Friday, August 29, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Day two, after dropping Bake's bike at Methow Cycle and Sport, we headed east, up over Loup Loup Pass to Omak because there's a skateboard park there. Kinda. Pretty run down. Pretty depressing. Pretty much wanted to get the heck out of Omak almost as soon as we got there. But hey, it killed a few hours and Loup Loup is definitely something I shall return and ride someday. Perhaps soon. (The Methow's Fall Bike Festival www.mvsta.com/summer/bikefest.html?)
Back to B'ham this afternoon. A great trip!
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Muriel Handschy and a friend were also up there. She's doing Ride 542 which should be a piece of cake for her. Click here http://www.bellinghamherald.com/513/story/488745.html to read about her family's epic six-week European bike vacation through Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic and Germany. (Our sons are classmates and pals.)Bake and I are likely off to Winthrop tomorrow for a couple days of mountain biking and sleeping on the hard ground. That's right; we're camping, baby!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
This isn't a technical climb (no ropes needed), basically just a hands-and-feet crawl up a 500-foot pile of car-door-sized granite slabs that happen to lie on top of each other more or less horizontally. Holds are huge and we stick to the rock like Velcro, so it's a mostly safe-feeling climb. Except for when Rick, who like me is much more a hiker than a rock climber, steps on a slab that rocks a little bit.
We set out early this September morning on a trail run/hike to Hidden Lake Lookout, a retired fire observation station built in 1931 and maintained for the past 30-plus years by Friends of the Hidden Lake Lookout, a Skagit County Group. The Hidden Lake Trail is steeper than I remembered — I'd hiked it before but not tried running it — and about a half-mile from the trailhead, our trail run morphs into a speed-hike. Which is fine, because not long after passing through a forest of silver fir, we begin a switchbacking, elevation-gobbling ascent up the Sibley Creek basin.
With the sun rising above the Hidden Lake Peaks — there are actually several Hidden Lake Peaks; the one we eventually climb is the most prominent — we ascend a grand amphitheater of purple lupine and crimson paintbrush, mini-waterfalls and jagged crags. Cheeky marmots, fuzzy lumps lazing on boulders in the sun, whistle at us from across the valley.
After about 2.5 miles and 1,800 feet of climbing, the grade eases as the trail traverses south across heathery meadows and granite boulder fields. We're running again and are rewarded with emerging views to the west of Mount Baker and Twin Sisters, and deep down into the evergreen valley of the Cascade River. About a mile farther, after a couple rock-garden switchbacks, the lookout comes into view a few hundred feet above us. I spot it before Rick and am impelled to pull one of the oldest (and dumbest) tricks in the book.
"Look out!" I yell, as if he were about to become prey for a low-flying pterodactyl.
"Oh yeah, there it is," Rick says, ignoring my attempt at humor.
After ascending a short, snow-filled, rock-rimmed gully we reach a notch at about four miles (6,500 feet) and are instantly awash in North Cascade peaks. It's all bright sun and glaciers, valleys, forests and sky-kissing spires as far as the eye can see. Below us, jewel-like Hidden Lake — the lake and peak's namesake — sparkles in the sun, a few mini-icebergs afloat in its shallows.
With the lookout in sight, we head to the right (south) and climb a technical trail that snakes through boulders and is at times hard to follow. It's about a half-mile more and 300 feet higher to the lookout. Fading red dots spray-painted on boulders at key spots lead the way, as do cairns placed by those who've gone before. After a hands-and-feet crawl up the final few yards, we reach the lookout: a small wood box bolted to a pile of rocks. It's available for overnight stays on a first-come basis and in fact, just as we arrive at about 11 a.m. on a Saturday, a couple who'd spent the night are heading down. "There's no charge if you're poor or a college student, but most people send between $10 and $25," said Dr. Fred Darvill, a Northwest climbing legend and author who heads up the Friends of Hidden Lake. "Of course if you're Bill Gates or someone like that, you probably should leave several thousand dollars."
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Sadly, Darvil, a true Northwest legend, recently passed away.)
Darvill said it costs about $300 a year to maintain the lookout. There are pre-addressed donation envelopes inside. We also find a double bed, blankets, dishes, propane stove, pots, pans, maps and 360-degrees worth of mountains — a room with a view if there ever was one.
A bookshelf stuffed with paperback bestsellers and mountain guidebooks offers a title that catches my eye: "The Madams of San Francisco" by Curt Gentry. Something to curl up with on a lonely night in the mountains, I suppose.
Rick and I made pretty good time to the lookout, so we spring for dessert — the scramble up Hidden Lake Peak. As the raven flies, it's about a half-mile northeast of the lookout and, at 7,088 feet, about 200 feet higher. First though, we descend to the notch where earlier we went right toward the lookout. Once there, we find a trail heading up in the opposite direction, which soon turns to large flat boulders and from there, we're pretty much on our own. We stay to the left of the ridge (the Mount Baker side) and are able to find mostly big, bomber-hold rocks — that only occasionally moved — all the way to the top.
"This is the peak, baby!" Rick calls back to me after about 20 minutes of scrambling.
I look up and above the large granite flake where he's perched, I see nothing but blue sky. A couple minutes later, I join him. Though it doesn't seem possible, the views, which were stupendous at the lookout (and the notch below the lookout), are even more so from the peak. It's like we've stepped out onto the wing of an airplane. Wedged in the rocks we find a plastic tube containing the summit register and while I click off photos, Rick fills it in.
"What kind of trail run is this, McQuaide?" he writes.
An amazing one. A little steep maybe, but amazing nonetheless.
TO GET THERE: For the Hidden Lake Lookout hike, take Interstate 5 to Exit 230 at Burlington, Skagit County, and go east on Highway 20 (North Cascades Highway) for about 40 miles to Marblemount. Just past Milepost 106, go straight onto Cascade River Road where Highway 20 takes a hard left. Cross a bridge over the Skagit River and continue on Cascade River Road for 9.8 miles to Forest Road 1540. Turn left and follow the rough, narrow gravel road for 4.7 miles to the road-end trailhead. Elevation: 3,500 feet. Northwest Forest Pass required for parking.
Statistics: Nine miles round-trip; add about a mile if you scramble up Hidden Lake Peak. Elevation gain: 3,400 feet. High point: 6,890 for lookout, 7,088 for Hidden Lake Peak.
Safety: This hike/run/climb took place on a windless, sunny day when there hadn't been precipitation for at least a month, and the trail was about as melted out as it ever gets. Snow, rain or any kind of bad weather will raise the difficulty level significantly and raise safety issues as well, especially the higher you go. Check the weather forecast and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Web site (www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs) for the latest conditions, or call Mount Baker Ranger District, 360-856-5700. And always go prepared with the hiker's Ten Essentials (maps, compass, flashlight/headlamp, extra food and water, extra clothing, sunglasses, first-aid kit, pocket knife, matches and fire starter).
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Rode from Glacier to Artist Point Saturday during what passes for a heat wave here--temps in the 80s! Didn't hear from John or Scott so I headed up on my own. First time riding a big mountain since the Cayuse crack at RAMROD a few weeks ago. Felt good to get this one under my belt. Met a guy named Bob from Edmonds. (That's him below.) He was on his annual birthday ride wherein he rides twice as many miles as his age. He was doing 110 that day. From Maple Falls (I gather) to Artist Point, back to Bellingham and then Lummi Island. Kind of a cool idea. I didn't talk to him that long but he said he'd ridden the Alps, the Pyrenees, Alpe D'Huez, etc. Said he didn't do RAMROD this year b/c he was riding in Colorado and he's not doing the Mount Baker Hill Climb because he'll be in Japan. So I think he's some sort of captian of industry who spends his disposable income in the same way I would were I to have some.
Friday, August 08, 2008
From Paradise, elev. 5,420 feet, I set out for Camp Muir, elev. 10,000 feet, just a hair lower than Mount Baker's summit. Once on the Muir Snowfield (not a glacier so no crevasses to worry about), I followed boot track and wands that were still in place from earlier in the summer.
It's a strenous hike--about 5 miles with 4,700 feet of climbing one-way--but after about 3-1/2 hours I arrived at the below-pictured Camp Muir. It's base camp for most of the 10,000-plus folks who annually climb to the summit of 14,441-foot Mount Rainier.
Camp Muir is a whole village unto itself with climbing rangers (who pretty much live up there and have their own hut), a stone shelter for those who want to stay inside away from the elements (and likely wrestle with mice all night long), and several privies.
Below, check out the trail runner descending Camp Muir. I've no idea if he ran up too.
Friday, August 01, 2008
At 151 miles with 9,750-feet of elevation gain, it was killer strenuous but truly spectacular. The best ride Scott and John had ever been on, they said. Above, we're about to start our journey at 5:15 a.m. under cover of semi-darkness. Below, check out the cool lenticular cloud hovering like a halo about the summit of 14,410-foot Mount Rainier. The thing grew and expanded throughout the day and at one point looked almost like the rings around Saturn.
Put on by the Redmond Cycling Club (http://www.redmondcyclingclub.org/), RAMROD is certainly one of the best events I've ever participated in. The food is good, the organization and volunteers are tops, and the course can't be beat. There're two big climbs--10 miles up to Inspiration Point and 11 miles to Cayuse Pass, both which top out at roughly 4,700 feet. In between, there's a smaller one to Backbone Ridge, which is fairly harmless.
Below, please note musicians who were up and playing for the pre-ride breakfast at 4:30 a.m. That's a tough gig. (I said to Scott, "Can you imagine having to play music at 4:30 in the morning?" To which some guy who overheard me, said: "Can you imagine having to listen to music at 4:30 in the morning?")
The first climb doesn't start 'til about 60 miles in so there's lots of time to eat, drink, try to warm up (it must've been in the high 40s at the start), as well as find lots of other wheels to tuck in behind. I did RAMROD four years ago and then we road all the way to Paradise, this time they had us top out Inspiration Point, about 600 feet lower. Which I was kind of glad about; for whatever reason, I wasn't feeling super stellar. (More on that in a moment.) The following descent was ridiculously fun, fast, and most important, felt relatively safe, wrote this author who's usually a pretty conservative (not politically, er anything) descender. Smooth roads, not a whole lot of turns, zero to very few cars, and long, long straightaways where you could see far ahead of you.
"There's no amusement park ride that's as fun as that," Scott said. (All the descents were like that in fact: screamin' meamie fun.)
After Backbone Ridge came the 11-mile, 2,500-foot climb to Cayuse Pass where I partook in an involuntary reenactment of Floyd Landis's famous crack on La Toussuire during Stage 16 of the 2006 Tour de France. (That's the one that spurred his epic beer-, testosterone-, whatever the hell else-fueled comeback the following day.) At the bottom of the hill, which starts at about mile 100, I didn't feel good. A mile into it, I felt less good and a mile later, blurted out an inadvertent "Oh fudge!" (or something that sounded like "Oh fudge!") and told the guys, Sorry, but I'm cooked, cracked, knackered, and no good to nobody nowhere. I was like a balloon with the air let out; I had no power at all.
John and Scott were great, super patient and just hung with me as we conquered the hill at a blistering 7 miles per hour! Oh well, as Tony Soprano would say, What'ya'gonna do? Below, see photo of a completely spent McQ after having finally made it to the top.
After the descent, we were treated to sandwiches of our choice and the best tasting icy cold can of Coke I've had in my entire life. From there, it was about 30 miles of downhill and flat during which the indefatigable John and Scott pulled about eight of us into the finish at Enumclaw. Below, that's us at the finish. Our stats: 151 miles with 9,750 feet elevation gain. Eight hours 57 minutes of riding time, about 10 hours and 15 minutes total time. (We finished at about 3:30 p.m.)
Coming up in the next few days: the harrowing story of lost motel reservations, our new digs next door to a casino and airport, and Mike wrestles with a roll-out bed. Here's a photo to whet your appetite: