Friday, October 19, 2018

Hike-let of the Week: Blue Lake Trail


While camping at Rasar State Park recently, we went on a little walk to Blue Lake. I'm not gonna lie -- we had planned to hike up to Dock Butte, missed the turn off, found ourselves in blissful solitude at the lake, and decided to just hang out there for a while and not hike up to Dock Butte. This walk was so short that I didn't even take any pictures along the way... until we got here:


What was really wonderful was that, somehow, we had the place to ourselves.


So you can see, I hope, why we lingered... sitting in the sun, listening to birds and the sound of water lapping on the shore.



I should point out that it was c-c-c-cold out, so there wasn't any wading. 


After a while we decided to turn back and go explore the campground. I think if we hadn't missed the turn, we would have happily hiked up to Dock Bute ... but having gotten somewhere that felt like a very worthy destination, we were happy to turn and walk back to the trailhead.


The day was beautiful, and I'm sure we would have had an amazing view. Heck, the view of Mount Baker from the road was incredible!


Blue Lake

1.6 miles
207 feet elevation gain



Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Quick campsite review : Rasar State Park Campground, site 43


We spent two nights at Rasar State Park near Concrete, camping in walk-in site 43. 


Parking for the walk-in sites is not far from the entrance to the campground ... but we forgot and drove past them as we arrived after dark. But it's not a huge campground, and we found our way quickly.


This map isn't super accurate, but it will give you an idea... We walked down the path to get to our site.


Really nice, and quite private:


Here's the view from the back of the site towards the path; you can see that it's quite private:


I was a little surprised not to have actual tent pads, but there's easily space for two tents, if not more if they're small. The site was quite level, too. There's a fire ring with a flip-down grill, and a picnic table in good condition.

Two of the walk-in sites have "rustic shelters" on them -- small huts with 4 single bunks built-in, and open on one side. No electricity, heat, or padding. Maybe they'd be nice in the summer? Site 41 (below) seemed pretty non-private, just off the path and without a ton of room.


Site 42 -- our closest neighbors, below -- had a much larger area and felt much more private. The people who stayed there when we did actually didn't use the shelter and just had tents set up. At least until they packed up and left late on Saturday afternoon, abandoning a huge pile of damp wood. Um, yes, we brought more wood home than we took with us...

The restrooms -- about 100 yards away -- were very clean and well maintained, and offered hot showers between the hours of 6am and 10pm for 50 cents. We're so out of practice that it didn't even occur to us to bring towels! Drinking water was closer, right at the walk-in site entrance, but we didn't try it as we had brought our own. 

There's also an amphitheater, though we were too late in the season for any ranger programs. Next summer!

Another great feature of the park is its location on the Skagit River, and its network of trails:


On Saturday afternoon we went for a walk along the river in the glorious sunshine.




Eventually we headed back to our site for a nap -- we had a GHOST WALK to take that night, so needed to rest beforehand!


Rasar State Park Campground Site 43 at a glance

Privacy: Yes! This site felt really private.
Tent pad: Not actual pads, but the site was level and there was room for at least 2 tents.
Fire ring: Nice, with a working flip-down "grill"... which frankly felt too close to a big tree, but it wasn't movable.
Picnic table: Nice table, in a good location.
Bathrooms: Super clean, well-stocked, with flush toilets and coin-operated showers.
Water: Drinking water available, but we didn't try it.
Pro tip: Enjoy the trails in the park!

Monday, October 15, 2018

SpoooOOOOooooky: The Concrete Ghost Walk


Mrs. Thompson on her husband's namesake bridge

While camping at Rasar State Park, spent a quirky evening on the Concrete Ghost Walk. Now in its 13th year (oooOOOoooohhhh, spoooOOOOoooky), the event happens every Saturday evening in October, and highlights spooky tales from former residents of the small town. Wait, did I say former? Many people think they're still here.

We met in the adorable Concrete Theatre, a sweet, 130-seat movie theatre that was founded in 1923. Valerie Stafford, President of the local Chamber of Commerce, co-owner of the Concrete Theater, and FEARLESS GHOST GUIDE welcomed us to the evening, showing us some old photos and getting us into the spooky mood by telling us stories of unexplained events in and around the town.



Then it was time to head out for our walk. Our group was so large -- sold out! -- that we divided into two for our nighttime wandering. We met our first "former" resident at the Concrete Heritage Museum -- a little girl who drowned. While there we also learned about the founding of the museum, and where their artifacts came from.

Then we walked down to the Thompson Bridge -- a fantastic setting, with the beautiful old bridge, the old-time streetlights, the rustling of dried leaves in the wind … and Mrs. Henry Thompson, who refuses to leave or accept the fact that her husband is gone. That's her in the main image at the top of this post.

Our charming, hapless bank robber. Whoo-wee!


In other locations we met a hapless bank robber who now does little pranks on the employees of the bank, a little girl afraid of her mama's anger who lives in the town hotel, a former barber who won't leave because his son's spirit is trapped there too, a disgraced judge, and an immigrant from Italy whose husband murdered her in front of her children.

Finally, we regrouped and went to the Concrete Community Center for more tales in a brothel. I guess that's why they don't let kids under 16 join the walk!

It's nice to see a town celebrating its past and having a good time doing it.

The Concrete Ghost Walk takes place every October; tickets are required in advance and it's clearly very popular!


Learn more about the Concrete Ghost Walk on the Concrete Theatre site.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A semi-secret project: October OMG


I should be honest, I do best when I try to focus on one project at a time. Maybe a side project, like the scarf I bring along to crochet by the fire when we go camping. But CHRISTMAS IS COMING!!!

So when I heard about the "One Monthly Goal" link-up, I thought it might be helpful. The challenge, of course, is that the intended recipient is a reader of this blog. So we'll see how this goes. The link-up provides group motivation by encouraging you to focus on, well, one monthly goal. So my goal for October is to actually get started on the secret project, prep my fabric, get it on the frame, and stitch the center section. This section isn't challenging to stitch -- not a ton of counting, no color changes, though the stitching is pretty dense. Still, getting started is the biggest hurdle!

I do still really want to make progress on my big Swan tapestry -- if I can finish the outlining on the right-hand swan plus the center leaves before the next stitch-a-long check-in on October 21 I will feel like an absolute ROCK STAR. 


Here's a closer look at some of the outlining, along with a bit of "proof-of-concept" filling. Doing these little patches has shown me that I can just do the outlining and save the white and cream stitching until last. 


There's still a little time to join Elm Street Quilts's October One Monthly Goal link-up; click on the link below to learn more!




Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Mount St. Helens weekend, day 3: Windy Ridge, and the long way home

After our successful Mount St. Helens climb we slept like logs in our little cabin at the Lone Fir. 

We got up early on Saturday hand ad a slow-moving morning, both of us feeling a little stiff and sore. I consulted the Googles and determined that we could go up to the Windy Ridge viewpoint -- which we had never been able to visit, since the road is often closed -- and then on to either the campground we were considering for the night, or home. So we packed up the car and set off for Windy Ridge.



It's a funny viewpoint -- not too far opposite, it seems, from where we were on the rim the previous day. This is, apparently, the closest you can get via car to the volcano.

From the parking lot there's a trail called the "sand latter" that goes up to a viewpoint. And, well, it's a pretty good name! It's 368 steps up, up, up the hill.



Lots and lots and lots of steps.


But the steps lead up to a nice viewpoint, with interpretive signs (my favorite!) and great views of Spirit Lake and the Pumice Plain.


Oh, and the big blown-out crater, of course...

You'll note that the skies are grey and hazy ... did I mention how lucky we were to get such glorious weather for our climb???

There's the parking lot waaaaayyyy down below.

And, yes, we needed to go down all of those stairs.


Verrrrrry slowwwllly....


We made a few more stops on our way back out to the highway, admiring the view of the volcano over and over again. 



Then we hit a bit of bad news -- the highway to Randle was closed just north of the Windy Ridge turnoff... and Google didn't know. So our trip home from the Lone Fir via the Windy Ridge Viewpoint went from this:


To this:


Sigh. Looks like our theme of things taking longer to get home than to go out continued! Between the traffic and the tiredness, we decided to forego camping and just head home to sleep in our own bed. But the weekend had been a success!

Wil, looking tired immediately after our climb

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Mount St. Helens weekend, day 2: the climb


We were up early, got dressed, made a hearty breakfast, and were en route to the trailhead before 6:30. First thing to do? Sign the Climber Register with our names, our permit numbers, and our expected return time. A lot of folks had headed up just before us, and several others had gone up in the wee hours, I assume to see the sunrise from the crater. Very keen!


We would be following the Ptarmigan Trail for two miles through the forest until we crossed the Loowit trail and started up the Monitor Ridge Climbing Route. 


Only 4 miles to the rim? Easy, right?


We set off into the woods, trying to go at a relaxed pace.



We had timed thing perfectly -- and the sun was lighting up the ridge as we emerged from the forest. Well, those 2 miles went smoothly!


As we approached the edge of the treeline we caught our first good look at the lava on Monitor Ridge. Ummm, does that look high and steep to you, too?


We caught a few glimpses of some luxurious autumnal colors. Look at those ferns!


Then it was time to leave the forest and start the real climb. 


We had to make our way up this ridge, where there wasn't so much a "path" as a set of marker posts to give you a general idea of the direction you should be heading. 


This is an overstatement:


See the white poles in this picture? "Go thattaway." 


Except that no matter where we were, it seemed like there was a better, smoother, easier route off to our right or our left. But we didn't know whether we could really move too far from the posts, so for the most part we stuck to them.

Every so often I needed to look down to see how far we had come.


If only to avoid feeling depressed by views like this:


Or this:


I mean, at least we knew we were on the right track ... but were we on the BEST track? Doubtful. 

At one point, a man walking about 20 feet to our right called out to us to see how we were doing. He said that the climbing rangers always go the way he was going, and said we could cut over and follow him up. The rest of the day Wil and I wondered if he had detoured to "rescue" us from the boulders!


A word about this section -- it was steep, very irregular, and did I mention that's lava rock, guaranteed to scrape you to pieces? At the last minute we stopped off at Fred Meyer on our way out of town on Thursday to buy some inexpensive gardening gloves to protect our hands. These were essential -- seriously, drop $5.99 and get a cheap pair of cowhide gloves. You will thank me. 

Finally, we were past the boulders ... and into the scree. One tiny step forward, half a step back. Repeat. Wil went on ahead and I tried to get into a rhythm. At least I could see the rim, so it didn't feel hopeless. It just felt... frustrating? Not even so much HARD as ANNOYING. 


How annoying? The look on my face says it all:


Just. Keep. Going.

Finally, in painfully slow motion, I arrived at the crater rim. And, bam. WHAT A DAY!!!

View to the left:


View of the lava dome in the center of the crater... note the steam rising out of it!


View to the right, with Spirit Lake in the middle distance, and a surprisingly snowless Mount Rainier in the distance:


We took a seat well away from the edge of the rim, sat, relaxed, and whooped for and high-fived other climbers who arrived -- many of whom we had been leapfrogging all day. 

The whole time we kept thanking our lucky stars to have such a perfect day -- not too hot, not too windy, and nice clear skies with views of Rainier, Adams, and Hood!

But, of course, what went up must go down... first through the scree, which I really enjoyed. In this pano you can see Adams on the left and (very faintly) Hood in the middle. 


Then the scree became the lava rocks... 


... and then we stopped taking pictures on the way down as it got harder and harder. We reached a point -- on a different route than we came up, so nothing looked familiar -- where the "path" seemed to disappear. We could see a pole marker far below us, but had reached what felt like a drop-off. So we were milling about, wondering what we were missing, when a threesome we had been leapfrogging with all day arrived and said hello. We said we weren't quite sure whether we were on the right route ... or on a route at all. The leader -- a woman who has been up and down 10 or so times -- said we were on "a route" and said we were aiming for the right side of the big outcropping a couple of hundred yards below. And, then, as we watched, she led her little group straight down the drop-off. Slowly, with a lot of butt-sliding and arm strain, we followed her lead. 

During this part of the descent, at one point Wil dislodged a HUGE rock, which went slowly rolling down. We called ahead "BELOW!" and the threesome made sure they were out of the way, and then thanked us for the heads up. 

Eventually we got to a smoother stretch, but then we got intertwined with a family group -- a strong dad, a slightly struggling mom, and a devil-may-care teenager who kept sliding and dislodging rocks. Nothing huge, but it felt like a collision waiting to happen. So Wil and I stopped to get some space between us and the family, even though it meant we would lose touch with the trail angel. I tried to keep an eye on her, however, and when we passed the family group a little while later I was still able to see the way they went over another edge. 

But then we lost them, and got to a weird section with signage but no sensible route. In the end we decided to "choose our own adventure" and just make our way off the ridge to the treeline below. Once back on less rocky ground we checked ourselves on the map and were only a few yards from the Ptarmigan trail ... heaven!

As soon as we entered the forest we found the trail angel and her gang again... which made me wonder if they were waiting for us, or if they were just taking a break?  

Then down down down through the forest ... nothing memorable, except something amusing that I had read in a number of different trip reports: the way down feels longer than the way up. I have never experienced that -- I mean, the return trip of a hike ALWAYS feels shorter to me. You know where you are because you've been through there before, and even though you're tired you know the end is coming soon. But somehow the descent through the lava boulders and even the gentle trail through the forest felt painfully long. 

Eventually, however, we arrived at the trailhead, where we kissed, signed out of the Climber Register, high-fived our trail buddies, and headed out.

Back at the Lone Fir, we showered, made dinner (did I mention we were hungry?), and collapsed into bed around 8:30. It had been a good day! We felt proud of ourselves ... but of course, it's not as difficult as it used to be to climb MSH: