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
Date:
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.

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.

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.

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.

Snow Lakes Hike, May 2016

Snow Lakes
Date: May 29, 2016
Difficulty: 8 out of 10
Distance: 14 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4,400 feet
Time: 5 to 6 hours
Location: Near Leavenworth, Washington
Users Group: Hikers Only
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry To Some Snowy Spots
Hiking With: Linna Freeman

My wife Linna convinced me to wake up 4:00 a.m. and drive back to the Leavenworth, Washington area for our third straight weekend to hike the Snow Lakes goo.gl/JfnpaA. This hike was actually discourage from a few of my wife’s friends, but the Seattle area was forecasting rain and the Leavenworth area was looking sunny and we were looking for a long hike to test our legs for an upcoming Rim to Rim hike in September at the Grand Canyon.

We had a beautiful sunny day to hike the long valley to the lakes. On the descent, it seemed the trail would never end….our legs were like noodles.

Colchuck Lake Hike, May 2016

Colchuck Lake
Date: May 22, 2016
Difficulty: 6 out of 10
Distance: 8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,300 feet
Time: 3 to 4 hours
Location: Near Leavenworth, Washington
Users Group: Hikers Only
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry To Some Muddy Spots
Hiking With: Emelie Espling, Sofia Hung, Max and my wife Linna Freeman

This was the second straight weekend we were in the Leavenworth, Washington area for another new hike, Colchuck Lake goo.gl/Tf1vg0. This hike was recommended by a friend and after hiking Colchuck Lake we are passing the recommendation onto other friends…it was absolute gorgeous.

I love the hikes this region offers, but it takes six hours from our house to the trailhead and back…throw in a hike and you are talking a long day. From Leavenworth you take Icicle Road onto Forest Road 7601 to Stuart Lake Trailhead, you will want to arrive early or you will find yourself parking way back on the road. I was totally flabbergasted by the lack of pot-holes on the forest road, I was expecting a rough ride with deep holes I would have to maneuver around. It was actually a very smooth ride, but I could tell on a hot dry summer day there would be a lot of dust stirred.

The Leavenworth area has numerous hikes, but Colchuck Lake hike is one of the two gateways to the famous Enchantments goo.gl/fodFj2. Finally hitting the lake, our group found the perfect lunch spot overlooking Dragontail Peak, Aasgard Pass and Colchuck Glacier/Peak. I definitely want to hike Colchuck Lake in the summer when the ice is finally gone and the lake has warmed up some….swimming looks refreshing.

Hex Mountain Snowshoe, March 2016

Hex Mountain Snowshoe
Date:
March 12, 2016
Difficulty: 6 out of 10
Distance: 7 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,600 feet
Time: 3 to 4 hours
Location: I-90 exit 80; Near Cle Elum Lake
Users Group: Hikers & Leashed Dogs Only
Permits: No Permits Required
Trail Conditions: Packed to Fresh Snow
Hiking with: Jim Darmiento, Linna Freeman, Matt Kerby and my dog Macho

Knowing that our Northwest snowshoeing season is ending soon it was time for another snowshoe experience and my wife Linna will not do the same mountain twice so I was tasked to find a new peak for us. Hex Mountain goo.gl/y5tL2N has been popping up on trip reports on Washington Trails Association and I thought it was time to mark this mountain off my list. Maybe I would have done this peak sooner if it was a bit closer to home, but 180 mile round trip is a lot of travel time and you’ll need to drive over the weather beaten Snoqualmie pass twice.

Our exploration party consisted of my lovely wife Linna and my good friends Jim Darmiento and Matt Kerby. None of us have attempted this trek before and we had a difficult time finding the trailhead but managed to find the right area to start. Well…we had to ask a few people after driving back and forth along Cle Elum Lake a couple of times.

Due to a lack of snow at the base of the mountain we packed in our snowshoes until we hit enough snow to put on our Tubbs Flex VRT 28 goo.gl/4U8DAP snowshoes. I must add a Freeman review about these snowshoes because I truly love these badass snow stompers. I am overwhelmed how easy it is to secure the Tubbs Flex to your boot, their patented Boa closure system is fast and easy to use which is extremely important when you are putting them on in freezing weather. The round control knob or Boa dial is large enough to use with thick gloves and the foam pad that wraps around your boot when you are turning the knob distributes the pressure of the binding equally across your boot. Not only is the Flex VRT is easy to put on, they are very comfortable to wear all day on all types of terrain. I own five pairs of various snowshoes and this season I am only wearing my Tubbs Flex VRT’s!

We really didn’t follow a trail up but blazed our own route to the summit…well we thought it was Hex peak. We hit some pretty steep terrain making our way to the top weaving through the trees. Maybe the distance and lack of fresh snow kept people way from this mountain because we only saw one other group of people…just as it should be. I am looking forward to this trek early next season with fresh heavy snow all the way to the base of the mountain.

We ended our day with lunch at the Roslyn Café in Roslyn, Washington.

Thailand Trip, December 2015

This is was my first trip to Thailand and this is what I know…hot and damn hot. I thought I picked a good time to visit this hot humid jungle of tourists, but actually another month later (Christmas holiday) would have been better. It was hitting mid 90’s every day and this Seattle boy is acclimatized for the mid 70’s; my shirts were usually damp during our daily excursions. I think I even lost a few pounds too, at least my wife Linna was hoping.

China Trip, October 2015

This wasn’t a site seeing trip, but more of a dinner out with numerous friends and family. This trip started in Hong Kong moving north to Xian, east to Shanghai, north to Beijing and then back home to Seattle. I have flown into Hong Kong before, but never spent any time there until this trip. Unfortunately, it was cloudy the 1 1/2 days we spent there. As usual and par for the course Linna and I didn’t read up or book any tourist activities but relied on our natural instincts and just started walking.

We did some shopping in the Causeway neighborhood and then found Hong Kong’s most famous dim sum restaurant – Maxim’s at City Hall. Once we saw the long-line, about as long as some homeless line in Seattle for free food, we knew we should have left our hotel earlier. Our total wait was a little over 2 hours…was it worth it? Oh hell no, but we were committed by this time.

During our walk to the renowned Maxim place, we were wondering why there were so many woman hanging around chatting and having lunch in such odd places. Approximately 300,000 foreign housekeepers (maids) are working in Hong Kong and by law they must live in their employer’s house. Every Sunday is their day off which means they are not allowed to stay at home, almost like being thrown out every Sunday. So they end up spending the day outside in all types of weather and seasons. They congregate year-round on Chater Road in the center of Hong Kong Island and it’s closed to traffic. Every place near the metro station Central where there is a few yards of available floor space, a maid will rolled out her carpet and put up camp.

After a few hours in Hong Kong (it seemed liked) we flew off to Xian, which is located in central China. You think the middle of China would be smog free, but for some reason the area becomes unbearable with smog at times. Xian has a population approximately 8 million people and was the starting point for the Silk Road. We spent four days in Xian which is plenty for any city; we spent most of our time visiting friends and family over lunches and dinners.

Another Chinese flight and we were in Shanghai which is probably my favorite Chinese city due to its cleaner air and Shanghai’s magnifignat skyline, great restaurants and of course the famous Bund Street. I had day excursions to Wuxi and Wujiang but was back in my hotel in Shanghai each night. I had a great dinner with my friends Jiapei Qin, Rong Li, Jie Qi Cao and his wife Quane Luan at this new restaurant in Wuxi called the Fusion Club.

I had a conference in Beijing later in the week and I decided to take a train to Beijing from Shanghai this time…and after this experience I will probably never take an airline flight between the two cities again. For the same price you can experience a business class seat with good food and a completely folded out seat versus a cramp coach airline seat in a stuffy hot airplane. The ride was a relaxing 4 ½ hours but I was able to get some work done and squeeze a peaceful nap in too.

Beijing was raining when we pulled into the Beijing South train station, I was actually happy to see the sky filled with grey rain clouds versus the heavy grey smog. This city usually runs well over 250 AQI (air quality index), but during the rain it was actually in the double digits. But it doesn’t take long for the smog index to creep back up, the next day it was already in the three digits.