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.
Continuing with the training hikes for Divya, I chose nearby Granite mountain. The trip reports had mentioned about Beargrass and given the cloudy forecast, I thought we could see at-least the flowers on this steep hike for motivation. We started to hike at 8:30 AM and we hit the fog/clouds after a mile. I had kept the Beargrass as a surprise from Divya. We saw the first flower in less than 2 miles into the hike and that’s when I introduced the flower to her.
Love the way it looks. Numerous tiny flowers form a cylindrical dome
I told her that we would see 100s of them ahead but little did I know that I would be surprised myself. The flowers started appearing again especially in the regions where the tree cover was absent. The bottom of the flowers were faded and I was wondering if we were a bit late from the full bloom. Soon, we saw the flowers had lined the trail and we were already going gaga. After few switchbacks, we could see the flowers in abundance enveloping an entire small portion of the hill.
An elderly hiker offered us a couple pic
Motivated, we continued with almost no tiredness and what we saw for the next 1 hour completely blew my mind. I hadn’t experienced such views in my 4 years of hiking in PNW. The flowers had blanketed the entire slope of the mountain and we could see them as far as our eyes could see. The clouds were still hanging around so it felt like we were in a dome full of flowers. I was expecting something in the range of 100s, but we estimated them to be in multiples of thousands. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was super awesome. The flowers in this section were almost in full bloom. We spent ample of time clicking pics but if only the photos could capture what the eyes saw.
The blog post here captures what the heart felt. Ethereal!!!
There were flowers of red and purple in few places and they contrasted well. The surrounding mountains were playing hide and seek and the Sun lit the place occasionally. We continued on to reach the ridge from where we could see the lookout. The flowers here had hardly bloomed and we could see the buds in the top. After reaching a high ground, we decided to stop there for lunch and return. On the winter route, we could see few people making their way through boulders to reach the lookout and there was a summer route which was less exposed. Enjoying the occasional surrounding views we had lunch and started the descent. The sky got clearer as we hiked down and it was then when I felt it was a summer hike. The blue sky and the green surrounding mountains were a treat too. It was well over 7 hours by the time we reached the car. It was fantastic to observe the number of flowers which appeared in the increasing log scale. The progression of bud to bloom was interesting too. Washington had surprised me yet again.
Hiked on : Sunday, 10th March 2019 Elevation Gain : 1500ft Distance : 3.6 miles round-trip (Ascent – 2 miles, Descent – 1.6 miles) Activity Overview
A quiet Sunday afternoon, no one around, standing on top of a mountain – amidst tall pine trees, scanning the horizon from left to right, I closed my eyes, stretched my arms wide, tilted my head upward facing the sky, and with all courage, fell back in a free-fall. Thud came the sound! Aw! Well, it definitely wasn’t an attempt to injure myself, but an act of sheer joy 😀 There was a flat smooth blanket of snow beneath me providing an amazing cushion for the fall! Lying down like this, on the shores of the frozen Skyline lake felt so relaxing! Yes, this was one of the moments from another lovely snowshoeing venture on a late-winter weekend.
Our journey started at 7:30am on that Sunday morning after we had a check of all necessary hiking gear and food to be taken along. The trailhead to this hike is approximately 80 miles drive from Seattle and is on the way to Leavenworth.The drive took us 1hr 45 min to reach the parking area opposite to the Stevens Pass Ski resort, driving on US highway 2 and further. Heading out, gearing up with the snow-pants, gloves, beanie and goggles, and carrying the microspikes and snowshoes along, we started the hike at 9:30am on the service road to the west of the parking area.
This winter in Washington and the pacific northwest was special in a way that it had seen greater amounts of snowfall all-around. The trail thus had snow right from the start-point; we began walking on only our boots for initial distance considering fairly hard firm snow. Very soon we had to switch to Microspikes or Snowshoes as the trail was turning out to be more snowy and slushy. We decided to put on Snowshoes, hoping that they would be a better choice further ahead on the trail. The initial climb was steep with distinct paths visible for skiers and snowshoers. The weather was cold too and that resulted in my blocked nose adding to the trouble of steep tiring climb. Yet, we kept walking and after some huff-puff and a decent amount of coverage we reached a Radio tower. The route to Skyline Lake is northwest from this point, leaving the service road and we followed the trail. We took many short breaks that helped me gather my breath and feel better. At the same time, we also enjoyed beautiful views of the Ski resort and the mountains across.
About an hour of climb opened up into something that resembled a huge playground with white glittering floor and tall green pine trees acting like a fence all-around. It was an absolutely amazing sight! Oh yes, this was the Skyline Lake! Frozen to the brim , with fresh layer of thick soft snow. There were only few people around savoring the beauty; Nikhil and I paused for a couple of moments before continuing to cut-through the snowy pathway right in the middle of the Skyline Lake. This was wonderful, but something ahead was better. In about 15 mins, following the ridge west for a quarter of a mile, we reached the beautiful rock garden just before a steep high point on the ridge. It featured enormous rocks, some huge house-sized and these looked splendid covered in fresh snow. We climbed up on one such huge rock that was relatively flat and was a good place to sit down and behold the picturesque views all-around. It turned out to be a bright sunny day with clear skies, building up the warmth around. By this time, I was breathing easy and relieved of the initial tiresome ascent.
Sitting on top facing the Steven Pass Ski resort, we got a panoramic view of all the four types of ski lines and the lifts – the green line in the middle just adjacent to the magic carpet, the blue one next to it, black and double-black towards the left, another line to the extreme right with periodic bumps for ski stunts. This was the same ski resort where I enjoyed snow showers on my very first outing in US to Leavenworth; looking at it from an elevation flashed those scenes on top of my mind and it was a nice feeling. Also the fact that I recently had started learning skiing made the views more relatable. But the best part up there was that the place was not at all crowded; there were only two more people on the summit and probably two more walking the ridge on hind side. Nikhil pointed to the Tye Peak on our left asking if I would want to climb some portion of it. It looked steep and I said, “In sometime”. He went on to explore the other side of the ridge and I stayed at the rock garden. In few minutes I saw him climbing up that slopy stretch! “Careful” I thought to myself, also, “I wanted to do it too! Huh!”. While I sat gazing at the horizon for sometime, the other two summiteers prepared to depart after which I had the whole place for myself! Soothing! I felt very peaceful on this snow-couch. Soon Nikhil returned and we opened up our packed lunch and relished the tasty pulao – it was like a date on the summit amidst glittering white wonder 🙂 We saw a couple of airplanes flying at a distance and leaving prominent white trails in the sky, which added to the beauty of serene scenes around. After more than an hour at the summit, another hiker came in; he offered for a couple of clicks, and why would we deny 😀 We posed, we then clicked more pictures, videos and experimented a ‘reflection in my glasses’ click. After a while, we put-on our snowshoes and backpacks to try that peak again. Walking on the hindside of the ridge, we saw more beautiful views of the tall and pointed Glacier peak and many more surrounding mountains.
This last portion of climb was steep and snowy, and I had to be focussed and careful. I followed Nikhil’s footsteps as he guided me up the hill to a point well past mid-way of Tye’s peak. What I witnessed from there was totally breathtaking! An even better and elevated view of everything around, including the Rock Garden where we had rested a while ago! It was just lovely! Looking back on the other side, the lined up cascades were stunning too. Having no idea of what this hike would be like when we started, little did I expect such views. Again, it was only two of us up there, and it felt merrier 🙂 We spent some peaceful and blissful time enjoying the beauty around and each-others company. We clicked more pictures; we saw a rock naturally decorated with snow and it resembled a person’s face, was nice. After few minutes, looking around one last time, we started the downward journey. Getting down was scarier and I had to be extra-cautious. I avoided looking down directly, for the deep valley would be more frightening; and kept focussing on every footstep following Nikhil’s way. It took more time to get down to the rock garden after which we walked around a bit amidst the tall rocks; the scene looked like a fantastic wall-paper! We indulged in some fun by rolling down small balls of snow which formed shapes that resembled cinnamon rolls rolling down 😀 The quite snowy mountain top had kindled the child within us 🙂
We walked back to the Skyline lake after having spent ample amount of time at the landmarks above it. To our surprise, there was nobody there too! We indulged in more funny activities : did several free-falls on snow, played catch – catch with a bottle cap (diving on snow for those catches was fun), carved large-sized N-D with our snowshoes and recorded few of these crazy moments on our cellphones. Just when we thought we had enough fun and decided to start the descent, we saw a couple of people getting down – a man with his pet dog, and a skier. Luckily we had wrapped up our craziness by this time and no one witnessed:D As we walked back, we saw another group sunbathing at the other end of the lake. It was already 2:30pm by then, and we tried looking for shortcuts to reach down. Making way through the tall pine trees was fun, and I enjoyed this portion as well 🙂 After a point, we joined the main service road trail and walked down on it, also ran down a few steep sections ( thanks to gravity and its pull 😛 ) Somewhere well-past mid-way, we saw snow structures that resembled fencing for tents – it was done by a training group I suppose; we had seen a bunch of people with a trainer on our way up. We continued walking down and after like an hour of entire descent, we reached the trailhead. Here we stopped to celebrate the completion of our hike and to get rid of our snowshoes. This was when we saw a group of 4 people who sledged down the path, it was faster and must have been much more fun (and of-course less tiring 😉 ). Wondering how strong the sleds were, Nikhil got so curious that he went on to enquire only to realize that the guy had bought them back in his childhood and he claimed that they probably don’t make such sleds anymore! Sad!
Well, all these were our bundle of experiences on this superb snowshoeing hike – nice elevation, a good climbing exercise and wonderful views. Another amazing feather on our hat of outdoor adventures as a couple! We reached the parking lot, un-geared and drove back home. By this time, I had become pretty comfortable with snowshoes and thus, this hike to Skyline lake was a very rewarding experience that filled me with plenty of cherishable moments and left me with furthermore cravings to venture into the ever pleasing mother nature 🙂
Descending from an active volcano which last erupted in 1980 and watching people emerging from the sea of clouds with pointy Mt Hood in the backdrop was a surreal experience.
I expected a blue bird day on the mountain but what I experienced was completely different. I had been long waiting to climb Mt St Helens and the recent snow and forecast tempted me to sign up for the hike. Mt St Helens last erupted in 1980 and it’s considered as the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in recorded U.S. history. Very interesting part is the caldera which is on the side of the mountain because the volcano erupted sideways instead of the usual top. I had never gotten close to the mountain before and I was excited. Since the trailhead is 4 hours away from Seattle, we chose to camp and then hike early in the morning. So I started from Seattle with 2 other hikers at 3 PM and reached the trailhead around 7 PM. We were at Marble Mountain Snow Park before dark and other hikers had already put up camp fire in the parking lot. We decided to just lay our tents on the parking spots and start the hike by 4 AM. I broke a tiny part of my tent while pitching but managed to set it up for the night. It was not too cold and we had nice time in front of fire having our dinner. I slept ok for the night and this was the first night away from my wife since marriage.
I got ready promptly by 4 AM. With micro-spikes and headlights, we started our hike in the dark at 4:30 AM. We took the Warm flows route which starts from the southern side of the mountain. The first 2.8 miles was quite gradual with most of it in the forest and then the real ascent started. It was interesting to see multiple headlights ahead of us on the mountain and the daylight breaking out slowly. It was very steep from then on and the last 2 miles gained 4000 feet. I started counting steps and kept patience during the slog. It got quite windy at some places and the cold caught on with my toes. I kept hiking without much worry since I had a vague idea of my threshold. Looking at the cloud cover all over, my hopes of seeing the caldera dwindled and I just wanted to reach the rim for the sake of completion. I had counted around 6800 steps in the last 2 miles and it was an arduous ascent with few false summits. Juggling around with my layers, filling my stomach occasionally I reached the rim after 5 hours. Fortunately, it started getting warm and the clouds were getting cleared. I saw the majestic rim initially and could see almost the entire caldera before leaving. We spent at-least an hour on the summit eating, exploring and enjoying the time. I had carried GoPro, but unfortunately it gave up on me and I had to rely on my phone for all captures. I kept scanning the caldera in the North and the escaping fumes were visible which was interesting to watch. In the south, the pointy Mt Hood was visible over the sea of clouds and it was a view to behold.
We started the descent and we saw many hikers making their way up, in-fact too many actually. There were lot of skiers and snowboarders too. I stuck to micro-spikes for the entire hike and it was adventurous descending on steep slopes with ice axe on one hand. There was a thick cloud layer below us and the view of people coming out of it looked quite surreal. We went into the whiteout soon and glissaded few times to help with our descent. The last part of steep section was particularly frustrating since the snow had turned into slush and I kept dancing all around. The final stretch in the forest was ok and it was around 2 PM by the time we had reached trailhead. It took a slight toll on me since it was a long hard hike after a big break but I loved it nonetheless. I was happy that I could finally see the caldera from close and maybe hike during summer, the next time.
Road conditions: Good, no snow on road. Trailhead: Marble Mountain Snow park. Snow permit required for Winter. Trail: Well marked in the forest and quite straightforward on the mountain. Gear: I carried crampons but made the entire hike with just the micro-spikes.