Enchantment Thru-Hike, Washington, August 2019

After our fourth time, Linna and I agreed that this will be the last time we hike this grueling twenty mile thru hike in the beautiful Enchantments in one day. Like most one day thru-hikers we started at Colchuck trailhead and descended down to Snows Lake trailhead. This is truly a brutal trek with 4,500 feet gain and 6,500 feet descent on not so easy terrain. Our group of 9 friends started around 7:00 a.m. and made it back to the vehicles around 10:00 p.m.. I packed a cooler in the morning, so we had cold beers waiting for us.

Just one of many crossings on top of the core of the enchantments.
On top of Asgard Pass look back at the beautiful Colchuck Lake.
Linna Freeman resting after hiking up the brutal Asgard Pass. Dragontail Peak is keeping her company.
The Enchantments are filled with Goats. Some of the goats were still shedding their coats.
Matt Kerby, our designated professional photographer. The photos are Matt’s handy work.
Happy and Tired Freeman. I was taking a break as I was heading up the very steep Asgard Pass. From the Colchuck Lake you ascend 2,000 feet in only 3/4 of a mile to reach the pass….or the gateway to the beautiful Enchantments.
The girls at Colchuck Lake
Leprechaun Lake
Linna Freeman leading the way through the core of the Enchantments.

Georgia & Armenia Trip, July 2019

For my 59th birthday, my wife Linna worked with local Georgian guide Davit Berishvili to provide a well-balanced 10 day journey that included hiking, site-seeing, food/wine tasting and culture gathering. We invited our good friend Michael Curry to join us on this truly once in a life-time vacation packed excursion.

This will be our first vacation/journey that we hired a professional guide for the duration of a trip and looking back at it now, I am so pleased that Linna organized it that way.  There would have been a language barrier at many of the locations and restaurants we visited. Also, there is a unique way of driving in Georgia, similar to China….there are no set of road lines or rules.  People will pass with on-coming traffic and at the same time deal with local cattle wandering on the road. But, we were so fortunate to have the best tour guide in Georgia…Gaga Chechelashvili.  Not only was he a safe aggressive driver, but also a fun tour guide and a true gentleman. Gaga picked us up at the Tbilisi airport in his 4×4 right hand drive Mitsubishi Pajero. Not sure, but maybe 1 in 10 cars were right hand drive purchased from Japan because of their excellent condition and reliability.

Beautiful village of Mestia, Georgia. The Svan tower homes were family living quarters and offered protection to their owners and to their livestock. Usually 4 to 5 floors with the first floor lacking of doors or windows.
Rick Freeman & Mike Curry hiking from Mestia to a tiny village of Tsvirmi.
Having beers with Gaga Chechelashvili and Mike Curry at the farm house in Tsvirmi.
Village
We toured Baia’s Winery. Once the grapes are harvested, everything (seeds, stems, skins & juice) is tossed into a Qvevri which a very large clay pot buried in the ground. This method of wine making in Georgia has been recorded by archaeologists back to 6000 BC.
Clay pots are buried at Baia’s Winery.
I purchased a bottle of Tsitska Tsolikouri at Baia’s Winery…this is a dry white wine. I am with the wine maker Gvanca Abuladze.
Mike Curry, Rick Freeman and Linna Freeman in front of Shkhara Glacier. We hiked from the village of Ushguli.
The Bridge of Peach that is 490 feet long that connects the old Tbilisi with the new district.
Villige
Many of the farm/guest houses that we stayed in had wood fired stoves for cooking and keeping warm.

Austria & Slovakia, April 2019

Linna and I started in Munich and drove down to Austria and then over to Slovakia.

The Beautiful Village of Hallstatt on Lake Hallstatt, Austria.

I Just Happened To Get Pulled Over For Speeding In Slovakia By An Unmarked Police Car.
The famous Blue Church, officially known as the Church of St Elizabeth of Hungary. Built in the early twentieth century.

Mailbox Peak Hike, January 2018

Mailbox Peak
Date: January 1, 2018
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, Tao Song and my Wonder Dog Macho


Another new year and another Mailbox Peak on New Year’s Day.

Little Saint Helen’s Snowshoe, November 2017

Little Saint Helens
Date: November 5, 2017
Difficulty: 5 out of 10
Distance: 7 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Exit 47, I-90
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass Required
Trail Conditions: Packed Snow
Hiking With: Linna Freeman, Matt Kerby and my Wonderdog Macho


This was a wonderful way to spend a Friday in the mountains.

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.

Mt. Whitney Summit, September 2017

Mt. Whitney Summit (one day)
Date:
September 22, 2017
Difficulty:  9 out of 10
Distance: 23 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 6,500 Feet
Time: 13 to 16 hours
Location: Near Lone Pine, California
Users Group: Hikers Only
Permits: Day Permit Required
Hiking with: Matt Kerby


This will be my fourth time to summit Mt. Whitney in one day. Matt Kerby from Bellevue, Washington joined me for this ever so long 22 mile merciless one day trek. This will be Matt’s first journey on the highest mountain in the lower 48 states.

Matt’s wife Shelly and my wife Linna flew down with us from Seattle to Las Vegas on a direct Delta flight. After we landed we dropped the ladies off at the Vegas hotel so they could wine/dine and shop while Matt and I brutality abused our bodies for over 15 hours. The drive from Vegas to the Whitney Portal is 4 hours and you have to drive right through Death Valley National Park. In one day you can be at the lowest elevation of 279 feet below sea-level to the highest elevation of 14,505 feet above sea-level in the lower 48 states. But to reach that 14,505 altitude you will need summit Mt. Whitney by foot.

We got to Lone Pine, California around 5:00 p.m. and picked up our day only permits (yellow tag) to summit Whitney the next day. When the Park Ranger asked if we are acclimated for tomorrow’s summit bid, we stated that we just flew in from Seattle, he definitely had that “oh shit” look. I assured him we would be fine and went on to tell him I have done this three times already.

Before heading up to the Whitney Portal (trailhead) we scarfed down a pasta dish and a few beers at the local Lone Pine Restaurant. I rented a Suburban so we just put the back seats down and slept in the back, legally we were supposed to pay for a campsite at the Whitney Portal which is at 8,500 feet.

After a restless night of tossing and turning, we woke up at 2:00 a.m. and started hiking around 2:45 a.m. The first mile I was already yawning, which told me we should have acclimated a day or two before we started this monstrous hike…I was already seeking more oxygen. Our bodies literally started from sea level because we flew from Seattle on Thursday and started hiking early Friday which is almost irresponsible and unwise (did I just say that).

After hiking up 6,500 feet elevation gain we finally made the summit. We were a bit slow, but we accomplished something enormous in one day and we have our yellow tag to show for it!

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.

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.

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.