Camp Muir/Birthday Hike, July 2017

Camp Muir
Date: July 12, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 9 Miles / 14.5 Kilometers Round-trip
Elevation Gain: 4,700 Feet / 1,433 Meters
Time: 6 to 7 hours
Location: Near Ashford, Washington
Users Group: Hikers / Climbers Only
Permits: National Park Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry to Snowpack
Hiking With: Matt Kerby

The last time I hiked up to Camp Muir was 4 years ago so it was time to knock it off again. Plus…I was looking for something big to do locally for my 57th birthday. I asked my good friend Matt Kerby to join me on my birthday hike. I picked up Matt in Bellevue at 4:00 a.m. and we made it to the Paradise Parking lot by 6:15 a.m. There was only maybe 12 to 15 vehicles in the upper parking lot…good timing on our part.

We started at 6:50 on Skyline Trail and finally hit constant snow near Glacier Vista where we ended up putting on our hiking spikes. I have been using these mini-crampons for most of my winter hiking, but I will probably bring my full size crampons next time for extra grip on the Camp Muir snowfield.

This was maybe my 10th time on Muir and it’s always the same…tough and real tough. I always pick sunny days for the photos and safety factor, but with sun brings heat and sunburns. I was wearing full length pants and a long sleeve shirt to reduce the need to lather up on sunscreen all over except for my face.

Matt and I are both strong hikers but it still took us 3 hours and 45 minutes to reach Camp Muir, we wasn’t in a hurry and we took many water/snack breaks along the way. We took our time on top…lunching, bullshitting and taking random photos. The climbing teams must have hired a helicopter to haul trash/empty fuel canisters…it was cool to see a copter up a 10,000 foot mountain.

We got back to the car in 2 ½ hours and left the parking lot around 2:30 p.m. We skipped the Paradise Inn beer because I told Matt that Linna wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t get back home by 5:30 p.m. She was having my birthday dinner at the house with 2 other couples. Well…I had no idea that she was throwing me a surprise birthday party and Matt was in on it. Matt made sure he was keeping me on track for time…there was a bunch of people at the house waiting for us.

Scorpion Mountain Hike, July 2017

Scorpion Mountain
Date: July 4, 2017
Difficulty: 6 out of 10
Distance: 8 miles / 12.9 Kilometers round-trip
Elevation Gain: 2,650 feet / 808 meters
Time: 5 to 6 hours
Location: Near Skykomish, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass Required
Trail Conditions: Dry to a few snow patches on summit
Hiking With: Linna Freeman, Rick Freeman, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling, Tao Song & Macho

For our July 4th celebration we started our day hiking a new trail off of highway 2 near Skykomish, Washington. I usually hike the I-90 hikes out of Seattle, but when I invite my wife I know it’s a pre-requisite to come up with a new hike to entice her to come out. Scorpion Mountain was a new hike for us and we were blessed with a sunny warm July 4th without the crowd. We invited our good friends Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling and Tao Song to share this quiet beautiful hike.

This is not your typical off the exit I-90 hike, it takes some driving time and effort. After getting off of highway 2, you have 7 miles of a narrow paved road onto a narrower overgrown dirt-road for another 6 miles up the mountain. We only had two groups ahead of us when we started, but managed to pass them to have full access to the summit to ourselves. This hike has a gain of 2,500 feet, but after reaching the Sunrise Mountain you descend over 200 feet to only ascend again to summit Scorpion…making this trek a bit more difficult.

Before reaching the summit of glacier lilies and a couple of large mounds of snow you get to hike through a mature forest and alpine meadows. You have a 360 view on top with Glacier Peak, Spire, El Capitan and the top of Rainier showing.

Linna and I ended our hike with some delicious Korean BBQ at Blue Ginger in Bellevue, Washington.

Bandera Mountain Sunrise Hike, June 2017

Bandera Mountain
Date: June 30, 2014
Difficulty: 7 out of 10
Distance: 8 miles / 12.88 kilometers round-trip
Elevation Gain: 3,400 feet / 1,036 meters
Time: 5 to 6 hours
Location: Exit 45, I-90
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass Required
Trail Conditions: Dry to the top
Hiking With: Linna Freeman, Matt Kerby & Macho the Dog Wonder

My wife Linna made a lifetime goal of 100 sunrise hikes…after today we will only need 98 more! We met up with Matt Kerby at the local Home Depot at 2:00 a.m. and loaded everything into his new SUV. We started at the trail-head at 2:45 a.m. and reached the summit in 2 hours…which means we had actually had to wait for the sunrise for 30 minutes.

It was perfect weather through-out the morning, but the mosquitoes were so nasty it affected your movements. I put on my jacket so only my face was shown, I came down the mountain with only one bite. Matt ended up with a couple of welts on both sides of his forehead.

It’s a good feeling when you are descending down the mountain heading back to the car and it’s only seven in the morning and seeing people heading up wondering…what the hell.

Granite Mountain Sunrise Hike, May 2017

Granite Mountain
Date: May 27, 2017
Difficulty: 7 out of 10
Distance: 8.6 miles / 13.8 Kilometers round-trip
Elevation Gain: 3,800 feet / 1,158 meters
Time: 5 to 6 hours
Location: Exit 47, I-90
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass Required
Trail Conditions: Dry to Snow Packed
Hiking With: Mike Curry, Linna Freeman, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling, Tao Song & Macho

Seven of us decided that getting up at 1:00 a.m. to summit Granite Mountain to see the sunrise would be worth it…and we were right. Our group consisted of Mike Curry, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling, Tao Song and my wife Linna Freeman. This will be the first sunrise hike for most of us and probably the earliest start for a hike too.

I am not sure how we decided on Granite Mountain for a sunrise hike, but we all knew they would be a lot of snow on top left over from a very wet/snowy winter. After reading the WTA trip reports, the avalanche conditions were minimal and post holing wasn’t an issue. We had to be a bit more cautious on the snow when it started to open up on top, there were numerous foot trails going in different directions, but I have been up Granite so many times I had a good feel for our direction to the summit.

Matt Kerby reached the summit in time to snap some beautiful sunrise pictures, some of the photos posted will be his art. There were many groups coming up as we were descending and by the time we got back to the parking lot it was nearly full.
Craig and Tao invited us back to their house for breakfast. Of course when we got back home Linna and I took a long nap.

Spain Trip, May 2017

The last time I was in Spain was maybe 16 years ago….when camera’s were still using film and where my camera was stolen along with my film. We invited John Biltucci and his wife XiuYun Jiang for this short 8 day trip visiting Barcelona, Madrid and Segovia. This was their first trip to Spain…and Linna’s too.

Mailbox Peak Hike, April 2017

Mailbox Peak
Date: April 22, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 5 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Near North Bend, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: Mike Curry, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling and my dog Macho

This will be the second time this year I conquered the Mailbox.

Mt. Baker Trip, March 2017

Six of us spent a 3 day weekend in Glacier, Washington enjoying the Mt. Baker area and the vast open country for snowshoeing.

Norway Trip, February 2017

Really? A Norway trip during the winter….just what I thought when my wife Linna wanted to visit the Lofoten area for her February birthday. We invited a couple of other friends, Mike Curry and Emelie Espling to enjoy this winter wonderland with us.

We spent two nights and a full day in Oslo before flying up to Leknes via Bodo. More than two days in Oslo would be just a waste of time.

Hex Mountain Snowshoe, January 2017

A group of us thought we could find the top of Hex mountain….but we were a few peaks off.

Huntoon Snowshoe, December 2016

Huntoon Point Snowshoe
Date:
December 10, 2016
Difficulty: 7 out of 10
Distance: 5.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Very End of Highway 542; Near Mt. Baker Ski Area
Users Group: Hikers & Leashed Dogs Only
Permits: No Permits Required
Trail Conditions: Fresh Snow (Powder)
Hiking with: Linna Freeman and my wonder dog Macho

We chose Mt. Baker area for our first snowshoe outing this winter.

Mailbox Peak Hike, October 2016

Mailbox Peak
Date: October 30, 2016
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Near North Bend, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: My Wife Linna Wei & our Wonder Dog Macho

Linna and I decided to get Macho out for some fall weather hiking.

Yellow Aster Hike, September 2016

Yellow Aster Butte
Date: September 30, 2016
Difficulty: 6 out of 10
Distance: 7.5 miles / 12.07 Kilometers round-trip
Elevation Gain: 2,600 feet / 792 meters
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Near Glacier, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: My wife Linna, Jim & Ione Darmiento, Erik & Emelie Espling, John Biltucci

My wife Linna chose this hike months before our Mt. Baker weekend and she happened to picked the perfect date for beautiful fall colors. Our group rented a beautiful house near Glacier, Washington for the weekend.

Rim To Rim Hike, September 2016

Epic North Rim to South Rim hike all in one day with my wife Linna and 7 other good friends.

Shanghai Trip, September 2016

This was a short trip to beautiful Shanghai mainly consisted of visiting good friends and dinner out.

Gothic Basin Backpack, August 2016

Gothic Basin
Date: August 6, 2016
Difficulty: 8 out of 10
Distance: 9 miles / 14.5 Kilometers roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,840 feet / 866 meters
Time: 5 to 6 hours
Location: Mountain Loop Highway
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass Required
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: Linna Freeman, Rick Freeman, Jim Darmiento, AJ Soule and Macho

This was the first backpacking trip for Linna and I together and it turned out to be a beautiful weekend. Our friends AJ Soule and Jim Darmiento joined us for this mid-summer overnight trip up to the amazing Gothic Basin. I hiked Gothic Basin a couple of years ago and envy came over me when I saw people camping, so I had to come back with a tent this time.

We left our house in Seattle at 6:00 a.m. on Friday to assure a spot in the tiny parking lot at Barlow Pass…we also wanted to make sure we had first come to campsites. The first mile is a nice warm-up especially with a loaded backpack, it’s pretty much a flat gravel road that follows the Sauk River. After you pass the Weeden Creek sign you start to gain elevation. The trail becomes steep in areas with many boulders to cross…not a fan of scrambling with something heavy on my back! This is a tough hike but it’s all worth it when you have huge beautiful views around you.

Once we hit Gothic Basin we decided to hike up Foggy Lake which was another ½ mile and 500 feet gain pass Gothic Lake. We asked a few backpackers who were on their way down about camping spots and they recommended a secret sweet spot. This was another 15 minute trek on rock at the end of Foggy Lake but well worth it, because it was a magical place for three tents.

We were exhausted by the time we unloaded the backpacks and secured the tents in our new enchanted kingdom. I jumped in the cold water with my clothes on so I could rinse the sweat and dirt off my body and clothes. We heated up water to cook up our Mountain House bag meal, Linna and I shared spaghetti and meat-sauce. It was delicious…probably because it was loaded with salt and we were really hungry.

The next day we had rice/chicken from Mountain House for breakfast and I must have been hungry again because it was delicious. After a hearty breakfast we started to descend through the hordes of hikers coming up on this Saturday morning. When we got back to our car in the early afternoon there were cars parked everywhere along the roadside…must have been over 50 cars.

Enchantment Thru Hike, July 2016

Enchantments
Date: July 16, 2016
Difficulty: 9.5 out of 10
Distance: 19 miles / 30.6 Kilometers roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4,500 feet / 1,371 meters
Time: 10 to 13 hours
Location: Near Leavenworth, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry to Packed Snow
Hiking With: Linna Freeman & Yun Ling

This year my wife and I hiked Colchuck Lake and two weeks later hiked Snow Lakes…both of these hikes will lead you into the magical place called the Enchantments near Leavenworth, Washington. A bunch of our friends applied for a summer camping permit to the Enchantment Basin back in February but all of us were denied.

So my wife and I did the next best thing…a very long day hike through the Enchantments. You have three choices to experience the Enchantment basin in one day, hike there from Colchuck Lake which is probably the easiest, but you will have to ascend and descend the very steep Aasgard Pass. Or the ever long grueling Snow Lakes trail with 6,500 feet gain and over 15 miles of hiking. Since Linna and I already completed both hikes, we decided to start from Colchuck Lake trailhead and end our day at the Snow Lakes trailhead…a grueling 19 miles thru hike in one day.

We were joined by Yun Ling, he was looking for something bold for his 48th birthday (he found it). We dropped my Audi at the Snow Lakes trailhead and Yun Ling’s wife dropped us off at the Stuart Lake trailhead. We started around 7:00 a.m., a much later start time than I wanted and totally recommend starting at day break or earlier.

Hiking to Colchuck Lake was a breeze, we made it to the lake in 1 hour 45 minutes. When we were taking a photo break and chatting with fellow hikers we heard some thunderstorm type noise and when we looked up we witnessed our first avalanche experience. A river of snow aggressively running down from the top of the Colchuck peak wiping away huge boulders and finally stopping before it reached the lake.

The easy part was over and the toughest part of our journey was just beginning. Hiking up Aasgard peak is a steep lung busting scramble with loose rocks. This short ascent is less than a mile but you gain over 2,200 feet topping at the summit at 7,800 feet. We ended up stopping so many times for photo ops that we ended up coming down in the dark, it was 9:30 p.m. by the time we got back to our car.

3 Peaks, United Kingdom, June 2016

Like any major group event or accomplishment, it starts off with someone throwing out the idea in the first place and the 3 Peak conversation actually started 3 years ago over dinner in Germany. The 3 Peak Challenge is a major hiking event in United Kingdom where you attempt to summit the highest mountain of Scotland, England and Wales within 24 hours. The total distance walked is estimated at 26 miles with a total ascent of 3,000m or 9,800 ft.
Ben Nevis (1,344m or 4,409ft.), the highest mountain in Scotland
Scafell Pike (978m or 3,209ft.), the highest mountain in England
Snowdon (1,085m or 3,560ft.), the highest mountain in Wales

I had a direct flight from Seattle to London where I picked up our 9 passenger Volkswagen van that we would end up sleeping, dressing and eating in for nearly two days. I drove up to Glasgow where I would meet up with the rest of the “Fantastic Four” squad. First team member and most important was Cyril Hodgson from England, UK. His role was crucial and most demanding…he was our driver and mountain guide. Second team member was Jeremy Davis from Wales, UK. He coordinated the dates, times and brought the “Fantastic Four” together. Third team member was Ilka Plöhn from Germany. She made sure the men remained humble, she made Germany proud. Last but not least, I was the Fourth team member representing United States.

There is a reason why they call this a “Challenge” because summiting 3 main peaks in 24 hours with inclement weather and driving 10 hours in heavy traffic is very demanding mentally and physically. Our Fantastic Four squad was successful because our transport driver Cyril Hodgson was dynamic and steadfast on his driving….a professional rally driver for sure!

I completed the 3 Peak Challenge in 23 hours and 40 minutes with only 20 minutes left-over! Even though United Kingdom (Jeremy Davis) and Germany (Ilka Plöhn) reached the finish-line before me…my mind, body and soul was overwhelmed with happiness. We were successful on our first attempt because our team was essentially equivalent in physical stamina and determination, there was a large percentage of teams that came up short.

Mount Teneriffe Hike, June 2016

Mount Teneriffe
Date: June 8, 2016
Difficulty: 8 out of 10
Distance: 11 miles / 17.7 Kilometers roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,840 feet / 1170 meters
Time: 5 to 6 hours
Location: Exit 32, I-90 Near North Bend, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: Matt Kerby and my wonderdog Macho

I wasted a day of vacation so I could wake up at 3:45 a.m. on a Wednesday and purposely trash my legs and pound my heart into submission while hiking Mount Teneriffe. This hike will kick your ass every time and maybe it’s the reason I only do it once a year. But if you are looking for a colossal work-out 30 minutes from Seattle with 360 views…then Mount Teneriffe is it.

My friend Matt Kerby joined me on this thigh burner hike, this was his first time and Mr. Teneriffe showed him what trails are made of. We took the short route up via the Kamikaze Falls then followed the ridgeline to the summit. To save on the knees we descended the long “old” logging road down. I guess I will have to quit calling it a logging road as of last year Department of Natural Resources actually created a trail by bringing the edges in with an excavator. They have done an exceptional job of creating a real trail from the 7 mile logging road.

We made good time to the summit and we didn’t have to share it either. In fact I was telling Matt that I never had to share this summit with anyone in the 10 years of hiking this mountain. You might see 1 or 2 people on Mt. Tenerife on a weekday, but one mile away you will see 20 to 30 on Mt. Si.

Granite Mountain Hike, June 2016

Granite Mountain
Date: June 3, 2016
Difficulty: 7 out of 10
Distance: 8.6 miles / 13.8 Kilometers roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,800 feet / 1,158 meters
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Exit 47, I-90
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass Required
Trail Conditions: Dry to some packed snow
Hiking With: Matt Kerby, Rick Massie and my wonderdog Macho

Granite Mountain has always been an essential hike for me and I have always told my wife Linna that I wanted my ashes tossed from this summit. Granite Mountain goo.gl/LdJsWz offers everything from dense forest cover, waterfall, open meadow, wild flowers, look-out tower, boulder scramble, late snow, long avalanche shoots and views to die for. Plus…the first mile of this hike is moderate so allows your legs to warm-up before you split off from the Pratt Lake trail and start some serious elevation gain.

I had the pleasure to introduce Granite Mountain to a newbie hiker and good friend of mine, Matt Kerby. I think Granite became his new favorite hike and I am sure he will be back very soon. Another friend and co-worker Rick Massie joined us on this glorious sunny Friday. We all met up at the trailhead at 5:30 a.m. to get an early start on the day, surprising though there was already six cars in the parking lot.

The summer route still had a lot of snow so we scrambled up the boulder field to the look-out tower. After a putting on a dry shirt and sucking down a Gu Energy Shot we descended the summer route in the snow. We pretty much had the trail and look-out tower to ourselves today.