Mason Lake and Little Bandera Mountain

Saturday is our first attempt at Camp Muir (depending on the weather) so Logan and I wanted to squeeze in one more hike. We went for Mason Lake because it wasn’t too far away and it was relatively easy. The trail climbs up to the top of a ridge and then drops down a couple hundred feet to the lake. We were almost the first ones to the lake again (another guy beat us by a couple minutes) and we got to enjoy it in peace before the crowds came up behind us. We made it there very quickly with only one stop to remove our pant legs and convert to shorts. Since we were still feeling fresh and it was only 8:30am, we decided to take another fork of the trail and go up to the top of Little Bandera Mountain.

Whew. It was STEEP.

My GPS watch has been pretty accurate on our hikes and it reported 980 vertical feet over 0.6 miles. The trail isn’t traveled very much and after just a little bit, the trail builders obviously gave up on the switchbacks and just went straight up the hill. It was a slog but we made it scrambling up on all fours. I included a chart from our trip in the photos below. You can see the hike up to the peak and notice how much slower we went on that part with frequent stops. The third picture was also take on that steep slope but it’s always hard to see slope in a photo. Just note how close Logan is but yet how much lower he is! You can click on any of the pictures for a bigger view.

The view at the top is supposed to be incredible with Mt. Rainier standing proudly for you to enjoy. Unfortunately there were a lot of clouds to the south, but the view to the north was great. We looked down on Mason Lake where we had been earlier that morning.

All in all it was a great hike and hopefully we’ll be ready for Camp Muir on Saturday!

Lake Melakwa

Our hike up to Camp Muir is getting drawing near. Logan and I have been doing quite a few hikes this summer to prepare and last Saturday it was Lake Melakwa. We had originally planned to attempt to get to Mailbox Peak (one of the hardest local hikes) but given the smoke, we decided to do something that didn’t require clear skies for the payoff at the top.

It’s a good thing we switched to Lake Melakwa. Even though the smoke had started to blow out of the area, there were a lot of clouds and even a few raindrops on our windshield as we drove there. (We haven’t had rain in 56 days!) Mailbox Peak almost certainly would have had a disappointing view at the top.

We left my house at 6am, hoping to get to the trailhead before this incredibly popular hike got super crowded. The early start paid off. We hit the trail at about 7:10 and we were the first ones up it. That meant we got to clean out the spider webs but it also meant that we didn’t see a soul until we got to the lake!

The hike was gorgeous. I can see why it is so popular. You cross Denny Creek a few times both with bridges and without. You walk under the enormously tall I-90 raised roadway and there is a fairly tall waterfall. Even if you just went a mile up the trail to “waterslide rock” to let your kid play in the water, I’d still say it’s a worthwhile hike.

It’s around 9 miles roundtrip with 2500 feet of elevation gain. On the way up, I felt like the trail was relatively smooth, but on the way down I really noticed all the rocks on the upper part of the hike. It’s not nearly as rocky as a hike like Pilchuck though. And while Melakwa is the Chinook word for mosquito, we only saw a handful of bugs. There was a pretty constant light rain at times on the hike so maybe that kept them at bay.

The views on the way up were great but wow, that lake is gorgeous! We made it up in just a shade over 2 hours. We were the only ones there except for a couple overnight campers across the lake. A few groups were only 5-10 minutes behind us though.

I don’t know exactly what my top 3 hikes in the area are, but this is probably one of them. The only catch is that you really should get there by 7 or 7:30. When we left there were an incredible amount of cars there and hiking is so much better when you have some solitude! Not to mention that it’s better when you can park right by the trailhead instead of adding a mile to the hike so you can get to your car.

You can view our trip stats on the Garmin site. It’s a little screwed up because I forgot to stop it until about 10 minutes down the road.

Mt. Pilchuck

Logan, Tim and I met up early Saturday morning for a hike up Mt. Pilchuck. This hike has been on my list for a long time. There is an old fire tower lookout at the top of the hike and it has a fantastic view. (Duh, that’s what fire towers are for.)

The top of Mt. Pilchuck is over 5000 feet but thankfully the drive up to the trailhead takes you a good portion of the way up the mountain leaving only about 2200 feet for the actual hike. Be prepared though because that road includes about 6 miles of dirt road and some of it has very big potholes. I was happy to have the truck.

We got to the trailhead at 8am and had no trouble finding a parking spot. I’d say the actual lot was about half full. There were plenty of bugs in the parkling lot and on the whole hike, but they weren’t much of a problem unless you stopped walking. And even then they were just gnats, not anything that would bite.

We made good time heading up and the trail was nice, but the view at the top was a bummer. It was totally encased in a cloud. Coupled with wind and chilly temps, it wasn’t an inviting place to stay so we quickly came down from the tower and found a calmer spot to eat our food. The hike down actually took longer than the hike up because we had to stop for the hordes of people heading up the trail.

The elevation and distance aren’t too much to handle, but the trail gets it’s difficulty rating from the constant rocks. You have to watch where you put every step or you’ll add to the large number of people who sprain or break ankles. The climb up to the tower (pictured below) is the most intense part. Be prepared to scramble on all fours, or as one guide book put it, “minor acrobatics are required.”

All in all, it was a good workout and prep for Camp Muir, but I want to go back again to witness the view. You can view the stats from our hike on the Garmin Connect site.

Cape Disappointment State Park

Last weekend, we headed down to Cape Disappointment State Park in the very southwest corner of the state. Don, Nancy and Megan had a campsite for their trailer and Logan, Tyla, Elijah and I stayed a short walk away in a tent site.

This was only Elijah’s second camping trip in the tent and he did great! He went to bed around 9:30 every day (about 1.5 hours later than normal) and slept solidly all night until pretty far into the morning. It definitely gave me confidence to do some more trips with him.

The park itself was really nice. The beach was huge, sandy and perfectly positioned for beautiful sunsets. There are a lot of other parks nearby and we went across the bridge into Oregon to check out the 1906 shipwreck at Fort Stevens State Park.

The only major bummer of the trip was traffic. We left at 2pm on Friday for the 3.5 hour drive. It took us 5.5 hours (plus 30 minutes of stops) to get there. We only hit an extra 30 minutes of traffic on the way back but it all came in one big messy accident backup.

I was very impressed with the camera on our Galaxy S7’s. All of the pictures you see below were taken on our phones except for the shipwreck. It’s gotten to the point where I feel less and less of a need to lug the big dSLR around with us. It still has its uses, but I don’t feel nearly as bad as I used to if I forget to bring it along.

A huge thanks goes out to Don for doing all the heavy lifting when it came to meal times!

Lime Kiln Trail

After the success of our Little Mt Si hike, Logan, Elijah and I headed out again. We picked out a very kid-friendly trail so that Elijah could spend a lot of time on his feet instead of in my pack. That worked for about half a mile and then he rode the rest of it. I didn’t push it because he seemed legitimately tired (he was falling asleep in my pack) but it worked out fine. The trail doesn’t have a lot of elevation gain but it is 8 miles round trip.

There isn’t a huge payoff but the walk is pretty. You go past an old lime kiln and then in another mile you hit the end of the trail at the edge of the river. We had lunch there and made our way back.

The trail itself is indeed kid friendly. It’s generally fairly wide and relatively smooth. There were, however, a lot of bushes and trees growing in from the side of the trail so you have to be careful not to smack people in the face behind you. It was especially tricky with a kid riding in a backpack.

I really enjoy these hikes but I’m struggling with how to keep Elijah engaged at this transition point. I don’t love hiking without a destination, but a lot of the destinations that are fun are also more than he can handle at this point. If you have suggestions of waterfalls, lakes, fire lookouts, etc that are only a mile or two round trip without a ton of elevation gain, please send them my way.

In addition to the pictures below, you can also see the hyperlapse that I posted on Instagram. (A hyperlapse is basically a video that is sped up and smoothed out so it kind of looks like you’re flying along without the normal video bumps caused by walking.)