Off to Victoria

Tomorrow I’ll be off to lovely Victoria for a bit of work and a bit of fun. There’s a Drupal Workshop I’ll be attending, which apparently delightfully coincides with the Great Canadian Beer Festival. Aren’t coincidences lovely?

If you want to keep up with me, I’ll likely be twittering.

Meadow Stake

Discovery Park Field

Snowgrass Flats

Snowgrass Flats

Like so many alpine meadows, Snowgrass Flats is a beautiful landscape. When Mt. St. Helens erupted these western slopes of the Goat Rocks were more heavily blanketed with ash than anywhere else, save the volcano itself. Now the wildflowers are beginning to rally, pushing through the beds of pumice that cover the meadows.

The Flats are available via the Berrypatch trailhead near Chambers Lake, 16 miles up an access road just 2 miles west of Packwood, WA, signed “Walupt Lake” and “Chambers Lake”. They make an excellent camping spot, but for full appreciation of the area from the Flats you should continue on to Goat Lake (which is also accessible via the Goat Ridge Trail), or if you’re really feeling ambitious, the Goat Rocks Crest.

This trail is part of the Klickitat Trail system used by Native Americans traveling over Cispus Pass to the Klickitat River drainage. Snowgrass Flats is a 10-plus acre subalpine meadow in a bowl near the headwaters of Snowgrass Creek. The area was named for a type of plant that stockmen called snowgrass. —


I’m off on vacation. A week in Olympic National park. No interweb, no computers. Just trees, water, writing, pictures and books.

This will be good. I’ll see you in a week.

Goat Lake Waterfall

Goat Lake waterfall

Goat Lake lies right beneath the Goat Rocks Crest, accessible via the Snowgrass Flat or Goat Ridge trails. What a gorgeous, frigid snow fed lake it is, but sadly I didn’t take a single photo that did it justice.

This is Goat Lake’s egress, a 30 foot waterfall that continues on towards a huge nearly vertical 200+ foot falls that tumble down into the valley below. The bigger falls are stunning, but because of the cliffs there isn’t a way to shoot them without approaching from the valley floor or hiking out at least a mile along the valley ridge for an angle.

Rare Washington High Mountain Llama


On Saturday Laura and I hiked along a bit of the PCT toward Sourdough Gap, stopping by Sheep Lake to soak up the scenery.

As we approached, I said, “Look, there are a few elk on the far side of the….lake…” I trailed off…confused by the bizarrely malshapen “elk” tethered to the meadow.

Sadly, this llama isn’t a free-ranger, but a beast of burden. Apparently pack horses or mules are far too unoriginal for the Pacific Northwest, so long live the Washington high mountain llama?

Bertha May through Trees

Bertha May Lake through Trees, South Cascades

We stopped by Bertha May Lake on the way to Granite Lake last weekend, venturing out Teeley Creek Trail #251. Stunning weather, stunning colors. This is a shot at Bertha May Lake on the way to Granite. When we arrived at Granite Lake we fished, swam, and had an extremely leisurely lunch. (Just a tiny bit different scenery than the day before.)

It’s an extremely short hike in toward these lakes and a very short drive from Packwood— there aren’t a lot of better ways to spend a hot and sunny day in the South Cascades.

Twas a Cold Day in Paradise

Snow, trees near Paradise, Mt. Rainier

Actually it looks much colder than it was; it was a beautiful day on the mountain. Shot on Saturday near Skyline trail with Rich, Stacie, and Laura.

Glacier Creek

Glacier Creek

Snapped on a hike this last weekend to Glacier Lake, just south of Walupt Lake. I wish I had packed in the tripod to get the shutter speed down below 1/15th. As it was I handheld and got as much blur in the water as I possibly could. The tripod would’ve really made this picture pop, but as it is its still hard to beat a good mountain stream shot eh?

Deception Pass

Shadows of the Deception Pass Bridge

Laura and I made an impromptu trip up to Deception Pass on Saturday. The park has miles of beaches and trails surrounding the channel.

Above is a shot of the bridge’s shadows on the cliffs, below is a boat running up the channel separating Fidalgo and Whidbey, and finally is a wide-angle of the (extremely scary) three foot pedestrian walkway—between the 180 foot drop and cars whizzing by at 40 miles per hour. You have to earn your snapshots there.

Boat under Deception Pass Bridge
Pedestrian walkway over Deception Pass

A Ridge Hike up Umtanum Canyon

The Yakima River in Ellensburg Canyon from Umtanum Ridge

The Ellensburg Canyon is a gorgeous stretch cut by the Yakima River running between Yakima and Ellensburg; it was the main route between the two cities before the freeway blazed a trough through Manashtash and Umtanum Ridges a few miles to the east. The Canyon is popular for scenic drives, fishing, hiking and rafting but is still relatively obscure and little used compared to many similar resources closer to population centers.

Yesterday on my trip back to Seattle I stopped off in the canyon to hike from Umtanum Creek Recreation site into the Wenas Wildlife Area and get views of Umtanum Creek and the Yakima River from the ridges above. It was a short and steep hike up about 1200 feet; near the top I startled a herd of about 50 rocky mountain elk and snapped a few pictures before failing light forced me to return to the road. I’m sure I’ll return soon when the wildflowers are out in force for some longer hikes; it’s gorgeous out there—highly recommended.

You can find out a bit more about the area from this Seattle PI article, or the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife pages.

Backbone Lake

Backbone Lake, Gifford Pinchot National Forest

A huge log crossing one end of Backbone Lake. For a short jaunt on Saturday we hiked up to the lake, around it, and around another mile or so up Backbone Ridge:

This trail is well documented as having been used by the Taidnapam people as they traveled up Mt. Rainier from the Cowlitz Valley. It was mainly used by mountain goat hunters. Goats are often spotted on Backbone Ridge.

Brief Adventures with a Western Black-Legged Tick

A Western Black-Legged Tick, next to a U.S. dime for scale

(Tha’ts a dime in the photo—you’d better watch yourself up there FDR or you’ll be next.)

Yesterday morning I glanced in the mirror before hopping in the shower and spotted what I thought was a dark scab in the middle of my back. Pre-shower and pre-coffee I don’t have much mental alacrity—so instead instincts took over—I ripped it off.

At the instant my hand made contact with this little black thing on my back three things became clear:

  1. It wasn’t a scab. There was no reason for me to have a scab there. It was something—attached
  2. I had better rip it off and be damn quick about it
  3. I’ll probably need to take pictures of it—whatever it is

Being amidst my usual morning cognitive impairment I had no thought that my unwelcome accouterment might be a tick—I probably would not have been quite so hasty in my “decision making” if I had been a little more awake—regardless I soon heard a noticeable, nay shockingly audible, POP sound as the tick was dislodged from my skin.

I watched it wiggle for a bit on my bathroom counter, and popped it in a glass for later photographic documentation.

Apologies to Eddie Money: I’ve Got One Tick—It’s From Paradise

Rarely have I had such an experience that was both completely revolting and completely fascinating. In the shower I began to ponder the hike were I must have picked up the little sucker, and how I was trouncing around the forest craning for a decent shot at a waterfall. (I had clearly earned this wee vampiristic beastie.)

Further into my lather, I began to put the whole weekend in perspective and think of one of my earlier hikes in Mt. Rainier National Park. Paradise, although inaccessible this time of the year is one of the Park’s most popular destinations…how the mind wanders. Then it hit me. I had the makings for a fabulous Eddie Money rip-off right there in the shower:

I’ve Got One Tick It’s From Paradise

Got a surprise especially for you,
Something that both of us have always wanted to do.
We’ve waited so long, waited so long.
We’ve waited so long, waited so long.

I’m gonna take you on a trip so far from here,
I’ve got one tick in my pocket, now baby, we’re gonna disappear.
We’ve waited so long, waited so long.
We’ve waited so long, waited so long.

I’ve got one tick it’s from Paradise,
Won’t you pack your bags, we’ll leave tonight,
I’ve got one tick it’s from Paradise,
I’ve got one tick it’s from Paradise.


So the tick wasn’t exactly from Paradise, but that’s just details man, this is music.

The Tick in Black Starring in: Walk The Lyme

When I think ticks I think Lyme disease, but not to worry, I’m watching my very small wound shrink by the hour, and I have heard from several credible sources that Lyme disease is fairly uncommon in the Pacific Northwest.

So there you have it, my brief encounter with a tick, and Eddie Money to boot—what more could you ask for dear reader?

Silver Falls Loop, Under Snow

The Ohanapecosh River from Ohanapecosh campground, Mount Rainier National Park

Silver Falls Loop is a short but gorgeous hike beginning at Ohanapecosh campground just inside Mt. Rainier National Park. It skirts a few natural hot springs on the way toward a great view of Silver Falls, and offers a pretty darn cool view of the gorge the waterfall creates via a short footbridge.

Silver Falls is always a nice payoff for such a short and lovely walk, but in March the big gates of Mt. Rainier are closed, so on Friday Andrea, Matthew, Laura, and I hiked in the extra mile to the campground from the closed gates and trudged our way through a good deal of snow to soak up the views. Besides the river and falls we also saw a few mountain goats on our way back out to the car. (Sorry the goats were too far away for pics.)

Alex of Swollen Leg Clan

On Saturday morning right as I was about to shove my kayak off the beach toward Turn Island, a hornet, previously angered mightily by a small dog nearby, landed just below my left knee and stung me.

Naturally I cursed him, squashed his guts out, and left him to wallow in the briny muck at the bottom of my kayak. (Though on this occasion I was a completely innocent party, I have been stung by many a hornet and bee in the past, and I admit for the most part completely deserved their aggression.)

I do have the great fortune of not being allergic to bee stings, so one could imagine my confusion the following morning in the tent when I woke up and noticed my entire left calf strikingly swollen, hot to the touch, and moderately painful.

I tried not to pay it too much attention, and soon after breaking camp and packing up the kayak I was in the car heading back to Seattle. It was at that point I realized just how large my calf had become. Not just swollen…friggin’ huge. Scary big. It looked like someone duplicated my thigh and stuck it above my ankle, or took the bone out of a spiral ham and wrapped its juicy goodness around my tibia. You can take your pick of imagery, but suffice it to say it wasn’t a pretty sight.

NO. I didn’t take a picture of it you sickos, so don’t ask.

Upon the recommendation of persons wiser than myself as soon as I was back home I took some Benadryl, elevated and iced my ballooning appendage. It felt better, but I still had Popeye’s post-spinach forearm for a lower leg. (Sans anchor tattoo of course.)

Monday the swelling started to gradually subside. Late in the day I noticed something I hadn’t before, 3 small pricks in the central part of my calf, directly around the most sensitive (and now lightly bruised) portion of the swelling. AH HA! This wasn’t about the hornet at all! A clever ruse! Mother nature you dog! Smoke and mirrors!

I’m guessing the bites happened Saturday night in the tent, but it could have been in the kayak on the way to the island or in hiking around it as well. Aside from the swollen leg I had no other symptoms that I know of.

Being a huge Larson fan, I’ve always been dying to cry out, preferably in a darkened theater, “Is there an Entomologist in the house?” But only slightly more seriously, my question to you all is, “What the heck bit me?” Spider? Tick? Tsetse fly? Laura? Any guesses?

Kayaking to Turn Island

Kayaking on the way to Turn Island, San Juans, Washington

Laura and I made last minute plans to hit the San Juans this weekend for a quick kayak trip. We took off early Saturday and rented two boats from Leisure Kayak, which is one of only a few outfits that don’t have completely ridiculous rates for island outings.

From where we started out near the southern tip of San Juan, Turn Island is just a few easy hours paddle. On our way we saw scads of seals and sea lions devouring salmon, and we had a quiet evening camping—save the noise from a small pack of rampaging raccoons. Labor day weekend and there was only one other group camping on the island.

Turn, like a few other island-parks in the area even has composting toilets and firepits—for only a $10 registration fee we’re talking lap of luxury camping here.

Ant on a Popsicle Stick

An ant on a popsicle stick

Yes my friends, this is what happens when you shove a popsicle stick into an anthill with your camera at the ready. Yes.

Beached Jellyfish

A Beached and overturned jellyfish on Whidbey Island, WA

A quite large (say 18″ wide) jellyfish I found beached on Whidbey Island last weekend.

Barnes Creek, Olympic National Park

Barnes Creek in Olympic National Park

Barnes Creek just before dumping into Lake Crescent. Shot with a tripod and very wet hiking boots, 1 sec @ f/22, canon 17-40 f/4L

Naches Peak Loop Trail or ‘Phlox Phest 05′

Small lake along Naches Peak Loop

On Saturday Laura and I had a nice walk on the Naches Peak Loop Trail just off of Chinook Pass, soaking in the weather and wildflowers. The trail winds circuitously for grand views of Rainier, and for a quick side trip we hiked down to Dewey Lakes along a chunk of the PCT.

Phlox in Mt. Rainier National Park

It was Phlox Phest 05, I seem to not be able to take enough pictures of these tiny wildflowers. They ranged from brilliant white to pale blues and vivid purples. Just wait until the Paintbrush and Lupine are in bloom.

Phlox trailside in Washington

Tatoosh Hike


On Saturday I decided to venture about as high as the snow would let me and I ended hiking up Tatoosh Mountain, whose trailhead is just a few miles from the cabin. I should have known better than to continue when the big patches of snow started encompassing the trail around 4000 feet but of course often enough I just don’t “get it” do I? Alone in the wilderness, ice, snow- I’ve got shorts and a T-shirt, two powerbars and water- what could possibly go wrong? Just before I thought I’d have to turn around in utter and complete disgrace, and after probably a 1/2 mile in snow sometimes up to my hips, I discovered the ridge to the final peak was nearly totally bare.

It was an exciting revelation, a peak would somewhat justify the gashes on my shins from the ice and the bit too perilous ascent. I suppose my REI dividend is going toward some trekking poles and snowshoes? “First tracks” indeed. I can just about guarantee I was the first up Tatoosh this year.

Tatoosh Peak


Tatoosh lookout lies in the heart of the Tatoosh Wilderness that adjoins Mt. Rainier National Park’s southern boundary. The wilderness was designated in 1984, with 15,800 acres to its credit- Tatoosh peak is 6,310 feet, and the site of a former fire lookout. It was first made famous by a book of the same name, written by Martha Hardy in 1932. Hardy was a fire lookout who once worked the peak.

Thanks to RCM for joining me in Packwood- the Peters Inn isn’t for the faint of heart on karaoke night.

Legendary Packwood

I’m heading down to Packwood this weekend to hopefully capitalize on our snow-barren mountains. Just yesterday I googled “Packwood WA” for sherry who had never experienced the wonder before that is…Packwood. I’ve never googled Packwood before and shockingly I haven’t missed much for never having done so. Though the town has yet to really make its mark on the information age, and destination packwood attempt to represent. But there are a few things left these sites don’t seem to cover: a few hikes to be had, a great taco night at the blue spruce, and legends of a wild street-walking pig and a plumber named the DUDE. Perhaps I’ll get to more of that later, but for now have a good weekend and wish me luck.

What An Ash-Hole

St. Helens has blown it’s top again. Though mostly just an ash explosion reaching a paltry 36,000 feet and with an accompanying mag 2 earthquake, there was a bit of lava too. check out some pictures here and view the live webcam right here.

Other bits in the news I’ve been watching:

  • NYPLDigitalGallery
    The NYPL has amassed a simply stunning amount of information online and made it available to everyone. Since its launch traffic has been overwhelming, but now you can surf the volumes unabated.
  • Wiki Becomes a Way of Life
    A great little piece profiling a few of the brilliant souls contributing untold hours to the amazing wikipedia.
  • New WIFI, A Fine Mesh?
    Intel has announced its proposal for the next WIFI standard, 802.11s, which would enable more bandwidth and mesh-based networking.
  • TV Commercial Buried, Only to go Boom
    BoingBoing reports (and links to) a U.N. commercial aimed at getting complacent U.S. citizens aware of landmines. Don’t watch it if you’re not keen on that kind of thing, though I think it’s a great piece I’m not the least bit surprised it’ll never see mainstream play.

Seattle Weather- It’s Drought-tastic

Well the weather is fabulous in town and it’s certainly nothing to complain about, especially considering my penchant for full-spectrum bulbs and flights out-of-doors for only the vague promise of a sun break. But with March having crested Washingtonians are starting to gaze reluctantly up to the nearly barren mountain peaks. We’ve received so little snow only a couple of ski resorts have opened and many spots usually under 30 feet of snow now stand at 30″ or less. This has the potential to be the driest winter in the Northwest since 1977, and one of the top few dry spells in the past 50 years.

The reservoirs for the most part stand nearly full, but already water usually sent-a-cascadin’ is being withheld. Drought will likely be declared to swoop up some federal funds. Which is good because something’s got to bail out a potential tulip disaster. (NOOO!)