Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jennie Lake Backpacking Trip. July 26-27, 2014.

Jennie Lake in the Boise Mountains

We've been talking about getting the boys out for an overnight hike for about a year now, so we made that one of the goals for this summer.  After talking about logistics and possible destinations for a few months, I finally picked Jennie Lake.  This would be new territory for Deez and I and the descriptions I had read sounded good for kids.  So on a one day notice, I managed to borrow a large 3 man tent from Steve Weston (many thanks!), we did some food shopping and sprung the big news to the boys.

Photo: Headed out with the boys on their first overnight backpacking trip! Don't they look excited?

Initially, they were split 50/50 with Denise's son Landen being the excited one, and Ian seeming a little less than that.  One thing they did have in common was that they were both motivated by food and we had plenty of it.  After an hour of driving just to get across town and another two hours to get up north of Idaho City and back on FS RD 384 to 348, both of which are well maintained, we arrived at the trail head.

During the drive, the boys had come up with a name for our team; The Super Mountain Ninja's.  

Hey, I like that!

Deez and I were carrying bigger loads than we're used to, despite the fact that the boys were carrying some of their own gear.  We kept their loads light, after all, we wanted them to enjoy the trip.  I wish I would have weighed my pack, but I estimated 65Lbs.  I usually carry around 30 for a luxurious 3 day trip.

We're not exactly traveling light, now are we!  No, we're not photons...   

The Super Ninja's were on the trail!  As I already mentioned, my research indicated a family friendly hike as the Forest Service description states "Good for children and the elderly", despite the trail gaining 1,900ft to reach the lake.

Well, the Super Ninja's quickly found the trail to be a bit more steep with ups and downs that I would consider moderately strenuous.  We had a little over 4.5 miles to cover to reach the lake and started making good time.  After about 2 miles in, we found the younger Ninja's pulling over for a break about every half mile.

All three of the boys getting a break on a big boulder along the trail.

It was warm and we just wanted to reach camp and relax, so we used food motivation to entice the boys to keep going.

About 1.7 miles from the lake, you walk though a long beautiful meadow and the wild flowers were in full bloom.  This was easy ground, but we were all wearing down.

The last less than half of a mile to the lake is a bit of a climb.  This was about the worst of what the trail had to throw at us.  As we hiked, I was often asked "how much  further?"  I gave my best guess and when I started to think we were close, I'd reply it's just right up there, which was received with sighs of disbelief.

Ten more minutes, its just right there!  These are words that Deez is used to hearing, and while she may not always agree with me, I'm usually right.

Ha, see!  Here we are!

After 4.72 miles and just over 4 hours of hiking, we had made it to Jennie Lake.  I'll honestly say that I wasn't expecting the hike to be as hard as it was, or the lake to be anything too spectacular, and I was wrong on both counts.  This lake is just as beautiful as most I've visited in the Sawtooth's.

As promised, we broke out the snacks for the boys.  They relaxed and we set up camp.  For now, we had the lake to ourselves.

Ian and Landen gathered some firewood while I got dinner going.  Both the boys helped pump water and were actually more than happy to do so.

Ian even helped to pitch in on dinner and dishes.  Although he seemed less than excited when we started, he was now coming around and in a very good mood.  Landen appeared to be getting tired after the long hike and some play time in the dirt.   Deez and I were just a bit worn from the heavy packs.  The Super Mountain Ninja's were hungry team!

Now for an extra hit of Dr. Granola's Italian Trail Dust, and bam!  Dinner is served!

The main course was Chicken Pesto on Shell Pasta for the three older Ninja's, and Shells and Cheese for the youngest.

Good food is even better outdoors and this was some of the best.

After going in for second servings we were quite full and still had leftovers.  As we did the dishes, I made some joke about wishing we had neighbors to offer our tasty pasta to, in stead of putting it in the trash. As luck would have it, another group of three showed up at the lake about two minutes after we scraped it into the trash bag.

Dang!  You would have had some pasta to take to your camp!

Ian enjoying some of the dessert we passed around.

 With the days work behind us, we relaxed and joked around.  

We had brought the Uno cards and kept mentioning that we were going to start a game, but we eventually found ourselves sidetracked with conversation and ghost stories.

The last rays of sun behind the trees. 

As the night wore on, Ian found himself with the iPod in hand.  He did a fair amount of D.J. duty and picked out some good tunes.  It never did get too cold that night and even by the time we all dove in the tent around midnight, it was actually a bit on the warm side.

The next morning we woke up at a leisurely hour to another already warm day.  Once again, the boys were actually excited to pump water and took turns while I enjoyed the lakeside views.

 Ketchum explores some logs near the shore.

 Morning reflection on Jennie Lake.

Breakfast was a bit of a chore.  Three cups of hot coca, one cup of coffee and one bowl of oatmeal.  We also had a batch of breakfast burritos that came courtesy of Denise's cousin who sent us a box of extra freezer bag meals that she had prepared for her hike of the Appalachian Trail.  More cooking meant more cleaning and everyone pitched in.

Many hands make for light work!

The Super Mountain Ninja's were once again well fed and ready for the trail!

We encouraged the boys to make good time on easy ground and it went by quick.  When the trail got steep and legs got tired, all we had to do was mention milkshakes to get the team on the move.

A ways down the trail, we could tell Landen was getting tired.  Since he had hiked Table Rock with us just two days before and we felt this hike was a little much for him, we accepted a certain amount of validity to his claim. Ian also claimed tiredness, but he managed to stay out in front for most of the hike out.

Kids:  How much longer until we get to the car?

Me:  That all depends on how soon you want to get your milkshakes!  The faster you walk, the sooner were there!

That little bit of motivation kept the Super Ninja's spirits up and on the move when the going got tough.

The day was hot and my heavy pack was taking its toll on me.  I haven't been dealing with the heat very well this year and I was really beginning to feel it on the hike out.

As we neared the trail head, we had to hike back over the steep ups and downs.  Not the most fun thing, but at least we knew we were getting close.

I think we were all a bit jealous that Ketchum got to cool off in the shady, cool creek.  Somewhere after this point, I ended up with his pack, as well as Landen's.  

Hey, wait a minute!  What the...!?

Soon we could hear an ATV on the road.  Then we could see the road and that was that -we all ran to the parking lot.  The Super Mountain Ninja's had completed their first overnight hike!  We got some fresh, cold water from the creek and high-tailed it to The Sarsaparilla Ice Cream Parlor in Idaho City to make good on our promise of milk shakes to the boys.  If we weren't already moderately short on time, we would have also stopped for a bite to eat at Trudy's Kitchen before the drive home.  

Backpacking with the boys was a lot of work, but well worth it.  We had worked hard but we were all still smiling.  While it might be easy to say that we'll never take the boys backpacking again, that is not the case. The Super Mountain Ninja's will be at it again, but with some better planning and an easier hike.  Food wise, it was about the best we've ever done!  

We never did get in that Uno game...  

Wolf Mountain does sit behind Jennie Lake and I will likely return to climb that peak someday .    

I gotta say, today was a good day!

-Granola, out. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mt. Adams, Washington. July 15-16 2014.

12,267 foot tall Mt. Adams is Washington's second highest peak and boasts over 6,000 feet of elevation gain.  While it is possible to do the climb in one long day, many opt to break it up into two days and camp at the Lunch Counter the first day, and climb to the summit and descent the next.  I estimated a one day ascent would likely take me 10-12 hours and while tempting, I had planned my climb to camp at the Lunch counter. The intriguing thing about that option is that it kind of simulates a climb of Mt. Rainier.  Other than the fact that climbing Rainier adds another 1,000 feet per day, of course.  I had the chance and wanted that experience since climbing Mt. Rainier has been a long standing goal of mine that I hope to realize next year.

I was without partners for this trip and made the marathon drive to Trout Lake, WA the day before the start of the climb to attain a climbing permit with only 3 stops.  That's a lot more windshield time than I care for for, but at least I was there.

Mt. Adams as seen from Trout Lake, Washington.

After stopping at the Ranger Station it was apparent that there were going to be a lot of people, despite it being a weekday.  Now I was worried that Cold Springs Campground would be full and I would be forced to deviate from my plan.  There were probably 20-30 people at the Ranger Station so I made it a point to high-tail it up the road before they did.  I arrived at the camp ground to find a lot of people already there, and only two vacant camp sites of which I took the smaller one.  It wasn't long after that when the last remaining camp site was snagged by a group of 4.  There were a lot of people driving up and turning around because the camp ground was at full capacity.  I figured this would also mean tough competition for a spot at the Lunch Counter, so I planned an early start hoping to get there about the time others were headed down.

This area burned in 2012 during the Cascade Creek fire, so the camp ground is not in the best shape, but not the worst.  It was a very noisy night with many cars driving though the camp ground which in addition to the very warm temperatures made for a fitful night of sleep.

When my alarm went off at 6 the next morning, I had contemplated sleeping in but quickly abandoned that idea.  It was already borderline uncomfortably warm and I was anxious to head up the mountain.

However, first things first and breakfast was on.  Gotta have some coffee!

After the final packing and checklist, it was only a short walk from my camp to the trail head.  I felt a little anxious but was super stoked to finally be here.  It reminded me of when I had done Mt. Borah a few years ago.  Wow, I'm actually here and doing it!

Its such a good feeling when finally setting off on a journey that has been long in the making.  It seems to provide an energy that just isn't found elsewhere.  Due to my lack of decent sleep, this additional energy was more than welcome.  I was on the trail at 7:30am and the day was already getting warm.

The South Climb Trail is wide and pleasant with a fairly mellow grade. 

 There is also this very good reminder of the risks involved.  Sometimes we get away with it, sometimes we don't get to far...

It wasn't long before the views of the upper mountain opened up.  A few climbers trickled down the trail as I worked my way up.  I passed a group of maybe 20 people just before reaching the junction of the Round the Mountain trail.  

Following the South Climb Trail and looking back, I could see two things.  One was Mt. Hood, which always looks very cool from the north, however the other thing was the haze from wildfires burning in Oregon and Washington.

Mt. Hood barely visible in the haze 

Wildflowers were in full bloom with incredible colors. Unfortunately, as usual, the photo does not do it justice.

Nearing the upper reaches of the trail, wood poles mark the way. This was the second to last one before hitting snow for the rest of the way.  I was two hours in and the day had heated up considerably so I pulled off the trail for a break in the shade with the Lunch Counter in view. 

Working my way up from there, several climbers heading down had various reports of wind and snow conditions based on times they went for the summit.  The one thing we were all sure of; it was way too hot out!

The last bit of the snow field before the Lunch Counter. 

With a heavy pack, it was slow, but steady going to the LC and I made it up before the crowd from the Camp Ground.

They must call it the Lunch Counter because you get here at lunch time!

Arriving early, I was fortunate to score a great tent site near the top of the LC.  The occasional cool breeze was welcomed as I got to work on melting water.

There was actually a small amount of running water at the LC, but it looked to be sparse and only existing in very shallow streams.  I kept to my planned method that has served me well over the years. As I watched droves of other climbers roll up to the LC and tent sites fill up, I was glad I had gotten an early start despite the heat and nonexistent shade.  I encountered a few younger guys wearing jeans and hoodies who walked past my site that were having some trouble finding their's.  They looked wet and tired.  

I offered assistance, but I was no good since I didn't know where the orange tent was.  After that, there was a frantic lady who said she had lost her partner who left her below Piker's Peak at 12:30pm to go for the summit and hadn't returned to get her.  It was now after 5 and she was headed down to Cold Springs in search of her missing buddy.  I was about to go knock on my neighbors tent doors and affect a search and rescue, but she was headed off before I could get my boots on.  

That's cause enough for moderate concern...

Likely scenario is that he had glissaded past, didn't see her and was headed down himself.

The evening had cooled off just a bit and as I ate dinner, I heard a distant rumble.  I looked up half expecting to see rockfall or an avalanche, but it was an F/A-18 Hornet flying in to buzz the LC. 

Wow, super cool!

Too bad it had flown past before I could get my camera out.
My neighbors and I reveled in the event and the noise as we watched the fighter jet loop Mt. St Helen's before disappearing to the north.

As the sun was setting, there were still a few guys meandering around the LC looking for their tents.  There was also a large group that had shown up and camped just below me that were rather loud and energetic. 
Several exclamations were delivered that night, though they were all the same one:  1-2-3, Ooh-Rah!

The Boy Scouts, as they would later be dubbed by several other climbers the next day, kept that up well into the evening and long after I retired into my tent for some Z's.   It had been an interesting day, but I was tired and ready for a few hours of good sleep.  I hoped that everyone had made it to their tent, or down safely.

My alarm went off at 4am the next day.  The sun was just barely coming over the horizon and I could already hear tent zippers and see a few headlamps heading up the slope to Piker's Peak.  

It was just light enough just before 5am when I left my tent that I didn't need my headlamp.  It was also warm enough that I only needed a light jacket, and even that seemed to be a bit much when I started moving.

Looking back on the Lunch Counter from low on the slope to Pikers Peak.

There were a lot of people out so I tried to keep my photos to 'ups and downs' meaning I kept a steady pace with only the occasional pause to take pictures looking up, or down the slope.  

 Looking up Pikers Peak.

 Looking down over the LC.

After cresting Pikers Peak, the actual summit is finally in view. Maintaining the same steady rhythm, I kept my toes pointed toward the summit.

From here, the route spreads out with some people going up the the right snow slope, the scree slope in the center and some taking the snow slope just to the left of that.  Since I'm not a huge fan of scree, I took the finger of snow to the left, which looked very direct, was boot packed and mostly easy going.

 Taken just below the summit, looking south and back on the route.

At just a couple minutes after 8am, I hit the top and this is what I saw; Mt. Rainier.  Ya-hoo!  There was only a slight breeze but the air was noticeably colder.  There were about 15 climbers sharing the summit, so I kept my photos limited and tried to make them count. 

 Looking south from the summit.

 Mt. St Helen's.

 Mt. Rainier over Goat Rocks.

 On the old lookout building on the summit.

 Mt. Hood peaking up on the horizon.

I asked some fellow climbers that I had been next to most of the morning to take my picture and they kindly obliged.  We all laughed and joked about having already taken several pictures of each other all morning.  The groups that had summited before me were headed down and I kicked back, enjoyed the views and got my munch on. After about 20 minutes numerous people were about to top out, so I packed up, skirted around them and began my descent. 

 Cornices breaking off into the Mazama Glacier, also known as "The Edge of the Abyss".

The descent was uneventful until the top of Pikers Peak, where the legendary glissade chutes are.  From here, I could hear the familiar cry of "The Boy Scouts".  Several people remarked on the less than pleasant noise as I put my cheap rain/glissade pants on.  On the way up, the slope had been quite icy, so I was glad to find the chutes already soft and ready to ride.

I dropped over 2,000 feet in about 20 minutes, which had taken 2 hours to climb.  I zipped back down to camp so fast that I was a little bummed it was over so quickly.  There were also two more flybys from an F/A-18.  

They must be having some fun!

My camp with Mt. Hood in the distance.

I was back in camp and mostly packed up by a little after 10 and back to my car at Cold Springs about 1 with the temperature registering 87f .   During the whole trip, the wind never really picked up and I hardly wore more than a light jacket at the coldest of times.  Maybe the weather had been a little too nice...

While largely uneventful, this was a milestone trip for me in planning my long term goal of climbing Mt. Rainier.  I was glad things had gone well and if all goes as projected, I'll get my chance at it next year.

A goal without a plan is just a dream.  

- Granola, out