Tuesday, 23 August 2005

Paradise, Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier covered in Glaciers The call of the mountain became too much again. On Saturday we drove the three hours from Seattle to Mount Rainier with the intention of tramping on it a bit. We set off early, but in my usual style we took many stops on the way to obeserve the view, take pictures and do a little bonus walk in a quiet area. My favourite viewpoint was the one without a view - well, no view of Rainier, just some fir trees up close.

When we finally arrived at Paradise, it was full. There were cars everywhere. Both main car parks were full, as were the overflow ones. The roads were lined with vehicles and all but the lowest picnic spot spaces were filled. We parked about as far from the visitor centre as possible, and had lunch. I was getting a little despondant as I didn’t fancy walking up a road as part of my trek and there were people just everywhere - busier than if we’d stayed in Belltown. Add this to the fact that my water bottle had leaked a couple of litres through my rucsac all over the boot of the car.

I think there’s a Joni Mitchell song about paving over paradise.

We tried the car parks again, and this time, amazingly, we got a spot. I refilled the offending water bottle and we set off up the tarmac’d path of the skyline trail. The views were spectacular in all directions. North was filled with Rainier’s glacier-clad southern face, and in all other directions we were surrounded by more modest peaks. A view from Rainier In the southern distance Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens were visible - emphasising the fact that we were in an active volcanic zone, halfway up a non-extinct volcano. Even though it was a clear August afternoon, the wind was cold, reminding us how high up we were: 7000ft above sea level.

The higher the path went, the less crowded it became. Not surprising really, but very welcome. At the highest point there were bits of glacial ice blocking the path and all around were barren rocks. Despite the early, disappointing signs, the trip was well worth the effort. I probably won’t get too many chances to clamber on a volcano in my lifetime, and glaciers are quick becoming a thing of the past - I should take these opertunities whilst I can, even if in doing so I expediate the glacial retreat a little.

See all the pictures here.

Monday, 22 August 2005


I have been trying out Gallery2, a huge leap forward on Gallery, but not quite mature yet. You can find my g2 implimentation here: http://www.prizeonion.co.uk/gallery2.

I was all set to switch over to it permanently, when I discoverd that there is currently no RSS feed plugin. There seems to be a fairly active effort to rectify this though. Read the discussion here.

The transition was painless though, I have a parallel setup and just imported all the Gallery1 pictures using the plugin in the admin page. Very nice.

Thursday, 18 August 2005

Snow Lake

View of Snow Lake Another walk in the cascades. This one proved popular, with a group of eight of us heading for the hills; it took a while to fill out the permit… It was another ludicrously hot day and the majority of my pack was full of water. Our goal was Snow Lake, an alpine reservoir at some 4000ft above sea level. It’s a well trodden path and by far the busiest yet, I can see why though; after only three miles and a few hundred feet of elevation we crested a rise to be confronted with a spectacular view of a dark blue lake, surrounded by white rocks and deep green pines.

Map of the route We’d set out to swim in the lake. It seemed like the perfect day for it, being as it was so hot, the cool alpine waters would be refreshing. They were indeed. I found them a little too refreshing and after ten minutes my teeth were chattering. I spent the next half an hour trying to maintain my core temperature by shivering on the shore bathed in sunshine on a 30°C day.

At least I actually swam, not like our friends from the lower latitudes.

Summary: Busy, but well worth it. Don’t forget your trunks.

More pictures in the gallery.

Monday, 1 August 2005

Kendall Katwalk

Kendall Katwalk Another fine walk. This time we headed east, to the Central Cascades. We were at the trail-head in about an hour, far more convenient than the Olympics. Our goal for the day was to reach the Kendall Katwalk, a narrow path along a cliff face, which turned out to be disappointingly safe.

The trail starts at about 1000m, in the the forest, and winds gently up to the peaks with the occasional breaks in the canopy, most spectacularly with a huge section of flattened trees, crushed and swept down the hillside by an avalanche.

On the way up there were berries growing, some I recognised and some I didn’t. I ate the ones I did. I’m still here, so I guess I was right. They looked like bilberries, tasted like bilberries and stained my fingers like bilberries, they must be… huckleberries.

Rockfall The path opened up to spectacular views over the local peaks in the Cascades, including Red Mountain and south to Rainier, looking unfathomably big as usual.

Again the GPS struggled to keep a lock in the dense trees and steep valleys, but when it did lock on, it provided proof that we were at possibly the highest altitude I’ve ever walked at. The route ends at a high point of about 1660m, some 5000ft or more. There were no clouds and it was really hot up there. There were still some patches of snow on the northern faces, however. We didn’t hang around too long after lunch at the turn-around point and tramped off through the alpine meadows back into the cool shade of the forest. It seemed a longer trudge down than up, perhaps because the only thing at the end was having to drive home, tired.

Six and a half hours, 18km; a good day out.

See all the pictures in the gallery.