Tag Archives: hiking

We hiked the PCT! Well, a tiny bit of it…

Recently CFL and I made yet another trip to southern Oregon. It was bittersweet in a sense. We’d made so many trips down that way to see my dad over the past two years, and now we were returning less than two weeks after he’d passed away. But we’d planned this trip nearly a year ago as a fun vacation, and we were determined to enjoy it.

Our first stop was at the other end of the state, in Portland, where we again rode the Providence Bridge Pedal. This year more than 18,000 cyclists participated in the various events. We did the 32-mile 10-bridge ride, which followed the exact same route as last year. Although the Bridge Pedal is a RIDE, not a RACE, I was pleased to complete the ride almost an hour sooner than last year! My new road bike is such a joy to ride compared to my heavy first bike. Of course, we still took time to stop and enjoy the view from atop the bridges.

 

In the background of the photo above you can see the new “Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People” now under construction. Given that CFL is a bridge-loving architect, we have studied and admired the progress of construction on each of our recent travels through Portland. Scheduled to open late next year, the bridge will carry light rail, streetcars, buses, bicycles, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles — but no private cars or trucks. Next year’s Bridge Pedal, the 20th annual ride, will feature a sneak preview crossing of this bridge. Eleven bridges! We’ll be there.

But what about the PCT, you ask?

After Portland we headed south for a quick visit with my stepmom. From there we went to Crater Lake where we camped for three nights.

As I’ve mentioned here before, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) runs for nearly 2,700 miles from Mexico to Canada. Each year several hundred people “thru-hike” the entire trail. CFL has dreamed of doing this for many years, and he and his daughter are talking seriously about it for 2016. I haven’t yet caught the bug, but I was entirely game for day-hiking a small section of it this summer.

The 33-mile section of the PCT that passes through Crater Lake National Park is one of the highlights of the entire trail. Although the main PCT skirts around the caldera rim, most PCT hikers take an alternate trail that travels up to and along the rim.

On our first afternoon we walked out from the campground to the trailhead, which crosses the highway within Park boundaries but just before the west entrance gate. From there, we hiked to the junction with the alternate trail, and back. That was an 8-mile warmup that got us very excited about going further!

We got back to camp just in time to cook dinner — in the midst of a dramatic thunderstorm! I went to bed that night wet, cold, and unhappy, but still looking forward to hiking the next day.

Morning was beautiful!

We got an early start and again hiked north from camp. This time we hiked all the way up to the rim. It’s a climb of 1,100 feet in a bit over four miles.

As we continued to hike along the rim, the clouds increased and thunder began to rumble across the lake.

We kept a close eye on the sky. All the action seemed to be well south of us, so we hiked on. Our goal for the day was Watchman, a former fire lookout about six miles past and several hundred feet higher than the point where we’d reached the rim.

The climb up to Watchman was worth it. We could look down into Wizard Island’s mini-caldera.

It was cold up there! I was wearing several layers. I felt as lumpy as I looked!

As we were leaving Watchman I took note of the time and realized that we had a long ways still to hike! We walked part of the way back by road, which saved a bit of time.

We decided we’d try to catch the free shuttle from Rim Village back down to the campground. But when we got to the lodge at Rim Village, we were chagrined to learn that the last shuttle of the day had left more than two hours earlier. I was a a bit freaked out, but CFL proceeded to chat with other visitors at the lodge. It didn’t take long for him to meet a nice young man wearing a T shirt from a craft brewery in San Diego! CFL and “B” swapped growing-up-in-SD stories and we bought a couple rounds of beer. Soon we were all driving back to a restaurant near our campground for dinner. Mission accomplished! That was a 15-mile hiking day (not including the 7-mile return in “B’s” car).

On our third day we hiked the PCT south from the campground. While we’d seen a few thru-hikers traveling north with us on day two, this time we were hiking toward the thru-hikers. We met about 20 of them, and chatted with as many as we could. Everyone was excited to be approaching Crater Lake, with its campground, showers, laundry, store, post office, and BEER!

Although we didn’t have a view of the lake, this section of the trail was gorgeous. Lots of boulders and interesting trees!

 

We hiked all the way south to the Park boundary and back.

Including a few side trips, we hiked a total of 19.5 miles — our longest hike ever! We were the only day-hikers out there. We impressed some of the thru-hikers who hadn’t expected to see day-hikers so far from a trailhead.

So that was a total of nearly 43 miles of hiking over three days at Crater Lake. Looking at the map, we noticed that the entire Park is only about 25 miles from south to north. We’d hiked considerably further than that distance total, and our out-and-backs had encompassed the entire southern half of the Park. Not bad for a couple of middle-aged day-hikers.

But wait — there’s more to our PCT story! A couple of days later, on our way home, we stopped off at Mt. Hood to admire Timberline Lodge and hike a bit of that section of the trail.

We only had time to do a couple of miles, but it was great to see “our” trail again — and to share it with another thru-hiker or two.

Of course we did other things on this trip (beer tourism, anyone?) but that will have to wait for another post. Now, however, it’s time for me to go for a walk! Our activity streak is at 602 days and counting.

When a blogger doesn’t blog…

When a blogger doesn’t blog, it probably means one of two possible things:

  1. The blogger’s life is so utterly boring or depressing that there’s nothing worth blogging about
  2. The blogger has been too busy and happy to find time to write!

I’m happy to report that in my case, option 2 is the correct answer.

CFL and I hit the road for 20 days in June, driving a (mostly) leisurely 3,000 miles through Washington, Oregon, and California. Our adventures included  attending my granddaughter’s high school graduation, participating in a week of car-related events with nearly 2,500 other Porsche people and their cars in Monterey, California, spending time with several of CFL’s family members and friends (all new introductions for me), and visiting 18 (count ‘em!) craft breweries. Along the way we also fit in two visits with my dad (who is in a nursing home following a stroke in March) and stepmom in southern Oregon.

We were so busy that we didn’t take as many photos as we should have, but I’ll try to share some highlights from our trip over the next few days.

A big highlight for CFL was that we spent some time in two places where I-5 crosses the Pacific Crest Trail. We can now actually say that we’ve hiked the PCT, albeit only for a few yards!

My “Halfmile PCT” app on my phone captured the first moment that we stood on the trail, in southern Oregon.

Then we took the obligatory selfie at a trail marker.

And I shot the first photo of CFL actually setting foot on the trail. At this moment he had stopped to examine a note left by someone for a hiker who will come through this spot in August.

At the second trail crossing in northern California, we admired this directional sign.

For those who don’t know, the Pacific Crest Trail runs nearly 2,700 miles from Mexico to Canada. The California and Oregon sections were described by Cheryl Strayed in her best-selling book Wild (soon to be a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon). CFL has dreamed of through-hiking the PCT for at least 30 years now. I haven’t yet caught the fever for a through-hike, but I am considering hiking one or more sections of it. We plan to give ourselves a small taste of it later this summer when we’ll day-hike three short sections of it near and in Crater Lake National Park.

Our PCT adventure took place on day 2 of 20, so we were just getting underway. I’ll share more from our trip over the next several days… unless life in this moment gets too busy and happy for me to take the time to write.

Until next time…. Slowly and happily!

Slowed but not stopped

A habit, once formed, can be a tough thing to break. I like to think that CFL’s and my activity streak is a good habit! I’ll confess that when I first broke my arm I had a tough time motivating myself to get outside and do something. But once I got used to my new temporary “normal,” I stopped feeling sorry for myself over my inability to run or cycle. I discovered that I enjoyed the challenge of finding interesting new ways to move for several miles each day.

During the first several days after my injury I was happy just to walk on a flat paved surface. Together we walked several sections of the Olympic Discovery Trail. I know that trail very well from many hundreds of running miles, but it’s been nice to slow down and share it while engaging in long, slow conversations.

Although I wasn’t able to capture them on camera (I struggle getting off quick one-handed shots), at the Morse Creek bridge we saw three adult bald eagles and a river otter. As a consolation prize I’ll offer you a long, slow look at the shadows on the bridge.

Morse Creek bridge

After five days and 28 miles of this leisurely walking, I was ready to try a bit more.

First up was a short hike to the always-spectacular Sol Duc Falls. It’s only 1.8 miles round-trip on a mostly level trail. Thanks to all the recent rains, we passed several raging streams on our way to the falls. The scale is difficult to capture in a photograph because the trees are so huge, but this stream is about 20 feet across.

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Sol Duc Falls itself was as high as I’ve ever seen it, with four cascades instead of the usual three.

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I must thank CFL for the spiky hairdo he gave me when he put on my headband for me.

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Sol Duc Falls served as a warm-up. That same day we also hiked several miles on a new (to us) and mostly level trail not far from this one.

The next day we chose a trail that soon turned into an impassible marshy puddle. We were disappointed with our low-mileage day, so the next day we covered 12.5 miles on the ODT before rewarding ourselves with local craft beer downtown.

Over the weekend we hit the hiking trails again. On our 11.5 mile meander along the Spruce Railroad Trail, we enjoyed the impossible-to-photograph deep ultramarine blues of Lake Crescent. We also spotted our first calypso orchids of 2014!

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Yesterday we drove way out to the Pacific coast to hike the Ozette Triangle. This trail starts at Lake Ozette and runs west 3 miles through the forest to the beach, then 3 miles south along the beach, and finally 3 miles back through the forest.

I did fine on the first leg. When we got to the beach, I felt like I had just stepped into a calendar photo.

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We stopped to snack and enjoy the view. There were many kinds of waterfowl, including dozens of black oystercatchers with their distinctive whistles. We heard sea lions barking at a near-shore island. We saw several gray whale spouts just beyond the surf line.

We then set out to walk along the beach. At first it was mostly sand and cobbles, but we didn’t get far before we found ourselves stepping from boulder to boulder and scrambling over driftwood logs. I quickly realized that this was going to be too tough to navigate with my arm in a sling. We reluctantly turned back. By the time we got back to the car, we’d covered 7.5 miles, but I was very tired. Still, it occurred to us that we were the oldest people out on that trail that day — by far. I was also the only person out there with a broken arm! So we congratulated ourselves on our attempt.

All told, I’ve walked (on pavement) and hiked (off-pavement) nearly 72 miles in the first ten days since breaking my arm. I may have been slowed by this injury, but I shall not be stopped.

One slow happy step at a time!

 

Hiking at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

I wake up every morning thinking about what I’m going to do for exercise that day. Some days, it’s easy — my calendar tells me it’s a running day so I run! Other days, I know I’ll be walking downtown in the evening for dinner or a special event.

On those mornings when I have no special plans with respect to exercise, I have to get creative about what I’m going to do.

The other day the big item on my calendar was my twice-monthly trip to Costco. Okay, so driving to Sequim was a given — but what could I do while I was over that way?

Somehow the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge popped into my head. Dungeness NWR is comprised of the entire length of Dungeness Spit along with a section of forested bluff top. Dungeness Spit, one of the world’s longest natural sand spits, extends into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and is more than 5.5 miles long.

I had visited Dungeness NWR only once before, in the summer of 2001, the year before I moved here. Why I never returned, I have no idea, but when I mentioned it to CFL, he was immediately enthusiastic. He hadn’t been there in years either!

Our timing was good — it was low tide and it looked like we’d have a few hours’ break from the rain. We parked the car at the first possible parking area so that we could walk the bluff top trail before hiking down to the spit itself.

The first view of the strait from the bluff top 140 feet above is stunning.

As you walk down the trail from the bluff top, more of the spit reveals itself.

Once you are down on the sand, it’s a long flat walk along a beautiful beach. The outer (strait-facing) side of the spit is the hiking side, while the inner (mainland-facing) side is off-limits to humans. This is where hundreds of water birds amass at various times of the year, whether as a migration stopover or as a home for some species who nest here. To see the birds, we needed to scramble onto the large driftwood logs that collect at the “summit” of the spit.

The logs themselves are so beautiful that we didn’t want to walk all over them, so we didn’t see that many birds. I’d forgotten to bring binoculars so we couldn’t do any serious birding anyway. But we certainly enjoyed the logs!

As we continued our hike along the beach, the Dungeness Lighthouse came into view. Can you see it there in the distance?

We turned around about two miles short of the lighthouse, as the afternoon was getting later and the sky was looking darker. Here you can see both sides of the spit, looking back toward the bluff.

On our way back I noticed an odd object on the sand. A jawbone! We think this was a juvenile seal, based on the fact that the rear molars appeared to be only partially erupted. It was probably 6-7 inches long.

By the time we got back to the car, we’d hiked ten miles. When we return — and we will — we’ll give ourselves enough time to get all the way out past the lighthouse. And I’ll remember to bring my binoculars so I can identify some of the birds!

It was too chilly!

To our great disappointment, we were unable to take part in the Chilly Hilly bike ride around Bainbridge Island yesterday. While the ride went off as scheduled for people who live nearby or in the Seattle area, the weather proved too daunting for us to venture forth from Port Angeles to get there.

We’re about 75 miles (an hour and 40 minutes driving time) northwest of Bainbridge. The weather forecast over that way yesterday was for temperatures in the mid 40s with occasional rain showers. It wouldn’t have been a fun bike ride, but it was probably doable.

When the alarm went off at 5:00 AM, it was snowing hard and our local forecast called for continuing snow — up to five inches of it — all day. Our part of the world was in the midst of its own little private winter! The snow wasn’t sticking at that early hour, but the thought of driving 75 miles on two-lane roads, then dealing with whatever the weather might turn out to be on Bainbridge — and then driving another 75 miles home! — was enough to cause me to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep.

The snow here did continue on and off all day. Everything gradually turned white. At most we had maybe 1/4″ on the ground. The real epicenter of the storm was northeast of us in Bellingham, where they got about a foot of snow.

I moped around the house for most of the day, then decided I might as well bundle up and go for a walk. At first CFL and I thought we’d walk down to the waterfront. We’d heard there were a hundred or more harbor seals there the other day, including several brand-new fuzzy babies! But we knew that if we walked downhill, the snow would probably turn to slushy rain at sea level. So we opted to walk uphill and enjoy the sight of snow falling through trees.

At some point I got the wacky idea of hiking the Peabody Creek trail. This is a low-country trail that begins just at the south end of town and winds about 3.5 miles upward along the creek to an elevation of about 1,100 feet.

The trail itself was muddy but clear of snow. Alongside the trail, the snow was sticking and creating beautiful designs in the fallen leaves and moss. Looking upwards, the dance of snowflakes among the big trees was simply magical.

I wish I could show you photos, but the snow falling on my iPhone caused the touch screen to shut down. I frantically stabbed at the virtual camera button several times before admitting defeat and putting the phone back in my pocket!

As we gained altitude, the trail itself began to turn white. There are several creek crossings over log bridges, and those bridges were becoming quite slippery. I didn’t want to risk hiking back down the way we’d come (it always seems more slippery going downhill), so we decided to take the first opportunity to exit the trail early and return by way of the nearby road.

Walking back down the road, we both realized that we’d forgotten to eat lunch and were starving. So we kept walking, all the way back down into town to our favorite pizza place. While we were there, the snow turned to rain, making for a less pleasant final leg of our walk.

We ended up walking almost nine miles and saw some beautiful, peaceful sights that helped me forget the disappointment of missing an event that I’d looked forward to for a long time.

Lesson learned! Next year, I won’t register for the Chilly Hilly ahead of time — I’ll wait for the weather forecast. Meanwhile, the activity streak remains intact.

It’s still raining, with more snow in the forecast for later this afternoon. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll do today. Bundle up and go out for a run, or just a walk? Or hit the treadmill?

So many ways to be slow and happy!

A shiny new year deserves some big, bold plans

Happy New Year! As years go (and so they do, faster and faster it seems) 2013 was a rather great one. CFL’s and my casual decision last January 1 to “be more active” turned into a 365-day activity streak that is still going strong as we begin 2014.

CFL’s approach to it was rather casual, but he never missed a day — even if it meant setting out on the 2.1 mile uphill/downhill neighborhood “lap” at 11:45 PM.  Me? Of course I kept a spreadsheet, which now allows me to regale you with some numbers that still boggle my mind.

In 2013 I completed:

  • 1,001.14     run miles (including 2 half marathons, a full, & a 10K)
  •    307.47     bike miles (including 33 miles with 15,000+ others)
  •    134.73     hike miles
  •    720.73     walk miles

     2,164.07     total miles

Oh, and I drove just over 11,000 miles — much of which was long-distance driving to and from events (bike rides, concerts, brewfests, and the like) and trailheads.

We brewed 21 batches of beer, and made the leap from extract to all-grain brewing. We have a never-ending list of brewing equipment that we want to buy (a bigger brew kettle to prevent boilovers, a plate chiller to cool the wort more quickly, a couple of pumps to save CFL’s back, the list goes on and on).

So what’s in store for 2014?

I think I’ll run a little less, since I won’t be training for a full marathon and doing the super-long runs. I think 900 running miles is a good goal.

I plan to do a LOT more bike riding. I don’t have a specific mileage goal but I do have some events that CFL and I want to ride. I’ve got my eye on a new bike that I hope to buy before the end of January. I weighed my current bike and was astonished to learn that it weighs 33 pounds — no wonder I work so hard going uphill! The bike I’d like to buy will be at least 10 pounds lighter.

I’m looking at my calendar and figuring out how I’ll weave together training for and participating in multiple running and biking events throughout the year.

So far, the event schedule looks like this:

February 23: Bike Ride
The Chilly Hilly on February 23 — 33 miles around Bainbridge Island with 2,675 feet of elevation gain. I’ll need that new bike for those hills!

April 26: Trail Half Marathon
The Oat Run (Olympic Adventure Trail) — I’ll run this one and CFL may be a volunteer worker.

June 1: Half Marathon
North Olympic Discovery half marathon — this local race will be my fifth NODM and CFL’s first; he’s going to walk it.

August 3: Bike Ride
Ride the Hurricane is a 17-mile 5,000 foot climb up the Hurricane Ridge Road in Olympic National Park, followed by a rapid 17-mile descent! The road is closed to cars for the day. CFL has done this a few times. He tells me I may be ready to tackle it this summer. I think he’s nuts, but we’ll see…

August 10: Bike Ride
The Providence Bridge Pedal in Portland was so much fun last year that we’re going to do it again. Just us and over 15,000 other riders, riding over ten (count ‘em) Willamette River bridges on closed roads and freeways.

August 24: Bike Ride
The Tour de Victoria will be our first metric century — a 100K bike ride around downtown Victoria, BC and its surroundings.

October 12: Half/Full Marathon
We’ll be back in Victoria for this one. This is where I ran my marathon in 2013. For 2014 I plan to go back to the half (it will be my third Victoria half marathon), and CFL says he is going to walk the full marathon. We’ll see how he feels about that one when the time comes.

I’m sure other events will come up, and we’ll fit them in somehow. These are just the major ones that will require planning and preparation. We have several road trips planned as well, all of which will include some brewery tourism.

Yet even with all the training and traveling, we should have plenty of room on our calendars for hiking (I really need to do an overnight backpack trip this summer), walking around town, and hanging out with friends. And brewing, of course.

I’m guessing that we’ll end up doing at least 2,400 total miles this year. That seems like a worthy and achievable goal.

Right now, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about an easy afternoon hike on a lowland forest trail. Although the sunsets are already noticeably later than two weeks ago, I’d better get out there while there is still plenty of daylight!

What’s on your calendar? What new goals have you set for yourself in 2014?

Slow and happy!

Don’t let another moment slip away

In keeping with this blog’s theme of slow HAPPY living, I usually try to keep things here light and upbeat. Sometimes, however, a bit of philosophy is in order.  After all, I AM a bit of a philosopher… but I’ll try to restrain myself and not do any really deep navel gazing in this post.

Today I went for a hike. Usually CFL and I hike together, but he’s busy working on a big project. If you wonder whether the economy is ever going to improve, you may take heart from the fact that architects are suddenly getting work again. That’s great for CFL, but it has put a crimp on our summer hiking plans.

So today was a perfect, clear and warm late summer day. We’ll only have a few more of these days before the rainy season returns. I sat around the house for a while, but when I found myself watching cat videos I knew I needed to get out of my chair, get outside, and move my feet.

We’re 255 days into 2013, which means we’re 255 days (and I’m 1,520 miles) into our activity streak. On a busy day like today CFL still manages at least a two mile walk around the neighborhood. But I like to do a little more than that.

So today I went for a hike. I went up to Hurricane Ridge and hiked the same trail that I did back on August 4. It’s an up-and-down trail that meanders along the side and top of a minor ridge, ultimately connecting with trails that climb steeply up the north side of the mountain. The elevation of this section of trail ranges from about 5,100 to 5,600 feet. Nothing really strenuous, just a lot of ups and downs, and on a warm day like today it’s a good workout.

It’s a front country trail, so I felt comfortable hiking alone knowing there would be others in the area and that I would never be more than three miles from the car. As it turned out, I saw about ten other hikers — busier than some days but not so busy that I couldn’t do a whole lot of thinking and simply taking in the views and the moments of silence.

Views like this kept me happy.

I turned around at the first major fork in the trail.

The Klahhane Ridge Trail (the trail I was on — and yes it is misspelled on the sign — if you look closely you can see that someone has corrected it!) begins to climb steeply at this point. The Switchback Trail descends very steeply down to the road a few miles below where I’d left my car. This sign, therefore, marked the perfect place for me to turn around and return to the visitor center.

I returned a little more slowly, even though the shadows were beginning to lengthen. I found myself deep in a meditation about life, about how wonderful it all is, how awesome is the fact of simply being alive. Not merely being here but participating in it, making it happen, step by step by intentional step.

Sometimes I wonder if this whole “activity streak” has become an obsession. Perhaps it has, but if it has, I’m convinced that it’s an obsession of an entirely positive sort. It’s become a way of marking my days, of keeping a promise to myself that I will do something every day to ensure that I live it. I log my daily miles and how I attained them in a spreadsheet (are you surprised?). It’s become a diary of sorts. I can look back at the end of a day, a week, a month… or soon, a year… and know a little something about how I chose to spend my finite, precious time.

Today I did a 5.3 mile hike in Olympic National Park. I stopped along the way to notice things like the moon low in the summer sky over Hurricane Ridge.

As  I was driving down the hill toward home, I lost myself in another way, listening to music in the car. Michael Franti’s “Hey Hey Hey” came up. It’s a simple song, and the lyrics as a whole aren’t that relevant to the thoughts I was having today. But the catchy refrain “I won’t let another moment slip away” resonated deeply.

Despite the best efforts of the medical profession and the best care that I could give him, my late husband spent the last days of his life angry and in pain. Perhaps in some part of my heart, in my daily quest for significant movement, I am still running away from my memories of those moments. I prefer to think that I am running toward the opposite of those moments.

I want my moments  and my miles to add up to something. I want to experience each of them fully — slowly and happily. I don’t want to let another moment slip away.

Right now?

I’m relaxing and having a home brew. And writing.

And tomorrow?

I’m going for a run.

Oh yeah, and after that there is grocery shopping and bill paying and pre-cooking for a potluck. Those moments matter too. I shall be intentional about doing them, however. And then I’ll go out and meet some friends for dinner.

What did you do today?

What will you do tomorrow?

Don’t let another moment slip away!

Marmot monitoring in Olympic National Park

Over this past week we spent three days in our “back yard,” participating as volunteers in Olympic National Park’s marmot monitoring program.

NOTE: All of the marmot photos below were taken with a zoom lens. Although marmots are not particularly bothered by the presence of humans, I would never get so close to a wild animal in its natural environment.

Wouldn’t you want to spend as much time as possible with these cute little guys?

The Olympic Marmot is endemic to the Olympic Peninsula; 90% of the Olympic Marmot population lives within the boundaries of the Park.

Historically, a stable population of 2,000 or more Olympic Marmots existed, but about ten years ago anecdotal reports began to indicate that the population was in rapid decline. By the year 2006 the estimated population was only 1,000. The probable cause of this decline is predation by coyotes, which are not native to the area. Although the population is currently rebounding, the marmot’s lifecycle (slow reproductive rate, long hibernation time, limited mobility within its range) and other factors including climate change cause concern for the long-term viability of this unique species.

In 2010, Park biologists began a citizen marmot monitoring volunteer program. The idea is to survey areas within the Park that are known or likely sites of marmot habitat. The program is now in its fourth year. CFL and I volunteered to participate this year and were thrilled to be selected!

We began with a morning of classroom training followed by an afternoon in the field. This video taken at a prior year’s training will give you an idea of what is involved.

The survey method is straightforward:

  1. Hike to an area (“unit”) delineated on the map
  2. Use a GPS device to confirm that you’ve arrived at the right location
  3. Look for marmots within the boundaries of that unit
  4. If you see a marmot
    1. Hike to its location and mark it as a waypoint on the GPS
    2. Count all the adult and juvenile marmots you can see at any one time
    3. On your data sheet, enter the marmot count and mark the unit as “occupied”
    4. You’re done — move on to the next unit.
  5. If you don’t see a marmot
    1. Hike around within the unit looking for marmot burrows
    2. Mark any burrows on the GPS
    3. Determine (based on fresh dirt, feces, etc.) whether the burrow is occupied or abandoned
    4. Mark the unit as “occupied” or “abandoned”
    5. Move on to the next unit.
  6. Keep looking for burrows until you’ve surveyed the entire area
    1. If no burrows, mark the unit as “no sign”
    2. Move on to the next unit.

As first-year volunteers with (in my case) no overnight backpacking experience, we requested and were assigned to a front-country area. The most remote of our units was only about three miles from the trailhead.

Hiking out to each unit was the easy part! Once there, we left the trail and scrambled across meadows. These sub-alpine meadows are extremely fragile, and we would normally never go off-trail — but this time we were doing it in our official volunteer T shirts. We felt like kids getting away with something!

In many places the meadows are steeply sloped, and getting around the unit can be difficult. The next photo shows a typical occupied burrow. Note the freshly-dug dirt as well as the dirt on top of the rock (left behind by sun-bathing marmots). To get here, we had to hike for some distance sideways across the slope. It’s a good workout for toes, ankles, knees, and hips!

Accesses to and/or within couple of our units were so steep that we didn’t attempt to hike into them — but we didn’t need to, because we could survey them from above with binoculars.

There are (at least) three marmots in this photo. Can you spot them all?

The pups are grayish in color.

Adults have two-layer coats, brown to yellow-brown with a darker undercoat. Many of them are in the process of molting right now.

This big guy is sporting an ear tag. We’re hoping that the Park biologist can identify him or her from our photos and tell us more about him.

He or she was very patient with us while I took numerous photos in this stunning setting.

However, he finally expressed his displeasure by showing us his incisors, so we moved on and let him enjoy the rest of his day in peace.

To our surprise, we didn’t see a single black bear or mountain goat during our three days of off-trail excursions. We did see a golden eagle (a first for me), lots of deer, and some other interesting birds.

I believe this is a female sooty grouse (formerly known as a blue grouse). She had at least three chicks with her, but they were impossible to find through the camera viewfinder in the tall grass.

These are horned larks.

Sadly, the wildflower season is pretty much over, but we did see some beautiful specimens. This is pearly everlasting.

This is red columbine.

I have no idea what this gorgeous flower is, but we saw it only in a few places where there was loose shale.

All told, we hiked about 15 miles over the three days, at least a third of which was off-trail. We saw marmots and/or marmot burrows in 12 of our 14 units. We were very happy citizen scientists! We will certainly volunteer to do it again next year — maybe even venture into one of the back country areas. All in the name of research!

Ride the Hurricane!

The other day some people took a fun little bike ride in our part of the world.

There were 522 registered riders in the fourth annual Ride the Hurricane. This event — a fun ride rather than a race — is organized by our local Chamber of Commerce with the involvement of the staff at Olympic National Park. For six hours on a Sunday morning, the road from downtown Port Angeles into the Park and up to Hurricane Ridge is closed to automobiles, transformed into a superhighway for bicycles.

This was CFL’s third time in this event. He usually rides up to the Ridge solo at least one other time during the summer, but this was his first trip up this year. The ride is 36 miles roundtrip, with an elevation gain of nearly 5,000 feet on the way up and the equivalent (very rapid) elevation loss on the way down.

New for this year was a spectator shuttle, which turned the event from a personal cycling challenge into an adventure that loved ones could share. I watched CFL start out on his ride, then I got on the shuttle. We drove very carefully up the Hurricane Ridge road, mostly in the left lane, passing hundreds of panting cyclists. That is a steep road! I waved at CFL as we passed him at about mile 6.

At the top, most people positioned themselves at the finish line so they could cheer for each arriving cyclist. However, I knew that CFL would take about four hours to reach the top — which gave me nearly two hours for hiking!

CFL and I have been so busy with many other things that we haven’t had many opportunities for high country hiking. Some of the best wildflowers are already gone. However, I was hopeful as I set out along the Klahhane Ridge Trail.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I had given myself an extraordinary opportunity. Because the road up to the Ridge was closed that morning, there was almost no one on the mountain. The trail runs along the ridge high above the road, which gave me occasional birds-eye glimpses of cyclists far below. Now and then I’d hear a shout from the road, but most of the time all I heard was birds and bugs. 

I was on that trail all by myself. This struck me as slightly weird and a bit disconcerting at first. But as I continued to walk I lost myself in the wildflowers and mountain views, and I relaxed.

I hiked out for just over two miles, then somewhat reluctantly started back. The return trip provided the best angles for viewing the cyclists on the road. These photos were taken with a zoom lens.

During the last half mile of my hike I was looking down at the parking lot where the cyclists were arriving.

I hurried back from that point to make sure I wouldn’t miss CFL’s arrival! Sure enough, I’d only been at the finish line for about ten minutes when he pedaled around the final curve.

He was a little tired (understandably!) but recovered quickly and was his usual smiling self moments later for his official portrait.

It was simply a wonderful day for both of us! An awesome bike ride, a perfect hike, and many hours soaking up the midsummer sun.

Then we relaxed and had a couple of home brews!

Our activity streak: Mid-year update

Today is the 190th day of 2013 — just past the halfway point of the year. Although I haven’t yet moved far from my computer this morning, as of last night I’d run, walked, hiked, and biked a total of 972 miles. I’ll hit 1,000 miles in less than a week from now.

Neither CFL nor I have missed a single day of human-powered forward motion. I have dutifully logged my every mile in one of my famous spreadsheets. CFL is a bit more casual about his record keeping so I can’t report his actual mileage, but his daily activity streak is intact.

We’ve walked through airports and around shopping malls to keep the streak intact. On road trips, we’ve driven out of our way to find interesting small towns where we can sample the local craft brew and then walk around downtown for an hour or so before getting back in the car.

So far I have run 464 miles, walked 401 miles, hiked 91 miles and ridden my bike 16 miles.

I really need to ramp up the biking miles! Next month we are going to Portland to ride the Bridge Pedal — a 33-mile ride over ten of Portland’s Willamette River bridges. I’m still not comfortable riding my bike on a public road, much less in close company with a few thousand other riders. I’m more nervous about running into another cyclist and causing both of us to fall, than I am about riding on a public road. As I understand it, the bridges themselves will be closed to auto traffic during the ride, but I’m not sure about the roads between the bridges.

It’s time to seriously increase the hiking miles as well. The mountain snow is almost gone, and I want this to be the year when I finally do an overnight backpacking trip.

And oh yes, the running miles are going to ramp up considerably as well, as I move into the serious weeks of training for my first full marathon. Within a week or two I plan to ease myself through the first big psychological barrier — running more than 13.1 miles (the half marathon distance) on one of my Sunday morning long slow runs.

I’ve discovered that if you spend enough hours outdoors, it’s possible to get a tan even in western Washington.

I’ve discovered that the home brew tastes even better when you’ve been out there earning it step by step!

Our friends have grown accustomed to seeing us together walking around downtown. These days I never drive anywhere within a radius of about three miles from home, unless I’m planning on bringing back a large load of groceries. We’ll be ready for the next gasoline panic — we’ll simply keep walking.

When we started this thing at the beginning of the year, I honestly didn’t think we would continue it for long. Now — barring serious injury or illness — I can’t imagine not being active every day. About a month ago I was moving some large plant pots around in the back yard and somehow managed to drop a concrete block on my foot. It was seriously bruised but not broken, so I walked… slowly… the same afternoon.

Today’s plans call for an easy walk downtown for the twice-monthly meeting of the Tuesday Night Beer Research Group. The group’s motto is “We drink to learn!”

Tomorrow I’ll hit the trail again for a 7 mile run. Then I think a high-altitude hike would go well, a bit later in the week. And another bike ride of course! The possibilities are endless.

Slow and happy — one step at a time!