October 31, 2015

A Charmed Hike

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades, Weather — Tags: , , — geezerwriter @ 2:53 pm

We thought we’d gotten a bum deal when we went hiking on the Heliotrope Ridge Trail last Thursday. The end of October is generally not a good time to go hiking in the North Cascades but it looked like El Niño was on our side, providing fairly warm enough temperatures to keep the snow away. And the National Weather Service forecast called for a lull in the rain, although it did say that rain was more likely in the mountains than in the lowlands.

You can read all about the hike on D-Jan-ity but, to make a long story short, it was raining very lightly when we started and it stopped entirely after about a half an hour. There were even patches of blue sky urging us onward, but we were flummoxed when we got to the first of three creeks and couldn’t find a safe place to cross. It is pretty commonplace to turn back at the third one but this is the first time that we couldn’t even pass the first one. So we had to settle for a 3 mile hike, getting back to the cars at about noon.

It seems that I was too focused on snow and falling rain to take into account the rain that had already fallen and made its way into the creeks. In fact we are under the influence of something called an “atmospheric river” or “Pineapple Express”, wherein a plume a moist Pacific air from the tropics set its sights on the State of Washington and brings huge amounts (for us) of rain. You can read more about this on Cliff Mass’ Weather Blog.

Last evening my curiosity drove me to look at the data from a SNOTEL (a remote automated weather station) that is located across the road, a few miles from where we were hiking and at about the same elevation. It records the snow depth, temperature and accumulated rainfall at one hour intervals to the nearest one-tenth of an inch – that is pretty coarse, since 1/10 of an inch in an hour is pretty heavy rainfall. The sort of drizzle that fell on us early in the hike  wouldn’t even register on that scale. Anyways, here is a graph of the hourly rain accumulation for Thursday:

Thursday Rain


Notice that, except for the wee hours and the late evening, the only time when that graph isn’t streaking upward is the three hours that we were hiking. And look at the time just before 9AM – over an inch in about 5 hours! So no surprise that Kulshan Creek was raging and we were actually pretty lucky.

Last night in the wee hours we got almost an inch of rain here in town, so I went back to the SNOTEL and downloaded the hourly data from Thursday through 11AM today (Saturday). The arrow points at our hiking time.

Thu-Sat Rain

That’s some serious rain!

By the way, that accumulation is from October 1, the start of what the weather folks call a “water year”. So the mountains have had considerably more rain in the last 2½ days than in the rest of October.

October 2, 2015

Local Color

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades — Tags: , — geezerwriter @ 1:18 pm

On Thursday, October 1, 2015 eleven Senior Trailblazers struggled up the long, bumpy drive on Canyon Creek Road to the Damfino Lakes Trailhead on a beautiful sunny day. The hike was chosen mainly in the hope of catching some fall color in the North Cascades and it did not disappoint.

Eleven happy hikers in the meadow below Excelsior Pass

Eleven happy hikers in the meadow below Excelsior Pass

Most of  my photos in those meadows were ruined by solar flares, due to shooting to close to the sun. (Sometimes one can get lovely effects from those flares, but not today.) When we reached Excelsior Pass it was getting close to noon, but I managed to dragoon the group into heading a couple of miles east along High Divide in hopes of reaching a favorite place of mine with views into the mountain wilderness of North Cascades National Park. It, too, did not disappoint.

Looking East from High Divide

Looking East from High Divide

The view to the south was dominated by Mount Shuksan. The air was a bit hazy but that can enhance the sense of the depth, as the mountains fade into the distance. It doesn’t show in this picture but if you stared intently enough and really believed (heel clicks optional), you could even make out a silhouette of Glacier Peak (65 miles away) peaking through one of the those dips in the skyline just to the right of Shuksan.

Shuksan from High Divide

Shuksan, et al., from High Divide

We paused on the way back to soak up some more color along High Divide and at Damfino Lakes. All along High Divide we enjoyed a hazy but excellent view of massive Mount Baker – I only just now realized that I failed to take a picture of it.

Color on High Divide

Color on High Divide


Damfino Reflection

Damfino Reflection

We gained a total of about 2200 feet of elevation in the course of this 9 mile hike.

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.

Blog at