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Friday, September 30, 2011

Talapus and Olallie Lakes

On Wednesday this week I headed out to Talapus and Olallie lakes near North Bend.  With my trusty sidekicks (my 2 boys) at school, I had to find another hiking partner, so I went with one of my friends.

This hike is pretty easy, however there are some spots that are quite rocky and have tree roots sticking up.  So, be sure to watch your step.  I would be comfortable bringing kids 5 and older if they have hiked before.  7 and up if not.  On the way down we passed a couple, and the father was carrying a baby in a front pack and his 5 year-old daughter as well.  So, it depends on your kids for sure.
The trail is well maintained with a few muddy spots along the way.  The hike to Talapus Lake is 4 miles round trip.  If you want to add on Olallie Lake to your trip, it will be an additional 1 1/2 miles, but totally worth it.  It took us about 2 1/2 hours to complete the hike.
The trail starts out pretty flat and wide.  There are many wooden paths along the way covering boggy areas.
A bit before you reach Talapus, you will cross a bridge over a stream and you can hear the rumblings of a waterfall.
There are a few points you can go off trail to view the waterfall
We reached Talapus Lake and it was beautiful.  There weren't many easy access points to the lake, but I found a spot to take some good pictures.

 If you choose to continue to Olallie Lake (I would recommend it if you have time), you will continue on the trail and see a sign that points to Pratt Lake (1 1/2 miles further) or Olallie Lake.  Follow the arrow that points to Olallie.  Unfortunately we saw the sign but didn't pay attention to the arrows, so wandered a bit before coming back and following the arrows.  I guess we were talking to much.
Continue hiking along a few switchbacks and reach Olallie in about .7 miles.  I enjoyed this Lake even more.  There were more access points to the lake and spots to sit and take a break for a snack. 
As soon as we sat to have a snack a bunch of Gray Jays swooped down to snatch up any crumbs we might spill.  They came amazingly close and were fun to watch.
Off to pick the kids up from school. With driving time to and from these hikes, it doesn't leave much time to enjoy the beauty and serenity, but it was well worth it.

To get here drive I-90 east to exit 45 (Forest Road 9030). Turn left under the freeway on FR 9030. In about 1 mile bear right at the junction. Continue straight for a couple of miles to the trailhead.  A forest pass is required and there is one outhouse available at the trailhead.

Monday, September 26, 2011

31 Days to Becoming A Smarter Hiker

Join me for my blog series "31 Days to Becoming a Smarter Hiker". The Nester is hosting this 31 Days link up party!

Starting October 1st, I will be blogging daily about ways you can become a smarter and safer hiker so that you and your family can get the most out of your hiking experiences.

Grab my button on the right if you would like to share this series with others.

Light The Night Was a Success!!

Saturday night we participated in the  Light the Night Walk benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  We walked with Colton's Army all decked out in orange.  We had over 90 participants in our group.
Photo by:  Claire Leighton
The air was filled with red, white and gold balloons illuminated from the inside.  Red balloons were held by supporters, white by survivors, and gold were in remembrance of those we have lost to blood cancers.

It was a very emotional and moving night.  Once the sky became dark the balloons led us on our way around Greenlake in Seattle.  Such a beautiful sight.  Unfortunately my camera couldn't do it justice.
Photo by: Claire Leighton
Suzy, our team captain and Colton's mom spoke very eloquently about their journey.
This event raised over $800,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the number is still growing.  The funds raised will go toward finding a cure for blood cancers and helping those who are affected by them.  Donations are still being accepted so if you would like to donate you can go to Colton's Army and make your donation.

Thank you to everyone who donated and participated.  It was an amazing night!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Meadowdale County Park

While the kids were at school I went on the Meadowdale Beach hike in Lynnwood.  This is a staple for my family.  We have done this hike 15-20 times starting from before I had kids.  I even did it while pregnant. 

This is a relatively easy hike of 2 1/2 miles.  However, since the 1 1/4 miles to the beach is downhill, you have to hike back up and it is pretty steep.  Your heart will definitely be beating when you get to the top.

All ages will be able to complete this hike.  The hike back to your car is steep but there are benches along the way for little ones to take a break.  It takes about 45-60 minutes to complete this hike not including the time you will want to stay at the beach.

Beware, this is a very popular place and as I have continued to do this hike throughout the years, it seems more and more people have discovered it.  The parking lot holds maybe 30 cars and it was completely full.  I had to park along the road and walk about 1/4 mile to the trailhead.

Popular for kids, dogs, and adults, this hike has something for everyone.  As you enter the forest, you will be welcomed by grand Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars among others.  The trail is nice and wide with lots of room to spread out.  Trail conditions were great today, although I have often run into mud in the past.  It all depends on when you decide to go. 
You begin your descent and follow the gurgling stream towards the beach.

You will pass several nurse trees along the way.  The stump of an ancient tree supporting young growth.  My boys often enjoy climbing to the top of the stumps.
At about a half mile you will reach the chin-up bars.  Not that I can do a chin-up, but the kids like to jump up and hang from them.
Along the way you will see a few signs identifying the different types of trees that grow along the way.
At a mile in you will reach the ranger's home and picnic area.  You can choose to go right through the forest or left towards the cement path.  I chose to go left across the bridge.

Follow the path and you will pass the bathrooms and continue under the pedestrian tunnel.  The tunnel goes under the train track and over the waterway that leads the salmon to the ocean.  There isn't much headroom especially if you are tall.
You have arrived at the beach. Enjoy the views of the mountains and the islands.  It was a bit hazy today, but the views were still beautiful.
Whenever my boys and I do this hike, one of our favorite things to do is search for crabs under the rocks.  Well, I couldn't leave without finding a crab so here you go.
I sat for a while gazing out across the Puget Sound enjoying the sun and the sound of the rippling waves.

To get here take the 164th Street SW exit off I-5; follow 164th St SW west to 164th SW; turn right to cross Hwy 99; turn right onto 52nd Ave W; turn left onto 160th St; turn right onto 56th Ave W; turn left onto 156th Ave W. Park entrance is at the end of the road.  There are brown county signs pointing you in the right direction.

You do not need a forest pass and there are outhouses in the parking lot and at the end of the trail before you reach the beach.

As an added note, there is a handicapped access road for those who are unable to do the hike but would like to enjoy the beach.  Click here for more info on this hike and for trail conditions.

I hope you enjoy this hike as much as we do.  Happy hiking!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fees Waived To Celebrate Public Lands Day!

The day-use fees have been waived at 100's of recreation sites in celebration of Public Lands Day this Saturday September 24th. Take advantage of this celebration and go for a hike to experience the beauty of your state.  You can go here to find out what sites are participating.
Happy Hiking!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What to Bring on a Hike

There are many thoughts on what to bring on a hike.  Since I am not into being too adventurous and I never go off trail I don't typically bring maps and compasses or anything too technical.  However these items are a must if you plan to go off trail.

Here is a list of things I bring on a hike with my kids.  I can always fit everything into my backpack.

1. Layers: Like I mentioned in one of my posts, the temperature and weather can change quickly due to the elevation gain on hikes so I always bring a jacket for everyone in my hiking party.

2. Water: This is a necessity on any hike. I bring about 32oz. per person depending on the length of the hike.  If you plan to do multiple hikes, I would invest in a Camelbak type of device for each child so they can be in charge of their own water.  This saves you having to lug around everyone's water and having to listen to "mom, I'm thirsty" the whole way :)

3.  Food: I usually pack a lunch and some snacks to eat along the way.  Kids will always be hungry and a snack/lunch can be a good motivator to make it to the top. They also need energy since hiking can be tiring.

4.  First Aid kit: I pack mine with pain reliever, band aids, antibacterial ointment, wipes, gauze, anti-diarrhea medication, allergy meds,  hand sanitizer, matches, and anything else child-specific you may need. (Ex.epi-pen or inhaler).  Garbage bags are also easy to store and make great rain gear in an emergency.

5.  Multi-tool:  For example a Leatherman tool just in case you need it.

6.  Sunscreen and bug repellent:  You can get individually wrapped packs of sunscreen and bug repellent that will fit easily in your backpack.  You can also get bug fans that clip to your belt or bug bracelets. I have tried both and feel the fan works better, but it requires batteries and is more expensive.

7. Small Flashlight:  I would bring extra batteries too just in case.  Although I don't hike at night, it is always a good idea to carry a flashlight if only to peer into logs etc. for curious eyes.

8. Biodegradable toilet paper (self explanatory)

9.  Cell phone:  This is a must in case of emergency.  Make sure it is fully charged when you begin your hike.  I also use mine to take all of our pictures.  It actually takes better pictures than my camera and gives me one less thing to carry.

10.  I always bring my driver's license and insurance card.  This ensures that if there is an emergency all parties will know who I am and have my medical information.  I also have a Road ID that velcros to my shoe.  I originally purchased this because I am a runner and it is a useful tool in case of emergency, but it works great for hiking too.  It includes whatever information you want such as name, emergency numbers, health info etc.  You can go to to learn more.

Finally, I carry a whistle and pepper spray (in case of animals or weirdos). Make sure you know how to use the pepper spray before you begin your hike.  The time to read the directions is not when an angry animal is rushing towards you.

Is there anything that you always bring on a hike or something you can't hike without?  Post your idea below.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Nature-al Conversations

Do you ever wonder what would happen if you left all of the technology and chores of daily life behind? Would you and your children be able to function?  Could your kids possibly have fun?  Of course!

When we set out on our hiking adventures the world suddenly changes and so do the attitudes and conversations of my children.

I don't notice a change until we actually start the hike.  The car ride remains the same.  "Don't touch me.", "Stop making that noise.", etc.  Not until we get out of the car and enter the wilderness do I see the difference that God's creations can make.

My boys always have the most interesting things to say and I am often struck at how wise and creative they can be.  I take the time to really listen and I interject when asked.  I often find myself with a wide grin on my face listening to their conversations.

We talk about God and how he shows us his love in so many ways, big and small.  From the huge waterfall that meets us at the end of the Bridal Veil Falls Trail,

to the bees that pollinate all of the beautiful flowers along the way.
We talk about dreams they have had.  One particular one sticks in my mind.  One of my boys dreamt that his dad was a donkey and had a doctor's lab coat on.  Most of their dreams have someone in their life changing into an animal or an alien.  "Hmmm, I wonder what that means?"  I think to  myself while I try to analyze their dreams in my head.

We talk about inventions that they want to create such as a flying car that can go from the street to the air, or a time machine that can take us to the past and the future.  I realize how important creativity is in children and why I want to encourage it and help them continue on this path of discovery.

My boys even change in their attitudes towards each other.  Instead of poking fun or becoming annoyed with each other, they are supportive and loving.  I know what you are thinking, "Seriously?".  I know, I am always surprised myself.  Something about being in nature and on a journey to discover something they have never seen before brings out their generosity and loving nature.

This is why I love hiking with my boys so much.  I see in them, in this snippet of time, who I hope they grow to be as adults and eventually as husbands and fathers.  The joy, the faith, the attitude of generosity and love that I hope they continue to exude as they grow.

I encourage you to try it.  Take away the technology for a couple of hours and see what happens.  You might just be surprised.

Happy Hiking!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Heather Lake

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One of the boys' favorite hikes is Heather Lake along the Mountain Loop Highway. We have done this hike twice. Our first time just the boys and I went. It was in August and it was a beautiful sunny day.  The second time we went with friends in July and it was raining the entire time.  Both times we had a great time.
This hike is 4 miles roundtrip with 1000 feet of elevation gain. The trail is hikeable by all ages.
At about a mile in, the old growth forest begins and the trail will follow Heather Creek. The sounds of the waterfall beckon you forward.

The trail is well maintained and within the next mile you will travel up several switchbacks to a bridge where the trail becomes level.  Continue down through  the forest to the meadow just before the lake.
Both times we went there was a bit of snow before you reached the lake.  This is easily traversed and the trail is easy to follow.  As you can see, we brought our dog.  He had a great time too!

During our sunny hike the boys found so many frogs it was amazing!  They had a great time collecting them. Don't worry no frogs were harmed in the making of this photo.
When we reached the lake we were overwhelmed by its beauty.  Views of the lake and Mount Pilchuck were awe-inspiring.

Even on the rainy day the views were just as majestic though a bit more muddy.

Heather Lake is hikeable mid June through October, but I would suggest later in the summer to ensure less snow on the trail and better weather.  The kids will want to play in the water as soon as you get there.

The boys have been asking to go back so we may try this in the fall to enjoy the changing colors.  

To get here drive north on Hwy 9 and take a right on Hwy 92 towards Granite Falls.  Pass through Granite Falls and turn left on the Mountain Loop Highway.  Continue past the Verlot Ranger station about a mile and take a right on Mount Pilchuck road (no. 42). Continue 1.5 miles to the trailhead parking lot.  A forest pass is required and there are outhouses at the parking lot.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tonga Ridge

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Well, the kids went back to school this week.  So, on September 1st we did our last hike before school started to Tonga Ridge off of Highway 2.  This is the hike we were planning to do at the beginning of the summer, but got snowed out.  So we tried again last Thursday and there was no snow in sight.

This hike is 6 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1200 feet. It took us about 2 1/2 hours to complete.

A forest pass is required and there is no outhouse at the trailhead so you might want to stop at the Skykomish ranger station first.

There were a few blowdowns at the beginning of the hike that were easy to get around.

You will start off in the forest among the trees.  What we thought was interesting is that many of the trees grew sideways at one point and then grew upright again.  I researched why this might happen and found that maybe this was a high wind area.  If you have any other ideas let me know.

After about a mile the forest opens up and you will enjoy beautiful views of the mountains the rest of the way.

You also will hike along a path filled on both sides with wildflowers.  We could hear the hum of the bees the rest of the way.  No stings though.

At about 2 miles you will see a serene meadow on your left.
 Keep your eye out for a pink ribbon tied to a tree on your left.  We passed this and went on but didn't have time to turn here on the way down.  You can take a left at the ribbon and hike to a lookout point.

There are many paths you can turn off of on the left that will take you to other lookout points.  We turned off of the path and had great views of the mountains to the south.

The best part of this hike are the views.  You can see majestic and snow capped mountains almost the entire way.  The wildflowers are so colorful and the buzzing bees added to the experience.

Tonga Ridge is hikeable by most ages.  The trail is well maintained but can be quite narrow in some places with steep edges.

I have read trip reports telling of bug issues, but we had no trouble while we were there.  I did have a battery powered bug repellant fan that may have helped.  However, the only bugs we saw were the bees.

To get here drive Highway 2 east 1.8 miles past Skykomish and take a right on Foss River Road no. 68.  (you will be driving on a gravel road the rest of the way to the trailhead) After about 2.5 miles turn left on road no. 6830.  Drive another 7 miles and turn right on road no. 310.  Go another 1.5 miles to the road's end at the trailhead.  This is not much of a parking lot just basically the end of the road.