Now to start with, I AM a Seattleite (the denizens of Seattle really call themselves that). I’m used to cool, humid, wet, gray winter days. It rarely gets below freezing and very rarely in the teens Fahrenheit (the record low of 0°F was in 1950). We get a big wet sloppy snowstorm once in a while and a couple inches of snow bring this hilly city to a halt.
So today it was sunny and cool and I thought I should get out for a ride. My days on the bike have slacked off since September and it takes some extra initiative to get out. Sunny or just rainless days are rare and I should make every effort to ride when the weather is better. The weather stats are pretty typical for a winter day: 45°F, 50% humidity and it was windy today with winds from the NNW at 15-25MPH. I felt the 15MPH wind at least and had the total pleasure (NOT) of getting headwinds coming AND going on this trip. Note the humidity was rather low today, with high humidity levels being common (and temperatures in the mid-forties Fahrenheit). Continue reading
noun: tool; plural noun: tools
1. a device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function.
I like tools. They help me earn a living, to keep my life in order, give me some independence, and aid creative output. And I like tools just for the design, the form and function. Some are quite beautiful and clever. I know how to use tools, so having them is an extension of my knowledge and ability. I’m smarter with tools at hand, so more is better— maybe.
I thought I would share my resources and techniques for planning a hike. I live in Seattle and most often hike in the Western Cascades.
First of all, I check the weather report. That helps to decide when and where to go and what to pack, not to mention if you should head that way at all. First and foremost hiking is recreation. The idea is to enjoy the journey and come home safely to do it over and over again. In my humble opinion, no destination is worth a critical injury or death. Never feel bad about canceling your plans or turning around when things aren’t right.
Long before I got into my fascination with bicycles, I discovered ultralight backpacking. In my younger days a typical weekend load could hover around 50 pounds and it was just plain miserable. Gear and techniques have changed greatly over the years and I can now head out with a total load of 20 pounds or so. Ultralight folk use the term base weight to describe the weight of all their gear not including consumables, like water, food and cooking fuel. My 3-season base weight varies from 8-12 pounds per the season (read insulated clothing and sleeping gear) and shelter options I choose. As you lighten your load, you will start to feel the snowball effect and find the need for a heavy pack and boots is offset. You can hike farther and faster with less effort, giving you more time to enjoy the views, or take an afternoon nap in a sunny spot.
The weather was dismal Thursday and we wanted to get in a day trip, so we headed to the Mountain Loop Highway with a short day hike to Independence Lake if the weather allowed. We drove from the Granite Falls end of the highway on up to where the ice caves collect at the foot of Big Four Mountain. The trailhead road is directly across the valley from the ice caves trailhead.
It was foggy and misty all the way up the road and the steep drop offs just when into the white below. The trail to Independence Lake is just 0.7 miles. It’s great hikes for kids or anyone with reasonable agility– there are some rocks and roots and a few short steep sections. Although it is short, I don’t recommend it for those with mobility issues.
When we got to the lake, we could only see a few yards in the fog and mist– we were literally in the clouds. We explored to the other end of the lake and had our lunch and then it cleared up enough to see to the other end. The peaks and cliffs above were still hidden from view. The lake is at 3700′ elevation.
The trail continues up a steep set of switchbacks to some small tarn lakes and on up to North Lake, where you top out on a ridge and descend 700 feet to the lake.