Friday, August 31, 2012

Mirror Lake

The Mirror Lake hike was a lake extravaganza! Not only did I see Mirror Lake itself, there were two other pretty lakes along this hike as well as water and snow crossings, a waterfall, and a great group of hikers to enjoy it all with. 

Before we hit Mirror Lake, which was about two miles into our hike, we reached the smaller Cottonwood Lake. It was nice to reach a pretty view so quickly into a hike, but there were lots of mosquitoes buzzing around. If you choose to hike here in the warmer summer months definitely bring bug spray. 

Cottonwood Lake
After a short break to take the requisite pictures and enjoy the view we were off. As we neared Mirror Lake there still some snow on the ground to cross. Having trekking poles puts my mind at ease that I'm not going to fall flat on my face or butt, and the snow cooled me off as we hiked further on. It was like Christmas in summer with the snow crunching under our feet. 

People were camping in small groups at different points of our hike. There were actually a few guys and their pup camping right down by the lake, but they were nice enough to let us walk through their campsite to take pictures.

Ta-da! We enjoyed the view at Mirror Lake and chatted with the campers for a bit, and then my fellow hikers and I moved on in search of a lunch spot. It didn't take us long before we found a pretty area with a stream and small waterfall. 

I ventured a bit lower down as my hiking buddies were finishing up their lunches, and found a spot where the stream cascaded down like a beautiful curtain of water. Sometimes I see things that are so beautiful and poignant to me on my hikes that I'm really happy to have this blog to share them with other people. I hope my pictures also encourage others to go on some of my hikes and adventures themselves, because there really is nothing like seeing these awesome feats of nature in person.

There were a lot of beautiful wildflowers along the trail, and of course I couldn't help but stop and take some snaps of my beloved Bear Grass (Xerophyllum tenax if you want to get fancy).

Our hike took us along the Pacific Crest Trail, and my group and I joked whether we wanted to continue on to either Canada or Mexico. Sorry Canadian cousins, but my vote this time would be for Mexico! We continued on our hike to our turn-around spot, the tucked away Twilight Lake. 

It was a bit marshy trekking over to the lake, but luckily we haven't seen a lot of rain this summer so it wasn't too soggy. There was small flat area in the center that we stopped at for photos, and one of my fellow hikers had brought her pup as you can see in the picture below. Doggy energy is so contagious! It was a blast watching her dog swim in the lake, run out, and wriggle around in the grass in such obvious pleasure.

After a short break at Twilight Lake we headed back. Back over the stream with it's beautiful cascading water, back for one more glimpse of Mirror Lake, once again over crunchy snow-covered fields. This was a relaxing, perfect way to end the weekend.

I love the way I feel after my hikes, whether they're laid-back or more challenging. I'm recharged and ready to start my week, which will hopefully end with another hike!

Annette Lake

I don't know what it was about this hike, but I was really diggin' this trek up to Annette Lake. It was my first time leading a group of hikers and it was super fun. My homeskillet Rachel had to miss out on this one, but I loved this hike so much that I decided to plan a backpacking trip up there that she'll be able to join. 

Initially the day started out with some skepticism. It started to sprinkle a bit as I drove out to North Bend, and some fellow hikers weren't really prepared for rainy weather. Luckily Safeway happened to carry ponchos, so we headed out to the trail-head. The rain stopped completely and it actually ended up being perfect weather, not too hot for some uphill trekking. 

I liked the variety of sights along the trail. There were bridges to cross, small water crossings here and there, open trekking with a crackling powerline above, and some uphill action with great views of surrounding peaks before we reached our lakeside goal.

I particularly loved this bridge pictured above. It was as if a giant tree fell in the woods and someone decided to make the best of it and carve steps to traverse the gap.

One of the beautiful views along the trail

This trail is a popular one. We ran across many groups of friendly, chatty people. I don't know if it was the combination of beautiful scenery and fun company, but I felt like I was on some kind of hiker's high!

There were quite a few switchbacks and some elevation gain, but my group and I made it up to the top, and when we reached the lake we knew it had all been worth it.

Annette Lake is gorgeous! If it had been warmer I would have been tempted to jump right in. The water was clear and shimmering. We found a nice spot and had lunch while reveling in the sights. If I ever decide to give all of modern life up and become a wild mountain woman, you can come find me up here at the lake. My cats will have to learn how to fish...

A fun time was had by all, and if you're only going to do a few hikes in the Snoqualmie Pass area this season, make sure Annette Lake is one of them.


Tradition Lake Loop

Even though I used to live in the area, I had yet to hike any of the trails at High Point Way. Located right off of I-90 at exit 20, I think I took it for granted or was discouraged by the lines of cars parked all down the sides of the road. The Tradition Lake Loop trail is the perfect type of hike for someone who wants to get a bit of exercise and enjoy the great outdoors after work. There are lots of loop options that you can tailor to your liking, so you can do both quick hikes or extend your route for longer hikes.

If my memory serves me correctly, this was the smaller Round Lake. We looped around for an easy 4 mile hike. The weather was mild and sunny, and there were wildflowers blooming everywhere.

I don't think I was in a picture-taking mood, I just enjoyed the hike and relaxed with my hiking buddies. This hike wasn't particularly taxing physically, but I enjoyed the sights and can definitely see myself coming back more often to try out different trails. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mangia! Pizza! Updates!

I dare you to tell me that you don't like pizza. Do it. I will call b.s. on you so fast your head will spin! I don't care what form it's in, if there's no cheese, no sauce, just dough with some greens on it, it's pizza and YOU LOVE IT.

I was really craving pizza, but of course I was doing my No Eating Out challenge, and in all honesty I very rarely get delivery pizza anymore. If anything, I go to Papa Murphy's where I can control the toppings and get a thin crust.

With no delivery or takeout options available to me, what was I to do? Make my own of course! I picked up some whole wheat pizza dough from the grocery store, and I had everything else at home already. The dough is convenient, but next time I'm going to make it from scratch, it can't be that hard.

At first I was thinking Meatless Monday, but then I remembered I had some turkey pepperoni in the freezer and I couldn't resist. I rolled out the dough, ladled out my sauce, and sprinkled on shredded mozzarella. For toppings I added the pepperoni along with mushrooms, olives, red peppers, pepperoncinis, and a handful of feta cheese.

It turned out delicious! My pizza craving was satisfied and I didn't feel guilty.

To update you all on the No Eating Out Challenge, I can say that yes, I made it the whole two weeks without eating out. I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, but I will say that there were invitations I had to turn down and temptations I avoided. I even sat and talked with friends while they ate at a restaurant and I sipped on a soda.

Success? Meh. I wasn't super happy with the results, except for maybe in my bank account. I still need to work on time management and meal planning. I may not have gone out to eat, but some nights I got home fairly late and didn't have anything prepared for dinner. I ended up eating crappy stuff like ramen noodles and even *gasp* boxed mac n' cheese. The whole point of this was to save money and eat better, but I definitely fell short on the eating healthier part. While all in all I eat much better than I have in the past, I could definitely use some help in planning out dinners. Breakfast with my smoothies are easy, and lunch is usually chicken and veggies so no problem either as long as I make sure to have my work fridge stocked. With dinner I either need to wake up earlier to prep before I go to work (yugh!) or I need to spend Sunday evening getting my dinners for the week made and ready to go. As much as I hate waking up early (I am a total She-beast for the most part in the morning before coffee), I still think that may be the way to go since I am usually pretty beat after my Sunday hikes.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated, I'll keep posting recipes and updating you all on successes and failures as they come. I like to think that every day is a new chance to improve on something you've done in the past, and I'm not going to beat myself up for trying.

Franklin Falls and Denny Creek

Okay I've finally motivated myself to upload the pictures of this hike from my camera! I'm going to have to make sure I upload my blog posts either the same day or at least before I go on another hike or adventure. When I let a few days go by they seem to turn into weeks before I get a chance to post! Work has been busy and I have had a ton of hikes and trips I've gone on, so I'm excited to update you all on what I've been up to!

I really enjoyed this hike to Franklin Falls and Denny Creek. I thought the weather was great, it got a bit hotter throughout the day and with less cover, but we had a fun and energetic group as well as icy creek water and snow to keep us entertained and cheery. 

The crew at the start of our hike
The first part of our hike took us to Franklin Falls. This part of the hike was really short as the way to the falls is only about a mile. It was a small but pretty waterfall. What amazed me is that you can actually see the freeway above the falls, but I never realized I've driven past here countless time without realizing there was a pretty hike and view below me!

Here I am, cheesing it up at the base of the falls. It felt really nice with the mist from the falls blowing on us. It was already getting warm, and it was going to get even warmer as the day went on. 

One of my fellow hikers brought her dog Buddha. Buddha was pretty chill, but this is a pic where she is staring so intently at the cascading water of the falls you would've thought she was imagining a fire hydrant or some other doggy oasis. I love it when I get to hike with dogs, I find they bring their boundless, happy energy and it rubs off on everyone else.

After a short stop at Franklin Falls we headed back to the beginning of the trail so we could begin our hike to Denny Creek. It wasn't too long before we reached the creek, maybe half a mile. The creek crossing was a bit sketchy, with a bunch of fallen trees and branches in the water for us to traverse. Instead of falling fully into the water as my klutzy self would be inclined, I chose to get my feet a bit wet as I made my way across.

It would have been easier if I could have hitched a ride here like my smart doggy pal Maxwell. Alas, I had to pull my big girl undies up and do it myself. With the temperature rising, my socks and shoes dried off quickly enough. We continued past the creek up the trail and soon reached Keekwulee Falls. I thought it was a beautiful view, and there was still snow up above it and the surrounding area. 

We were in for even more snow as we continued towards Melakwa Lake. We decided as a group to turn back before we reached the lake since we weren't sure about the snow in some places. I took the opportunity to make a snow angel before we headed back. How many people do you know who can say they've made a snow angel in July?

Yes, I know I look like a dork but I could care less

We capped off the hike with testing out the waters at the creek. I was surprised so many families were splashing around in the water because it was still pretty darn cold. The rock in some areas of the creek is so smooth that children were having a blast sliding down in the water before running back out, shivering but shrieking with happiness. 

I'd recommend this hike to both families and people wanting to relax down by the water as well as trekkers who want to do a full day-hike.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Under Cover of Night:Hiking with the Stars

I've hiked up to Rattlesnake Ledge more times than I can count, and I can honestly say that it is one of my favorite short hikes, for many reasons. The surrounding area holds so many sights and scenes to explore. I spent many a summer swimming in Rattlesnake Lake, and later mountain biking on the Iron Horse - John Wayne Pioneer Trail. It holds a special place in my heart, and for some reason I always feel really peaceful and at ease when I'm there.

This hike was going to be a bit different. This was going to be the first time hiking up to the ledge in the evening. I was looking forward to watching the sun go down and star gazing. I had my hiking gear and my trusty headlamp with a flashlight for back-up.

It was a beautiful day, and I got up to Rattlesnake Lake a bit early so I could get out, stretch, and enjoy the view of the water. Some summers the water is so low that you could see all the tree stumps that are normally hiding under the depths. Once I even walked across the lake as it was completely dry! Today the water was high, and lots of people were out swimming, barbecuing, and enjoying the great weather we've been having. This summer has been great so far! It annoys me when people complain all the time about the weather, like if it's been great and then it rains for one day. Like that one day of rain makes them forget about all the nice days. Get over it and just live one day at a time, that's how I feel. Unless it's snowing. But I have months before I need to start thinking about snow.

I met up with my group and we headed out. Maybe because I've been doing longer and more challenging hikes lately, but I felt like we reached the ledge in less than 40 minutes.

View of Mt. Si from Rattlesnake
It was still pretty light out when we came to the end of our short hike, but the scenery was lovely. It was definitely not as busy later in the evening, unlike early morning and afternoon when hordes of people scramble up to hang out and enjoy the sights. 

The sun made it so bright that some pictures are a bit washed out, so it really doesn't do justice to the lake and area surrounding. You'll just have to go to Rattlesnake yourself and check it out to get the full experience!

We stayed up on the ledge with a few other groups of people for almost an hour, snacking and chit-chatting. We were originally going to stay until complete darkness to see the full moon, but realized we would probably have to stay for at least another hour. This wouldn't have been a problem besides being attacked pretty vigorously by a gang of mosquitoes. Having enjoyed our time once again up on Rattlesnake Ledge, we  conceded to nature's little bloodsuckers and headed down. The group voted and had decided we could spend our time looking at the moon and stars down by the lake.

It was absolutely necessary to have a headlamp or at least a flashlight when heading down, and I gladly loaned out my spare flashlight to a group member who had forgotten hers. If you don't have a headlamp yet for late hikes or even just camping, I highly recommend one. Having both hands free is very helpful and sometimes necessary when out on hikes that run longer than planned or are scheduled for evenings, especially if you are using trekking poles. I don't have a headlamp that's super fancy, I actually picked mine up from a hardware store for less than five bucks for late night potty trips on a camping trip. I plan on getting a nicer one soon, but that all depends on the ol' budget.

Soon enough all of our group members were down at the lake. A symphony of frogs were happily croaking their froggy lungs out. I thought it was amazing, the closer you got to them, it actually became hard to talk or hear the people around you!

I don't know which of my group members took this to credit them, but can you see the froggy?

 I didn't stay out as late as the rest of the group, because I had to wake up early for another hike to Franklin Falls and Denny Creek in the morning. I had a fun evening and yet again enjoyed my time at Rattlesnake. If any of you have yet to go to Rattlesnake Lake and hike up to the ledge, I highly recommend it!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Golden Grains of Sand

Saturday. July 7th. This day will live in my memory. Why? This was the day I went to Golden Gardens Park, and it was glorious. The weather had been so fantastic lately, and since my roomie had also never been to the park, we decided to check it out.

We headed out around 2:30pm after I got off work. We packed lunches and bevvies, and off we went! Traffic for a Saturday really wasn't too bad, except for some construction right before we got to the park. If I'm going to be completely honest, I didn't even realize where Golden Gardens was. I thought it was in the same area as the Ballard Locks. Boy was I in for a surprise!

Parking was a bit dicey, we ended up parking up the hill from the park and trekking down. It was definitely worth the short hike down, because we were in paradise!

The water was a glimmering beauty. The sand felt deliciously hot and silky between my toes. We spread out our beach towels and commenced relaxation. Jack Johnson serenaded us as we lounged and people-watched. 

Okay, this picture above doesn't even look like we're in Washington, right? I've never seen so many happy Washingtonians sunbathing in one spot, bahahahaha! 

We soaked up the sun, ate our lunches, and lounged in the golden sand along the beach. I ventured down to the water to wade in, and brrrrrr it was chilly! I can't wait to come back when it's warmer and I feel more bikini-ready.

My one regret is that we couldn't stay for long, because I had to head back to get ready for an evening hike up Rattlesnake Ledge. It would be great to go back to Golden Gardens and make a complete day of it, with a morning walk up the beach, BBQ and frisbee in the afternoon, and a bonfire at dusk!