Europe Trip, September 2017

The best way to get away from the crowds in the Seattle area during Labor Day is to fly to another country. We had a direct Delta flight to Paris where we disembarked and went through French Customs. The last time Linna and I went through Paris customs back in May it was a major cluster fuck, we spent over two hours in line and missed our next flight. This time there was potential of the same shit, but this time we just left the roped off area and went for a line that was 5 people deep versus 300 deep. So, now we are thinking we out smarted the Paris airport but only to get delayed in baggage claim for over an hour. What is going on with Charles De Gull airport…I have flown into this airport over 20 times and it was always smooth sailing.

After checking into our next flight for Budapest, we found the nearest Skyteam lounge and found refuge. Linna convinced me to take a shower at the lounge, I blamed my body odor on my favorite hiking shirt I was wearing, I think it carries many sweaty hikes with it. After our easy two hour flight from Paris, the Budapest airport was clean and easy to navigate. I picked up an Avis rental from the airport and drove about 20 minutes to our hotel which was located in city center. We decided to shower and get out, if we napped we risked the chance of not getting up at all and waste the evening.

We headed out around 5:30 p.m. and walked toward the Danube River. We stopped and took a few picture of the Shoes of Danube and kept walking toward Chain Bridge for some night shots. It started to rain on our way back to the hotel, which we had planned for with rain jackets. It was a nice easy rain and not so cold….in fact I was wearing my go to flip flops. We got lucky and found ourselves on a street filled with restaurants and picked out a busy traditional restaurant.

Friday Harbor Lunch Flight, August 2017

Our friend Catherine Howe is currently living in the flat state of Texas and she decided to come back to her previous living area of beautiful Seattle area to visit friends over a long weekend. She stayed with Linna and I in our recently new address of Fall City after living in Seattle proper for 21 years.

She asked if she could fly us from the Renton Airport to Friday Harbor for lunch in her Cessna 172 Skyhawk. The Cessna 172 is the most produced plane in the world with over 43,000 assembled and is still in production today. Her plane is hangered at the Renton Municipal Airport about 12 miles southeast of downtown Seattle near the south end of Lake Washington. The Renton airport is where all new Boeing 737’s take off for the very first time after assembly, the Boeing plant is right next to the runaway.

It was a perfect day for flying, it was sunny and warm with a light breeze. We flew off towards the North and headed in the general direction of our house, in ten minutes we were circling our Fall City compound of 4.5 acres. After a few photos, Catherine put the heading towards Friday Harbor.

Friday Harbor is part of the San Juan Islands and is the only island that is incorporated. There are over 400 islands that are part of the San Juan chain. Friday Harbor is a small town of 2,500 people and mainly caters to tourist people like us. Catherine smoothly landed the plane at the small Friday airport and taxied to a visitor parking lot for small planes. After securing the plane to the ground, we walked just 10 minutes to the quaint little town of restaurants and boutique shops.

We found a perfect spot for lunch over-looking the ferry boats coming in and the many tourists walking by. After lunch we departed and headed straight for the Renton airport…what a fabulous day.

Enchantment Thru Hike, August 2017

Enchantment Thru Hike
Date: August 19, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 20 miles / 32 Kilometers round-trip
Elevation Gain: 5,200 feet / 1,585 meters (total gain)
Time: 12 to 15 hours
Location: Near Leavenworth, Washington
Users Group: Hikers &
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: Linna Freeman, Matt Kerby, Tao Song & Craig Schilling

I trekked this brutal 20 mile loop last year, so I have a full understanding of the physical requirements and mental determination to complete it. So…to do again this year makes me a glutton for punishment. Team Punishment consisted of my lovely wife Linna, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling and Tao Song.

We dropped off Matt’s vehicle at the Snow Lakes trailhead and the five of us drove Craig’s vehicle to Colchuck trailhead where we started our torturous journey at 5:00 a.m. I was totally surprised how both parking lots were completely full. Of course we didn’t see much in the dark, but by the time we got to Colchuck Lake it was all blue skies. We stopped at the first big slab of granite opening which was directly across the famous Aasgard Pass for the initial bombardment of photos and selfies. We also took this time to scarf down some energy food before heading up to the pass which was nearly ½ mile away around the lake. You start to notice the cairns around the lake and soon you realize how important they are and become later in the hike. Somehow Tao didn’t pay attention to the cairns and found herself lost for about 15 minutes before we started up the pass.

What can I say about Aasgard Pass that you don’t already know…2,000 feet elevation gain in 0.75 miles is cruel and unusual punishment to your mind, body and soul. I am sure I was having Mailbox Peak flashbacks. Some sections you need to be careful you don’t dislodge rocks…especially when your wife is below you! We took a long break at the summit in a low spot on large boulders to stretch out our tired legs. During lunch, Matt had a photo shoot with us and a few goats. Matt Kerby is a professional photographer so you will see a lot of his photos on my blog.

The trail continues through the Enchantment basin / Upper Enchantments with numerous lakes and photo opportunities everywhere. We stopped and soaked our feet in the icy cold Leprechaun Lake before heading down to the Snow Lakes. Once you see the lakes at a distance, you realize that you still have a brutal descent down. For me, this is the most grueling section…but once you get down to the upper Snow Lakes it’s back on a half-way normal trail. Once you see the parking lot, you might think you only have 15 minutes left, but it’s a full hour yet.

Mailbox Peak Sunrise Hike, July 2017

Mailbox Peak
Date: July 30, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 5.3 miles / 8.4 Kilometers round-trip
Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet / 1,219 meters
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Near North Bend, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: Linna Freeman, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling and my Wonderdog Macho

My third trip to the famous Mailbox Peak and my fourth sunrise hike this year. Linna and I woke up at 1:15 a.m. this morning to meet Matt Kerby and Craig Schilling at the Mailbox Peak lower parking lot at 2:45 a.m. and started hiking the old trail at 3:04 a.m.

If you think it’s tough staying on the trail during the day, it’s worse in middle of night. Craig got a little behind in the group and found himself off-trail so he started hiking straight up to our lights that was illuminating from our headlamps. The white diamonds sporadically located in the trees came in useful…they would shine like stars once your headlamp hit them.

We made it up in 2 1/2 hours and even had to wait for the sun to show it’s face. We had the summit, sunrise and the mailbox to ourselves until we had our fill. We headed back the same way as we came up…old trail baby. I have descended the new longer trail and it just feels forever and I rather get the pain over with on the shorter steep old trail.

Mt. Dickerman Sunrise Hike, July 2017

Mount Dickerman
July 22, 2013
Difficulty: 7 out of 10
Distance: 8.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,875 Feet
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Near Verlot, Washington (Mountain Loop Highway)
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry To One Patch Of Snow
Hiking with: Linna Freeman, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling & Macho the Wonderdog

This was supposed to be our third sunrise hike, but the low clouds made it impossible to see the sunrise. The last time I was on top of Mt. Dickerman was early June 4 years ago with a lot of snow, today’s hike was snow free. We made the summit in 2 1/2 hours with a couple of tents perched on top….our group woke them.

We hung on top for 45 minutes to take all of those non-sunrise pictures, but even without the sunrise you have a 360 view of sheer beauty. On the way down we started to run into those Saturday morning hikers and the lot was full by the time we got back to our car at 8:30 a.m.

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, 2017
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.