Labour Day Around Whistler

The weather has been amazing out here the past several weeks.  Except, of course, for the long Labor Day weekend.  Dreams of camping and strenuous hiking were quickly dashed.  Luckily, we scored a great Plan B at a rustic townhome in Whistler courtesy of Mark and Jen (mostly Jen, though).

Saturday afternoon we went out for a stroll and came upon some canoe rentals at Alta Lake.  The weather was looking sorta clear so we rented a couple of them.  We had a nice little paddle across the lake and down a narrow river.

Photo courtesy of Mark & Jen

Zizou’s enjoyment of the affair was questionable at times (he’d much rather be in the water).  Somehow, this is the third Labor Day in a row that we’ve all been on a watercraft together—powerboat in Tahoe 2007 and river raft in Idaho 2008 round out the list.

Photo courtesy of Mark & Jen

At this point it was time to cruise back up the river and back across the lake to the dock.  The only challenge was that the weather wasn’t really cooperating with us.  While Mark and Jen are professional paddlers and just cruised right out of there, the competencies in the Klugusamy canoe left much to be desired.

The first three times we thought we were out of the mouth to the river and into the lake, the gale force winds quickly blew us backwards into some reeds.  There was much frustration and cursing in our canoe.  On the other hand, the always optimistic Zizou seemed to enjoy this windy part the most—he had his nose in the air just taking it all in.

After a brief time out and rational discussion of our game plan, we were back in the lake…phew.  Mark and Jen seemed to be relieved that we weren’t forever lost.  And we were on our way back to the dock/rustic townhome.

Sunday took us to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park north of Pemberton, BC.  There are three alpine lakes on this supposedly excellent trail.  Sadly we only saw one of them, and it was all Zizou’s fault.  Part of the trail is a huge rock scramble and it was a bit too nerve wracking watching him work his way through it, so we turned around.

Can only imagine what the upper and middle lakes look like because the lower one is just gorgeous.  Here Ziz took a swim while some random hooligans did some of the pot.

Back at the rustic townhome, I drank Baileys while Lillie and Jen made Red Lobster style biscuits, and Mark whipped up some soup from scratch.

Then Lillie ice grilled Jen while everyone else tried to have fun playing Taboo…

The rest of the Whistler trip was just more eating and sleeping.  Props again to Mark for playing chef.  A trip through Vancouver on the way home Monday wouldn’t be complete without some Japanese food.  We hit up Motomachi Shokudo and it was awesome.  Here’s my $10 pork ramen in a charcoal broth:

Great celebration of Labor/Labour.

Cutthroat Pass

This is the first in a series of belated posts after a busy (for us) August…

For many years, I’ve had my eye on this 11 mile one-way hike from Rainy Pass to Cutthroat Pass in the North Cascades.  It’s snow free and hike-able for only a window of time in August/September, and this was finally the year we suckered some friends into doing it with us.

After needing my Matrix battery jumped (for the first time ever) outside the Mazama General Store, we started hiking at 3pm.  You might be thinking, "wow, that seems like a late start for an 11 mile hike".  And you would be correct.  But don’t worry, we had TWO compasses packed.

At the top of the pass, it was pretty darn windy and chilly. It was a bit cloudy up there, so we were denied super scenic vistas but we did at least hear marmots whistling in the distance.  It’s a very excellent hike across the board.  Here we are, in various states of fashion:

Descending from the top we met some campers who seemed quite concerned about seeing hikers in sandals and shorts towards the end of the day with 5 miles of hiking left in front of them.  They didn’t know who they were talking to…

With the last drop of sunlight, we arrived at our shuttle Corolla.  Phew.  The bad part being that it was well after 9pm when we were back at camp, and we still needed to cook up dinner.  Good part Mark is a trooper and single handedly hooked up authentic (?) biryani in a single pot.

Meanwhile, Lillie was busy with important things like s’mores.

Black Canyon Wildflowers

It was our last weekend at home with Zizou for the month, so today we set off to to check out some more wildflowers.

Black Canyon was the destination—about 25 miles outside of Ellensburg, WA on a sometimes paved, but mostly unpaved little road.  The last mile of road was especially rough.  You can see a bit of it in the below photo from the trailhead:

The hike itself was 6-miles round trip with about a 1,500 foot climb.  Two hours up and a quick hour back down.  The only snake we saw wasn’t a rattler, so that’s always a bonus in Central Washington.  Plus there were very few others out on the trail with us.  A very solid overall hike for this time of year.

An old homestead cabin off the trail:

Grass widows:

Sagebrush violets tucked into some ferns:

Shooting stars:

At the top are some nice vistas looking down to the town of Ellensburg.  Had we invested another ten minutes to pop over another ridge, we probably would have had a great view of Mount Rainier.  But it was rather chilly up there and we turned back.  Next time.

Klug-usamys go to Wenatchee

This weekend, six people and three dogs piled into a giant Ford van fueled by vegetable oil in search of desert flowers.  Destinations were Beezley Hills outside of Quincy with an overnight in Wenatchee.

Roslyn Brewing Company is always a good stop along I-90 (fyi: Roslyn is where Northern Exposure was filmed):

Then after a snack from Arby’s, we stopped at Beezley Hills in hopes of catching some wildflowers.  Probably a tad early for the big show, but good times nonetheless:

Mexican restaurants galore in Wenatchee, so we settled on El Fuente before retiring at the Econo Lodge for the night.  The next morning, just a few miles out of town we did a nice uphill hike in the Saddle Back area—really fantastic views of the town and river.

We recharged at the Anjou Bakery in Cashmere.  This is an absolute must if driving by on US-2—assuming artisan crafted bread and cheese is up your alley.  Then things got a little corny further down US-2 as we stopped at Munchen Haus in Leavenworth.  The town might not be quite our style, but it was a nice day, and we were able to sit in the Beer Garden with our dog(s).

(In case you were wondering, our fearless Veggie Van driver was Lillie’s brother, with his girlfriend and two dogs riding shotgun.  Lillie’s parents took the second row seats with an occasional granddoggie in lap.)

Astoria and Long Beach Razor Clamming

We had a free night at a Red Lion Hotel to burn before the end of March, so we booked a night in Astoria, Oregon—near Long Beach, Washington where we’d do some razor clam digging.  This is all in the very northwestern corner of Oregon and southwestern corner of Washington.  Some pretty cool geography you can see in our route map:


View Larger Map

 

We drove down to Oregon on Saturday morning—the weather was horrible.  Nothing but wind and downpours.  So our trip to Fort Stevens State Park (marked B on the map) was a bit of a bust.  On a nice day we would have had great seabird viewing and even quite possibly whales.  For the most part it was too treacherous to even take out the camera—but we braved one shot with rain on the lens from the Astoria Column.

Making up a bit for the foul weather, lunch and dinner in Astoria were both home runs.  Bowpicker Fish & Chips served up fried albacore tuna in a batter much like the fried taro you get at dim sum.  Without any discussion we proclaimed it the best fish and chips we’ve ever had.  And for dinner we hit up the Columbian Cafe—this place holds maybe two dozen people in four booths and a lunch counter.  It’s classic Pacific Northwest stuff, with a funky decor and a chef/owner you can watch in action cooking up all sorts of fresh and local fare.  We were in a piggy mood, so Lillie enjoyed their special blend of cured bacon and homemade fettuccine, and I ordered up some pork cheeks.  Wowza.  This is really a must go restaurant when in Astoria.

We then retired to our room at the Red Lion—which had a pretty nice view, actually.  It sits right on a marina overlooking the 4.5 mile bridge that takes you over to Washington.

View from the Red Lion Astoria

By 8:30am the next morning we were on the Long Beach Peninsula looking to find some razor clams.  We were shocked to realize it has been almost four years since we last did this.  Perhaps that showed as we only got five clams—two of which we mutilated during the dig.  Big props to Lillie who spotted four out of the five!  It was horribly windy out making for some poor conditions—and the clams were staying pretty far down making it difficult to find any of their shows.  Oh well…good times.  Plus Zizou got to munch on various ocean debris.

Always kinda cool just to park your car on the Pacific (Zizou looks like an Ewok or something):

And here’s our relatively sad looking results at home before cleaning.  Must say they weren’t so sad when fried up for dinner—delicious.  So delicious that I forgot to take a photo of the final product.

 

Wallace Falls

Wallace Falls was a nice 8.5 mile loop just a shade over an hour from home.  It was great to sleep in a bit, leave the house at 11am, get a nice hike in, and be back home before 6pm.

This was my first time really snapping waterfalls.  Botched a few settings, so looking forward to trying this again soon…

 Wallace Falls

 
We also encountered a surprising amount of snow above the falls—just past the warning sign saying only experienced hikers should proceed (complete with newspaper clipping about some teenagers who got lost). 

Anyway, we proved to be quite experienced.

Strollin' in the Snow

The Gorge

We scooted out of Seattle at 4:15pm on Friday heading towards The Dalles, Oregon (pronounced The Dallz). While in cental Washington, I killed my first chukar, but sadly my car was the weapon. After arriving on petro fumes in Yakima, the Matrix was gassed up, and we pulled into Cousin’s Country Inn at 8:26pm. For the same price as Super 8 or Motel 6, Cousin’s was definitely the right choice–clean room, serious water-pressure, and even a DVD player.
Andrew’s Pizza in Hood River is where we concocted a pie with the unusual combination of canadian bacon, mushrooms, and roasted garlic. Hood River is an interesting town–supposedly the wind surfing capital of the universe and also the home of Dakine and Full Sail Beer It reminded me of Kalispell, Montana with the mix of hippies and posh restaurants. Post-dinner, we popped into the Trillium Cafe for a Dave Matthews cover band. It’s a family restaurant by day/bar by night with a cool mural a la Where the Wild Things Are. And don’t even think about stepping foot in Hood River (or any other small town along the Columbia) unless said foot is wearing Chaco’s or the like. Luckily, I just got a pair…and they are amazing.
My attempts to rally the troops for a 6am wake up failed. We settled for a modest 7am followed by breakfast at Cousin’s Restaurant. Good breakfast food, huge servings, drinks in mason jars, and a low price. Perfect. And after delivering my waffle, the waitress presented “syrup in a bear” to the table with aplomb.
As usual, I struggled to find the trailhead for the hike I had chosen for us. The directions on this description for Observation Peak are rubbish. Randomly, we bumped into someone else who was looking for the same trailhead, and luckily she tipped us off to an alternate access point. This point turned out to be the “long up and down” of 13 miles round-trip. So (very partly) due to the sleeping beauties hitting the snooze, we were sadly only able to do about 8 miles of this and never really got out of the low-land forest (think lots of ferns and mosses). I’m going to have to study the maps more and head back out there to tackle this one again–definite promise.
On the way back home we stopped for more pizza and beer/root beer at Walking Man Brewing in Stevenson, WA. Fresh place and definitely recommended. After paying our $1 toll on The Bridge of Gods we were back on the road heading home. Droopy eyes forced a stop at Costco in Vancouver, WA for petro and the accidental purchase of chocolate yogurt with berries on top (not recommended). Back in the garage at 8:30pm on Saturday night…and Zizou is arsed out.

Boulder River

I packed up the snowshoes and dog in the Matrix and set sights on Heather Lake. I forgot to put my tire chains in the car and that proved to be a limiting factor. As I stepped on the gas nearing the trailhead, the Matrix began to sliiiide back downhill. I was rolling solo, so cut my losses and just put it in reverse for the half mile down the hill back to the mainroad.
Having just purchased Zizou his first pair of shoes, I was determined to help him break ’em in. I called and interrupted my sister painting her face for the USC-UCLA game to get directions to Boulder River.
It’s a low elevation hike, but there was still a nice dusting of snow.
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It’s an easy rolling stroll through the woods, so perfect after a frustrating start to the day. Just one other car at the trailhead when I arrived, but never bumped into them.

Silver Falls

On Friday night at around 5:30pm, made a late decision to join some others camping. Only at 7pm was the car loaded and us out the door…with a 4 hour drive to Silver Falls. To give you an idea on the geography, here’s a map that shows about where we were.
On arrival to the campground at 11pm, it was a complete ghost-town. And a completely gorgeous camp that sits right on the water. Highly recommended. After mooching off our campmate’s Coors Light pancakes, we knocked out a very short hike to Silver Falls:

And back in Seattle for dinner and a 10pm indoor game. And then another game last night at 8pm. Very bold.
Few new pics added to the F&F Gallery.

Kalaloch Beach

Four of us and a dog set off for the Olympic coastline on Saturday later than planned AM. By all accounts, our karma tanks were overflowing with goodness through the weekend. The rain we all feared only came down on the drive there, some sprinkles while we were snoozing, and again on the drive home. And it was all butter in between.
We pulled into Kalaloch to find that the RV crowd had already squatted on all the ocean view sites (note: RV camps aren’t a preferred destination but seemed appropriate this go). After making some laps around the campground, we settled on a quiet site across the way from an ecentric fellow, who possibly calls this campground home. He sent us home with a pamphlet of his opinions on redheads and why the African nation of Chad should be the capital of the world (one reason is easy space travel). C’est la vie.
Anyway, it was off to Ruby Beach for amongst other things, kite flying. I’d never flown a kite, but it was surpringly entertaining. And the weather again couldn’t have been any more timely.
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Last time we were on the Olympic Coast, we saw nothing but dead marine life. Opposite scenario this go with some sweet tide pools–here are some starfish. Any wannabe marine biologists know what this is?
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After a few hours on the beach and an easy hike to the world’s largest western red cedar, we did dinner old school Boy Scouts style with foil packs on the campfire. The lesson for next time is to bring salt/pepper shakers when car camping. Then after a few more hours of discussing marshmallow roasting techniques, it was bedtime. Come sunrise, we planned to be razor digging.
6:17 am on Sunday would have been peak digging time, but I don’t think anyone set an alarm clock. We made it out there by 8:30, I believe. One old guy who was on his way out told me “you’re late.” At this point, we had a nice section of the beach all to ourselves.
While Zizou was running around chewing on washed up dungeness crabs, we were on the prowl for tiny holes like this. In retrospect, I should have set a penny next to the hole for scale, so you’ll have to take my word that it’s a rather tiny lil’ guy. So when we found a little hole or dimple like that, we’d jam the pvc clam gun into the sand to find the razor clam within.
The first ten minutes was slow-going and a bit discouraging. I was beginning to feel bad that I dragged people out in the morning for this nonsense. Then in an hours time, we bagged 30 clams with at least a 90% success rate on holes dug:clams being in said dug hole. Basically, the moral of the story is to go ahead and sleep in. Late birds get the worms too, and with much more elbow room, in the process.
Our request for a late checkout was denied, so we had to be out of camp by 11:00am. But we still managed to get down a hungry man’s breakfast of eggs, hash browns, sausage, and juice boxes before pulling out at 11:07am. It was all business driving home and we were back in Seattle at 2:36pm.
After some indoor soccer at 5:00pm, it was razor clam chowda time. With bacon/bacon fat, onions, celery, potatoes, half & half, butter, and clams as the ingredients, how can you go wrong? I’ll be eating said chowder 3 meals/day for the next week. Yummy.
For my friends, the gallery has been updated with more pics from the weekend.