In keeping with our streak for the New Year, we’ve spent at least one day the last three weekends hiking or playing in the outdoors. We’ve always been avid hikers but took some time off in November and December due to travel, weather, and illness. We’ve been working hard these past few weeks to ensure the kids get out, rain or shine. With today being the sunnier day than tomorrow, we headed a little south to Tiger Mountain State Forest for a nice hike aimed just for children.
Tiger Mountain State Forest is a forest managed by the City of Issaquah and State of Washington Department of Ecology located off I-90. It’s close proximity to Seattle makes this a very popular hike. We arrived around 10am just as the parking lot was filling up. I was surprised that no fees were required since the State is hurting for funds. The trails are well maintained, as are the signs, but for all the use they should be offsetting the costs.
Anyways, we decided to hike on one of the many family friendly trails from High Point Trail Head that offer flat terrain for Ethan to easily hike. There are plenty of strenuous hikes around and up the mountain for those seeking a more challenging hike. We started on the Around the Lake Trail then came back on the Bus Trail. Both trails provided about 2 miles of hiking which was plenty for Ethan. There were interpretive signs along the Around the Lake Trail that provided some great teaching moments for Ethan. He now knows how to identify a Western Red Cedar. An unusual site is found on the Bus Trail where an old bus lies on it’s side. It’s been there for decades and has been visited by plenty of bullets. Ethan found it very intriguing and wondered how it got here. His one theory is that the bus driver died and the bus was now stuck. Hmmmm.
For this hike Ethan wanted to wear his backpack loaded with his binoculars, compass, rain jacket, and water. He was very excited for this expedition and wanted to be prepared. Throughout the hike he enjoyed looking for wildlife with his binoculars. Of course every time he tried he always said he couldn’t see anything out of the binoculars despite our best efforts to focus his eyes. We’ll keep trying. He also tried fishing with his “fishing pole” or stick of the day. On every hike we take him on he finds a stick or five to carry along or share with us. At the end of the hike he’s required to leave them at the trailhead so the animals can use them.
Autumn rode in the Kelty backpack for the second time. She generally remained silent, perhaps stubborn because she wouldn’t crack a smile, and took in the views from her perch on me. By the end of the hike she was asleep and kept this way until we arrived home.
Summer 1996 (Yosemite National Park): Lacerated pupil. On the evening of June 12, my roommate Greg and friend Melissa were in Oakhurst doing our weekly shopping. At about 10pm, we received a page to return to Yosemite Valley to assist in an ongoing rescue operation on North Dome gully. A climber had slipped down the gully earlier in the evening after climbing Royal Arches. When he slipped a rock dislodged from above and slammed on his left arm leaving him a compound fracture. He was losing blood and not able to descend on his own. I arrived on scene about 12:30am to assist in the lowering operation. Here is what I wrote in my journal:
“The lowering operation was consistent but slow. Lots of people falling, slipping rocks, sliding, lots of passovers. Around 300 feet from the bottom I was carrying the litter and sliding down a rock. As I went over the rock another rescuer went on the trail to the side of the rock. He stepped on a stick and it slammed me in the eye. I immediately fell and let go of the litter. I couldn’t see and had to be assisted down the hill.”
At the bottom, I joined the patient in the ambulance and we were both driven to the Yosemite hospital. The doctor was able to clean a lot of my injury but sent me to an eye specialist in Modesto for further examination. The specialist, Dr. Guido, concluded that I had a lacerated pupil but he wasn’t going to stitch it for fear it would scar and impair my vision. As a result I was driven to see him every day for two weeks straight just so he could see if any liquid was being released. I wore the bandage the entire time and went on light duty. I did fully recover from the incident and completed my summer on the Yosemite National Park Search and Rescue team.
This photo says it all about where my nickname in Boy Kicks Girl came from. After Kevin saw me with the bandage, he immediately named me “One Eyed Brett”.
Another gorgeous weekend in the Seattle area provided the opportunity to hit the trail. We got a mid-morning start today and headed back to the Darrington District on the Snoqualmie-Mt. Baker National Forest where we hiked the Big Four Ice Caves trail – located about 1.5 hour north of Seattle on the Mountain Loop Highway.
Despite the beautiful hike, the drive up to the trailhead is as much fun as the hike. The Mountain Loop Highway is spectacular this time of year as the deciduous trees prepare for the winter months. There are a few small towns that dot the landscape but it’s pretty much just forested land along the Stillaguamish River.
The weather was a little cool this morning and produced ice on the boardwalks in the lower part of the trail. Ethan loved scarping all the ice off the boardwalk planks and resting benches. He also liked to taste it which we tried to put a stop too. He is an explorer and is very comfortable on a trail. He’ll explore anything and everything along the trail which is why it took about an hour to go the one mile length of the trail, and 45 minutes back down. We answered his questions and identified flora along the way. We also gently persuaded him to keep trekking. Don’t get us wrong, we know it’s all about the journey and not the end, but there are only so many mushrooms we enjoy viewing.
Autumn yapped most of the way up before succumbing to yapping fatigue and fell asleep. We woke her up for pictures, which she kindly obliged us with, and fell back asleep. This was her first hike in our Kelty Child Carrier and she did superb. It was nice for Laura to move around a bit more and I was happy to not have to chase Ethan.
We actually avoided the ice caves. We stayed on the trail and viewed them from a far where our kids were safe. There are plenty of warnings to not go near them or in them because of the chance that the ice will fall. Just a few months ago an 11 year old was killed while near one. But from what we could see it was a neat formation to visit.
We’re glad for the mid-morning start because when we got back to the trailhead the parking lot was almost full. There is no doubt this is a popular hike. The trail is one mile up a gentle slope to the base of the Big Four Mountains. The trail is in great shape with the first 1/8 mile paved and the rest either a wood boardwalk or compacted crushed rock. There is/was a lot of trail work that has made this a very accessible hike.
This is definitely a hike we’d do again with friends and family. It’s an easy hike for children (Ethan did the entire hike except for stream crossing where the bridge was being repaired) and a great drive through the forest.
September 2004 (Sarahart, Armenia): This is one of our favorite photos from our time in the Peace Corps. The location is high up in the mountains above Sarahart (Alaverdi), located in northern Armenia. The view of the photo is looking northeast along the Debed River valley toward Azerbaijan.
During this time in our Peace Corps service, we were living with our first host family in Sarahart. The apartment was small, but generally offered enough room for all five of us. On rainy days when it was difficult for anyone to spend quality time outside and our host father would decide to smoke inside the house rather than near a window, the apartment became unbareable and we needed to get out. This was one of those days.
Our host parents were taken back as they saw us putting on rain gear and loading our pack with food. They asked us, “Where are you going in this weather?” To their astonishment we stated that we were going for a hike in the mountains. They reminded us that it was raining and cold, but having done plenty of hiking in the cold and rain back in the states, we headed out.
We followed a worn rutted road outside of town for a couple miles. Along the way we passed a home along the hillside with a ferocious dog. We cautiously approached the house with stones in hand in case we needed to throw them at the dog. The dog maintained his distance and stayed in the yard. We continued on and passed a tractor and truck with five men in the back heading back down the mountain. It was loaded with wood for the winter. The looks on their faces were of amazement, either at seeing us hiking, seeing us hiking in the weather, or seeing Laura out in the mountains. A little while later we peaked out on a beautfiul ridge that provide the view seen in this photo. The rain had stopped by now and the clouds lifted to provide a beautiful view down the valley. We ate our hatz (bread) and paneer (cheese), drank mango juice and water, and headed back home as the rain turned into hail.
The views of the debed river valley provided us a reminder of the beauty found in the natural landscape of Armenia, sometimes not often seen when our daily views were that of deforestation, pollution, and erosion. From up on top of this ridge, everything seemed alright!