Friday, August 23, 2019

The Rolling Stones

Off the beaten path here...

Last week we attended the Rolling Stones concert in Seattle at Century Link field. The show was amazing, for a stadium show. They did not disappoint, and it was a beautiful night for music outside.

They are all in their 70s now, and of course they can only roll for so long, but for this night, they could've been 30 years younger. Mick ran the stage the whole show, Ronnie was a driving force, and Keith and Charlie were steady as ever. Since I was a kid and the Some Girls album came out, I've always wanted to see this band. It was a good night.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Monogram Lake

Mike and I hiked up to Monogram Lake yesterday, in the North Cascades National Park. The trail is reportedly about 10 miles, out and back. The first three miles are shared with the trail to Lookout Mountain. The trailhead is right off the Cascade River Road, east of Marblemount.

We got the early start, leaving Mount Vernon before 6 AM. Thank you Mike. After a coffee stop, we drove up in the rain--slight drizzle. We stopped at the Shell Station in Marblemount to assess. Funny thing--this gas station sells machetes by cash register, for all those who wish to venture in to the brush, I guess. "Cheaper than Wal-Mart--we buy in bulk." I bought one, and carried it the whole day, occasionally hacking nettles, ferns, and brush. This trail has a reputation for being brushy, and we did pass through one kind of thick section.

This is a hard hike, similar to Sourdough. It is just constant up. We hiked up through a steady drizzle, and while I huffed and puffed, I really enjoyed the trail. It is classic North Cascades forest, going up, with mossy trees, old growth, steep ledges. But it is all up.

We ran into a couple nice guys who had stayed at the Lookout the previous two nights. They said we passed the trail junction for Monogram Lake, so we backtracked with them (down) for maybe half a mile. After further review, we decided they missed the junction coming down, and so back up we went. Nice conversation, extra mile credit.

We found the junction, and at this point I thought we had 500 more feet of climbing, and we'd find the lake in a mile or so. Obviously, in retrospect, I was light on my research and prep. But eventually, after more climb, we came into an open basin, and then the wildflowers started popping. Surprised they were still in bloom, but the full menu was out--lupine, paintbrush, heather, asters, daisies, and so on. I think I saw the most abundant patches of paintbrush I've ever seen.

The blueberries were also abundant. As many as I can remember anywhere, really. Tart, easy to reach for, and very beary territory. We were expecting, hoping to see a bear, safely. Mike might've scared one off--big boom in the brush--but we never laid eyes on one. The reports say they are all over the place, and that's not hard to believe.

The lake seemed to take forever to materialize, and we were starting to wonder if climate change had done away with it, but we pressed on a little further, and voila, a beautiful alpine lake, sitting in a bowl.

We tried fishing, and Mike caught one. Supposedly, you can't fail at this lake, but I didn't bring one in. I did tie up a lure and bobber on a log, and then had to go in after it, because, leave no trace, and all that. Cold, but not unbearable--probably nice on a sunny day.

The return back was much easier, because it was mostly down, once we got back up out of the lake basin. The trail is a little narrow, with many steep ledges and opportunities to trip, and so maybe I'm older, but I don't really think this is a good downhill run.

Great day in the North Cascades, to somewhere new. Big thanks to Mike, who is always great company.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Sourdough Mountain


Craig and I went up and over Sourdough Mountain on Saturday. It is a personal favorite for each of us. Part of the North Cascades National Park. Hard—over 5000 feet of climbing in about 6 miles.  The first mile or two is really a grind.  But at about mile 3, you cross a mountain creek, the trees thin, and soon you’re on an open mountainside, with wildflowers all around, and crisp views of the aquamarine Diablo Lake, below. That's Diablo, above.

I like the workout. You know its going to be a huff. Everything feels earned, and then the payoff is worth the effort, especially on a clear day like we had.

On top, there are 360 degree views of the North Cascades---the Picketts, Hozomeen and Desolation, Jack Mountain, Colonial, and countless peaks I can’t name. Craig could. He writes guidebooks and outdoors articles, and is really knowledgeable in all things trail. Check out his 100 Classic Hikes of Washington, which includes Sourdough. A beautiful book, among many he has written. So, besides  chatting, he also pointed out a number of things I didn’t know. E.g. Pierce Mountain is not named after Franklin Pierce, but rather an early surveyor.  

360 degrees doesn't really capture it. That's just two dimensions, this so much more. Unobsructed views says it a bit better.

The day was perfect. HD skies for miles and miles. It seems the snowfields melted earlier this year—disturbing, with all the news of climate change. On the day, I saw a marmot, a couple toads and a turkey.

We went down the Pierce Mountain side.  I’ve done this once before. On a July in Saturday, we saw no one. No one. The Pierce Mountain campsite looked like a great place to spend a quiet night.

On the way down, we spied the Desolation Mountain Lookout, far up Ross Lake, sun reflecting off its roof. The Pierce Mountain trail is a bit rough and overgrown, especially through a burn section. It'd be tough after a recent rain. Most notable to me was the lack of water—dry times, all the way back to the car. The beauty of going down this side was the slower pitch through open field of heather, with long views. I expected to see a bear or two, but alas. Navigation wasn't an issue as cairns were well placed, but I had a bit more trouble once, when there was more snow. Once you reach the trees, the trail is readily identifiable, but before that, caution is warranted, as it wouldn't be too hard to drift away from the trail.

A whole loop can been done, but we opted to park a car at Ross Dam, and one at Diablo, saving us the final 5 or 6 miles. We still had a well-earned 15 miles for the day. My right foot wasn’t all that cooperative, rolling as it does once or twice on the way down. 

A magnificent day.


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Great Sedro-Woolley Foot Race

I'm not sure how many times I've done this race, but I found a ribbon last week from 2003. I'm guessing that's the first time, and then probably two out of every three years since then.

This year's event was a bit overcast. Excellent running weather, as a finisher exclaimed to me afterwards. As usual, I did the 5.17 mile circuit, as opposed to the 2 miler. Lots of characters dressed up in red, white, and blue. Streets lined with chairs, for the subsequent parade.

I wasn't too happy with my running, but I know I've been slower. 52:20 or so, so 10 minutes per mile, more or less. My lower back is tight, perhaps from years of sitting in a chair at the office, perhaps due to core and weight. I also started a ways back, while conversing with friends, which made for a scramble through strollers and little kids as the race took off.

This is a really fun race, for the smiles and enthusiasm everyone brings. A democratic affair in a republican town, with persons of all fitness levels representing. Great to see all my friends from Skagit Runners, and great appreciation for the volunteers of Woolley, who make this happen, year in, year out.

Happy 4th of July! 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

March Point Half Marathon

I ran the March Point Half Marathon on Saturday. I've done the 10k a number of times, but this was my first time in the Half....and I liked it a lot.

The course starts at the Marathon Refinery, circles March Point, and then does an out and back on the Tommy Thompson Trail to Anacortes. A large part of the route is either next to or over salt water. I saw a family of seals, a big eagle, and a lot of smiling volunteers.  

I'm near ashamed to say that I've never been on the Tommy Thomson trail. This is a trestle trail, pictured above, over water. It crosses what appears to be an estuary, and then continues along the shore into Anacortes. The turnaround point is somewhere by Cap Sante Marina. 

The half marathon had about 50 participants. I like races small with big views, and that's what I got. Affordable price, with a barbq at the finish. I am a fan.

I finished in 2:30, with not a lot of people behind me. I could've gone a little faster, but wanted to have some energy for other activities this weekend.  Hopefully I build from this. It was a good way to spend Saturday morning.

Thanks to everyone who helped put this on. Events like this are great to have around.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Packrafting the Sauk

I tried my hand and paddle at packrafting this past weekend. The people were cool, the setting was gorgeous, and I am not yet good at packrafting.

I had never heard of packrafting until my good friend Seth told me about it. Basically, it involves small individual rafts, which are designed to navigate anything from remote mountain lakes to class IV+ rapids. I think the general idea is the raft is packable, so you can get it far into the backcountry. However, many of the rafts are also designed to act as packs, kind of like kayaks, where you can carry anything you want. I've seen pictures of people floating with bicycles on their bow. More info available at

Our goal for Saturday was to packraft two sections of the Sauk River, which is a tributary of the Skagit, in the Glacier Peak area. It is a beautiful river, clear as can be, full of rounded river rock as the picture above shows. It is not really that wide, but it has a down-slope gradient, and water can move through it sometimes. We had pretty good weather--a bit of rain, and the water flow wasn't that high.

We were with a great group of people--very experienced, with lots of extra equipment, which they were generous to lend. I was really impressed by everyone's disposition and attitude. I rented a drysuit from Yeager's in Bellingham (who were helpful), and was geared up like a NASCAR driver.

I was a disaster on the water, pinwheeling down the river right from the start. It is kind of funny in retrospect--at least I can laugh, now on terra firma. I didn't really know my boat, and the current wasn't idyllic--not anything really tough by any means--but not idyllic. It was a rush, for sure, bouncing through rocks.Very different from kayaking, canoeing, and even rafting with others.

I learned a lot about hydrology, first hand, fast. I learned what a "hole" is, when my boat got sucked into a small one. Someone in our group bounced me out, thank you. I learned about eddies, and the way a river moves around bends. I learned about strainers, and the hazard that wood and trees can present. I got hung up on a tree, and then a rock, and then took a spill where I had a hard time righting my feet in the appropriate crash position.

I called it a day, early, for my own safety and for the good of everyone else. I was whupped, and it was unquestionably the right decision. This necessitated another small adventure, which Seth graciously joined me in: bushwacking from the river to the road. Fortunately, that didn't turn out to be too hard, and we were back to the beautiful Bedal Campground in short order. I'm glad the option was available; remote river runs don't always afford easy exits.

I expect we'll probably try packrafting again, but on calmer waters, maybe down the Skagit. Even if I never go near a river, I see great potential for new fun using packrafts in high alpine lakes.

All in all, a great adventure, despite my inabilities.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Gettysburg and Arlington

Sadly, my father passed away this year. Dad, a U.S. Marine, had the honor of having his ashes interred at Arlington National Cemetery. For this solemn occasion, we first visited Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, followed by a service and memorial at Arlington. Here are a few pictures, for the memory. Dad was the best, and is greatly missed.