Saturday, August 12, 2017

Owyhigh Lakes loop

On Sat July 29 I ran/hiked the Owyhigh lake loop on Mt Rainier. This loop is 33 miles long with 9493 ft of elevation gain. It took me 11 hours to complete the loop.

Mt Rainier is a beautiful park with well maintained trails. It is a joy to travel along these as I work my way up to summerland. 

This next photo is of panhandle gap where I am headed. 

Once at panhandle gap you will look out toward indian bar in the distance traveling over easy snow fields. 

One of the local residents in this area,  your marmot neighbor. 

In this area I caught up with a fellow hiker/runner asking directions as all the snow had got him confused on where the trail was. I pulled up my route on my smartphone and gps watch and showed him where the trail lead. He was going my way and out for a day trip. He decided to join me for a few miles until we got to the grove of the patriarchs. Next up for us was indian bar in photo below. 

Once we climb out of indian bar I get a nice view of Rainier.

Grove of the patriarchs is a very nice trail for people that want a nice place to hike with relatively flat trail a couple miles long. I travel along this for a little while before turning left up the eastside trail. 

Here is a welcome sign. 8.2 mile till the road. I will pass by the Owyhigh lake above on my way there. This is quite a climb that goes on for awhile. Luckily for me it was mostly in the trees providing some nice shade. 

This was the toughest part of the journey for me. Walk/running along this road with no shoulder was a bit unnerving. I am glad the cars were for the most part generous with the distance they gave me. 

Northern Mother mt loop

On July 29, I ran the Northern Mother my loops in 23 hours. This route had 16,837 ft of elevation gain over 47 miles.

I started the route at 6pm from the sunrise parking lot after completing the Owyhigh route. The area around sunrise was quite crowded as I ventured out onto the trail. After spending so much time alone on the Owyhigh route, I put my headphones on to isolate myself for the crowd. After a few miles I was on the Northern trail. The scenery is amazing on Rainier. The Northern trail upheld the standard.

 My first highlight was this meadow that appears to stretch on forever.

 I would see people camping and hiking here and there. Next I had this great downhill run to the valley bottom.

The sun was filtering through the trees making this one of those special times to run. Once at the river, I would have the biggest challenge of this route. I found ribbons and cairns to follow leading me across logs to where I would need to ford. There was a hand line but the river was waist deep there. After some other attempts, I found a spot 100 feet downstream only knee deep. More flagging and cairns lead me to the trail as the light was fading in the trees.It was headlamp time now as I climbed toward spray park.

At some point I stop by a stream to filter water and have a snack. I noticed moth fluttering about my headlamp. I would then notice a shadow pass by and no moth. I think I had a bat near by I was providing  a feeding station. I took off after a bit. In a while later, I was quite tired and took a 45 min nap.

One of the things I love about night moving is watching the darkness fade to light.

I was in the beginning of Spray Park at this time. It was a joy to climb up through this terrain alone in the morning light. There tranquile to me about this.

The spell was not broken until I came across a early hiker taking photos of the sunrise. I was on my way down at this point toward Mowich lake. As time and miles passed I passed many more people on their way to Spray Park.

At Mowich lake I took a short break to eat and redo gear as it was starting to get warm with the morning coming on. I short while later I was at Ipsut pass traveling down a freshly brushed path. Life was good. I pass 5 groups of hikers in the bottom of the valley working their way up toward Ipsut pass. A easy river crossing lead me to the trail that parallels the carbon river and glacier.

This is a big climb up past Mystic lake and onto the ridge top  that is my high point of this trip. It feels good to look down and know I have easy miles to my car. I start to meet a lot of people as I approached Frozen lake above Sunrise. I am back in the busy parking lot, change and start driving looking forward to that mug of chai tea at the store in Greenwater just down the road.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Spider on Steroids (SOS)

Sat July 15 I ran a route called Spider on Steroids in 20 hours. The route is ~50 miles long and has ~12,500 feet of elevation gain traveling over six mountain passes. Info for the route can be found here

I used topo map I used was Green trails Holden was no 113

River crossing at Little Giant trailhead.

This photo is just downriver from where I crossed. From the trailhead walked down to the river and bushwacked up stream to a gravel bar crossing there. The water was knee deep until one part where it came up to private parts for 10 ft until it went back to knee deep. I then bushwacked back downstream to the trail.

River to Little Giant pass.

Staying on the trail took careful looking in the beginning until I started up the hill. There was some blowdown  on the trail. I as able to work around everything. I think I am the first person to travel up this trail this season. I saw and will continue to follow animal track for quite awhile.

View as I travel up the hill.

Trail leads to snow patch in center of photo. I was able to work around it and was at Little Giant pass.

Warning post from last year's fire at Little Giant pass.

Little Giant pass to head of Napeequa valley. 

I keep a sharp eye on the gps track as following the trail off the pass was questionable at times. I think this is more animal track than people trail.

Valley I am traveling up.

The trail will vary between this and decent trail. For sections like this, your feet are on trail and the brush is brushing against your chest. My lower legs took a beating in places like this.

Nice waterfall in the valley.

Head of valley to High Pass

The climb up from the valley has a trail but is takes contraction to stay on it. It fades in and out at times. I think more animals travel on it than people. It is quite steep. Once you reach the top of the trail you will be in a hanging valley.

This is the view you will have looking up the valley you will be traveling. I was on snow for most of this. There were small patches of bare ground that I would see evidence of people travel.

Lake below point just before I reach High pass.

High pass in distance on left. Yes I am traveling across more snow. I am glad I had my ice axe.

High pass to Suiattle pass.

I am glad I had my ice axe for the small patches of snow I had to cross in the photo. Once I was done with the snow I had great trail to run on. It was nice to start making good time on good trails.

A left at Buck creek pass and more nice cruising to the PCT.

Buck mtn I think.

The PCT was a dream. It was so nice to travel on this well groomed trail.

Suiattle pass to Spider gap. 

This photo shows Cloudy pass in distance. I am glad for my ice axe crossing these little snow patches.

Nice valley to somewhere.

I am excited to see this view. Lyman lake and Spider gap in the distance. I have enough light to make it over the gap. Trail down to lake, around and to base of gap is a easy go. I saw many people camping and hiking around here.

Looking back on Lyman lakes to where I had come from.

Spider gap closer view now as I am almost there. I was able to travel on some rock and snow as I passed over the gap.

Spider gap to Little Giant trailhead. 

I was on snow half sliding my way down the snow field to dry ground.

View down valley I am traveling. The trail down this section was a little rough until I got  the valley floor. Once there I was on very good trail I could make good time on. I crossed through many streams on my way to Phelps creek trailhead. The road section was a bit long but I was glad that I did it at night as there was no vehicle traffic. 

This was a great trip and would recommend people with a sense of adventure to give it a go. Thank you Ras for posting it to UPWC. Thank you Heather for your slide show on it to entice me into running it. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Loowit Trail, Mt Saint Helens

On Friday evening July 7 I ran/walked around Mt Saint Helens on the Loowit trail. The trail is ~32 miles long with 9700 ft of elevation gain. It took me a little under 14 hours to complete this route.

Thursday evening I had all my gear ready for my adventure of cernavagating Mt Saint Helens on the Loowit trail. This is one of the Ultra Pedrestration Wilderness Challenges I am working my way through this list. Friday was slow at work and I thought, maybe I can leave early and start tonight. Well, Friday afternoon, my boss asked me if I wanted to leave early to take off on my trip. It was slow at work, sure I said if these few jobs can wait till Monday. So off I went heading south to June lake trailhead.

3:45pm and I am off on my adventure. June Lake trailhead is the closest point to the Loowit trail.

Once I hit the Loowit trail I turned left for a clockwise route around the mountain. I ran Bigfoot 200 last  year and that route covered some the the trails I would be traveling on. I also wanted to follow the sun for most daylight for moving. 

Trail conditions were a combination of snow in the trees and gullies I would cross many of. The PNW had a large snowfall this winter. The snow is holding on longer than usual this year. I had an ice axe and crampons on my pack that never left. There were many trees down on the trail that I easily worked around, over or under. There were a few patches of overgrown trail to work through. 

I had a wrist gps unit on that really came in handy to help keep me on the trail. With patches of snow here and there playing hide and seek with the trail. Traveling at night, being able to look down at my wrist to make sure I was where I wanted to be is is very reassuring. 

The first part of the trail is a combination of trail and rock hopping for a few miles. I meet many people headed back to their car from a day hike, coming down from the summit and others hiking around the Loowit trail. Living here in the PNW popular outdoor environment is seldom a solitary experience.  Once it got closer to night fall I would be alone till first light of morning. 

Things are going well as I travel along the trail. The drop down Crescent ridge was impressive as I lost a lot of elevation. I would cross the Toutle river (wet feet) next and head into the sand hill switchbacks as I call them. This section is a set of switchbacks that goes up a side hill of firm sand. I am guessing animal tracks set the trail each spring. I would see evidence of animal tracks the entire length of this trail. 

The sun had set now and it was getting dark as I got to the got to the top of this hill. The full moon is rising to light the way for me. A cloud is also rolling through that would settle in the valley. For now this cloud is getting my glasses wet making me clean them too often so I can see. There is a cool breeze rolling through with this cloud. It was time to add a lot more clothes as I was on a the blast zone plain. After a while the cloud would settle below me and the wind will calm down allowing me to peal off a few layers. My first headlamp had dead batteries (dumb move Jeff), second one was good. I had an extra set of batteries in my pack just in case. 

I enjoyed crossing the blast zone in the dark. The full moon lit up the area in a dull light allowing me to see everything. I still needed my headlamp to see detail for my foot placements. This was a magical experance to travel around part of this mountain in this dull light. I loved the reflection of the moonlight off the creeks and rivers I crossed. I wished I could have captured this on my smartphone camera. 

At the end of the blast zone is windy pass. Before climbing up windy pass I saw reflected something in front of me. I took a couple seconds to realize this was reflective strips off someone's tent, sorry for the lightbeam. Up and over Windy pass I go and down the other side. Coming down the other side the trail is not quite as good as the up. I saw more reflective stips off someone's tent and reacted quicker this time. 

I was on quite nice trail now and could get some running miles in till I got to the turn at Pumice Butte. I was wonder why this was so good till I caught some mountain bike tire marks in the dirt and snow. 

Five miles till the turn to Jane Lake, this section is a combination of good trail, rock hopping and many gullies to drop into and climb out of. It is a lot like the first part of the trail I was on. One amazing thing happened on this part. I heard the howl of coyotes in the distance. Then closer by I heard a reply. I am glad Coyotes are timid animals and avoid humans. The full moon and sky just starting to get light it was a magical moment. 

Bye the time I reached June lake trail head it was light. On my way back to the trailhead I came upon a group of trail runner starting what I just finished. They were equipped lighter than I was and were very interested in what trail conditions were like. Back at the trailhead around 5:40 there were three more people getting started for a trip around the Loowit. 

Thanks for reading.