Friday, January 1, 2016

Best of 2015

Here's the list for 2015:

1.              The Redwoods National and State Parks

My wife and I took a road trip down to the Redwoods. I haven't been there since the mid-90s, I think. This is a hard place to get to, unless you set out to go there, or want to do the 101. A simply  wonderful trip, and definitely one of my favorite memories from 2015. We camped in Jedediah Smith State Park, with a nice campfire each night. Note: no campfires allowed in WA and OR, due to a very bad fire season. We went to a campfire presentation by the ranger, where we learned all about the ecology of redwoods groves. We hiked redwoods trails, and of course, the redwoods are crazy big. BIG. We walked the beach at Crescent City, as I hunted for sand dollars. We drove through a tree for $5. I ran the Boy Scout Tree trail, which is like running through Star Wars’ Forests of Endor. I want to go back to the Redwoods, maybe with a backpack.

Boy Scout Tree Trail

2.              New York City and Central Park

Wilderness, this is not. Central Park though is one of the great parks of the world, and I've always wanted to spend time there, and in the Big Apple. I won tickets to the Global Citizen festival concert, featuring Pearl Jam, Coldplay, Beyonce, and Ed Sheeran, and so this was the year. We stayed in Brooklyn for a few nights, and then Manhattan.  The concert was in Central Park, on the Great Lawn. Later, I knocked out a morning run in Central Park. Central Park is amazing, as an oasis of nature in the middle of the concrete jungle. It’s creation and maintenance is a lesson in conservation and environmental ethics. We also managed a walk across the famous Brooklyn Bridge, visited the Bronx for a Yankees game, checked out Pete Davidson at the famous Caroline's Comedy Club, and rode the water-taxi all around the Harbor, including by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We got really good getting around town on the subway, which I find fascinating. The Pope was even in town. 

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala, 
speaking at the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park

3.              Chinook Pass Loop

This was one of two Ultrapedestrian Wilderness Challenges I took on this year.  A 32 mile loop on an exceptionally hot day in July was a fool’s mission, but I’m just that kind of fool sometimes.  The loop starts at Chinook Pass by the Willam O. Douglas Wilderness down by Mt. Rainier, and has about a dozen miles on the PCT, before circling back to the start point via the Laughingwater Creek and Eastside trails.  I was a dead man walking on the Eastside Trail, and the final climb up out to Tipsoo Lake was a real grunt. But that morning, with the full moon high in the sky, wandering off along the PCT and kicking up deer, alongside full fields of blooming lupine—this was something really, really special. Thanks Ras and Kathy for putting this on my map. ( :

Pacific Crest Trail, near Chinook Pass, in July

Mount Rainier from Pacific Crest Trail

4.              Railroad Grade #1 and #2

I twice hiked up to Railroad Grade in the Mount Baker Wilderness with friend Dean and his good dog, The Dude. Ruth came once! The first hike was in February, which is downright bizarre, but there was just no snow last winter. The lack of snowpack was unreal. Railroad Grade is an access point to climbing Mount Baker, and usually doesn’t turn snow-free until summer. We also hiked Railroad Grade a few months later, and there must have been 150 people trying to summit Baker that day from the south. Always a good day on the trail with Dean, Ruth, and their dog, the Dude.

Railroad Grade, Mt. Baker Wilderness, in February 2015

Railroad Grade in June 2015

Mount Baker summit, viewed from Railroad Grade

Early in the year, several good friends decided to run the Seven Lakes Basin loop over in the Olympics by the Sol Duc hotsprings.  I bagged on the loop, which was a total mistake, as there was an 18 mile loop I know I could’ve managed in retrospect. Still, lemons to lemonade: after camping out the night with BJ, Mike, Rich, Dan, Justin and dogs, I headed over to the Elwha Valley to see the recently breached dam. The breach of the Elwha Dam is a big deal for the Olympic N.P.  They have been talking about doing this for 20 years, and conservation finally won out. The valley which was formerly a lake is now a recovering greenspace. I understand the salmon are already coming back. 100 pound Kings used to swim the Elwha, like the Kenai in Alaska. I hiked the trail into this valley, through a sea of stumps and grass type plants. Below, you can see the breached dam.

Breached Elwha Dam, from the drained basin

6.              Easy Pass to Thunder Creek

The Easy Pass to Thunder Creek journey is a favorite North Cascades run of mine. This year, I did it for my fifth time, as my second Ultrapedestrian Wilderness Challenge. The trail cuts through the heart of the North Cascades, through high alpine to river valley. The Fisher Creek valley below Easy Pass is one of my favorite places. I even met a few new friends by doing this as a Challenge, and hope to see them on the trail again this year. Scored some miles for WTA's Hike-A-Thon here too: 24, by my count. Notable: some excellent improvements to the trail, with new bridges over some previously sketchy creek crossings.

Easy Pass, right before a 20 mile descent
 through Fisher Creek and Thunder Creek valleys

Hoary Marmot, Fisher Creek Valley resident

7.              Baker Lake 50k

I made it back once again to my favorite 50k. 12th time now. My time was slower than ever, but that didn’t matter much. It was a terrific day on the trail, with the reflection of Mount Baker on the lake, shining like a mirror in a Disney film. Friend Stan asked my wife after the event, “What’s with the stick?” as I used a hiking stick all the way. It helps. Good memory of the encouragement from Tim at the half-way mark, and chatting afterwards with him, John, Kevin and a few other good friends. I like it quiet on the trail but I like to share about the experience afterwards. And the good finish line eats.

Mount Baker, reflected in Baker Lake, from Baker Lake trail

8.              Green Mountain Lookout

The Suiattle River area has been difficult to access for over a decade, due to road washouts. With the road recently fixed, I had to get a day in over there in the Glacier Park Wilderness. I chose to go to Green Mountain Lookout in the fall, which has been the subject of some controversy in the last few years. Its an interesting story that would make a good article, as a wilderness conservation non-profit challenged in federal court the U.S. Government’s use of helicopters to fly in materials to repair the lookout. As I recall, the group won in court, despite an outcry against their legal action, and then special legislation was passed in Congress.  Anyway, it’s a very reasonable hike that keeps getting higher and higher, until you’re at the Lookout, perched on something akin to the cliffs of Mordor.  The slopes below were full of red and green, declaring the fall season.

Hidden Peak Lookout in Glacier Peak Wilderness

9.              The Oregon Coast

Before we reached the Redwoods, we spent a few days on the Oregon Coast. This deserves a highlight of its own, and you know what I mean if you spent any time there.  One night in Lincoln City to spread the ashes of a friend.  Another night in Coos Bay, which always makes me think of Steve Prefontaine.  In between, the beach, the winding road, and views of haystacks and rolling surf, curve after curve.  I also tried the “world’s best clam chowder” in a few different places. On the way back, we cut over to Ashland and checked out the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Sunset at Lincoln City, Oregon

I’ve been to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands many, many times in my life. I’ve ran my share of Orcas 50ks and know Moran State Park pretty well.  I camped in the bunkhouse for my first time when I was 13 years old. Even my Dad knows the island—he likes to tell me the story of how he caught a big fish Camp Orkila, which had to be in the 1940s. Over the last few years, I have been hearing about Turtleback Mountain, which is on the ferry dock landing side of the island. I finally hiked and ran this wonderful flip side to the island, and It Was Good. 

View from Turtleback Mountain (Waldron Island, San Juan Island)

Other than these highlights, my training lagged. I wasn’t a regular runner, but I stayed somewhat  active. I managed a trip to Washington D.C., National Harbor, and Virginia, where I saw the folks, attended a conference, and came back from the Nationals game via a Potomac River boat. Lots of baseball this year:  two Nationals games, a Yankees game in the Bronx, a few Ms games in Seattle,  and an Everett Aquasox game. What can I say?--I like baseball.

Nationals Stadium

Concerts were incredible too this year, including right up front for a Mad Season/Temple of the Dog reunion show at Benaroya Hall, opening night for Sleater-Kinney’s reunion at the Showbox, and Pearl Jam in Central Park, along with other huge acts. We also made it to the Fifth Avenue Theater for the Sound of Music and the Seattle Opera a few times.

Temple of the Dog reunion, Benaroya Hall 
(Pictured, left to right: 
Mike McCready, Jeff Ament, Chris Cornell, Stone Gossard)

And then there’s the family events—weddings, get-togethers—a good year on this front, all around. So much more to say there, but I'll leave it be, except to say that this is wonderful. This past year I was also inspired by so many amazing accomplishments of friends. Really amazing. I am very fortunate for all the people in my life.

So here I am on the edge of 2016.  Metaphorically, I don't know if I'm looking up the hill or down the hill, but I expect good things are coming.

No comments: