Saturday, June 6, 2015

Railroad Grade

Spectacular day today on Railroad Grade, which is the approach to the Easton Glacier for climbing Mount Baker.  Headed up with Dean, Ruth and the Dude, always great company and trail companions. 

The trail was full of climbers headed up and coming down. We noted the Washington Alpine Club, a recovery group, a class, and others.  We were hoping to spot our friend Dan and his crew which were running from Bellingham to Mt. Baker and back.  We counted 40 tents near the Sandy campsite, and throughout the hike we were spotting ants marching up and down the glacier towards the crater.

We had 80 degree temperatures and I've got a real good sunburn, despite wearing a long sleeve shirt and putting on the 50 SPF.  Visibility was great all around--as we neared the end of Railroad Grade, we were able to see the San Juan Islands and I believe Anacortes. Glacier Peak and Mount Rainier were on display to the south.

The wildflowers are out. Most notable was the phlox, hanging on the edges of the Grade. I saw asters, lupine, crimson heather, and others. The Grade itself is a knife edge trail, with a steep fall off on one side. The trail is snow free. Dean and I hiked up here amazingly in February, through snow. Nice to see the June version of this special trail.

Hooray for American Pharaoh. It was terrific to come down afterwards and watch history. The trails inspire, champions inspire, a beautiful day inspires. A good Saturday, for sure. The Mariners have got to win this one--the universe ordains it.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Olympic National Park

I visited the Olympic National Park this weekend. Good times, hanging out at the Sol Duc campground with great friends. Lots of laughs, and great to see BJ up from San Diego for the weekend.

Camping under old growth is something to be experienced. The Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock are thick and gnarly, with moss dripping off them. Birds and squirrels are flitting around all over the place.

In the morning, my friends headed up to the High Divide Trail, which is a classic that I'll have to make time for soon.  I opted for less strenuous activities in the valleys.

I visited Sol Duc Falls. This is a a short trail through mossy woods, with creeks and gnomes running around everywhere. One of these days I'll get a worthy camera, as this is one of those places where outdoor photographers create postcards and coffee table books. Beautiful. Going early is a good idea, while there are less people out.

I also checked out the Elwha River Valley.  This has been on my list for a while. In the early 1990s, Congress passed the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act, which basically is a law that allowed dams to be removed on the Elwha River.  I visited the Glines Canyon Dam sometime way back then--maybe 1994--because I was interested in this and salmon restoration. Also, at the time, the timber wars were full on in this area, with the spotted owl making headlines. Many houses had signs in their windows saying "This family supported by timber."

Conservation seems to be winning on the Elwha River. Last August, the final 30 feet of the Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha was removed. Salmon are already running back up the river.  This is a river that used to have 90 pound chinooks. Where once Lake Mills sat, there is now a new basin which will soon fill in again.  I hiked a trail through the side of the basin for a while, amidst stumps from before the dam went up, driftwood, and alder stands. Restoration efforts are in full swing, as I noted saplings planted here and there.  It's a pretty cool story.