Thursday, January 30, 2014

Saving the Enchanted Valley Chalet

The Enchanted Valley Chalet
Photo by Will Baker, see more of his work at
The Enchanted Valley is a hidden Shangri-la lying in the deep, wilderness heart of Olympic National Park. Nestled in the verdant meadows of this valley is a nearly 100 year old Chalet that has been a shelter for rain-pelted hikers, and a base for mountain rescue missions. But this historic shelter is threatened by the flooding of the Quinault River and is on the verge of being lost forever.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Best Photos of 2013

Cispus Basin Waterfalls
December Sunset
Spirit Lake with Mt. Adams in the background
Fire on the Water
Frost Sculptures
Lake of the Angels
Leaf in Seaweed
Mountain Goat Kid
Sego Lillies
Mount Adams and Snowgrass flat.
The Goat Rocks
Walking on Water

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lake of the Angels

As my water bottle slipped from its holster and plummeted over the edge of the cliff I was clinging to, visions of doling out my mothers meager water supply while the sun beat mercilessly down upon us flashed through my mind. Abandoning the trail, I slid down the near vertical face of the mountain. Clinging to roots and clumps of grass, I descended in an avalanche of dirt and rock. I found the bottle wedged miraculously intact beside a dead log, and, much relieved, but cursing the prospect of the return climb beneath my breath, headed up again.

The Grave of Carl Putvin
    The Carl Putvin trail begins in the deep valley of the Hamma Hamma River, and is marked by the grave of its namesake. The placement of the grave serves as warning to any hikers foolish enough to take this trail. Unfortunately for us, we interpreted this only as an interesting historical marker. The next mile of trail was an easy walk through the woods and we quickly convinced ourselves that all the guide books warning of the trail’s horrors had been written by a bunch of lily livered wimps.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Snowshoeing at Paradise, Mt. Rainier

First published in the Longview Daily News

January and February are the months of cabin fever when I dream of the rainbow fields of the high country in summer, but "flowers" of another sort still bloom high in the Cascades. Born of eddies of the ice-laden gales, monochrome lilies of frost and powder carpet the slumbering meadows. Alpine firs, already twisted by the summer zephyrs, are rendered yet more Suessian by the drifts of winter. For those brave enough to venture into the howling winds and blowing snow, winter does hold its wonders.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Fall hiking in the Columbia Gorge.

First published in the Longview Daily News.

Below my feet, the wooded slot canyon of Oneonta Gorge plunges to dizzying depths. A storm is blowing in and gusts of wind scented with autumn and tinted with rain fill the air with a rainbow storm of falling leaves. Loud with waterfalls; brilliant green with moss and ferns; bonsai trees clinging to the walls — the canyon is like something out of a fairy tale. This is only one of the many great trails on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge. Even in winter this is one of the top hiking options of the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Rampart Ridge, A pilgrimage into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

First published in The Longview Daily News.

I'm a dreamer. I dream of mountains, lakes and meadows, deep forests and high peaks. In the dark months of winter such dreams are sweetest. Backpacking adventures will grow in my mind. I make lists, draw maps, memorize guide books and glue my eyes to Google Earth. Most plans fade into oblivion; some stay and morph with time.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Exploring the Utah Canyonlands

First published in The Longview Daily News.
Hiking in the Devils Garden

Camping in Arches NP
Where was the tent? Only a few hours before we'd left it atop a southern Utah plateau covered in fantastic sandstone fins with views stretching all the way to the Sierra La Sal. Now all we saw were just a few scattered, lonely tent stakes. An English couple informed us that they had seen it blow past like a tumble weed. We later found it running with a herd of wild sagebrush and it took some effort to lasso the wild beast and haul it back to camp.
With all the fantastic beauty around us it had been all too easy to forget to properly stake the tent down and be reminded of how wild this land truly is.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Enjoy the beauty and solitude of Mt. Rainier's Palisades Lakes

First published in The Longview Daily News.

"Watch out for the hamsters!"
With this dire warning from a tourist, we started our hike to Palisades Lakes in Mount Rainier National Park.
The Palisades Lakes are part of a quiet back country hidden in plain sight of millions of visitors to one of the most famous parks in America. Chances are, if you've toured Mount Rainier, you have stopped at Sunrise Point, that impossibly sharp curve in the road that takes you in a moment from the green depths of the forest to the fantastic park-land of Sunrise. You have no doubt peered down to the emerald pools twinkling below, but then you probably hopped back in the car and, with the rivers of ice looming above, continued on to Sunrise.
Backpacker magazine recently featured the Palisades Lakes trail as one of the best places to find silence and solitude in the national park. The article featured Gordon Hempton, a "professional sound photographer" who measures silence in periods of 15 minutes or more without human-caused sound. He has claimed that Palisades Lakes are one of only 35 places in western Washington to qualify as a quiet place. Thus intrigued, we wanted to find out for ourselves if the claims to quiet so near to a busy tourist destination could possibly be true. Sunrise road usually closes around early October, so time was running out for our visit.

Explore century-old Fort Columbia

By Andy Zahn.
First published in The Longview Daily News.

A century ago, Fort Columbia guarded the mouth of the Columbia River from would-be invaders, with fierce guns and a string of underwater mines that stretched across the river. The fort's massive fortifications and two old guns have been preserved in what is now a Washington State Park. With the deep-forest wilderness of Scarborough Hill above the structures, Fort Columbia represents one of the finest recreational opportunities of the lower Columbia River.