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.

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.

Moab Trip, September 2015

Our Moab adventure started early in the trip with my good friend Jim Darmiento and his wife Ione missing our 6:00 a.m. flight from Seattle to Salt Lake City, Utah. So it was my wife Linna, me and my longtime friend Mike Curry on the flight to Salt Lake City. We ended up picking up Jim and Ione at the Salt Lake City Airport four hours later in our BMW (Bigass Mormon Wagon)…also known as a Chevy Suburban. After everyone was loaded up we headed down to Moab with a lunch break at the beautiful Sundance Resort.

Our first day in Moab we hit the Jail House for breakfast on Main street and then we were off to Arch National Park which was totally awe-inspiring and just a five minute ride from Moab. Note to oneself…start very early, it’s much cooler and less people! I am pleased that Linna convinced us to go back to the park at sunset to watch the Delicate Arch change from a sandy brown color to a vibrate orange. We finished our day with a 9:30 p.m. dinner reservation at the Desert Bistro desertbistro.com which was the finest restaurant in Moab.

Linna was able to convince the group a second time to get up 5:30 a.m. and head off to Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park to watch the sunrise and see the sun rays turn the Mesa Arch from a dull sandstone color to a fiery glowing orange. This was completely worth waking up damn early, I absolutely recommend this. We hit the highly rated Love Muffin café lovemuffincafe.com for breakfast after we got back to town, great food but long lines and ordering at the counter gave me negative vibes. We still had plenty of time for a nap before our river adventure in the afternoon.

If you only have time for one adventure in Moab during the summer…I highly recommend paddle boarding on the Colorado River with Paddle Moab paddlemoab.com. Josh (guide/owner) made the 2 ½ hour river trip exhilarating, entertaining and relaxing.

Italy Trip, May 2015

The last time I was in Italy was 1995 and I have forgotten most of what I have seen or done, so this trip was a nice recap. My wife Linna put this trip together and invited her friend Xiuyun Jiang and her husband John Biltucci and a long-time friend of mine Mike Curry. Xiuyun did an excellent job of planning an itinerary for us in Rome and Florence, our two cities we rented apartments in.

We flew to Rome via a connection in JFK in New York on Delta Airlines and Italia Airlines to Rome. Note to oneself…skip the connection and fly direct to Paris and then bullet train down. Not only is JFK an old grimy airport, you end up flying two long legs. I will never fly Italia Airlines again, my Delta diamond status had no prominence with this Skyteam Alliance airline. It all started when I checked in and my seat all sudden went from a comfort plus up front to a cramped window seat in back with audio equipment utilizing all of my leg room. My wife Linna with no flying prestige was well situated with a four row seat all to herself, she was nice enough to ask me to join her. We were able to get some decent sleep on our way down to Rome.

Our group rented an apartment in the heart of Rome www.vrbo.com/1131096ha with all the beautiful amazing attractions surrounding us. Even though we were all pretty hammered by our flight we mustered enough energy to walk to the Spanish steps and found a perfect outdoor café for lunch and then shopped before we walked back our apartment. After a well-deserved shower we had dinner at a local café right below our apartment.

Mailbox Peak Hike, December 2014

Mailbox Peak
Date: December 27, 2014
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 7.5 Miles / 12 Kilometers Roundtrip
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: Wet to Snow-packed
Hiking With: Paul Bates, Carl Brandt, Gustav Brandt, Mike Curry, Emelie Espling and Rick Massie

My friend Emelie Espling had two friends from Sweden visiting and I thought I would introduce them to the thigh pounding Mailbox Peak. The last time I hiked the Mailbox goo.gl/y3ANNn was a year ago August with Rick Massie so I was past due for some grueling physical exertion. Our group consisted of Paul Bates, Mike Curry, Emelie Espling, Rick Massie, Carl and Gustav Brandt from Sweden.

The new trail wasn’t open the last time I was here so I was looking forward to the new 5 mile trail on the descent to save on the knees. The young men from Sweden was quick to take off and we eventually saw them again about 100 yards from the Mailbox on their descent. The last 1000 feet of elevation was snow packed with blizzard like conditions on the final push to the summit.

Kudos to the many WTA volunteers that constructed the new 5 mile route to the top, but after seeing the many ill equipped “tourist” hikers in their running shoes I think Mailbox Peak will see more rescues. The majority people that came up the new easy route didn’t have the proper gear to summit this intimidating peak and only putting themselves and others at risk. I first started hiking Mailbox Peak 13 years ago when there was only a toothbrush marking the trailhead; you only came across bonafide hikers and many climbers training for Mount Rainier, sadly WTA has created another Mt. Si.

Our group took the new longer route down which was nice on the legs but it seemed to go on forever! We ended our hike in a heavy downpour and eventually found ourselves at the North Bend Bar & Grill for cold beers and warm grub.

Albuquerque Balloon Festival, October 2014

I have always wanted to attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival and this year I made it happen. My wife Linna and my good friend Mike Curry joined me for a four day weekend of relaxation and fun. The world’s largest hot air balloon festival usually takes place the first weekend of October with over 700 balloons and considered to be the most photographed event in the world. I don’t think I saw one person without a camera, Linna must have taken over 400 pictures herself.

Mike and I flew in earlier than Linna on Thursday so we headed to the Marble Brewery www.marblebrewery (off of Marble Avenue) in the warehouse district in Albuquerque. This is a hip pub that brews an variety of seasonal beers on draft, they also had a live band playing that night…bonus!

Friday morning was our lift off in a hot air balloon for the first time in our lives…exciting! The three of us decided on a more personal flight so we paid extra for a basket only for us and of course our pilot; some of these baskets will hold up to twelve people. We hooked up with Rainbow Ryders www.rainbowryders which I would totally recommend. They are experienced, organized, entertaining and safe. The flight lasted only for an hour, but it was so peaceful and serene I could have floated all day; your flight time is limited to the fuel you have aboard.

With plenty of day left after our first ever balloon ride we were off to Santa Fe for some leisure sight-seeing. We met up with Garth Heuchert and his wife Patricia Chou for dinner at MÁS – Tapas y Vino back in Albuquerque. I have to give Patricia credit on finding this wonderful restaurant that specializes in tapas located in the historic Hotel Andaluz. Garth and Patricia are friends of ours from Seattle and now live in the cool city of Austin, Texas.

Bandera Mountain Hike, July 2014

Bandera Mountain
Date: July 4, 2014
Difficulty: 6 out of 10
Distance: 8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,400 feet
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Exit 45, I-90
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass Required
Trail Conditions: Dry to the top
Hiking With: Mike Curry, Rick Massie, Jim Powell and my dog Macho.

I didn’t hike Bandera at all last year, but for some reason I have already hit the top of this hike three times this year. What I like about this hike it gives you a mile of warm up on easy grade going into a moderate grade and then onto a thigh pounding son-of-bitch ending with magnificent views with the bonus of Mt. Rainier in your face.

Mike Curry, Rick Massie and Jim Powell joined me on a beautiful July 4th holiday. We started on the trail around 8:00 a.m. and made it to the top less than two hours. For some reason this hike is becoming a lot like Mt. Si…voluminous of people on weekends and holidays. Totally recommend starting before 8:00 a.m. on weekends or you will be parking along the dusty road.

I brought up a quart of homemade chicken rice soup that my wife Linna made that I warmed up on my trusty MSR stove/pan. After a nice lunch, rest and photo-ops it was time to descend and weave through the masses of people heading up. We ended with a cold pitcher of Mac & Jacks at Sure Shot Tavern in North Bend, Washington; this wasn’t our normal watering hole…North Bend Bar & Grill was closed due to the July 4th holiday.

Mt. Washington Hike, May 2014

Mt. Washington
Date: May 24, 2014
Difficulty: 6 out of 10
Distance: 9 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Exit 38 near North Bend, I-90
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass Required
Trail Conditions: Dry to Damp at the top
Hiking With: Mike Curry, Linna Freeman & Macho the dog wonder.

My wife Linna organized this Mt. Washington hike with a few of her friends. Anytime you have a large group it takes a while to get everyone on top and some of them haven’t hiked in a while so it took a good 3 hours to summit.

This was a fun group and I was able to burn over 3,700 calories for the day! We finished the day off with a few cold beers.

Mt. Washington Hike, January 2014

Mt. Washington
Date: January 1, 2014
Difficulty: 6 out of 10
Distance: 9 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Exit 38 near North Bend, I-90
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass Required
Trail Conditions: Damp to lightly packed snow on top.
Hiking With: Mike Curry, Rick Massie & my dog Macho

After a year of traveling, playing, wining and dining I tell myself that I am going to reduce my excessive indulging of life! Well…at least cut back on the calorie intake. I try to start every New Year’s Day with a hike to start the year off right.

I asked Mike Curry and Rick Massie to join me for knocking off Mt. Washington on the first day of 2014. Usually Mt. Washington is a fairly quiet hike with only a few cars at the trailhead on any given day, well today the parking lot was full with a Seattle “Meet-Up” group. We took off before the 30 plus group got started and made it to the top to claim the only dry large rock available. It wasn’t long until we were surrounded with this group of friendly men and woman.

We ended the hike with a cold Mac & Jack’s at our favorite pub in North Bend, Washington…the North Bend Bar & Grille.