Europe, 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.

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.

Sauer’s Mountain Hike, May 2016

Sauer’s Mountain
Date: May 14, 2016
Difficulty: 5 out of 10
Distance: 6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,000 feet
Time: 3 to 4 hours
Location: Near Leavenworth, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: None
Trail Conditions: Dry To The Summit
Hiking With: Emelie and Eric Espling, Craig, Tao, Bill and Mae Yoke, Linna and Rick Freeman & my wonder dog Macho

My wife Linna and I have been doing a lot hikes that either start in snow or at least have some snow on the trail this year and we were due for an arid type hike. Usually the hikes on the Eastside of the Cascade Mountains provide a whole different environment…more pine like trees and no snow in the late spring. I found Sauer’s Mountain goo.gl/fzh3xz on Washington Trails Association and after reading a couple of trip reports it was exactly what I was looking for. No snow, dry with spring green and tons of flowers for Linna to photograph. We also invited a group friends to come along…Emelie and Eric Espling, Craig, Tao, Bill and Mae.

I had a funny feeling that we would see old man Sauer and when we pulled up to the trailhead there he was out in the open ready to direct us where to park. Old man Sauer is in his eighties and you can tell he loves people. This hike actually starts on his land and according to Sauer he built the trail…so I guess you can name the hike and mountain after yourself.

The hike is filled with carved totems, groovy art things and tons of flowers all the way to the summit. There was steepness to this hike but it’s short so it’s relatively easy. The old man will try to sell you some wine when you come back down to the trailhead. This wine is actually comes from his son Steve Sauer winery, Farmhand Winery. I think the old man built the trail so he could push wine sales, I bought one…small price to pay for a beautiful hike.