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.

Pratt Lake Trail to Denny Creek Trail Hike, August 2017

Pratt Lake Trailhead to Denny Creek Trailhead
Date: August 12, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 13.5 miles / 21.7 Kilometers round-trip
Elevation Gain: 3,600 feet / 1,097 meters (total gain)
Time: 6 to 8 hours
Location: Exit 47, Off I-90 in Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: , Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling & the Wonder Dog Macho

I haven’t hiked the Pratt Lake trailhead to Denny Creek trailhead for about 13 years and guess what…it hasn’t gotten any easier. Craig Schilling and Matt Kerby joined me on this beautiful tough 13.5 mile loop.

I took off from my Fall City house at 4:30 a.m. heading down the hill to get on I-90 near exit 17…but before I got to the bottom I was picked-up for driving 65 mph in a 40 mph zone by the Washington State Patrol. I told him the truth, I was speeding damn fast, but explained the gravitational pull on a heavy S6 Audi especially downhill. Officer Steele gave me a break…a verbal warning! I was still able to pick up Matt Kerby at the Denny Creek trailhead at the predetermined time of 5:15 a.m. He left his car at the trailhead and loaded up in my Audi and then met Craig at the Pratt Lake/Granite Mountain trailhead and started hiking at 5:42 a.m.

Right before the split heading down to Pratt Lake we stopped for a much needed snack at the open area over looking Olallie Lake. We didn’t see any other hikers until the Pratt Lake Basin, some backpackers heading home. The trail from Pratt Lake to the Lower Tuscohatchie was pretty good shape considering the lack of foot traffic. The trail seems to get a bit rougher after Lower Tuscohatchie Lake with over-grown vegetation, large rocks and at times a very narrow trail. All three of us fell in this area with Matt probably getting bruised the worst with his knee hitting a rock when he fell. I went over a steep hillside in a thorny area….legs got scuffed up some.

Once we hit Melakwa Lake it was sprinkling pretty good so we decided not to go for a swim, but enjoyed our lunch instead. Our descent from Melakwa to Denny Creek Trail head was busy with hikers coming up. We spent a total of 7 hours of hiking, snacking, falling, resting and bullshitting.

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.

Mailbox Peak Hike, April 2017

Mailbox Peak
Date: April 22, 2017
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
Distance: 5 miles round-trip
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: Mike Curry, Matt Kerby, Craig Schilling and my dog Macho

This will be the second time this year I conquered the Mailbox.

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.

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.

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.

Shanghai Trip, September 2016

This was a short trip to beautiful Shanghai mainly consisted of visiting good friends and dinner out.

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.

3 Peaks, United Kingdom, June 2016

Like any major group event or accomplishment, it starts off with someone throwing out the idea in the first place and the 3 Peak conversation actually started 3 years ago over dinner in Germany. The 3 Peak Challenge is a major hiking event in United Kingdom where you attempt to summit the highest mountain of Scotland, England and Wales within 24 hours. The total distance walked is estimated at 26 miles with a total ascent of 3,000m or 9,800 ft.
Ben Nevis (1,344m or 4,409ft.), the highest mountain in Scotland
Scafell Pike (978m or 3,209ft.), the highest mountain in England
Snowdon (1,085m or 3,560ft.), the highest mountain in Wales

I had a direct flight from Seattle to London where I picked up our 9 passenger Volkswagen van that we would end up sleeping, dressing and eating in for nearly two days. I drove up to Glasgow where I would meet up with the rest of the “Fantastic Four” squad. First team member and most important was Cyril Hodgson from England, UK. His role was crucial and most demanding…he was our driver and mountain guide. Second team member was Jeremy Davis from Wales, UK. He coordinated the dates, times and brought the “Fantastic Four” together. Third team member was Ilka Plöhn from Germany. She made sure the men remained humble, she made Germany proud. Last but not least, I was the Fourth team member representing United States.

There is a reason why they call this a “Challenge” because summiting 3 main peaks in 24 hours with inclement weather and driving 10 hours in heavy traffic is very demanding mentally and physically. Our Fantastic Four squad was successful because our transport driver Cyril Hodgson was dynamic and steadfast on his driving….a professional rally driver for sure!

I completed the 3 Peak Challenge in 23 hours and 40 minutes with only 20 minutes left-over! Even though United Kingdom (Jeremy Davis) and Germany (Ilka Plöhn) reached the finish-line before me…my mind, body and soul was overwhelmed with happiness. We were successful on our first attempt because our team was essentially equivalent in physical stamina and determination, there was a large percentage of teams that came up short.

Mount Teneriffe Hike, June 2016

Mount Teneriffe
Date: June 8, 2016
Difficulty: 8 out of 10
Distance: 11 miles / 17.7 Kilometers roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,840 feet / 1170 meters
Time: 5 to 6 hours
Location: Exit 32, I-90 Near North Bend, Washington
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Discovery Pass
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hiking With: Matt Kerby and my wonderdog Macho

I wasted a day of vacation so I could wake up at 3:45 a.m. on a Wednesday and purposely trash my legs and pound my heart into submission while hiking Mount Teneriffe. This hike will kick your ass every time and maybe it’s the reason I only do it once a year. But if you are looking for a colossal work-out 30 minutes from Seattle with 360 views…then Mount Teneriffe is it.

My friend Matt Kerby joined me on this thigh burner hike, this was his first time and Mr. Teneriffe showed him what trails are made of. We took the short route up via the Kamikaze Falls then followed the ridgeline to the summit. To save on the knees we descended the long “old” logging road down. I guess I will have to quit calling it a logging road as of last year Department of Natural Resources actually created a trail by bringing the edges in with an excavator. They have done an exceptional job of creating a real trail from the 7 mile logging road.

We made good time to the summit and we didn’t have to share it either. In fact I was telling Matt that I never had to share this summit with anyone in the 10 years of hiking this mountain. You might see 1 or 2 people on Mt. Tenerife on a weekday, but one mile away you will see 20 to 30 on Mt. Si.

Granite Mountain Hike, June 2016

Granite Mountain
Date: June 3, 2016
Difficulty: 7 out of 10
Distance: 8.6 miles / 13.8 Kilometers roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 3,800 feet / 1,158 meters
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Location: Exit 47, I-90
Users Group: Hikers & Dogs Only
Permits: Northwest Forest Pass Required
Trail Conditions: Dry to some packed snow
Hiking With: Matt Kerby, Rick Massie and my wonderdog Macho

Granite Mountain has always been an essential hike for me and I have always told my wife Linna that I wanted my ashes tossed from this summit. Granite Mountain goo.gl/LdJsWz offers everything from dense forest cover, waterfall, open meadow, wild flowers, look-out tower, boulder scramble, late snow, long avalanche shoots and views to die for. Plus…the first mile of this hike is moderate so allows your legs to warm-up before you split off from the Pratt Lake trail and start some serious elevation gain.

I had the pleasure to introduce Granite Mountain to a newbie hiker and good friend of mine, Matt Kerby. I think Granite became his new favorite hike and I am sure he will be back very soon. Another friend and co-worker Rick Massie joined us on this glorious sunny Friday. We all met up at the trailhead at 5:30 a.m. to get an early start on the day, surprising though there was already six cars in the parking lot.

The summer route still had a lot of snow so we scrambled up the boulder field to the look-out tower. After a putting on a dry shirt and sucking down a Gu Energy Shot we descended the summer route in the snow. We pretty much had the trail and look-out tower to ourselves today.

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.

Source Lake, February 2016

Source Lake Snowshoe
Date:
February 19, 2016
Difficulty: 6 out of 10
Distance: 4.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1,400 feet
Time: 3 to 4 hours
Location: I-90 exit 52; Alpental Ski Area
Users Group: Hikers & Leashed Dogs Only
Permits: No Permits Required
Trail Conditions: 8″ to 10″ of fresh fluffy snow
Hiking with: Jim Darmiento, Rick Massie and my faithful dog Macho.

Timing is everything when it comes to snowshoeing and we hit a perfect day with 8 inches of new snow. The only time I like tromping in the snow is when it’s fresh and I am the first one marching on it. Only way this can happen is if it snowed the night before and you get up damn early to get to the snow first.

I met up with my good friends Jim Darmiento and Rick Massie in North Bend, Washington and we drove to exit 52 off of I-90 past Alpental ski area. We made it to Source Lake in good time and we decided to turn around at the lake due to avalanche conditions.

We came across only two other snowshoers that was nice enough to take a few pictures of us. We wanted to end our day at the Mt. Si tavern, but they were not open yet so we found ourselves at our old hangout North Bend Bar & Grill.

Little Saint Helen’s Snowshoe, January 2014

Little Saint Helen’s
Date: January 5, 2014
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: Mike Curry, Dr. Robert McElroy, Rick Massie & Macho my dog wonder.

A good friend of mine, Robert McElroy asked me to hike Little Saint Helen’s off of exit 47 on 1-90 near Snoqualmie Pass in Washington with a few of his friends. I have never done this hike….actually I have never heard of it either. Maybe because it doesn’t have a lot of elevation and during the summer there are horses and mountain bikes on the trail. I would never hike this trail during the busy summer, but with snow on it, it keeps all the bikers and horses off.

I asked Mike Curry and Rick Massie to come along too; this was my 5th hike in 2 weeks with Rick Massie. We didn’t quite make it to the trailhead due to snow, so we had to hike an extra mile to where we wanted to start. Due to the numerous logging roads and the snow we were never sure if we were actually on Little Saint Helen trail, it really didn’t matter what road or trail we were on, it was a gorgeous sunny day for a snow hike.