Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Quick campsite review : Newhalem Campground, site 125

We stayed two nights at Newhalem Campground in site 125, a walk-in site. The first task was finding it in the twilight ... but luckily I had a vague memory that it was off of Loop A. 

Sure enough, we found the trail near the bathrooms. 

We walked around the walk-in loop before finding our site, 125. Here's the view from the loop:

You walk past the bear bin and into the site itself -- delightfully private!

Here's a view from one of the tent pads looking toward the entrance to the site:

Tent padS, you say? Yep, there were two, both nicely graded and easy to set up a tent on.

The picnic table was good, and the fire was odd in that it was flat, with a flip-down grill.

The bear box was nice to have -- given that the park is home to, as the ranger said, "wild bears ... not those nasty campground bears .... and we want to keep it that way". We were diligent about keeping all our toiletries and food and drink inside the bear box when we were going to bed or away from the site.

The site felt super private, though that might have been because we didn't have neighbors the first night -- there were several sites reserved but not occupied on both Friday and Saturday night.

The bathrooms weren't too far away -- up by where we parked the car -- and they were super clean, with running water and flush toilets. There was also drinking water up there, though we weren't super keen on the taste.

Site 125 is not directly on the river, but you could hear it in the night. Sites 121-124 do have direct river access -- highly desirable!

The Skagit River runs fast and super cold ... we couldn't do more than dip our toes in!

One highlight was the nighttime ranger talk in the nearby amphitheater -- I was happy to see it reasonably well attended!

Newhalem Campground Site 125 at a glance

Privacy: Yes! This site felt really private.
Tent pad: TWO -- both nicely graded. They weren't meant for huge tents, but our 3-person Big Agnes tent fit just fine.
Fire ring: Nice, with a working flip-down "grill".
Picnic table: Nice table, which we moved just a smidge to get it farther away from the fire.
Bathrooms: Super clean, well-stocked, with flush toilets.
Water: Drinking water available, but we didn't like the taste.
Pro tip: Walk the mile to Newhalem after dark to visit Ladder Falls when it's lit up at night -- it's beautiful!

Quick campsite review : Panorama Point Campground, site 16

We recently spent one night at Panorama Point Campground in site 16. Based on the map below, we though we were getting a site on the water... but where that "tongue" of water is is actually the location of site 15, which happens to be a group site. 

But we were lucky in that we had a quiet couple in the site next door, and predominantly quiet fellow campers. 

We liked our site, even if it wasn't on the water. It was big and roomy, with a nice fire pit, a sturdy picnic table, and plenty of space for our tent. Note: there was no tent pad, though some sites had them. To be fair, no tent pad was mentioned, and the ground wasn't too rocky so it was easy to set up our tent. 

Here's a view from the corner of the site, with a glimpse of the mountains through the trees. 
Panorama Point Campground site 16

Here's a more evenly lit view of our setup; you can see the car and tent at site 15 just a few feet away.  

The day use / picnic area was across the drive from our site. A large family with jet skis colonized a large part of the area for most of the afternoon, but who can blame them for enjoying this view?

We, of course, preferred it when empty in the early morning...

We went for a walk to explore the campground and discovered that there's another day use area at the eastern tip, between sites 12 and 13. It's labeled as NO CAMPING so we sauntered through to find a nice quiet spot to get in the water and enjoy the view. 

A few other things: we didn't interact with the campground hosts at all. At 9:30 we started hearing loud music -- AC/DC's "Highway to Hell", to be specific. And, magically, at 9:45, it stopped. We never quite worked out who was playing it, or if someone stepped in to tell the campers to turn it off. 

We didn't have any RVs near us, so never heard any generators from our site. 

The bathrooms were clean, well-stocked with paper, but really, really stinky. They were also, for reasons unknown, gendered. I mean, if it's a single seater, why???

There was drinking water in the campground, but it looked pretty murky in our clear bottles. Let's just say we drank what we brought with us.

Site 16 wasn't super private -- being across from the day use area and next to two other sites -- but our neighbors were quiet so that was great. 

We liked this campground -- but also know we got super lucky with our neighbors. I guess that's always the case, however!

Panorama Point Site 16 at a glance

Privacy: Just so-so. Not much between the sites.
Tent pad: None, but at least two good spaces to set up a tent.
Fire ring: Nice, with a working flip-down "grill".
Picnic table: In excellent condition.
Bathrooms: Clean, well-stocked, but stinky.
Water: Drinking water available, but it looked pretty murky.
Pro tip: There's a quieter "beach" at the far eastern edge of the campground, between sites 12 and 13.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hike of the Week : Goat Peak, well, sorta...

This hike was supposed to be 5 hours long... spoiler alert: we didn't make it. But there I go again, getting ahead of myself...

We had camped the night before across the street at Hell's Crossing Campground -- which meant we could hit the trailhead early.

The trail to the peak gains over 3200 feet in under 3.3 miles -- as says, the trail "seems relentless, requiring strong hooves and the energy of a mountain goat."

The trail was narrow and started climbing immediately.

Now, if you thought you were gonna haul your hang glider up here, you were wrong. Dead wrong.
This is WILDERNESS, baby!

Up and up we went -- in some stretches the trail was rocky / rooty, in others packed dirt.

The first stretch followed a creek uphill, which made the trail feel lush and green.

But when we turned away from the creek, things started getting sparse and dry.

And then we hit stretches like this -- super narrow path, on a scree slope, and steep.

There were some nice wildflowers on the slope, but we were too focused on our own feet to notice.

 We rounded a corner and came to a pretty little plateau just off the main trail. It looks like people sometimes camp here, but today it was just perfect spot for a little break.

And some nice views:

After a quick break we continued up the trail -- brushing against bushes filled with flowers and bees.

In a few places, the view opened up and we could get a glimpse of Rainier. Or is that Adams....

Then there were more stretches like this -- which felt way more unpleasant in person than they look in these photos.

Since the trail was getting worse -- narrower and steeper and just unpleasant -- we turned back a couple of miles into the hike. Going down was, if anything, less enjoyable than going up -- because we had a lot of scree to cross.

It seems this trail is often used in the winter as a snowshoe route -- which might, oddly, make it more enjoyable. But on this day we decided to let discretion be the better part of valor. No goats for us!

Goat Peak Trail (sorta)

4.25 miles
1856 feet elevation

Hike of the Week : Baker Lake Trail ... or is it the Noisy Creek Trail?

We had hoped to do a looooong hike today up to the Park Butte lookout,  but two things conspired against us.

The smaller reason was that this was our second Summit Simulation weekend, and Saturday's hike was supposed be 3 hours, while Sunday's hike was supposed to be 5 hours. But that doesn't really matter.

The larger, and eventually compelling reason was that there is still a LOT of snow up near Baker, and trail reports mentioned things like "snow bridges" and, well, I don't need that.

But we had managed to secure a campsite for one night in the Panorama Point campground, so we needed something nearby. And while it wasn't going to be particularly challenging, the Baker Lake Trail seemed to fit the bill.

We got up early and hit the road, arriving at the northern trailhead before 9. The road to trailhead -- especially once you get onto the unpaved stretch -- was a little odd, with lots of people camping alongside it. But to each their own.

Also there were lots of people camping at the trailhead, including in the parking lot. Again, odd, but I guess they were still on the lake, right?

We hit the trail around 9am -- it starts out sharing the Baker River Trail through the trees.

We even saw a few people camping just off the trail here, which wouldn't have been ideal, but I guess at night it would be super quiet!

Soon we reached a trail junction and turned left.

We crossed the river on a long, bouncy, suspension bridge.

We lingered a while on the bridge to admire the views of the river.

Later in the day, when we returned to this spot, we saw people enjoying the beach here. I think this is the first time we've seen people who weren't hiking while out hiking. And I think I like it.

 Then we headed off along the trail. We soon crossed a rushing stream on a handsome wooden bridge.

A little farther along the trail, I saw a little nook and hopped into it, saying, "Oh, this looks like where a bear would live!" And then in mid-air I half panicked, because, well, IT LOOKS LIKE WHERE A BEAR WOULD LIVE. But, luckily, the area was vacant.

Wil a little ways up the trail as I quickly emerged from the Bear's Lair, all flustered.

Quick aside: when I was in grad school at Berkeley, the on-campus bar was called the Bear's Lair. Yep, Berkeley had an on-campus bar in the student union. I initiated a weekly happy hour for all the first year history grad students, every Friday at 4. Why at 4? Because that's when the library closed! The Bear's Lair served hard cider, and also offered beer and cider in QUARTS. Yep, 2 pints in one massive plastic cup. Good times.

Speaking of good times, we meandered along the trail, which was described as "busy" but was completely empty while we were going out. For the most part the trail was level, with lots of handsome bridges.

At first we had glimpses of the river and dry river beds, but eventually we climbed into the trees and away from the water.

I loved the otherworldly look of this moss- and root-draped boulder. Feels very Pandora, somehow.

We had seen this trail described as flat, but it was actually pretty rolling. Nothing steep, mind you, but lots of ups and downs.

We crossed another bridge being repaired. Note: this is *not* the Anderson Creek Bridge ... that's at the southern end of the trail, very near that trailhead. Apparently. And as of now, according to, it's still out.

This bridge crossed this rushing waterfall -- really glad not to have to cross this at ground level!

There were, however, a couple of crossings to navigate, but nothing major. 

And all the while, we had silence in the green woods.

Wil admired the waterproofing of his Gore-tex boots in this crossing.

 We kept on going for about an hour and a half, seeing no one at all.

We turned down one narrow side path to catch a glimpse of the lake ...

... as well as this sweet campsite in the woods:

From this site on the lake you could get a peek-a-boo view of Baker, too.

But then it was time to head back along the trail.

We stood on this bridge in the sun for a while enjoying the quiet.

Then back across the big suspension bridge -- almost back now.

On the last stretch I noticed this big fella off to the side of the trail -- a huge douglas fir. (I think?) I put Wil in the photo for scale. 

This trail was pure relaxation -- nice and mellow, and quiet if you get there early. In theory one could hike 14.5 miles to the south trailhead, but I wouldn't want to do it as an out-and-back. I can see why people use this as a "beginner's backpacking" destination, too. I'd happily hike this again!

Baker Lake Trail -- from the north side to Noisy Creek

8 miles
1400 feet elevation