From the biking trails at Whistler.
Today we hiked up Icicle ridge in the Alpine lakes region of Washington state right near Leavenworth, WA. Icicle canyon is a great area with tons of different hikes but many of them start out at higher elevations and are still fairly snow-bound this early in the year. However it is possible to start at the base of the ridge and that area is already mostly snow-free.
You start up a set of switchbacks. These looked a bit daunting on the map, but turned out to be less steep than Tiger Mountain or Mount Si. The trail was quite nice going in between some wooded areas and more open areas with good views. The whole thing would be about 9 miles and 4000ft gain to the next intersection but we only made it about 1/3 of the way in.
Kat has been trying to get me to go tackle the Iron Horse trail for some time now.
Sunday we decided to go for it. First we went to the bike store to get some good
bike-lamps and I also got some gloves and some padded bike pants. We headed up
the pass and left my car at the end of the trail and took Kat’s up to the
The Iron Horse trail used to be a railroad track through the pass and has
been converted into a hiking and biking trail. Because it used to be for trains
the grade is pretty even the whole way through- its the easiest way to go
through the mountains without lots of up and down. The direction we went is
overall slightly downhill- enough to keep a nice pace while still being a nice
workout. The trail starts off with an almost 3 mile tunnel. The weather in the
area has been close to 100F, but the tunnel was probably around 50 degrees,
cooled by the melting snow run-off. One thing that surprised me a bit about the
tunnel is that it was completely straight- you could see this little speck of
light at the other end over two miles away.
Mostly the path was very nice for biking- dirt and some gravel. There were a
couple of bridge overpasses that were much thicker loose gravel and those were
fairly treacherous. There are also several side-hikes available along the way
that are worth checking out sometime in the future.
Today Eric and I did the hike to Rachel Lake. The Rachel Lake trail is about 60 miles up I-90.
The hike isn’t that long but the last mile is pretty steep. It starts off with a
little up bit and then a nice long fairly flat part. The last part is a good
work-out and you are rewarded at the end with one of the most beautiful lakes in
the Cascade Mountains. There were a few people at the lake even on a weekday,
but next time I’m tempted to bring a float for the lake like some of the other
Mason Lake is a relatively easy to reach hike just off Interstate 90 45 miles east of Seattle. Despite being fairly
close you are pretty much in the middle of the cascades and enter the
Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area during the hike.
Eric and I drove up there- we had an older hiking guide that warned that the trail was in terrible condition but it seemed fun anyway.
It turns out the trail has been totally re-done since the guide was published and is in great shape. The hike was pretty steep but a good
workout and the only glitch was that my heels started getting blisters- I think the climbing shoes had weakened them a bit over the weekend.
At the end of the trail (for us- the trail actually continues on much further) was beautiful Lake Mason and we stopped for a quick lunch.
Round-trip the hike took us a bit more than three hours but with the elevation gain I was pretty tired & sore afterwards.
Yesterday Kat and I flew out to Glacier National Park with Michael and Anh in Michael’s Saratoga. It was pretty amazing how
much gear we packed in his airplane. The flight was beautiful; we landed and had a nice BBQ dinner.
Today we got up very early (at least by my standards) and headed up to Logan Pass which is on the continental divide. From there
we hiked about 3-4 miles on the Highline Trail to “haystack” little peak that Michael had scoped out for climbing. This was my
first time really climbing with ropes and all outside. I’ve done it many times in the gym but outside is a very different thing. It looked
like the climb was going to be pretty easy though which is just how I like it.
The first pitch was a breeze and was good confidence building. After that though the third pitch had a really tricky first bit. I was pretty
wiped out when I got to the top. After everyone got to the top of that we were trying to figure out how far it was to the top- we could see
what looked like an easy bit, but it wasn’t clear if that was the top or whether there were going to be some other tricky spots. Part of the
appeal of this climb was that the other side was a very gentle grassy slope. So we decided to see if we could traverse out to find an easier
way up to the top.
I suspect this wasn’t a great idea. We roped for the traverses but they were still pretty difficult and slow and things weren’t getting
any better. Eventually we could see what looked like the grassy slope close ahead, but there were also two ravines in the way
and those can be really difficult to cross.
So we decided to down-climb. I found the belay-down much scarier that in the gym at first. At the gym you just get to the top of the
wall and you already have your butt hanging over nothing. I finally managed to get going and we all got down but it took a while. We were
all pretty tired and eager to get back to the car and our camp-site.
For dinner we were really roughing it- since we were car-camping we had huge steaks, asparagus, baked potatoes, butter, a couple nice
bottles of wine and to top of off chocolate fondue. Its tough but someone has to do it.
Today we hiked the first 2 miles of the Skookum Flats Trail (#1194).
This trail is located in the NW foothills of Mt Ranier
and while its in a hilly area along a stream bank this trail itself is
relatively flat which makes it pretty easy. Despite the guide which listed this
as visitor use we only saw maybe 6 other sets of people during our hike. The
scenery is nice with a river along side the trail and a waterfall at the 2 mile
point. There are also some quite interesting fallen logs and some huge trees-
its nice to see an area that appears to still be old growth.
We saw several mountain bikers pass us and it seems like a pretty good trail
for mountain bikes. I’m not especially hard-core so I’d probably get off and
walk over a couple streams and past one wash-out but beyond that it looked