Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tar Creek Daytrip, 03/28

12/10/13: The US Forest Service will be enforcing access restrictions to Tar Creek soon. TC is part of the Condor Sanctuary established as critical habitat to this endangered bird and other wildlife. Epic numbers of visitors, and the trash and graffiti they have left behind, has led to the acknowledgment by the Forest Service that access must be curtailed and enforced. For more information on the impending action visit: Tar Creek Closure.

Zero and I went down to "The Land of the Lost" swimming holes today. The weather was absolutely perfect for swimming in the chilly pools. Sunny, clear, and in the 80's. A couple of unusual occurences occured: we got buzzed by the Ventura County Sheriff's SAR chopper, and we stumbled upon an enormous rattlesnake (see pics). After that it was the usual hike and lazy day at the holes. I was just so damn nice to have a day entirely to myself, with no responsibilities or commitments. This was the way I chose to spend that time.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Washington trip, part II, the week is saved!

After an afternoon frolicking in a bog of despair (due to the un-boardable conditions at Mt Baker) Ruth and I put our heads together and decided to make an attempt to save our trip. So we got up at 5AM and drove south and east to Stevens Pass Ski Area on the Cascade Divide. Of course, we had no idea what kind of mountain to expect but as it turned out, we were pleasantly surprised. The place was great! Though on the smallish side, the ski area boasted some entertaining runs, great tree skiing, and a fantastic terrain park. The powder off the runs was knee deep and untracked. And zero crowds. We skated onto every chair lift all day. After a whole day at Stevens we drove further east and stayed in the charming "bavarian village" of Leavenworth. Though the town was "Children of the Corn" quiet due to the off season, we saw enough indications that the town could be alot of fun during the spring and summer.

The next morning we drove back up to Stevens Pass and boarded 10 or so runs before the falling snow turned to rain. We packed up and started to explore the west side of the Cascades. We hit the towns of Skykomish (nothing there), Index (reminded me of the movie "Wrong Turn") and Snohomish which turned out to be a lovely little town with a diverse and interesting Main Street, numerous Victorian homes, and fantastic antique stores. We got a room and spent the night.

After one more day boarding Stevens we drove back to Bellingham and were looking at flying home the following day when we decided to extend our trip by a day in order to "do" the one tourist thing everybody in Washington does at least once: take the ferry over to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. This is just alot of fun and during the summer orca sightings from the ferries are common. San Juan Island itself is the largest of the hundreds of islands in the Sound and Friday Harbor is it's nicest port. We found a charming little community with alot of the touristy stuff mixed with all the every day needs of a real community. All in all, we were very glad we went.

On our "new last day" we woke early and drove south to Seattle. We spent our free time while waiting for our flight visiting one of Seattle's most famous and historic locales: the Pike Place Market. We broused the hundreds of shops and stall while nibling on fresh smoked salmon, European cheeses, and fresh roasted cashews. We, of course, stopped to see the world renowned "fish throwers" of Pikes Place. Kinda fun watching these guy huck 20 pound salmon to each other.

We wound up having a great getaway, mostly because we were willing to throw out the itinerary when things didn't work out. Instead we had ourselves an adventurous and exciting week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Too much of a good thing.

Sometimes you get what you wish for...and then some. I've been praying for a good dump of snow in the Pacific Northwest, preferably before our arrival in Bellingham. Well it's snowing, and snowing, and snowing. Mt Baker has gotten 4-6 feet since our arrival Saturday. It's all heavy, wet snow, AKA "Cascade Crud". And while it's beautiful, and great for the locals, who seem to be able to ski by Braille, it's not so good for the rest of us who appreciate being able to see where we're going.

The real problem with all this snow comes down to depth and visibility. Not only has the snow been falling massive quantities, but it has been accompanied by a thick fog. This combination has made snowboarding basically impossible for us. In addition, the powder has been up to 2 feet deep on the groomed runs. Off the groomed stuff the powder can be above waist deep. So we spent a few runs on Sunday not being able to see a damn thing and I got to dig out and hike a couple of times for venturing off the "groomed" stuff. It's just too much snow. For example, Ruth saw me go off a 70 degree incline that I had no idea existed until it was too late. It took me about 20 minutes to dig out and hike to a place I could resume descending. Oh, yeah. Baker is a local's mountain and they aren't renowned for their attention to clear and concise signage.

So the 2 days we've tried to board haven't gone so well. Sunday we managed just 3 runs before the elements won. Today we drove up but it was abundantly clear that conditions were even worse than they were on Sunday. Now, don't think that Ruth and I are just wimps. We came here because Mt Baker frequently has epic conditions and we'll for sure go up the mountain in storm conditions. It's just the combination of way too deep snow and true non-visibility that has put the kibosh on our plans. There just isn't much point in going if you can't see and you get stuck every 100 feet. And the forcast doesn't look any better for the rest of the week. Shit.

We did have a really nice day visiting with Scott and Liz yesterday (Monday). We played tourist and basically did a driving tour of the Pac NW. We drove to Anacortes, a sleepy seaside community that did nothing to warrant a return trip. After that we turned south and visited the bridges at Deception Pass State Park. This is one of the most picturesque of the easily accessed areas of the Puget Sound. We spotted a couple of bald eagles and hiked around a bit. We then drove over to Laconner, another sleepy little town with some interesting shops and restaraunts. To round out the day we stopped at Boundary Bay Brewery for dinner and were treated to some impromptu Irish dance courtesy of a local school.

So tomorrow we've decided to head south to Stevens Pass ski area in hopes that conditions are a bit friendlier. My hope is that due to it's higher elevation we'll be above the fog. But we've decided that conditions be damned, we're gonna give it our best shot.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Trail Ride, Pine Mountain

I took the bike out for a ride yesterday. Had I really thought about it I would have gone somewhere other than Pine Mountain, which is at 6,000ft. The snow and mud on the trails made for an interesting, dicey ride. I don't recommend riding a motorcycle through 6 inches of snow. It's do-able but sketchy. I only rode about 10 miles. I'll be taking the bike out more as the hills dry out.