Adventure

Swim at Big Eddy Park and Rope Swing at Eagle Falls

Sai and I decided to go to a swimming hole near Seattle to some get respite from heat. We had 3 options: Hall Creek which was not really a swim hole, Big Eddy Park and Eagle Falls. We finalized on Big Eddy Park which is near Gold Bar on the banks of Skykomish river and started at 4 PM. The parking spot was huge and I was surprised to see so many card and crowd. It didn’t matter much since most of them just hung out at the shore. It was a nice setting with a railway bridge and mountains in the backdrop. Water was quite clear and not too cold. I started swimming around and throughly enjoyed it. I haven’t swam in open waters much and this was one of the best places I have swam in. I crossed the river to reach the other bank which was fun too. We spent some time and then decided to drive to Eagle Falls. I had read that it was a good spot for cliff jumping and wanted to check out.

Eagle falls had a different setting altogether. The river after the falls narrowed between short cliffs on either side. People jumped from the cliffs and there was a Rope on the other side tied to a tree. The colors near the falls was vibrant. When we were returning 2 kids reached the other side and swung from the rope to jump into the water. It was too tempting to resist and I decided to do as well. It was bit hard for me to swim against the flow. I climbed to the spot were the kids swung from. There was a big stick to pull the rope and I took some to hold on to the rope. Then I took off and it felt long during the swing. I let go and jumped into the water and went quite deep. It was an awesome experience. Somehow I felt the water was not so clean at this place. We then had Pizza at Gold Bar and drove to Seattle.

Photos and Videos here

smiley-write-nikhil-navali

Categories: Adventure, Outdoors, Seattle | 1 Comment

Wing walking on Boeing-Stearman

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How does the idea of wing walking an airplane which is flying at 80 mph at an altitude of 3500 ft while performing aerobatics with only a cable attached to your harness sound? Crazy right? I surely did find it extra-crazy and being an adrenaline junkie, it was hard to resist giving a try. I push my limits once in a while and this wing walking experience definitely took me far. When I first stumbled upon this few months back, I was dumbfounded at the idea of it and eagerly waited for summer to try this. I showed the video to my colleague, Nikos and he was interested too. On 07/15/2017, even though the forecast was only perfect for half of the day, we chose to visit Sequim. The location was only 2.5 hours drive from Seattle, so the close proximity really helped us to be flexible and we booked for the spots only the day before. Also, I think there are only 2 places in entire world where they actually train for wing walking for public.

We started at 7.15 AM and we drove in Nikos’s car to reach Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula. The drive was scenic with canals, bridges, mountains and weather was with us too. When we neared the location, we could see houses with huge yards surrounding them and the fun part was the houses had planes in their backyards. Our stop was at Mason Wing Walking Academy where we spent the rest of the day. We had reached early and the owners were still not quite ready so their friend Al showed us around. I loved the feel of the place – I could see Olympics mountains at one end and the waters in strait of Juan de Fuca in the other with a private airstrip in the midst of the open land. We went into the hangar which housed 2 Stearmans – Red and Black and 1 other small plane. We met the owners, Mike and Marilyn Mason – and one other lady who I will refer as Wonder Woman. This 50 year old lady had come with the Wonder Woman costume for the wing walking and it looked awesome.

Training: 

Marilyn took charge of the instructions and one of the first things she asked was if we knew what we had signed up for. She started explaining everything she could about the flight, walk, safety, gear, etc. She also got snacks and water for us which was quite handy. We would fly on the Black Stearman that day and all the training happened in the hangar. The Stearman biplane is a 2 seater, 2 winged plane with room to get on both of the wings. The propeller in front is powered by 9 cylinders. The Red Stearman – the one shown on the website was under maintenance. The basic idea of training was to understand structure of the plane and repeatedly perform the movements so that the muscles themselves can memorize the moves. The training drill was in the following sequence. We didn’t have Mike while training, so we just imagined him to be there –

  • Attach the cable to the harness, get into the plane and secure the seat belt
  • Mike, the pilot wing wags the plane to signal to look at him
  • He directs to trek to the upper wing rack
  • We reach the upper wing rack, place our legs in foothold and get ourselves strapped to the belt
  • We signal him for aerobatics by showing thumps up
  • Mike performs the aerobatics – Hammer head, drum rolls and loops
  • Mike wing wags and then signals to come back to the seat
  • Mike wing wags again and then signals you to walk on the wing to Javelin
  • We walk on the side wing and lie on the javelin
  • Mike performs the aerobatics again
  • Mike wing wags to signal to come back to the seat

*Mike would reduce the speed to about 50 mph and level the plane whenever we are moving around.

Wing walking is different from wing riding where in the latter you are strapped in a specific location from the start to end. Marilyn also showed us signs that we could use to let Mike know what we were comfortable with and how much aerobatics we would want. We tried segments of above drill multiple times so that the body could get used to it. It was quite scary imagining the experience from the wing rack and the fear started to rise in me. Marilyn was very sweet and explained all the questions we had. Also, this academy is family owned, so the hangar was right beside their house. Mike and Marilyn have 7 kids. 4 year old girl Sophie and a 7 year old boy Sammy were with us for most of the day which lightened the mood. They were extremely cute kids and I totally loved their presence. We cracked many jokes too and it was a nice jovial experience. Marilyn reminded us to look at the cameras and showed us various poses which we could take. I slowly got the hang of the drill, made myself aware of all the handholds/footholds and stuck to my version of specific moves. I thought the trek up-to the upper wing rack was the most difficult part, especially due to the narrow holds to reach there. I started getting slight back pain and worried if it would affect me. I had numerous other doubts too. We went to have lunch in the town and en-route Nikos sped the car to 50 mph and put his hands out to just feel what the force felt like. I don’t like empty stomach, so I ate up-to my comfort and actually felt better after the lunch. After returning, we performed the entire drill 3 times and were ready for the action. The clouds as mentioned in the forecast started appearing but a good video and photo was least concerning thing I had in mind.

Wing Walking:

Wonder Woman volunteered to go first and Nikos and I decided that we would sort out our order by playing Rock, Scissors and Paper after her flight. Mike got the airplane from the hangar onto the field and started prepping up for the flight. He mounted the gopros to the wings and tail. Wonder Woman got ready and started her adventure. Nikos and I kept our eyes fixed on the plane and watched the maneuvers from the ground. It took around 25 mins for her to return and then we played Rock, Scissors and Paper. I had made up my moves before hand. At first I would do Paper – denoting that I float like a paper during the flight, if tied then the next would be Rock – denoting that I would stand as rock solid and not fall from the flight. The first one tied and I won the second. I had decided to wear my favorite Cornell Sweatshirt and got ready with goggles, ear plugs, gloves, harness and duct tapes for harness. I was very scared but was determined to do it. I got into the plane and we got started. I kept looking down and I think that helped since I was was getting used to the altitude. I kept checking the meters on the plane and my GPS watch for speed and altitude numbers. I put my hands out to gauge the force. The cliffs, waters and surroundings looked amazing and we reached an altitude of around 4000 ft almost into the clouds. Mike wing wagged and I started my trek to upper wing walk. I was focused and got on to the top and secured myself without much fuss. I checked the belt multiple times before signaling to Mike. Then Mike started with the aerobatics – loop, hammer head and barrel rolls. The loop added lot of force and I think I experienced 2-3Gs there. My cheeks were reduced to papers and almost flew off from me. I didn’t feel much cold.  But it felt super awesome hanging on the top of the plane above the waters and going upside down. I knew when I would experience 0G during Hammer Head, so I kinda expected it. From the Terror Dactyl ride, I had found that laughing keeps me sane, so I just laughed loudly and throughly enjoyed the experience. According to my watch, we were moving at 100 mph during the aerobatics. I loved the loops and barrel rolls a lot. Mike then signaled to pose for camera and I did the best I could. Then it was time to get down and going down was straightforward too. I just followed the steps from the training and realized how important was it to do it multiple times. Also, I cannot stress how important were goggles and ear plugs. I had a bad experience while sky diving but here it was just perfect. I hardly got a drop in my eye and ears didn’t pain at all.

Then it was time for side wing walking. People had warned about the wind pushing you back and I experienced it after stepping on the wing. Here is where I was most scared. I had to leave a hand and then go to front of the wing and I found quite challenging to make that move with only 1 hand to support me. I took a leap of faith and reached out to the rod on the other side and then started walking on the narrow hard surface on the wing. Wind was pushing hard, but I just focused and reached the Javelin and criss-crossed myself on it. Mike started the aerobatics again and it was fun. I did some superman and other poses and enjoyed the view from there. I could see mountains in the distance and ship. Mike signaled and then it was time to go back. Once I was in the plane I was so glad that I had made it alive. That was the coolest thing I have done in my life yet. Just wow!!!! We landed and I gave some tips for Nikos for this flight. Not once I thought about my neck/back pain and I was completely focused on having a safe and fun adventure. I realized that the scariest part of the day was before getting into the flight. Once in the flight, with the favorable conditions the body somehow manages to take care of yourself. I hardly moved when I was in both positions, while standing I understand the frontal force stuck me the pole but I did not understand how was I so secure on the Javelin. Also, the Dungeness Spit makes an awesome background. Since wing walking happens late afternoon, you would be between Sun and the Spit (Mike makes sure of that) so that you are lit for awesome video and photos. When I told my dad that I did this, he was like “Why had you left undone for so many days?” I was surprised and happy at the same time with his response.

*Best viewed in 480p and above

Mason Family: 

Though it was an action packed evening, I was delighted with the overall experience with the family. It was so nice to see the husband-wife duo managing the whole thing. Also the presence of the kids and the beautiful surroundings changed the atmosphere. Usually, it feels very commercial during most of the adventures but here it was just like home. We collected our videos and pictures. It was a special moment later to receive the Mason Wing Walking coins from the 4 year old, Sophie. I highly recommend these guys if you want to try wing walking.

Stats: 

  • Maximum G Force experienced: 2-3 Gs
  • Maximum speed reached: 120 mph
  • Maximum altitude: 3900 feet
  • Cost for the adventure (videos included): 850$ (Discounts for the group. We paid 750$ each)
  • Website: http://masonwingwalking.com/

Activity Overview

More Photos and Videos

smiley-write-nikhil-navali

Categories: Adventure, Outdoors, Seattle | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hike to Goat Lake and Big Four Ice Caves

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A last minute decision to visit Goat lake turned out to be a fantastic one. Along with visiting a beautiful lake, we also got to explore ice caves. Sai and I planned to visit San Juan islands initially but on the morning of the trip, Sai told me that he hadn’t booked the ferry and we were left with ferry availability on odd schedules. So Sai decided on Goat Lake instead and I agreed since I hadn’t visited it. Sai, Meg and I drove to Goat Lake trailhead via Mountain Loop Highway. It was a clear day and we enjoyed the views en-route. We parked at the crowded trailhead and started our hike at 10 AM.

The 5 mile trail to the lake goes beside gushing Elliot Creek, through lush green forest and some amazing waterfalls. The trail has most of the steep sections only in the end but other than that it was gentle and easy with most of it in shade. I wasn’t exactly in my hiking attire which caused a little discomfort. Snohomish County Hiking Meetup group organizer, Mathew was leading a group and I was surprised that he remembered seeing me somewhere. I had been on his Mt Pilchuk hike last year. We reached lake to witness some spectacular beauty and spent some time snacking and exploring. Many had camped the previous night yet it didn’t feel crowded. It was a very pleasant atmosphere under the shade overlooking snow covered mountain. Some jumped in the cold waters too but I didn’t even wet my feet. We took some pictures and left the lake. We covered the return journey with a much faster pace and lesser breaks.

Goat Lake Route Overview

Morning, I had seen Big Four Mountain en-route and I wanted to have a clearer view of it. So I stopped at a picnic spot near the mountain. Apparently, it was trailhead for Big Four Ice caves which was only a mile away. I had forgotten about these caves after researching about it months back. We asked people who were coming back and they shared the exact location of big caves which encouraged us to go visit even though we had just returned from a 10.4 mile hike. The trail had gentle slope and the views got better as we approached the base of the mountain. The melting snow on the huge mountain created multiple cascades of waterfalls – I counted 10 – which looked breathtaking.

IMG_20170625_163309.jpg

There were many signs on the trail depicting of avalanche and falling ice risks. Some people have died in the caves too. The trail ended and we could see some caves around. We continued further looking for bigger ones. The 2 big caves was formed below waterfalls and there were less people. We started with the first one which was around 5 feet tall and 10 feet wide. I went inside the cold dripping cave and was very excited to have been there. I went only a bit further since I was scared of falling ice. The suns rays pierced through ice and some part of the inside was bluish green. It was an awesome experience, outside it was quite hot, but inside, the cold air and dripping water created a refrigerator like atmosphere. Also a fun incident happened. Meg and I had come early and we were in the cave. Sai was searching for us but we could see him clearly from inside the cave. The confused look on his face when I shouted for him was funny to see.

Best viewed in 480p and above

We went to the next cave and it was much taller and wider. I hesitated to go inside as it was formed under a thick sheet of ice. We returned to the trailhead recalling the experience. Washington has so much stuff to keep me hooked to nature and I only crave for more. We drove back to Seattle and had dinner at an Indian restaurant before making it to home. It was a fun day with Sai and Meg.

Big Four Ice Caves Route Overview

Nikhil Navali

Categories: Adventure, Outdoors, Seattle | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Rugged Maniac 2017 – My first OCR

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This was my first sweet and short obstacle course race. I had witnessed such action only in the tv and since I love adventures and rugged paths, I dreamt of taking part in it someday. I had somehow missed these races last 2 years in Seattle. I came to know about Rugged Maniac event and since I thought going alone wouldn’t be great, I chose to volunteer and then decide if I wanted to race. I kept checking for open volunteer spots and finally signed up the day before the event.

The race was staged at Remlinger Farms, 1 hour drive from Seattle and I reached there by 8 AM. I checked in at the volunteer section and two others and I were assigned to man the Water Station 1 at Mile 1. We reached the water station and waited for more than an hour before the first wave of people came in. Meanwhile we were getting to know each other and exploring the surrounding obstacles. I tried to power the generator for speaker and ended up pulling the generator on my leg hurting myself. Funny thing was that was one of the biggest injury of my day. It got interesting once the runners started passing by our tent. We were very efficient in filling the cups and handing them. There was a girl in our team and she was very proactive in handing the cups – she danced and made expressions – which I think pulled in more people towards water. I was standing behind her and very few people came to me. The loud music was energetic and I too added some dance moves. It was fun watching the racers and comments regarding them wanting beer instead. We spent 3 hours volunteering and then headed to volunteer section. By then I had decided that I would take part in the race later in the day. All volunteers got free passes to run and we chose to run on 1:30 PM slot.

I changed and got ready with my old shoes for the run. Very excited, I stood behind the Start position and waited for the signal. It was finally time and we started with the 5km obstacle race. I initially chose to run with my volunteer-mates, but later decided to take off. The first mile and half was pretty basic with water crossing, ladders and sling shot. Then some really rugged stuff started. For the barbed wire, I copied a guy’s technique and rolled under it which looked like ಉರುಳು ಸೇವೆ. I was actually following two people ahead of me and kinda kept them as my reference. Then there was one of my favorite obstacle called Tipping Point which basically was a see saw plank and we had to walk from one side to other. Few of the obstacles including Ringer was closed. The next set of obstacles included crossing pool of water on floating boards, jumping on fire and then crossing the messy puddle under the barbed wire. By then I was almost completely drenched in slushy mud.

The obstacles are summarized in the video:

The last part was getting on top of warped wall and then coming down on a water slide. There were people helping to get on the warped wall and I started with my run up to get on the wall. I was careful not to slide on the wall and just caught a person’s hand. Then he helped climbed the wall and I returned the favor by pulling the next racer. This was very beautiful – though we were in the race, we helped each other finish it. Water slide was adrenaline filled fantastic experience which reminded me of the slides I enjoyed during childhood. I crossed the finish line after that and checked the timings. I had taken 46 minutes to complete the 5km course with around 20 obstacles. I was pretty happy with my timing. Here is the official winners timings. It was a fantastic first run which gave me a taste of OCRs. I will definitely look for future events and take part in them actively. Elated with the finishers medal, I spent some more at the area before driving back home.

More Photos and Videos here

smiley-write-nikhil-navali

Categories: Adventure, Outdoors, Seattle | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Hike to Eldorado Peak and Knife Edge

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This was a hardcore adventurous 18 hours, 6700 ft, 10 mile roundtrip hike which also included walking over something called knife edge. I was waitlisted for the event and Michael – meetup organizer – messaged me saying that he would move me to confirmed list since he believed that I could make this hike. Almost the entire team got together for training at Silver Bowl and I eventually got ready with all the required gear before the hike. 2 others and I started from Seattle the Friday evening and reached a campground near to trailhead by 8 PM. Most had set up their tent and I slept in the car. I think I slept only for 2 hours and by 2 AM we were awake and getting ready.

It was around 30 people group and we were broken into 3 teams and then again into rope teams. I had named by rope team Chaku (Knife in kannada) due to the knife edge. We started hiking at 3 AM and after initial creek crossing over logs it was a steep traverse till Boulder field. It was daylight by then and snow started appearing soon after. The view towards Cascade pass was amazing. I took the responsibility to carry the rope which was very heavy and I struggled a lot for that hour before I handed to other person. We wore crampons after the boulder field and then roped up soon after with me being in the 3rd position in a 4 member team. We were getting into the clouds and within no time we were in whiteout conditions. I met Gaurav and asked him ‘Yeh sab kyun kar rahe hai hum’ (Why are we doing all this?), I was unhappy that I couldn’t see any views. We reached high camp and by then I could see patches of sky which gave me some hope. Soon clouds started clearing slowly and I could see more and more views which encouraged me a lot. From there on, we went to the base of most-awaited knife edge.

Knife edge is an extremely narrow path with sheer drop on either sides. Actually, the narrowness depends on the snow levels and season. For us, it was pretty narrow with only enough space to keep both the feet beside each other. The summit block is located right above the knife edge. It looked pretty scary to me and I was not wrong. We waited for an hour till the knife edge was clear and started our adventure. I was confident about my balance but not my ability to manage so many gears and ropes attached to me. For safety, there were pickets placed in between and we had to clip/unclip from them. I kept looking at either side since I wanted the adrenaline rush looking at the deadly cliffs below. It was scary, but a lifetime experience walking on the edge. We spent sometime on the summit and got down with utmost care.

The sky started getting clearer and I was treated with more magnificent views. The partly frozen lake below, passes, valleys, mountains, everything looked majestic and I was so glad to be witnessing that. I volunteered to carry the ropes again and coming down the boulder field was pretty hard. Also the increased weight got hard on my knees and I was damn slow while coming down the last steep section. It was around 8 PM by the time we reached trailhead. I had spent 18 hours on the trail. I slept in the car waiting for another hiker to finish. Then drove to Seattle to reach home around 2 AM.

It was a fantastic team effort with various people helping each other. SOA meetup group is simply awesome and I love hiking with them. Its been 4 years since I did my first snow trek in Himalayas and I am glad I have continued hiking since which has been one of my biggest passions in life.

More Photos and Videos

Activity Overview

smiley-write-nikhil-navali

Categories: Adventure, Outdoors, Seattle | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.