Kayaking Woodard Bay Preserve

I should be updating with two trips- but I forgot to bring my camera on the second one…

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After cancelling the first planned evening paddle out here due to wind and rain concerns, we finally found an evening that would work for the tour of the preserve. I generally avoid preserves ad I find them to be too chunky, but in this case… the water was quite smooth and the reasoning behind going here at night was to watch for the massive bat awakening.

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There is an old trestle that is now used as a massive resting ground for bats. They leave every night in search of things like mosquitoes, gnats, moths etc. in a massive wave (it feels like an understatement to call it only “massive”). The bats form what appears to be a river from under the trestle.

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The trick to paddling here is that the parking lot gets locked 1 hour past sunset- and the bats come out at sunset… so be aware of your timing if you go here. The boat launch also closes for a good chunk of the year. The paddle itself is calm and quite enjoyable as you can tour around the inlets in the area (providing you don’t get stuck out on a low tide).

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Climbing Da Klagwats

Mt Pugh

Da Klagwats- or more commonly known as Mt. Pugh is one heck of an awesome hike! Gaining 5,300ft in 5.5 miles and features an epic knife-edge and a good scramble at the top! The views are quite simply put: astounding!

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The trail starts out in a forest and continues up at a decent rate until you hit “Lake” Metan which resembled more of a storm water pond. The water was kinda gross looking. A little further up the trail and you leave the forest behind and start the real climb up to Stujack Pass. Stujack Pass didn’t actually yield better scenery on the other side- I am not sure if this was due to the fact that the views on the West side of the mountain are that much better… or that it just isn’t that good of a view.

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This is where people tend to figure out if they have a fear of heights- the knife edge starts soon after the pass.

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As you continue up this trail- the views keep on getting better and better! (As do the dropoffs!)

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This hike has a lot of character and that is why I liked it so much- it is definitely one of the hardest hikes I have done and it was worth the effort exerted to see all of the beauty out there. After the knife edge- you see the glacier which rest atop the Straight Creek Fault.

We continued up the scramble only to find a garter snake in the path! I got quite the surprise when I was face to face with it. How did he make it all the way up here?!

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After a little while longer, we made it to the top!

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The view was dominated by quite a few amazing peaks- the most impressive being Glacier Peak.

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We were also greeted by hundreds of flying bugs that looked a bit like ants- they seemed to enjoy crawling on us but I was not bitten by any so they were more of a nuisance.

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I signed the summit log, ate a few snacks, and took a few more pictures before heading down.

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I had brought 3L of water with me and ran through that right before hitting the stream crossings again so I took a little break and drank some- it was tasty and looked more clear than the lake!

Overall I highly do and do not recommend this hike- don’t attempt it if you don’t have the skills and the strength required for it. But if you do- then it is an amazing hike with a lot of variation and it will make your muscles sore! It took us 7-8 hours to hike the whole thing (including breaks) but it can definitely take a bit longer! Read the trip reports and be careful!

Washington PCT: DONE!

After 5 years- We have finally finished all of the Washington Sections of the PCT!

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In the Summer of 2011, I started on my first section of the Pacific Crest Trail: Washington Section J. This section is relatively short and quite easy to arrange travel between the trailheads and home so it was an excellent way to start. I was proud of myself for keeping my pack weight under 50LBs for the 7 day trip that we had planned to travel the 70 miles of trail. Since then- I have hiked with my good friend and have finally completed a full State with him. I never expected to go for another section after section J but we kept on planning the next section to accomplish and would knock out one more section every summer.

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We have traveled together through 500 miles of blisters, patella problems, bee stings, snow, rain, random pains, stinky feet, hitchhiking, and some good views as well. After looking back at the images from our first section, I realize how much we have changed during this time. We have both aged to a noticeable degree and have learned how to cope with each others positive and negative qualities to form a good hiking team. We ran into someone this year who couldn’t believe we had hiked together every year and were still friendly/not homicidal towards each other. We are not sure as to why- but I have a feeling that our shared challenges in life were enough to cement the friendship and hiking buddy status.

Now… onto the final section of Washington: Section K:

We only had 4 days to hike the 95 miles between trailheads, so we met up right after work and drove for about 7 hours to place the cars at both ends. We started hiking at 11:30pm and hiked in 5 miles to our first campsite. Along the way we found a porcupine!

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I am not sure which one of us was more startled but he definitely smelled worse than we did- talk about needing a bath! I think I can make it at least 3 days before I smell as bad as this guy did!

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The trail opened up into a massive valley with the skyline dominated by Glacier Peak
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We continued a long march into the valley and admired the beauty. The faint and sweet smell of lupine was quite lovely!

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We proceeded down into the valley which was quite nice as the sun exposure had been quite high all day. As we traveled down and bumped into two SOBO hikers- one of which had blood all over her face. After learning it was from a bloody nose and not a bad case of the zombie infection- we offered her some assistance but she refused. She seemed to have stopped bleeding at that point but there was still an impressive quantity around her mouth. After one last check- we kept on going and wished her luck in her southbound travels.

After a few more miles- we ran into another hiker that was doing the full length of Washington from the South. We hiked with her for the rest of the day and joined a large group for the evening. We enjoyed her company- and she enjoyed the jellybeans and iced tea we traded with her.
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Bushwhacking and failed bridges were commonplace in this section as it is the most remote section of Washington. We both bled our fair share and got stung by nettles on several occasions. I love nature.

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The bonus of Washington is the abundance of Water- after hiking nearly 1kmi last year in the Desert- I appreciate good water a lot more than I have previously.

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We were getting excited at this point as we knew that our one lake that we could swim in was nearby- but we couldn’t figure out where it was.

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After just a few more feet- Mica Lake came into view and it was amazingly inviting. I set out my tent so it would dry quickly and we jumped in. It was quite chilly but was a welcome addition to our day. We still managed to travel 23 miles with the quick dip.

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We had no idea what was in store for us after the lake- the trail totally disappeared for the 3,200ft climb so we had to push through these bushes for several miles in the mid-day heat. There was a fine line between overheating and progress as we continued on. This was my least favorite part of the trek- muggy and hot with a good collection of hidden nettles just for added excitement.

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Thankfully the climb ended after a long time and opened up again to fields of flowers and fresh water. I like to think of the PCT as a movie- when you come across a new view, the movie is just progressing at a steady rate. We are always ready for the next scene by the time we reach it. I was concerned about getting stung by bees at this point because they were flying all over the place but they didn’t seem to notice us too much.

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Part of this section was going through the lesser known original route- the trail is still there but there are two big river crossings and lots of extra things to kick- like the stick that went right through my sock as I was walking. Guess I needed new socks anyways.

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This was one of the river crossings- the log is rotting but didn’t fall in when we crossed so it was a fun adventure. We camped on the other side of the log because the light was fading quite fast and I didn’t want to take a chance of losing my balance when crossing. We did our first cowboy camp in a long time- I was getting eaten quite well by no-see-ums until I coated myself with bugspray.

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Huckleberries were abundant and were a very welcome addition to our food supply- fresh fruit out there is a scare item to come by. I ate while keeping an eye out for any bears that wanted to defend their food source.

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Huckleberries also provide an excuse to stop walking for a while- at this point we were nearing the end of our 28 mile day and were hurting quite well.

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This was July 4th- while most of you were hanging out with family and friends, we had to do something- so I brought apple pie and some tasty beverages. Those of you that know my packing style know that it is hard to justify this much excess weight in my pack but even with this added I was only ay 17.5lbs.

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The next day was our final day on the trail and it was incredibly hot out there. We had to keep an eye on water sources as we followed this river all day without very many methods of taking water from it. Combined with a total elevation gain of 6kft and 90F or so and it got to be miserable. We didn’t stop much as the deer flies were eating our skin whenever we stopped.

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This wasn’t the smartest decision to make but again- this one didn’t collapse on us either. The USFS created a detour but with the sound of distant motorcycles on the highway, we didn’t want to take any extra steps- refreshing sports beverages were waiting for us just a few more feet away!

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After finally reaching Hwy 20- we realized that we were not where we thought we were- the trailhead that we parked at was a road walk away. This wasn’t the greatest news but we had hiked this far already and just knocked out the last remaining mile to the vehicle. I am incredibly happy but also sad to be done with Washington and I look forward to hiking with my trail family down in Oregon as I pass through Portland, Bend, and other places that I know people.

WA DONE

My Terrible and Horrible weekend

This weekend was full of Horrible and Terrible events.

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Over a year ago- I met up with a couple that was hiking the PCT and their names were Horrible and Terrible. I mentioned them a long while ago so you are forgiven if you don’t remember my life story. I hiked with them for quite a ways in the desert but got separated due to different hiking speeds. But they stopped by Seattle to say hi- and I took them quite a few places around Washington.

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The first place we went was the PCT!

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Well that is technically Silver Mountain- but we took the PCT to this peak. The views were great and the temperature was about perfect! On the way up, we bumped into two hikers that we spent the rest of the trip with- Lance and Heather (I think). They were originally from Hawaii and were very nice people- I am saying this even without their bribery of fresh fruit at the top. Lance- if you ever read this… thank you very much for the excellent company and tasty fruit! Both were great additions to the day’s adventures!

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The view was awesome.

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We then continued down to Mirror Lake- which is about 1.5mi further down the trail from the Silver Peak Trail.

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Mirror Lake was as pretty as ever and we managed to visit right before the crowds hit the place. The water looked quite nice and I almost took a quick dip in it… but decided that it was too cold to warm up properly. Another time- another place perhaps.

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After this lovely day hike- we decided that kayaking sounded fun as well so we did an overnight to Hope Island.

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The trip over was quite uneventful and very calm which was nice. We met Don and Ken after some further exploring and shared some of our stories and learned about them as well. They had been kayaking together for 20 years and have gone to many of my bucket list destinations.

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We ended up exploring the Island and also went around the bay a little before finally calling it a day and going to sleep.

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We even got to see the Aurora the following morning! Although… it wasn’t as pretty as I had remembered it…

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Overall we had an awesome Horrible and Terrible weekend with mostly perfect weather and some good adventures! It was good to be able to explore the area with them and show them what is possible from their future home in Portland.

Circumambulation of Mount Saint Helens: Loowit Trail

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I bet that you didn’t know what Circumambulation  was a real word- I definitely didn’t but after hiking the Loowit Trail… I can certainly see why people refer to it for this hike! “(from Latin circum around + ambulātus to walk) is the act of moving around a sacred object or idol.

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This trail wraps around Mount Saint Helens and allows you to see a more complete view of the mountain than just hiking to the top.

We started hiking from Climbers Bivouac as the next best trailhead was still closed from Winter. After researching a bit about the trail, three themes were very apparent; The first being that the East side is much easier than the West, that people generally recommended hiking counterclockwise, and that this was not a trail for beginners due to river crossings, massive washouts, and intense heat with few water sources. That last part is why I caution people on doing this trail.

Disclaimer: This trail is hard to follow, has quite a few massive washouts, ropes were used, a couple river crossings are involved, and a lot of rock hopping on massive lava beds will most probably make your day hurt a lot more at least.

So off we went…

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The forecast called for rain on Saturday and partial breaks in the clouds on Sunday so we hid on the East side of the mountain for Saturday. The fog was quite intense and it rained on us for a good part of the day. It was cold and wet but for the 1/4 of the day it was sunny and the scenery was amazing!Untitled_Panorama1

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We were spoiled on the Eastern side of the mountain as the terrain is incredibly easy and remained fairly level. There was one large washout out here that was quite challenging to find a good method of getting down and back up. But this wasn’t going to be the last obstacle as we had just begun.

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There were chipmunks, marmots, and we could hear pikas off in the distance as well which made me happy. I personally despise Marmots but I have a soft spot for pikas and chipmunks.

The following area was known as the Plains of Abraham and it is an incredible sight- I really kicked myself for forgetting my camera here as my stupid cellphone takes rather lousy pictures. The entire area is barren of trees and is incredibly flat and has a small water source that we almost took from but decided that we should be good until the next one.

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My phone camera was having some issues at this point…

Over Windy Pass (which lived up to its name) and we were in the blast zone where the May 18th eruption happened and changed the look and history of the mountain forever. It was eerie as we knew the history of the eruption, the people who were killed in it, and the amazing amount of damaged caused by the lateral explosion.

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This is where the trail got interesting and a lot more difficult as there are a lot of washouts and lava rock crossings that take tolls on your feet. Trail gets to be really hard to find here but you should be safe if you follow the cairns- and don’t fall into the river. There is a trick to crossing here- go upstream a little bit and you should find a better location to cross.

We continued through the no camping zone to the Toutle River and found a campsite there at about 10pm. We were tired, wet, and ready for sleep after the 20-22 mile day.

The rain got heavier as the night went on so our tents got soaked. It stopped by morning and we were greeted to a cloudy and partially sunny day.

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We packed and left fairly quickly and started our crossing of the river (and our ascent back up 1,500ish ft)

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We eventually made it back to the beginning after a few more washouts and large lava fields that were rather annoying and painful to cross.

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Overall we had a good time- but this was not the trip for novice hikers- 32 miles is not much to complete fairly quickly but the washouts and other obstacles made for quite a challenging hike that we enjoyed doing and being done with!

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Bay View State Park, Skagit Island, and the SVT

Another break in on-call duties allowed me to run off into the lovely resources of Washington.

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First off was Bay View State Park- this was primarily found as we wanted a staging area for the launch to Skagit Island for the second night. I was happy that it turned out to be so nice looking! The campground is a very short walk away from the beach (which has a good view of the sunset). If you want to go but are unsure if you can live in a tent- they have some fantastic cabins available for rent and are fairly reasonably priced too!

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The following day we woke up early so that we could get some coffee before paddling to Skagit Island for a night.

After a previous expedition to this small island that turned into a verbal fight between myself and people who miss-understood the concept of the CMT guidelines of no powerboats for CMT campsites- I was on edge as I really didn’t want that to happen again. Luckily we were the first islanders for the day and got the best site.

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The whole island had exploded in flowers- something that I had never seen before here as I normally visit in Later Summer/fall time. It was fairly obvious that the island has not had many visitors yet this year.

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The beaches look white from all of the sun bleached shells that litter it. Makes it seem more like a tropical island.

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The mossy landscape was quite pretty as well- this trail goes all the way around the island and this is one of my favorite sections:

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After some further exploring- we waited for the sun to set the rest of the way by eating dinner with a fantastic view looking towards Deception Pass.

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Once the sun set the rest of the way- we headed out and kayaked with the bio-luminescence (primarily noctiluca). The glow lit our paddle strokes up quite well but the light pollution from the nearby cities still hid the best show. Most places in Puget Sound have a bad problem with light pollution- Hood Canal has been one exception so far in my random night kayaking adventures.

The following morning- we got an early start to try to avoid the worst of the tidal currents (they can get to be incredibly strong out here!)

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The waters were exceptionally calm, we had some issues in a couple places with some strong currents but nothing we couldn’t take on!

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A Selfie with Skagit- my kayaking buddy was kicking my butt and was in front of me by a bit at this time.

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Hope Island- another place that boaters can camp on but I find it is too big to feel like a remote island to me. There is an awesome rope swing which can provide some entertainment if you get the chance to stop there. The trails on this island are nice also- but I find Skagit to be a lot more of what I look for.

After making it home- I decided to see if my sister wanted to do some more leg torture and bike up the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. I partially regretted asking her but I was able to drink enough caffeine to keep me awake and we had a good time- It was nice to be able to work out my legs a little bit.

Then finally, some life news- I found a nice place that I am moving to that will be much closer to work than I live currently. My hope is to cancel my parking spot and either walk or ride my bike to work every day. I need more exercise given my current job- and my tendons are complaining about my recent adventures.

Hope everyone is well!

One year ago today…

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One year ago at 10:00am, I began my journey on the Pacific Crest Trail from the US/Mexico border. I had no idea what was in store for me, and I experiences more rewarding friendships and learned more about life than I had ever dreamed of. I have never regretted leaving the trail since doing so and I look forward to coming back in the upcoming years to continue knocking out sections.

This is how much I have done so far:

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And these are my stats:

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I can’t wait to see what the upcoming sections hold in terms of views, experiences, and more amazing people!

Umtanum Ridge

After making many plans and finding points of failure in each- we decided to try for the Durr Road/Yakima loop starting from Umtanum. We had all gone on this trail before partially but had never continued to the ridge line so we set forth to do a potential overnight. The overnight plan was trashed when large storm clouds came in and we just took a long break to enjoy snacks and each others company.

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Umtanum has been one of my favorite spring hikes for a long time as the valley is full of flowers, butterflies, fruit, animals, ticks, and rattlesnakes. The full beauty is on the verge of erupting but has not happened yet unfortunately. The flowers have just started to show off.

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Further up the trail- you start to see interesting geologic formations. This is Chukar Amphitheater which looks very much like an asteroid hit it. This is the aerial image: https://goo.gl/maps/YtjLF I wasn’t able to find more information on it however.

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The trail is fairly unforgiving and you just keep on climbing. The views along the way were nice, so it was quite enjoyable.

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I set up my tent at the top to fulfill my tent-monster tendencies and become one with the dirt again. After 3-4 hours of sleep- I had issues not taking a nap. The view was quite nice!

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The Ridge has a long road that follows near the top and can be seen going off into the distance. The clouds were threatening us quite well but it did provide quite the scenery!

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This is a compilation of about 20 pictures- the full size is a little over 300MP. I might upload it later so it is browse-able but I do not have enough time to figure out that process again.

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We hiked down as the sun was setting and enjoyed the contrasting colors. The shade made for some chilly hiking conditions but it was a lot of fun! I had hoped to find a rattlesnake on this trip, but we were not very lucky in finding them. I had a lot of fun on this trip and got some good exercise too!

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Umtanum Falls

Umtanum Falls has been on my list of hikes that I should do- but since I had heard so many bad things about them being “super totally stupidly lame”, I had kept on pushing it back on my goal list. After failing to be able to make it to the first trailhead, we decided to go for something a little shorter and lower as we had burned through a bit of the day already.

So we decided that Umtanum Falls was short, and would be ok. I was surprised to find out that it was actually a really cool hike!

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The falls were flowing quite well this time of the year- I have seen pictures that show a trickle over the top, which has disappointed quite a few people in the past. The pictures also make the falls seem like they are only about 6-10ft tall- but this turned out to be quite a bit off. I was surprised as to how nice they were!

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The lava rocks held quite a bit of life, and had some really nice shapes and colors.

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One of my favorite things about the desert is that the beauty is not immediately apparent- you have to look for it to be able to enjoy it. I am always fascinated by the varied life found hidden in the landscape- these flowers were quite small but were quite pretty! There were some other species as well- but the photos of those didn’t turn out well unfortunately.

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There are tons of flowers in this picture- and maybe even a godzilla! (well ok.. maybe not… but one can hope). At first glance- this looks like a fairly dead landscape.

Maybe it is because I had such low expectations- but I found this hike to be rather pleasant and quite enjoyed my time there.

Odessa – Lake Creek Trail

On a quest to regain some of my long distance abilities, I did a search on WTA’s fantastic hike finder (which is more useful than the hike finder map as it includes more hikes that are less popular). My specific search consisted of Mileage Range: Over 12 miles, less than 500ft gain. My hope was to find a 20+ mile hike with less than 500ft of climbing as I have been at a computer job for a month now and feel weaker already.

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The Odessa – Lake Creek Trail popped up: 26mi with 300ft of gain. Fantastic! (or so I thought…) only gaining 300ft in 13 miles was rather impressive and seemed too good to be true. Well… it turns out that it was indeed too good to be true- WTA took the information from a book called “BEST Desert Hikes Washington” which does the incredibly annoying thing of taking the highest elevation then subtracting the lowest to find elevation gain. This is useless for a hiker as there are very few hikes that have a consistent climb with no ups and downs along the way.

Here is the hacked up profile of this hike:

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The long feature-less parts are due to me editing the file for use in a map pack. There were a bunch of ups and downs through them. It turns out that there is about 1.5kft of gain one-way, and about 2.5k-3kft total. It is nothing like the 300ft of gain round trip that was advertised. The Trail is about 13mi each way- more if you get lost like we did 🙂 I am happy that we hiked it, even with the added elevation gain!

After 4 hours of driving, lots of speed traps, and one of the oddest drives to a trailhead ever (you drive through what looks like a parking lot of a trucking company) we started the hike. It was raining for the first hour of hiking but that died off fairly quickly. The rest of the day was full of clouds- but no rain thankfully.

As we hiked, we learned how well this trail is signed and became accustomed to the easy navigation even with the less traveled trail. Our main map was picked up at the trailhead and proved to be incredibly valuable as there are pretty terrible maps online that are near-impossible to use for navigation.

Follow these and you will be (mostly) OK:

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The keyword that you should have become concerned about was “mostly” as there is a critical turn that is unsigned and brought us to our first mileage-boosting alternate path. When the trail goes straight for the train tracks (downhill) there is a fence that you have to turn back up the hill at- if you miss this… you have a long walk ahead of you.

I can provide people with the route(gpx)- and will include a shot of it at the end for future travelers to make it easier to follow.

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This trail reminded me of the PCT as it was fairly easy terrain and it was fairly open and desert-like. I enjoyed the feeling of having a full pack on my back while my feet pounded the earth. The Lakes that were once found here are no longer around- from what I understand, the farms in the area drained them as they needed more water. Seems like it was a temporary fix as there is nothing left to drain besides this one spring that had a slow but steady output of water.

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One of the oddities of this trail is the large number of dead things. Skeletons are everywhere here- some were deer, most were from cattle. It felt like an elephant graveyard at times- minus the elephants of course!

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There were also numerous farming artifacts that died a long time ago:

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Hopes and dreams seem to have gone the way of the dodo:

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Judging by the massive number of beer cans found laying around one can only assume that brain cells died here too.

There is plenty of life here- we saw a herd of deer, a coyote, tons of beautiful songbirds, and a bunny. The geologic formations are impressive to walk through and I find myself always wondering what it was like when the massive flood from Lake Missoula came barreling down through this area.

Overall- this was a great hike for me as I wanted to get some miles under my feet and the clouds made for an easy day with perfect temperatures for a good workout.

As Promised- here is the trail map:

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If you decide to go- be sure to bring all of the water you need as the lakes don’t exist anymore, and even if they did… I would be hugely concerned about the cow poo contamination levels. Be sure to look out for rattlesnakes on warmer days as there is a good chance you will come across one and as cuddly as they look- it is best to keep your distance. I hiked with a full pack on this as I wasn’t sure if we would end up camping along the way. Keep your eyes open and make sure that you follow the actual trail and don’t take one of our many detours!

Happy Weekend everyone!