Seattle

Winter hike to Mt St Helens, an active Volcano

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.

img_20190324_111301-2

 

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.

Activity Overview
Photos and Videos

smiley-write-nikhil-navali

Advertisements
Categories: Outdoors, Seattle, Snow | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Snow in Seattle

I am not new to snow or snowfall. I have lived in extreme snow conditions during my masters in Ithaca. But seeing the city of Seattle covered in snow and people making the best of it was very amusing. It usually snows just once a year in Seattle but it was different this time. There was lots of snow. Roads were used for sleighing, skiing and snowboarding and tree lined streets looked like a winter wonderland.

Round 1:
It first snowed on the evening of Sunday (2/3). After a couple inches of deposit, Divya and I layered up and got out of the home. I chose to explore Seattle Center and the place looked lit 😀 in the night with snow sprinkled all over.

The lights were the best part

We ventured out again the next morning starting with Centennial Park. I took my bike out and fell on the pavement even before I started riding. Gladly that was the last fall for the day and it was all fun from then on. We both biked, walked the Olympic sculpture park and enjoyed tiny beaches. I then felt the urge to drive and Queen Anne hill provided the perfect slopes and a good vantage view. It was a thrilling experience going down on some steep snowy roads. We then went to Gas works park and I was surprised to see many people enjoying sleighing on the hill. It was a Monday and the school closures had brought many kids out. We didn’t have any sleds with us and managed few runs with an unattended cardboard which was fun but wasn’t that great. I saw few snowboarding and skiing and I just loved the way people were having fun with the snow. There were already news of bus/car mishaps from neighborhoods and I didn’t take car out for the entire snow period thereafter. The snow from the first day didn’t melt completely for the next 4 days and then I was even more excited for a bigger round.

Round 2:
I was surprised to see the forecast which predicted a snow storm which would be biggest in the last decade. This had made huge news in the city and people were preparing for what they called Snowmageddon or Snowcalypse. We joined others to prepare for a possible outage and lockdown. It was interesting to see huge amounts of people in the grocery stores. Some shelves were empty and stocking was going in full swing. I was looking forward for the storm than worrying about it since I had most of the winter/camping gear including a portable stove. It started snowing on Friday evening and I could notice the difference already – the flurries were bigger and it was persistent. We went out to explore in the morning and Queen Anne Ave (one of the main steep roads in the neighborhood) had a different kind of traffic. It was closed for cars and people were using the slopes for sleighing, skiing and snowboarding.

The whole stretch was around 400 meters in length and some sled all the way down. What a unique sight it was. I am usually in awe with the different kinds of transport people use in Seattle (from skateboards to unicycles) and now there were more additions. People were using various non traditional sleds and my favorite was a half broken suitcase which I felt was an awesome ‘jugaad’. We walked the streets of Kerry Park and there was at-least 4 inches of snow. Amidst fancy looking houses, beneath the snow covered trees, it was a winter wonderland. The social media had lots to show and I was impressed with the creative ways people were having fun with.

The snow from the second run hasn’t completely melted yet and we might get more snow this winter. I really appreciate the efforts the city and residents to took ensure the safety. City managed to keep the buses running (with chains on), plowed the roads and provided live updates. Residents plowed their respective pavements and it was beautiful to be a part of the community. I experienced Seattle like never before and I would be happy to do it again.

smiley-write-nikhil-navali

Categories: Seattle, Snow | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

First hike as a couple (Featuring Divya along with her post)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s my second week in the beautiful city of Seattle. Recently, my life saw a total turn-over with me getting hitched, quitting my job and traveling all the way to the United States; I was still in this state of realizing all that was happening to me – which seemed more like a screenplay: right from the several months of wedding preparations, setting up baseline for myself in the US, handling last few months of my beloved job to finally getting married, being welcomed by a warm and huge new family, visiting relatives, packing for my big travel, leaving my homeland and landing in Washington. Indeed a lot to sync-in and much more coming up!

Saturday, 26th Jan 2019, our second weekend together and Nikhil had planned a surprise outing, a beginner’s hike close-by. All I knew was that we would be snowshoeing and I was pretty excited as well as nervous considering it was the first time I would be doing something like that. The preparations started few days before and this is when I saw how much passion my husband has towards these hikes. He ensured I had almost all the necessary gear – thanks to Decathlon and REI, we bought hiking shoes, snow-shoes, gaiters, hiking poles, beanie, gloves, sunglasses, jacket and a lot more! Of-course multiple layers of clothes have always been my companion if I have to venture out of our home here.

On that Saturday, we woke up at 5am, got ready, gathered all the hiking stuff we had set-up the previous night, along with the deliciously cooked pulao for lunch & the bread upma as breakfast on our drive to the destination. After ensuring we had all things ticked from my husband’s checklist for the outing, we headed out at 6:15am, drove to his friend Sai’s place, and left Seattle at 7am in his brand-new Jeep Cherokee. The drive was pleasant with lots of fun-talks, the filling breakfast and my power-nap before we reached close to our destination. We could see the lovely country-side all along, very soon the road-sides had snow and at 10 miles close to our destination we could witness the morning sun-rays and snow-covered mountain tops. This was a perfect pathway to welcome us on our hike to the Artist Point! Yes, we drove into the Mt Baker mountain area and I was revealed of what we would be up-to on this lovely day.

The trailhead to Artist Point is at the last parking area on the right at the end of the road, as we continue to drive on the Mount Baker Highway past the Picture Lake (which was frozen currently). This being my first hike with my hiker-husband, I was eager to see what it would be like. I had already had an aerial glimpse of these astonishing mountain ranges and the splendid Pacific North-west region while landing into Washington state (Nikhil says I was lucky to see such beautiful views and clear skies on my very first travel here).  I gathered that this hike would be roughly a 3.5-mile round trip snowshoe with about 1000 ft elevation gain, and we dressed-up with all the appropriate gears and finally the snow-shoes. It was around 10:40am when we started and the trail was snow-covered right from the beginning. So, this would be my first proper hike on a snow after my two-and-half years earlier one to the Hamta Pass in the Himalayas where I did do roughly a 10km roundtrip on snow (with the hiking shoes and not the snowshoes). My liking towards snow had triggered then, and the very initial trail to Artist Point already seemed a perfect onset to that ignited spark. The weather was sunny with clear skies, perfect for a beginner like me, yet I was feeling a bit cold, especially my fingers. This being a popular destination, there were almost always clearly visible tracks to follow. I began walking, learning to snowshoe and handle the snow-poles. Initially there were various tracks in the open and a relatively flat terrain adjacent to the ski area. As we ascended, the trail got a bit steeper which followed exactly the ski area boundary that was clearly marked. There were already gorgeous views of snow-covered peaks and the north-face of Table-top Mountain, and we clicked a few pictures. Nikhil insisted we walk further and there would be much more to be amazed of, and we continued hiking. He kept capturing nice moments all-along using the Gopro.

As we marched further, I witnessed the sparkling snow all around – few portions converted into trails by the fellow hikers, and ample other portion untouched, glittering to the peak of its beauty, reflecting the warm sun-rays. The pine trees in between added to the picturesque scenes. I was getting slightly better with the snow-shoes, at the same time my body started warming up. Soon I wanted to remove a layer of clothing and my fingers got better. We continued walking; there were few steep ascents and I skid on the ground unable to find firm foot on the fresh steep snow. Nikhil came to my rescue, and taught me the technique to better utilize spikes on my snowshoe. I was enjoying it but wanted to take breaks since the ascent was a bit tiring till now. We reached a point where there were awesome views all-around and I was left spellbound already! It was a rewarding experience to ascend further into the wide open terrain. There were many routes to reach the Artist Point – few easier trails and a couple of steep climbs which we didn’t take. I heard from Nikhil that this area typically gets lots of snow: it even holds the world record for total amount of snowfall within a season. These snow-covered mountains and the white valleys were no less a proof to this fact! We clicked more pictures and continued our journey.

The final climb to Artist Point was a bit steeper again and flattened out into a beautiful slightly hilly area, with the mighty Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan visible on either sides. There were also the Huntoon point and the Table-top mountain among several other peaks which exemplified the beauty. All this was heavenly and words would fall short to describe the views all-around! I was exhausted, yet the beauty struck deep to me. We finally reached the place with a couple of pine trees standing tall on the snow-laden floor and this was Artist Point! It was around 1pm, the whole ascend was rewarding and I was glad that I had finally made it. Nikhil and Sai went in search of a place to rest and have lunch, while I was still rejoicing and assimilating such beauty all-around. They soon found one and I followed. We made a flat surface amidst the snow to sit back and relax. Nikhil had tips for almost everything we ventured upon, right from the way of dumping backpacks on snow to the final scanning before leaving a place we took halts at! We opened up our lunch that was a mixture of sweets and savouries with the yummy pulao cooked by my husband. I usually used to see pictures of him having royal lunches like these amidst the mountains and today I was with him too! Felt amazing! The eat energized us, and the serene view soothed our eyes. It was windy and I started having trouble with my fingers again trying to get them warm; also juggling with my smuff, beanie and the goggles. Nikhil was suggesting that I explore around and kept insisting on how I should handle my trouble and this got me irritated for a while. Anyways, after few moments of these rectification, I was fine and stood still witnessing the majestic glory; there was silence around, with only the sound of wind – all of these calming the mind. Peace!

After lunch, we started taking a lot pictures, experimenting with the Gopro, DSLR lens and our phone cameras. Many funny ones, few candid and few poses – lovely clicks and lovelier memories with them! Capturing Mt Baker, Mt Shuksan and several others in the background, it felt like me and Nikhil were having a mini post-wedding photo shoot at the Artist Point! What more could we have asked for; it was an amazing and an enriching hike all this while.

My very informative husband who was on this hike for the third time went on to describe further: a short 1.5 miles round trip to Huntoon Point is a great way of taking in more of the scenery; people also tend to extend their hike to eight miles by circumnavigating the Table-top mountain. He also added that Mt. Shuksan has always amazed him on his yearly hikes here and is a steep difficult summit point. Overall, it was well spent two hours at the Artist Point, with lots of clicks, snow-fights, panoramic capture experiment, photosphere click and we finally decided to head back so that we reach the parking area well before sunset. It was around 2:45pm and we started the descend. I loved walking on fresh snow ignoring the trails and my legs would go deep into the snow, at times till my knee! We kept walking down and my skids continued; again Nikhil to my rescue! I imitated a Snow-fairy motion and he captured those silly moments for me. We decided to take the steep section which we had skipped on our onward journey and I had another fun experience there. We saw a fellow-hiker glissading down this section and Nikhil asked if I wanted to try; we then decided that I would do it at half the height. Eventually, I glissaded down the fresh snow, and it was a thrilling 10+ second slide which I enjoyed a lot. While glissading, I was also busy trying to keep my feet up and not touching the snow, and handling my beanie & smuff which almost came off by the time I finished. There was considerable snow collected in my clothes that I had to put-off, after which I was fine to proceed 😛 Sai, Nikhil and my talks continued all-along as we recollected our journey till now. We had started back pretty late and headed down slowly, and there were very few fellow-hikers around. I kept looking back regularly to get a glimpse of where we had been, and the views kind-of kept calling me back each time! I was overwhelmed by the whole experience and a sense of deep satisfaction and sheer joy encircled me 🙂

It was 4:30pm when we reached the parking area to see it empty except for few cars, probably of people whom we saw camping on the hills overnight. We removed our gears, got back to normal attire and got back into the car, all set to drive back. The frozen Picture Lake was the last thing we saw, and it probably is much more beautiful when it is not frozen 😀 The drive back was the same highway with the mountain peaks visible all-along and my mind was still lingering amidst them, somewhere in the magical Artist Point! This was my first snowshoeing experience, an activity I certainly would like to re-do over and over again 🙂 With my hiker husband along, I am assured I surely will! Loads of love to him for making this superb trip happen!

Activity Overview

Categories: Outdoors, Seattle | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Hike to Guye Peak

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


This is the 3rd consecutive Thanksgiving long weekend where I have been staying in home state. I usually go out for long weekends but for various reasons, I end up spending Thanksgiving in Washington. Taking advantage of meetups and snow, I signed up for a hike even though the forecast was hardly good. It was raining in Seattle in the morning but things started to look promising during the drive to trailhead. The clouds were shining bright with the rays and we could see blue sky. I was excited to start with the hike asap since I wanted the views from the top. It was a short but steep trail and since I was ahead, Michael asked me to take care of navigation. I screwed it up in the beginning but was careful from thereon. Snow was with us right from the parking lot. Trail was slippery due to numerous boulders. We hiked in clouds for a while and the views when we were above the cloud level were spectacular. The views kept getting better and the summit offered nothing less.

We were between 2 bands of clouds and the near panoramic views were awesome. I hadn’t carried any lunch, so spent time capturing the beauty and started the descent. The hike down was much safer than I expected and we were back on the trailhead by 2 PM. I am thankful for being in this amazingly beautiful state.

Activity Overview

Photos and Videos

smiley-write-nikhil-navali

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

Hike to Gothic basin and Foggy lake

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather on a November weekend, I signed up for Gothic Basin hike. I was excited since my snow cravings hadn’t been fulfilled yet. It was an early start, we started to hike by 8 AM. Ascent till the snow section was quite boring and tiring (maybe because of yesterday’s Squash games). The trail was rocky almost all the way and there were multiple stream crossings. We wore spikes for snow and by then tree cover was mostly gone which provided us with scenic views. At places there were tiny waterfalls and some were frozen too. The actual fun started as soon as we entered the basin. In bright daylight, we could see snow, huge rocks, frozen pools and just beauty all around. I was no more tired from there on and we reached semi frozen Foggy lake for lunch. From there on we climbed to reach a saddle and explored a bit on the side. It was a fantastic vantage point which provided views of the basin, Foggy lake, Mt Pugh and surrounding mountains. Apart from occasional slight winds, weather was just perfect. I fell once on a rock as soon as I got rid of spikes. That made it back to back falls on hikes. The whole trail was like an obstacle course – slippery wooden planks, stream crossings, light scramble, finding snow to step on snow while on spikes, testing the frozen pools and steep traverse near saddle. A fantastic day out.

Activity Overview

Photos and Videos

smiley-write-nikhil-navali

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

Blog at WordPress.com.