I’m Nikhil Navali, pursuing my masters in Computer Science at Cornell University. I love to be outdoors enjoying the fresh air and indulge in various physical activities. That said, I dont shy to sit days together with just my laptop and internet. I am basically a “Neophiliac” who wants to try many things in the world ranging from testing my taste buds to trying out adventurous activities. My favorite passtime includes reading books, watching historical documentaries on youtube and updating my bucket list which is always fresh and full.
Seeing the Picket range of North Cascades national park from up close was in my bucket list since long and I didn’t want to miss the chance now, especially due to the snow in early winter. I expected to see the range dressed with snow and I got exactly that on a perfect blue bird day for October.
I got up at 5:20 AM even though I had only 4 hours of sleep due to previous night’s potluck. We carpooled from Lake Stevens and reached the trailhead by 9 AM and I was glad that I could get some sleep en route. I decided not to carry ice axe which I thought was a bad idea initially. We started hiking at 9:30 AM and first 2 miles of the trail ascended only a bit after which it was steep all the way till the summit. Snow appeared after a mile from there and it was around 11:45 AM by the time we reached the intersection for Thornton lake and Trappers peak. There was lot of snow, we were discussing our options and fortunately we saw 2 hikers descending from the peak’s direction. They had camped the previous night and had made all the way up-to peak and back without an ice axe. They mentioned that there were boot paths all the way which encouraged at-least me. Most of us decided to give a try and started our ascent.
The first part was a class 3 scramble after which we could see Picket range and many snow capped mountains around. I carried on and 2 ladies who were ahead of me asked me if I would want to lead. It was funny that in-spite of not carrying an ice axe, I chose to lead the group. The boot marks on snow were super helpful and I followed them diligently. There were few sketchy sections and especially one narrow ridge path.
After a while it was just a fellow hiker and myself who were quite a way ahead. I mustered the courage to carry on remembering what the 2 other hikers had mentioned. We reached the peak by 1 PM on what I would describe as a perfect day for October. With clear blue skies we had a 360 deg panoramic views and there was hardly any wind. The snow enriched the beauty and I was so glad to be there. The picket range was just across the valley and truly lived up-to its fame of having many pointy peaks.
We could see 3 lakes nestled in the mountains and numerous features around. Soon rest of the group caught up and we had lunch while Jim was hurrying people to start heading back. The descent was uneventful except crossing those narrow sections and we made it to the trailhead by 4:50 PM. I was fortunate to make it back safe without an ice axe. The snow was just right to be passable without danger. I would strongly recommend carrying one in winter. My phone measured the distance to be 11 miles with 3800 feet as elevation gain. Surprisingly, I was not that tired for that stats. I would mark this hike as one of my bests.
We not only sat and got wiped out on the tubes, but we towed it ourselves with a motor boat at Lake Chelan. This was during a recent trip with my wife and her brother Amit who had visited us for a week. After showing him around the usual places such as Mount Rainier, we went for a 2 day trip to Lake Chelan which I hadn’t visited yet. Though I had heard great stuff about the place, I didn’t keep my hopes high since it’s just a lake with surrounding mountains but I was pleasantly surprised by what I experienced. I had watched a video from a geology professor on how the lake was formed during the last ice age and it was interesting to note that this is the third deepest lake in the US.
The approach via Route 97 alongside Columbia river was scenic unlike usual green routes. The barren surrounding mountains, blue waters and the warm atmosphere around the Lake Chelan gave a different vibe. We checked in at the resort, played putt putt and cosmic bowling in the evening, tennis the next morning and got ready for water-sports in the afternoon. I was rooting for a sunny day and fortunately it was, although the days before and after were cloudy. We rented a boat and tube from https://www.chelanparasail.com for 4 hours and set out to explore after a brief introduction. It was my first time driving a boat and it was super easy. We had a mini photoshoot once we were in the water but I was craving to get into the water and try tubing.
The tube was attached to the boat with a 20 feet rope and I chose to experiment with it first. I wore my life jacket and got on the tube with excitement unsure of how it would turn out. Amit took the driving seat and he started slowly until the rope lost its slackness and began towing the tube. It was a different experience on the tube being towed over blue waters whose depth reached around 500 ft maybe. I signaled Amit to increase the speed and he did slowly and all was going well until the tube plunged into the water taking me inside. I was scared initially since I didn’t know if I could come up and float easily but I was fine after few seconds. I got confident after the first dip and did few more rounds figuring out the best position to lie down on the tube to avoid the falls.
Divya took the driving seat once and it was funny when she pushed the lever increasing the speed suddenly – I fell from the tube and Amit who was sitting at the edge almost slid. Divya and Amit chose to give tube a try and I steadily increased the speed but they plunged too after a while. It was amusing to hear the survival instinct narratives when they both were off the tube. Divya lost her vintage sunglasses which she didn’t realize until I pointed. We all spent good amount of time in the water swimming, floating and enjoying the refreshing water.
We couldn’t get to tow the tube in high speeds since we kept falling off, so we chose to just drive around instead. Having snacks and listening to music, we explored up-to Wapato point and turned around to reach the rental place in time. It was a good first self venture in the area of water-sports and might try wake-boarding next time.
I had a hunch that Bungee would be more terrifying than skydiving(tandem) and I was so right that I chose to do a second jump on the same day even though I had torn my lip during the first one. Being an adrenaline junkie, I loved the freefall, the kind of which I hadn’t experienced ever before, not during wing walking and not during sky diving.
Sai, Divya and I drove on a beautiful sunny day to reach the private Bungee bridge which boasted to be the highest jump site in the United States! The bridge towered over a majestic class “V” river in the middle of a beautiful emerald green forest in south of Mt. St. Helen’s, Washington. Divya was unsure about the jump, so only Sai and I had booked a 12:30 PM slot. We met the jumpmasters on the bridge and got ready in the harnesses for our turns. They gave an intro and safety tips to have a safe jump by when my mind was already contemplating the thrill I would have in sometime. We were still clicking pictures and all of a sudden Sai got called for the jump, he stood on the ledge and at the count of 3-2-1, made his first jump with a loud shout. I asked him how did he not hesitate once on the ledge and he mentioned that there was no time to think since the jumpmasters started the count immediately once he was in position. I saw many people jump, some returnees and some first timers. The look on their face, the excitement and shouts were enjoyable and I was anxious for my turn. My turn came pretty late and they had replaced the ropes a jump before mine. Nervous on many fronts, I got myself tied to the carabiners, crossed the bridge and faced the river standing on a tiny ledge with a clear view of the abyss. I had made my mind to just make the dive and not hesitate and get done with it. As a safety measure, I was told to reach out so that I go away from the bridge before plunging. At the count of 3-2-1, I dived. First 1-3 seconds: I remember looking straight down during which my internals started signaling danger of the free-fall. Adrenaline shot up and I shouted as usual. These couple of seconds were one of the most thrilling experiences I have had in my life. Roller coasters in six flags come close but I think it still falls short compared to this vertical fall. Next few seconds: The ropes came into action, controlled my fall and I banged my face hard to the rope-wrapper which tore my lip. I could sense it immediately and was worried about my facial structure. For the next few seconds I judged the extent of the bruise and felt some blood while I was bouncing around due to the momentum. I then ignored to enjoy the place I was in – hanging on a rope above the river amidst thick green forest. After several seconds: There was an option for a second jump and I decided to go for it since I wanted to experience free-fall again without the worry of being hurt. When I got close to the crew after I got pulled up, I was trying to cover my bruise since I didn’t want them to stop me from having another jump. They didn’t notice I guess, they readied for my next jump. I stood facing them and at the count, dove again to fall on my back and felt a similar thrill. This time I thoroughly enjoyed the complete fall and multiple bounces. I attached the carabiner to the chest harness instead of waist which was uncomfortable while coming up but other than it was a good jump.
Once on the bridge I shared the (blood)y news to Divya and that was the dealbreaker for her and she chose not to jump. I took some pictures and felt I dislocated my front tooth which I realized later that it wasn’t the case (after going through my teeth pictures from before). My jaw felt a bit loose while having dinner later that night but it didn’t trouble me post that. I looked at my videos to figure out what wrong I had done but it looked like I had made a perfect dive. Body was flat to the ground initially then head went down and I did a complete flip to come on the other side and hit the ropes. This would have been a perfect jump if I was tied only on the legs but here the ropes were tied to my waist and chest. Nonetheless, people had jumped in various angles and maybe I was just unlucky. Anyway, that hadn’t spoiled my mood a lot. I had completely enjoyed the jump and wouldn’t mind doing again. I watched my second jump video and apparently, I had given a weird shout which was super funny. It was a memorable experience overall.
Mt St Helens, with it’s unique sideways explosion exposes the crater on the North side and the observatory built opposite to that provides an excellent view. Wildflower season gave another reason to visit and given the sunny forecast on Saturday, we planned the outing. Sai, Divya and I drove to Johnson Ridge Observatory in the late afternoon. I felt the drive very refreshing since it was the first time I took that road and the barren surroundings exposed more of the nature. We could see the majestic mountain en-route. I had climbed it late winter during which it was covered in snow most of the places, but in the midst of the summer, snow had melted exposing the rocky surface. We reached the observatory at 5 and went in to see a short movie. I don’t want to spoil the surprise here, all I can tell is to go and watch that 17 minute short movie. We then took the Boundary trail for a short hike.
Trail being in the north side of the mountain, gave uninterrupted views of the mountain, crater and the barren surroundings to the south and many peaks in the north. Wildflowers were in full bloom and we saw multiple flowers in varied shapes and colors. I was excited to the capture them especially with the mighty mountain behind.
The observatory and the trail gave many photo opportunities and I did not shy having couple photos.
We hiked for around 2 miles and reached a spot from where we could see the blue Spirit lake. Since it was getting late, we decided to return but I made a mental note to come back to explore more of the region. I thoroughly enjoyed the pleasant hike. We also caught a breathtaking view of the sunset while returning to the interstate.
It was a relaxing evening amidst the nature with the giant and the lilies.
A broken side view mirror and itching skin were the result of this week’s adventure but in return I was treated with an amazing slope of wildflowers and 360 deg view from the summit. It had been a while since I hiked with Mark and he usually posts the one with fantastic views. Mark had mentioned that the last stretch of road to trailhead is narrow due to the overgrown bushes and since I already had a big scratch on my car’s door, I didn’t mind few extras. We exited the Highway 2 to a forest road after Steven’s pass towards Snowy creek trailhead. The first couple of miles was fine but the real test started after that. The bushes were so overgrown that we couldn’t pass without the branches brushing both sides of the car.
I made 2 mistakes here – (1) I did not close the side mirrors and (2) Was over-speeding for those conditions. Soon I hit a thick branch and the passenger side mirror bolted towards the window and cracked. I then corrected both my mistakes and continued with the rest of the journey without any major mishaps. There were only 3 cars from our group on the trailhead and we started hiking.
Another mistake I had made was not to wear a full sleeved t shirt. I should have expected some bushwhacking and the summer bugs. A fellow hiker cracked a joke saying that we were breaking the trail in a summer (Usually we break trails in the snow). Soon the bugs started troubling and it was annoying. We reached a meadow from where we could see the ridge-line and treeless mountain slopes. I used the bug spray from there on but I guess it was too late. The bugs had already made their marks on my hands. We came above the tree-line after a steep ascent and things were all pleasant from there on. We could see the surrounding mountains and numerous yellow/purple/red/white flowers on the slope.
Many switchbacks took us to the ridge and after passing on a short section of snow, we reached the summit. The clouds were intermittent and were above us which provided interesting shadows on the surrounding mountains. The view itself was fantastic with Glacier peak, Mt Pugh and many others in the vicinity. We spent good amount of time having lunch and started our descent. We saw couple of other hikers on our way down and that was it. Even though it was quite warm, I wore sweatshirt to save myself from the bugs. We could see the downpour at a distance, the cloud cover got thicker and there was a drizzle when we reached the trailhead. I duct-taped the side mirror glass and the exposed internals. In the morning, I had observed that the side mirror’s protective black cover had fallen en-route and made it a note to pick up on the return. I was less hopeful that we would find it but we ended up picking two car’s side mirror caps of which one was mine. All in all it was a good summer hike with some learnings. My skin itched for few days and I treated it with ice and moisturizer regularly.