July 23, 2013

Mount Rainier

Filed under: Hiking, Travel — Tags: , , — geezerwriter @ 9:29 pm

Sunday started out pretty much like the day before – a long drive through forests and hills and clouds and mist. But the sky cleared well before we got to Mount Rainier National Park’s aptly named Paradise visitor area. One goal was to see the new Jackson Visitor Center named, as is almost every public building in this part of the state, for the long serving Senator Henry (Scoop) Jackson (D-Boeing). The last time we were here in 2007 or 2008 they were still using the bizarre old 1950s building that looked more like the spaceship from The Day the Earth Stood Still than anything in nature, and construction was just getting underway on the new one.

Entrance to Jackson Visitor Center - iPhone

Entrance to Jackson Visitor Center – iPhone

Great Room

Great Room

That's a carpet!

That’s a carpet!

They did a wonderful job of coordinating the new building with the 1916 Paradise Inn, modeling its vaulted ceiling and open timber framing with modern materials and maintaining some of its warmth and coziness.

Paradise Inn - iPhone

Paradise Inn – iPhone

Paradise Inn table lamp - iPhone

Paradise Inn table lamp – iPhone

The visitor center was almost empty when we arrived from Chehalis at 10am but after a bit of hiking we had to elbow our way back in at 2pm – at that point you could hardly see, much less appreciate, the architecture of the place.

Visitor center in the afternoon - iPhone

In the afternoon – iPhone

Jackson Visitor Center and Tatoosh Range

Jackson Visitor Center and Tatoosh Range

[Note: I am very pleased with the quality of the pictures taken with my new iPhone 4S and tagged them so that you can be appropriately impressed, or even amazed.]

We hiked up the Dead Horse Creek trail and back down the Alta Vista trail for a total of about 3 miles and 700′ of elevation gain. The trails in the Paradise area are mostly paved, very heavily used and quite steep in spots. We were a little early for the full wildflower display – there wasn’t a great variety but it is ahead of where we are here in the far north, with lots of Avalanche Lilies and heathers in bloom.

Avalanche Lily

Avalanche Lily

Western Anemone

Western Anemone or Pasqueflower

Heather in bloom

Heather in bloom

As usual, each picture can be enlarged by clicking on it; in particular, the Western Anemone is in full resolution, displaying the phenomenal level of detail to be had when I can manage to operate my new Sony RX100 camera properly. I now have no excuses for taking any mediocre pictures.

If you have never visited Paradise, you should know that the reason the views of Mount Rainier are so spectacular is that it resides at 5400′ ASL (above sea level), above the tree line, and Rainier rises another full 9000′ to 14,400′ ASL. To get a comparable view of Mount Baker you would have to be standing at about the elevation of the town of Glacier, but more than twice as close to Baker and with no pesky trees or hills in the way. In other words, as splendid as our Mount Baker is, there is simply no comparison to the way Rainier utterly dominates its landscape.

A hard day's work

A hard day’s work

The fellow in the picture above comes out from Olympia to be a volunteer, answering questions, giving directions and generally keeping an eye on things. When I said “So you are working today?”, he replied, “If you can call this working!” I may look into doing something like that in the Baker area – but I’m probably neither gregarious nor tactful enough for that “work”.

Part of his job was to point out to us the teentsie flecks on the ridge to the right of Rainier:

Climbers headed to Camp Muir

Those are people up there

With the help of field glasses we could see that they were climbers headed for Camp Muir, a base camp at 10,000′ ASL where they would rest up for a few hours before beginning their summit ascent in the wee hours of the morning. There were hundreds of them!

No, really

No, really!

I am saved by my advancing geezerhood and utter incapacity from having to decide between the allure of attaining that magnificent height and the horror of hobnobbing with all those people to get there.

A few more pictures:

Mount Adams peeking over Tatoosh Range

Mount Adams peeking over the Tatoosh Range


On Alta Vista trail - iPhone

On Alta Vista trail – iPhone


Vertical panorame of Narada Falls - iPhone

Vertical panorama of Narada Falls – iPhone

This last picture was a really impressive feat for the iPhone. The viewpoint was too close to the falls to capture from the top of the falls to the perpetual rainbow at the bottom. So I selected the “panorama” mode(which I had never used before), turned the phone on its side and panned from the bottom to the top. There are several reasons why this should have been a really crappy picture, not the least that the camera and the subject are both moving – and in opposite directions! It is washed out at the bottom and far from National Geographic quality (thanks to DJan for the link) but it’s not crappy.

April 13, 2012

You can take the hiker out of the Northwest…

Filed under: Geology, Hiking, Travel — geezerwriter @ 9:43 pm
Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

On our trip to Southern California to visit Joe and Laura we have come across a great variety of weather to go with the great variety of everything else one finds here. Tuesday we drove south to Redondo Beach, where Wanda’s (much) elder brother was the editor of the Daily Breeze in the late forties after mustering out of the service. It was a beautiful day for a drive along the coast from Marina del Rey to Redondo and after lunch we were visited by a very friendly Black-crowned Night Heron. At first glance it appeared to be a tern but then I saw the long, delicate white plume that extends from the back of his head almost the while length of his body. That and the brilliant ruby eye cinched the identification.

The next day Joe and Laura were once again busy with work, so we drove out to the Angeles Crest mountains for a visit to the historic Mount Wilson Observatory. After some overnight rain the weather was fine in town but we entered the clouds as we drove to the observatory’s 5600′ elevation, and at first we could hardly read the few signs. The temperature had dropped to about 35°F (2°C) and I thought we wouldn’t be spending much time there. But after the obligatory trip to the restroom the clouds pulled back a bit and we could find our way over toward the observatory.

I should say “the observatories” since there is a large campus with a number of different types of observatories. The centerpiece is the 100-inch diameter Hooker reflecting telescope, but there is an older 60-inch reflector, a couple of towering solar telescopes including one with a 150-foot (not a typo) focal length and a CHARA array of six one-meter reflector telescopes linked together by large light pipes and some seriously sexy computing devices to form a instrument that can resolve objects that would require a mirror 340 METERS in diameter (which works out to about 1100 feet). The Hooker mirror (2.4 meters) is 13 inches thick and weighs tons so I cannot begin to imagine what a 340 meter chunk of glass would be like.

There are no pictures worth showing because of the weather and because all of the action there is intellectual and nothing is very photogenic.

Then last night at dinner Laura told me about her favorite hike in the area: Runyon Canyon. If you’ve ever seen a TV series shot in LA (e.g., Entourage) where people are shown hiking and jogging in the hills, there is a good chance you’ve seen Runyon Canyon. It is a public park in a notch in the Hollywood Hills just above Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue (of tar-pit fame). It climbs up to Mulholland Drive and affords panoramic views of the Los Angeles basin.

At least it does when the atmosphere is friendly. Today the forecast was for rain and we headed out into the sort of drizzle that is so familiar to hikers  (and everyone else) in the Northwest. We first popped into downtown LA’s fashion district to visit the Michael Levine fabric store – an enormous warehouse-like room jammed with any sort of cloth you can imagine. Wanda picked up a few yards for a future quilting project and we headed to Joe’s restored theater where he runs his business of sound editing and mixing for motion pictures (he was raised in Seattle, so his company is named “Puget Sound”) and Laura runs her calligraphy and event planning business. I dropped Wanda off so she could have some quiet time and I headed for Runyon Canyon.

Downtown LA

Downtown LA from Runyon Canyon

Santa Monica from Runyon Canyon

Santa Monica from Runyon Canyon

By now the rain had reduced to an intermittent misting so it looked like I had a good chance of a pleasant hike. I didn’t bring any of my hiking gear on the trip – no trekking poles, no pack, only some New Balance walking shoes – but the whole hike was only about 2 miles round trip with about 700′ of elevation gain. The terrain is mostly low brushy stuff (chaparral, maybe?) with occasional trees so you get almost continuous views of the city.

The first half-mile was quite steep, covering most of the 700′ of gain. The footing was pretty good – mostly coarse sandy earth derived from the dark granitic bedrock that showed itself frequently. I think it would be classed as diorite – basically like granite, but with the darker minerals predominating over the lighter quartz. It was the latter that formed the coarse sand, much like at the start of Hannegan Pass trail.

The hard part

The hard part

Diorite bedrock

Diorite bedrock

There were a couple of steep spots further on, including this rocky face coming down from the high point of the trail. By this time the mist had moistened the track pretty well and it was a bit slippery. It wouldn’t have been a huge problem if I’d had my poles, but even then I might have done some sitting and sliding. But I was wearing some fairly nice pants so I ended up doing a crab walk on hands and feet, facing up – I’m glad there was no one there to take any pictures.

Micro box canyon

Micro box canyon

When I got to the north end of the trail I was looking at a choice of going back down the old sort-of-paved road or down another ridge trail something like the one I’d just done. My decision was made for me when the wind suddenly began to roar up the canyon and the mist turned to a downpour – I had a light rain jacket on but everything not covered by it was drenched to the skin in about fifteen seconds. As I went squishing down the road and the brown runoff spread across it, I remembered thinking at the start of the hike that, given the rain, I was better off on the ridge than in the gully since a flash flood was more likely, and more dangerous, than a lightning storm – I remembered that just as a massive thunderclap echoed across the canyon, reminding me that I did not have to choose between those two potential disasters.

Flash Flood

Flash Flood

The road had been paved at one time, but is badly washed out in spots. When the runoff stream hit those potholes/washouts it would turn into a mini-waterfall at the top of a micro-box canyon. By the time I got back close to city streets the water had spread across the entire width of the road in places. And then it funneled down into a gutter and roared on past the opulent mansions lining the street. I took a short movie of the point where the runoff from the trail turns and runs down Vista Street – I don’t think I can include a video in this blog.
Tomorrow we’re expecting a return to the normal, boring old sunny warmth of Southern California for a trip to Alhambra to visit with Laura’s family, followed by another sardine session on Allegiant Air for the return to Bellingham. (Did you know that the seats on Allegiant don’t even recline any more?)

Additions & Corrections

Joe informed me that the tall buildings in the distance that I identified as downtown Santa Monica are actually in Century City, a neighborhood of tall office buildings that are home to many lawyers and agents who control the flow of money in and around the motion picture business.

I wasn’t able to find any detailed information about the bedrock mentioned – all the geology discussions I found in a quick search was understandably focused on earthquake faults and soil stability. So I will stick with my identification of the rock as diorite; follow this link to a picture that seems to confirm.

And it appears that I can add my video of the storm runoff, via the good offices of

November 7, 2010

John Day

Filed under: Travel — geezerwriter @ 3:48 am

The first day of our trip to Pahrump, Nevada brings is to the town of John Day OR. This is serious cow country – I don’t think you’d want to order tofu at the local eateries.

The trip down was fine, despite being extended by my forgetting this iPod, causing us to backtrack from Alger. But it is good that we did since my old laptop (vintage 2004) seems to be dying, and this little gadget may be my only conduit to the outside world. It really is desolate over here – “splendid desolation,” someone called it.

The rain stopped as we cleared Snoqualmie Pass. There was occasional sun but the clouds were spectacular all day, all the way thru sunset, which we would have seen from the comfort of the John Day DQ had we not wasted an hour backtracking.

We may have a bit more adventure than we planned since there is the chance of snow in northern NV Sunday night and Monday morning. We may have plenty of time to see the sight(s?) of Battle Mountain. 😉


I decided not to clutter my hiking / geology blog, so I’ve started a new one at I’ll put this post on that blog, too.

Create a free website or blog at