on my first overnight getaways from Seattle in almost a year. A friend graciously let me stay at his gorgeous cabin just outside Leavenworth, where I enjoyed brilliant views of the Enchantments and met up and did some walks/hikes with friends who live over there.

Sleeping Lady near Leavenworth, Washington.

May: Onto the Island
A top 2021 highlight was my first trip back to Orcas Island since 2016. How could it have been that long?

I hiked, swam, and paddled with friends also visiting the island (including an Orcas ex-pat "native" visiting her mother in Eastsound). Another friend who lives there showed me some of her secret special places. It was an absolutely perfect spring weekend (can you hear me exhaling slowly?) with blue sunny skies.

Kayaks and standup paddleboards do mix! Eastsound, Washington.

And because I can't adequately put into words how incredibly wonderful this hike up and down Turtleback Mountain was, here's a short video clip:

There was also a marvelous weekend east of Chinook Pass at a friend's cabin, with hiking, good food, and some morel foraging. Life is indeed good here in the Pacific Northwest.

June: Up and Down the Region
Family moved front and center in June and cousins were up visiting from California, so there were trips to the Portland area and Port Townsend. I booked (and my sneaky aunt called and paid my bill) an overnight at the historic and charming Palace Hotel in Port Townsend. I also joined my cousin's wife for a swim in the sea there too.

Can you say charming street front? Palace Hotel in Port Townsend, Washington.

I guess I must mention the unprecedented heat dome we experienced late in the month. The only respite was walks in a nearby forest, where the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees as soon as you entered. This says something about the value and necessity of saving our urban trees and woodlands.

July: Honoring and Revisiting
A super busy work period kept me inside a lot, but I did get down to Portland for time with family and old friends, in light of a loss. I watched a beautiful sunset on a warm summer evening with friends on Rocky Butte and was up and out before sunrise for a lovely hike in the Columbia Gorge with some other friends. The Portland area will always be as equally home to me as Seattle.

August: On the Trail
In preparation for a backpacking trip in early September, I hit the trail more in August (and work died down). Highlights were a hike up to the Tolmie Peak fire lookout in Mt. Rainier National Park with the Alpine Trails book club (on a day smoky from regional wildfires), a morning hike to Wallace Falls just outside Index, and the grind up and down McClellan Butte in the I-90 corridor east of Seattle. With poor visibility and prudence, we did not do the rock scramble to the true summit.
Any day on the trail is a good day.
And a long weekend with dear high school friends on a Puget Sound beach was the restorative balm we all needed. 💚

September: Across and into the Mountains
While my knees are still willing, I was thrilled to join some friends for an absolutely awesome backpack trip in Glacier National Park. On the eastern crest of the Rockies and at higher elevations, we passed through some starkly beautiful landscapes.


October: Back into the Woods, Water, and Mountains
Yes, this Northwesterner's life involves lots of time in the woods and mountains. There was also a sweet afternoon kayak trip on the Sammamish River and Swamp Creek in a splendid Pacific Northwest rain (video below), a wonderful hike to Lake Valhalla, and an overnight at Sleeping Lady near Leavenworth, where the fall colors were cranking up.

Lake Valhalla and Mt. Lichtenberg beyond.

November: Stalking Mushrooms
Actually I got out with a friend in September to forage for chanterelles, but in November the hunt is with cameras in hand to shoot them. They're easy to miss if you're not looking in the right places, but this downed log on a side trail near my home was wild with mushrooms. I'm still learning, so I can't name this variety, can you?

December: Snow Comes for the Holidays
This year with vaccines, boosters, and testing, it has been wonderful to gather with family and friends in person for the holidays. After another quick trip to Port Townsend, the snow arrived in full force the day after Christmas (
thank you weather gods for sending the snow a day late and sparing us from snow driving that's so problematic around Seattle with our many hills).
It's a rare treat to be able to ski outside your front door here. Below is a short clip of a ski down into the ravine near my home:

And with that it's a wrap on the year. It was a mixed bag overall, but as I've been composing this post, I realize there were many wonderful experiences and memories made over the past year.  So 2021, not bad. Not perfect, but moments of perfection.
Here's to 2022, may you bring us many laughs, smiles, and good times ahead!
Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBookTwitter, and Instagram for more
Northwest photos and outdoors news.


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Hiking through the Holidays in Mosslandia: Twin Falls


Although the days are getting longer (and colder) now that the Winter Solstice has passed, it's still what we call the "dark days" here in Washington.

Our chilly wet weather is about to turn into a possible record-breaking cold snap, with likely snow. Local moss, in its multitude of varieties and very happy from our wet autumn, will go dormant from the freeze. So, too, will some Mossbacks who live here.

But many of us will be outside reveling in winter. 

Last week on a bone-chilling rainy/snowy day, I dashed east of Seattle into the foothills near North Bend for a short but sweet hike to Twin Falls (which is actually three waterfalls). On this rainy Wednesday in the middle of the day, I only saw two other hikers on this normally super popular trail.

The Twin Falls trail skirts close to the South Fork Snoqualmie River

Besides it being a week day, another reason I had the trail mostly to myself was, of course, the steady, hovering-just-above-freezing rain. 

As I tramped onward, just happy to be out in such lush Northwest beauty, the rain turned to big fat wet snowflakes. 

I kept on thinking I'd turn around because it was so wet despite my rain pants and Gore-Tex shell, but I couldn't stop until I got to the main bridge over the waterfalls. It was too lovely out there.

By this time, snow was covering the bridge, although thankfully it wasn't slippery.

On this trip, I bypassed the lower waterfall viewpoint deck. But I did stop to admire lots of moss and the huge old growth Douglas fir along the trail.

After about 90 minutes of hiking in nonstop rain/snow/rain, at places the trail seemed like a side channel to the river.

Because there was such a healthy flow in the river and I had the trail to myself, I did a few detours down to the river's edge to shoot a few clips from my smartphone. 

By the time I got back to the car, my jeans were damp beneath my rain pants and so too was my jacket layered under a shell. But I just slipped off those outer layers and turned up the heat in my car as I drove home, thoroughly exhilarated from "forest bathing" in solitude. This is a rare treat anymore near Seattle.

Happy holidays!

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBookTwitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.