Pratt Lake Basin

Finally, an honest-to-goodness trail run! Many of my hikes have been too steep or slippery to run, but Pratt Lake was almost entirely runnable. Which is good, because if it wasn’t, I’d probably have turned back out of misery.

  • Distance: 11 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 2300ft gain
  • Weather: 40’s and rainy (and windy!)
  • Commute from Seattle: 45 minutes
  • Did I Trip: Ugh. Awkwardly stumbled and twisted my ankle. See below for details.


DSC00527Probably due to the weather, it was kind of a miserable hike. The type you do because you know you’ll be glad when you’re done with it. I had been sitting in my apartment for the past four days (okay, I went to work some of those days but the wanderlust was kicking in) so I figured I’d go anyway. Plus, it was a lake, so it couldn’t be that bad right? Lakes are pretty in crappy weather. Starting off it wasn’t that bad. The trail was in good shape, drained very efficiently so no muddy patches or swampy areas or rivers coming down the trail, and the mist was pretty cool at some points. I can definitely see why trail runners like this one, since the path is a wide, soft dirt path without many roots or rocks to navigate. There were a couple pretty waterfalls coming towards the trail as well.

DSC00528There were a couple bridges that were a little slippery, but that was it until the trail splits and gives you the option of continuing to lake Talapus (.2 miles away) or Pratt Lake, another 3 miles away. After that junction, it got progressively worse. There were more muddy patches and more sections of the trail covered by small rivers. Two miles past that, along a ridge, there was another junction, this time with the left path heading to Island Lake and the right continuing on to Pratt. After this junction, the trail became nearly unrunnable. You lose a bunch of altitude heading down to Pratt Lake and the trail is steep, lots of big rocks and roots, crossing talus fields, and eventually winding its way though the basin, where everything was a swamp. The talus fields are pretty exposed – the wta description says bring sunscreen, I say bring a damn hat and gloves and windproof jacket. At this point, you can see the lake, so there’s no point in turning around. You skirt the slope above the lake for a while (runnable, thank god) and eventually drop down to the basin.

DSC00537This is where my misery kicked in. It was pouring rain, windy, cold, my gloves were soaked through, and I was six miles from the trailhead. And the lake was just a lake. No amazingly clear glacial water, no turquoise color, just a blue lake. I’m spoiled. Ugh. So I snapped just a few pictures to document it, turned around, and ran back. For a brief moment I had contemplated going to Island Lake, but after reaching Pratt, hell no. I was cold, impatient, and it wasn’t as much “yay running!” as it was a “just let me teleport to my car/apartment/shower/hawaii” type of run.

I made it back in good time, with only one situation: my shoe came untied. Great. I tied it, and with my first step back on the trail (not even running) I twisted my ankle. Stepped weirdly on a rock I guess, I don’t even know. All I know is it hurt. But I was two miles from the trailhead and not about to walk through the pouring rain, so I kept running. The pain faded until I got home, which is when it decided to come back twice as bad. Luckily it only lasted a few days. To be fair I’ve been laying off it lately, so we’ll see this weekend how much better it actually is. When I got back to the trailhead, there were four other cars, but I hadn’t seen anyone besides one person. The rest must have gone up to Granite Mountain, which is a steep (1000ft/mile ish) hike with great views that shares a parking area with the Pratt Lake trail. Well, great views on a sunny day. Not sure they saw anything this time around.

As much as I disliked this run, it’s probably a pretty cool summer backpacking trip if you’re into lakes. From this trail you can also reach Lakes Talapus and Ollalie, Island Lake, Rainbow Lake, Melakwa Lake, and Lake Tuscohatchie. In the summer, on sunny days, it’d be pretty nice to hit all those lakes and go for a couple swims. So I’ll give it a chance to redeem itself in a few months.

Melakwa Lake

Looking over the lake

Looking over the lake

This was the ideal cloudy day hike. Since I’m spoiled by amazing views already (I’ve only been out here for two months, seriously) I have trouble getting motivated on days with mediocre weather. I can’t even call it lousy weather because temperatures were normal and it wasn’t raining! I left the apartment convinced I would do Mirror Lake, which is like 2 miles round trip. Unfortunately I spent half an hour doing awkward U-turns on crappy rutted gravel roads, completely incapable of finding Mirror Lake. While it was sunny. What a waste of sunny hours. I’ll be back though, after asking around I know exactly where I went wrong. The WTA claims the last half mile of the road is suitable only for high clearance vehicles, but it didn’t look like it was suitable for any vehicle. So overgrown I wasn’t even sure if it was a trail for hikers or an abandoned logging road leading to nowhere.

Anyway, I left the alleged road to Mirror Lake in sheer defeat, swearing to myself I’d hike Melakwa (back up plan) because I didn’t drive two hours (if you include my stupid mountain loops) just to turn around and drive home. Luckily, Melakwa was one of the easiest trailheads to find since it’s just past a big campground.

  • Distance: 8.5 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 2500ft gain
  • Weather: 50’s and cloudy
  • Commute from Seattle: just over an hour
  • Did I Trip: Nope

The trail starts off along Denny Creek. It crosses underneath I-90 (yes you read that right, you hike beneath a highway) about a half mile in, which was bizarre but you start between the two directions of I-90 so I suppose you had to cross at some point. About a mile in you cross Denny Creek, which is coming down slick rocks and creating a waterslide. Apparently you can actually slide down it when it’s warm out. I didn’t test it, but it looked like little kids would have a blast playing around it. That first mile of the trail is very well taken care of, probably because it’s so popular.

Waterfall along the trail

Waterfall along the trail

The last bits of fall foliage were still hanging out on the way up. I passed a couple nice waterfalls as well. The first mile of the trail was runnable, but eventually you come to some boulder fields, and while there’s still a path, the footwork was a little tricky for me. Not too steep though, and you get a decent view of the valley you’re hiking through the farther you go.

Lingering fall foliage

Lingering fall foliage

Since it was cloudy, I’m sure the views were not at their best, but you could still see some of the lesser peaks.

I passed another hiker on the way up, who was the only person I saw. No cars in the parking lot, so I was pretty surprised. I told him I was planning another hike but when the weather wasn’t cooperating I chose Melakwa, and he had the same issue. But he reassured me it was the perfect cloudy/rainy day hike, and damn, he was completely right. Once I got to the lake, it was completely worth it. I’m very goal oriented, I seem to need an actual destination. I can’t just hike though woods and enjoy it without something to attain.



First, some more fall foliage. Then we’ll talk lake. The trail wasn’t half bad – as soon as it was out of the forest, I had fields, boulders, and views. And the knowledge that I had a goal to obtain:e lake. And I had to make it to the lake within a certain time or else I’d be hiking back in the dark, so I had to be quick. Once you reach the top of hte pass, you lose about a hundred feet in altitude to get down to Melakwa, which I didn’t expect. Coming around a bend in the trail, I saw a lake down below (WAY down below) and thought damn,  that’s gotta be another mile or two. Luckiy it was another lake (something starting with an H) and not Melakwa! Melakwa was on the other side of the pass, hidden from the trail.


Damn, Melakwa, you pretty

Damn, Melakwa, you pretty

Melakwa was beautifully clear, another turquoise alpine lake. Man, now I’m even getting spoiled with lakes. The other hiker was totally right, it was a great cloudy day hike, because the color still stood out, and with some fall colors along the bank for contrast, it was a great destination. What I didn’t realize is that there are actually two lakes! This is the lower lake. I didn’t make it to the upper lake, since I didn’t know it existed. There’s also a pass to a ridge behind them that you can climb easily (so they say), so next time I go back, I’ll have to make it up to the ridge. The views are probably wonderful. And it’ll look even better if those peaks in the back are capped in snow.

The only downside to this hike was the hike back. I’ve never been a fan of the return hike, but obviously it’s a necessity. Since I can’t paraglide back to the trailhead like these guys did from Mt. Everest. The closest I’ve ever been was glissading down Mt. Rainier (between Camp Muir and Paradise Inn) on my way down from the summit. That was way more exciting than the hike back from Melakwa. I was totally bored. Bored out of my mind. Usually I can occupy myself with my thoughts or the trail or the views, but none of the above were working. Luckily it wasn’t too long of a hike, and I was back to the trail head quickly, and I beat sunset, which was most important. Anyway, would definitely recommend this as a cloudy/rainy day hike. It won’t disappoint. Today I tried to go on a rainy day hike that didn’t have lakes or waterfalls or views, and it was… let’s just say I’m not even going to blog about it. Stick with the lakes for rainy days, or even views if you know you’ll be back someday.

One more!

One more!

Rachel Lake/Alta Mountain

This hike is a double win. Beautiful lake and beautiful peak all in one trip, though I’ll admit the effort to scenery ratio was pretty high in the beginning. Hiked 10/13/2014, definitely a good fall hike.

  • Distance: 12 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 3300ft gain
  • Weather: 50’s and sunny at the bottom, way colder at the top
  • Commute from Seattle: 1:20 without traffic
  • Did I Trip: Yes, and slid five feet down a muddy rock like a pro
View down the ride, plus Rainier

View down the ridge, plus Rainier

Somehow, I severely miscalculated time and ended up power-hiking/running this entire trail to avoid being late for work. I debated turning around at the lake, but figured I didn’t get all the way out there to not make it to the peak, so I pushed on and figured I’d just go straight to work with the help of baby wipes and perfume and a change of clothes. The first mile or two were flat, so those were a piece of cake. But after that, it’s up, up, up. There are a few waterfalls along the way, but nothing really spectacular until the lake itself. At one point, I realized I smelled burning, and suddenly was surrounded by a smokey haze. I freaked out, and worried that I was in an area where the underbrush was burning and I just hadn’t realized it (okay, I had been reading forest fire survival stories the night before). Turned out someone left a campfire going (I yelled around for people) that I took the liberty of putting out. I didn’t see anyone for hours, so I’m assuming they left and didn’t put it out all the way and it reignited and started spreading. Guys, that’s how forest fires can start. Come on.

Rachel Lake

Rachel Lake

Anyway, after lots of steep switchbacks (several of which I hiked right past – pay attention! I space out too much sometimes), some slick rock to scramble over, and a few small waterfalls, you arrive at Lake Rachel. Which is beautiful. It looks like a Carribbean coast. Talapus and Olallie were cool, but this was unbelievable. I’d have been perfectly happy turning around here and having time to take pictures and just take in the scenery, but of course my pride forced me along the side trail going up to the ridge.

The trail up to the ridge was much narrower and just as steep. There were a few areas where you had to scramble over some rocks, one of which was in the middle of a switchback. Took me a while to figure that one out, since it looked like there was a stick blocking it (the WTA volunteers will usually put branches across paths that are out of commission or just the wrong direction) but I think the branch just fell and rolled that way, because the only path nearby was the one that continued a few feet up the boulder. But after fifteen or 20 minutes of that trail, I popped out along a ridge and the trail came to a T. To the left is Rampart Lakes, to the right are Alta and Lila Lake, which (I think) is in the basin below Alta. Go right, until the trail splits again, and then bear left, which goes up to Alta.

Rachel Lake down below

Rachel Lake down below

The ridge is very exposed, and it was crazy windy and quite cold. I unpacked all of my layers and put them on (gloves!), and wished I had brought light pants. But the views were worth it, not to mention the Vitamin D that Seattle so frequently lacks. Here’s Rachel Lake from above, just before I started running along the ridge. “Hauled Ass” I believe is the correct phrase for what I was doing. Didn’t have much time to enjoy views, but that ended up being okay since it was freaking freezing anyway. The foliage was still pretty bright, which was a pleasant surprise since I thought fall was nearing an end.

Rocky peaks over Alta tarns

Rocky peaks over Alta tarns

The higher up I went, the rockier it got. Most of the surrounding peaks were craggy, which I imagine will look cooler with a dusting of snow. I could see down into the basin, where Lila lake was. If you look closely, there are some snow capped peaks peeking over the closest ridge. No idea what those are. If anyone knows, comment. Next time I go back, I’ll hopefully have more time to explore Lila and the Ramparts, which I hear are beautiful. But like I said, I was busy trucking it trying to get back down in time, so I turned around pretty quickly. But not before snagging a picture of me pointing at Rainier. Too windy for ten second timers, so I had to settle for an actual selfie.

Hi Rainier!

Hi Rainier!

Going back down was brutal. Plenty of pounding on the knees, knowing I had to go fast to make it back in time, trying to regain feeling in my frozen fingers. Running down the ridge warmed everything up quickly, but once it got too steep to run that’s when I started getting (this is shocking) bored. I’m an impatient person, and going down all of those switchbacks with no views or time to just enjoy where I was led to boredom and impatience. I wiped out and slid down a rock, covered in mud, so that was cool. A second later, I heard a bunch of clapping. Though someone saw my slip, but it was actually a hiker who thought I was a bear until he saw the neon pink jacket. He was clapping to scare me off, and when he saw me he just said “holy SHIT Ithoughtyouwereabear” with a huge look of relief on his face. Glad I sound like a bear. I’ll take it as a… compliment…? He had a fishing pole, so I guess there’s some life in Rachel Lake! I wonder what lives up there. And if it freezes over. My questions are getting redundant. I need answers.

One last view of the basin

One last view of the basin

I ran into a few others on the way down (a tourist family shocked they had another half hour of vertical before the lake). It warmed up as I was going down, the campfire had not reignited, and I ran the last two miles and made it back to the car in time to stop at home. I double-parked, threw on the hazards (hazards = free parking), spent 5 minutes in my apartment grabbing food (thank god), hopped back in my car and was off to work. When I walked in the door, my boss asked if I wanted to go on early. I thought he meant 10 minutes early, since it was 2:50, and I said yes. Turned out, I didn’t have to be there until 4. And I woke up the next morning more sore from Alta than I had been for my 18 miler a few days prior. But you know what? It was worth it. My real regret? Not jumping into Rachel Lake. Oh, the things I could have done if I had known I had that extra hour.

Trail going through fall foliage along the ridge

Trail going through fall foliage along the ridge

Mount Catherine

So technically this was going to be the sunset hike that I wanted to do after lakes Talapus and Ollalie, but it didn’t work out as planned. We’ll get there in a few minutes.

  • Distance: 3 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 1330ft gain
  • Weather: 60’s and sunny
  • Commute from Seattle: about an hour
  • Did I Trip: No!

Like I said, supposed to be an easy hike with great views. Honestly, the road was probably harder than the hike. No one told me I’d be driving for 45 minutes down a dirt road, which was more often full of potholes and washboard stretches than clear stretches. The foliage along the road was beautiful, but if you’re like me, you’ll spend too much time in cardiac arrest worrying about the axels and suspension of your tiny car to enjoy the scenery. There were a few steep, rocky, rutted sections that I was shocked my Accord passed successfully. It was the first time I had actually been worried on a gravel road, and I was not looking forward to redoing that in the dark after sunset.

DSC00207Honestly, I thought this hike was a bit anticlimactic. The peak was forested, and only a few views peaked out. The trailhead was completely empty and I didn’t see any people or wildlife, save a bird that seemed pretty upset to see me. Of course, there’s the obligatory pic of Rainier, which was in full splendor. Can’t complain much about that. And for the (small) amount of effort that went into the hike, the views are pretty impressive. Crap, I’m starting to take things for granted. Like how I have trouble motivating myself to hike in cloudy weather when in reality, a cloudy day in the Cascades is infinitely better than any day along Sheridan Road in Evanston.

DSC00199As another example of me being spoiled, here’s the view from the other side of the peak. Okay, it’s still pretty nice, I shouldn’t complain. I’ve got to learn the names of the peaks in all of these areas so I can be that cool guy who knows everything and can orient himself anywhere. Speaking of which, I should also invest in a compass. Does the Garmin Fenix have a compass? You bet your sweet ass it does. Someday.

Another unexpected part of this hike was getting to watch fog roll into the valley. I should have taken a video to show just how fast it was moving. It’s also surprisingly cool watching clouds roll along underneath you. I’ve got a mediocre picture of it below. If you look closely, you can see the clouds filling in the entrance of the valley. Within 10 minutes, everything beneath me was covered in fog, though I was still in sun. I was 45 minutes early to sunset, and to be honest the thought of hiking down alone with just a headlamp in pitch black fog was just not appealing. I couldn’t even convince myself to do it to look bad ass. So I hiked back down, and had two thoughts along the way: 1) Damn, I bet the sun is lighting up the top of that rolling fog and making it all pink and yellow 2) wait, I’m maybe twenty feet from the top and it’s already dark even though the sun sets in 40 minutes, so… fog rolling into the valley just means it’s foggy. I don’t think I missed an epic sunset. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. Next time!


Fog rolling into the valley

Lakes Talapus and Olallie

Well I slacked off for a solid five days last week. Thought I’d have a sunset hike on Friday but that fell through (thank you clouds) and I had a streak of 8 hour work days (god forbid I get a real job) that kept me stir crazy in Seattle and not in the mountains. The eventual goal is to update this three or four days a week, but of course that requires me to actually hike three or four days a week. The rain is coming, which hopefully means snow in the mountains. Snow is way better than rain.


Anyway, this hike was actually from last Tuesday (yeah I’m a whole week late) which was a beautiful day. I got two hikes done, these lakes and Mount Catherine, which will be the next post. But here are Talapus and Ollalie!

  • Distance:6.2 miles
  • Elevation: 1220ft gain (felt pretty flat)
  • Weather: 60’s and sunny
  • Commute from Seattle: about an hour
  • Did I Trip: No (okay, maybe once, but it was more of a stumble)

That top pic is one of my favorites. I did manage to get a blue sky in there, but I can’t figure out how to make the clouds look even remotely real (I’m trying to show how the water caught the reflection of the sky) so I uploaded the original. Someday when I’m a photo editing pro.. they’ll all be beautiful.

DSC00188The original plan was to run to Rainbow and Island Lakes, which are a few miles beyond Talapus and Ollalie. But I wanted to get in a sunset hike after the lakes since who knows how many clear days we have left. I realized I didn’t have nearly enough time to do the 10-12 miles that Rainbow would require, so I turned around at Talapus. Also, I got lazy and this turned into a stroll through the woods. A few too many roots and mud patches to run some sections, and I never got into the groove, so I just chilled and counted it as an off day. I saw a few people heading back down on my way up, but it was late afternoon so I’m guessing it was busy earlier in the day. Talapus was the first lake I came across, and it was calm enough that I had the opportunity to get some cool reflection pictures since the sun was behind me. If only my camera didn’t blow out the damn sky every time, it’d be so much easier to get nice pictures.

DSC00193 Olallie was a little bit rougher, so the reflections weren’t quite as smooth, but it was still beautiful. It was unbelievable quiet on this hike. Usually you can hear the commotion of I90, but not in this area. Maybe because there were so many streams, but I remember being surprised at the silence. I could hear two voices coming from somewhere, and finally figured out that they were on the opposite side of the lake (to the left, outside of the picture). There was a sandy spit over there where a couple was relaxing in the sun. All in all, this was definitely just a quick casual day hike. Perfect for anyone who isn’t a fan of exposure, heights, or steep climbs, but still wants a wilderness experience.

I do wonder if they’re high enough to freeze over in the winter. I haven’t figured out the whole freezing level/snow level/etc deal as temperatures drop. The lakes are just above 3,000ft, so my guess is no, but it looks like the cascades get pretty snowy, so we’ll find out! I’m already excited for the snow to hit – snow levels are dropping to around 5,500ft this week in some areas, so some of the higher hikes might get a little bit! And if snow level is 5,500 this week, they must be lower in December/January. The only thing I haven’t considered yet is how to get to some of these trail heads, assuming they don’t plow the gravel roads, with my tiny manual front wheel drive car. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

DSC00189 Bonus cool mushrooms and a selfie. I’m still very unfamiliar with mushrooms, so everything is new and exciting. I’m sure I’ll run into these on other trails, but they were growing on the side of a wooden bridge and I thought they looked neat. DSC00195The selfie was tougher to get but as usual I like to try and document myself there somehow. And just for kicks, I’m going to add a picture of a bridge (walkway?) going through the forest i the beginning of the trail. No one ever shows pictures of what the forest before the destinations look like, even on the WTA trip reports. I’m sure part of that is because they all offer similar things (mushrooms, trees, rocks, maybe some hanging moss) but sometimes they deserve to be documented. After all, the majority of every hike is spent in the woods, so you might as well appreciate it while you’re there!


Lake Ingalls

I was all the way out in Leavenworth this past weekend for Oktoberfest, and figured since I was already out there I might as well find a hike to do in the area. Something too far from Seattle to justify in a day trip, but “on the way back” (loosely defined) from Leavenworth. Lake Ingalls was the answer, and I’m pretty damn glad it was. 10/10 would hike again. No, 100000/10. Just spectacular.

  • Distance: 9 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 2400ft gain in elevation
  • Weather: 70’s and sunny
  • Commute from Seattle: 2:30 ish without traffic
  • Did I trip: A few stumbles, but nothing legitimate

I’m just going to center this picture now because it might be my favorite of all the pictures I’ve ever taken in my life ever. The rocks on the right were way too cool to pass up, and the larches were bright yellow and the sky was a clear blue and I didn’t even realize this was a good picture until I got home. I swear I’ll figure out how to make that damn sky blue. Edit: Fixed the sky! Not perfect, but for a first touch-up, come on it’s okay.


Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, I can focus on the actual hike. Which was incredible! I’m too excited remembering it to type about it. I’d go back in an instant. Skip work, toss the tent in the car, and go. Which is what I should have done. I had run a half marathon the day before, and I wasn’t sore, but I was lazy and ended up strolling this. I forgot my trail running shoes too. Usually I have a spare pair in my trunk, but not this time, so I wore regular sneakers. Anyway, parking lot was absolutely packed, but I was lucky enough to get a spot right next to the trailhead since someone was leaving (the car right behind me ended up parking a mile down the road – ha!). So many people means it would have been tough to run anyway, so no big whoop.


Bonus mountain goat

 I passed tons of people on the way up. Gradual uphills and switchbacks for the first few miles. Good views of Rainier and Adams. Embarrassingly, I had to ask people “What’s the big mountain that’s not Rainier?” but it took a few tries to find someone who knew the answer. Lots of red rock, which I didn’t expect, but it made everything look very cool. Once you cross over the ridge overlooking the valley, you get great views of Stuart and all of the larches down below. There were a few mountain goats along the trail, completely unphased by people. I had never seen one before, so everyone was snapping pictures and I was standing there like can I just walk past? Will it get angry? Should I be worried? The answer is no, they’re basically waiting for you to pee because they like the salt in your urine. So go pee on a rock and consider it a fair trade for the 50 pictures you probably took of them.


This girl knows where it’s at. Her tent was perfectly situated near the edge of a rocky drop-off which you can’t quite see down to the valley, with great views. She gave us permission to take a pic. I think she knew I was wallowing in self pity and jealousy because I can imagine nothing better than seeing sunset and sunrise over Mt. Stuart and that valley in fall. What’s funny is the larches were all green towards the bottom of the trail, which started around 4000ft above sea level. I was worried when I started hiking, but the higher I got, the more yellow they became.

The trail completely flattens out once you reach the valley. At least, until the rock fields that require some scrambling. Definitely follow the cairns in those areas – I have terrible trail skills and ended up climbing some pretty large boulders. On the way down, I ended up jumping off one that was three feet taller than I am – too impatient to backtrack and find a new path. But if you pay attention, it’s doable for everyone. Lots of families hiking that day.

lakeitselfThe last stretch up to the saddle (terminology?) that cuts through to the lake is pretty steep. No particular path to get up, just follow what seems reasonable. The lake was almost anti climactic compared to the views in the valley, but looking back on it, it was still pretty beautiful. Lots of people at the top having picnics, enjoying the views, even a few guys fishing! I didn’t see them catch anything, but they said there were fish up there. The water was so clear I was hoping I’d see some, but I never did. I only spent 10 minutes there since I had to be back in Seattle in time for dinner reservations (and looking presentable, not like I had just hiked for hours).


On the way back down, this stretch looked nice, and there was a fat, bold marmot off to the left that you can’t see in the pic (he was there, I swear). People must have fed him, because he was a foot off the trail and just sat on his hind legs staring at everyone that passed. I got called out by several of the groups I had passed on the way up, they remembered me and knew I had only spent a few minutes at the lake. “What, five minutes at the lake and you’re already leaving?!” I laughed, but it killed me to leave. I wish I had camped there, spent the night, enjoyed the views, had a picnic on the rocks by the lake, had time to climb around to the other, less populated end of the lake, maybe even gone for a quick swim. I considered bailing on dinner 100 times over, but I couldn’t pass up a Lecosho pork chop. Next fall, for sure. I’m not missing that opportunity again.

kinggoatTwo silver linings on the way down, if you’re really trying to look on the bright side of things. First, this goat was basically begging to have his picture taken. Okay, King Goat, I’ll take it. But I’m not going to pee for you. How’d you get up there anyway? How will you get down? You don’t look like those goats that climb dams. Too white and fluffy.

And one last picture another one that’s an Eve trail classic. Trail turning around a corner, great views on one side. The type of picture I look at when I’m unmotivated and don’t want to drive an hour to the trails. Side note for those who know me: yes, I do get sick of driving. It has been known to happen.


I saw two trail runners, one doing hill repeats on the way up (long and slow to get heart rate up he said) and one who hiked to the top and then ran down. You can’t tell how step the drop is in that picture, but it’d hurt a bit to slip off of that. But that’s never stopped trail runners in the past.

I’ll go back there to run it someday. Maybe when I’m more in shape and my uphills aren’t so slow. Once I’ve adjusted from my flatlander years in Chicago. Hike up, camp, wake up the next morning, run, and then hike down maybe? I have another 11 months to figure it out before the larches are yellow again. Plenty of time to plan, and wait. I hate waiting.

Should have gone for a swimLook at that clear water. Should have gone for a swim.

Bandera Mountain

A hidden gem in my (limited) Cascades experience. Just off I90 but with great views, especially if you can ignore the fact that you’re looking across I90.

  • Distance: 8 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 3400ft gain, most of which is in the last mile
  • Weather: 60’s, sunny
  • Commute from Seattle: just under an hour
  • Did I trip: Nope! (playing it safe after Annette Lake)

banderaforestI had no idea how beautiful this hike was going to be. I went before work, so I knew I’d be in a bit of a time crunch, but I didn’t realize how much I’d regret not being able to spend more time at the top. It was well worth the miles of abuse my poor Honda Accord endured on the terrible potholed road. Bandera is right off I90 which means you do have to listen to the highway for a lot of the hike, but that’s a fair trade for the views that you get, which start about halfway up the trail.

The first two or so miles are completely runnable, on a wide foresty trail with a slow uphill. Eventually, it turns into switchbacks, which are where you’ll get your first glimpse of the views to come. banderarainierAfter a smoother stony section, part of which is a good looking set of stone steps, the trail will split into Bandera and Mason Lake. DSC00083

The Mason Lake trail heads down, whereas the Bandera trail does just the opposite: straight up the side of the mountain. Switchbacks are a luxury this part of the trail just can’t afford, and you end up gaining something like 500ft in altitude in just a fifth of a mile. But you reach the ridge quickly, and follow that east to the false summit. There are a few boulder fields that require some scrambling, but nothing too difficult. It’s easy to lose the trail as well, but if you stay along the sides of the fields, it’ll turn up. Views from the top are incredible. 360 degree panoramas. Mason Lake is down below if you look behind you, and you’re surrounded by peaks on all sides with Rainier looming in the distance. Don’t worry, I took another mountaintop selfie just to make sure I was there.

banderaselfieOne thing to note is that the views at the false summit are actually better than views at the real summit, which is mostly covered in trees. The real summit is only around a hundred feet taller anyway. It’s about a half mile past the false summit, so if you have time, it’s worth going just to say you did it, but I preferred the views from the rockier, lower peak. What I regret is not bringing a picnic for the top. When I ran Kendall Katwalk, I was so absorbed in the views that I forgot to eat the pork taco I had brought, so I’m telling myself that’s what would have happened again. If I’m forgetting food because of views, you know the views are insane.

I’m just waiting for an excuse to do this hike again. Worst case scenario, I’ll wait until the spring, because I think the alpine meadows (the incredible steep part) would be beautiful when the spring flowers are in bloom. Everything was dying when I was there, which meant some fall foliage but also lots of brown. Spring wildflowers with Rainier in the background… yeah, I’ll be there.

Annette Lake (and a Deception Creek failure)

I had my first failure of a trail run on September 30th. Long story short, I drove two hours to Deception Creek, it ended up raining when I arrived, trailhead was deserted, trail itself was overgrown, and that’s not even the worst of it. The trail was COVERED in spiderwebs. Every few feet. Thick, stringy, spiderwebs that I swear were all at my face height. And so I gave up after about a mile of bushwacking, slipping, dripping wet, and eating spiderwebs. But there was a neat log bridge, which was cool. Pic to come late. And to be fair, old growth forests do usually look pretty cool on rainy days. But an un-runnable trail paired with my biggest fear (spiderwebs) was enough to turn me around.

Luckily, the next day was more successful. Annette Lake, a short foggy lake trail just a short drive from Seattle.

  • Distance: 7.5 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 1400ft elevation gain, steady, pretty flat
  • Weather: 50’s and cloudy
  • Commute from Seattle: 50 minutes
  • Did I trip: Yes (and I’m still recovering from it a week later)

Solid rainy day run! Elevation gain was slow enough that I could run most of it. A little more technical than I expected since there were lots of roots and rocks, which get pretty slippery after a night of rain. But the lake was a beautiful clear turquoise color, even in the clouds, and there was a small pretty waterfall across the water. I’m sure it’s even better on a sunny day.

Annette Lake

I ran into a few people backpack-hitchhiking from Seattle back to their home somewhere in Montana, and we were equally shocked to see each other. They scared the crap out of me coming around a corner, since I didn’t expect to see anyone up there on a rainy Wednesday morning. They were relieved to see a person, though. Turned out they were told to “go over the mountain” instead of walking down I90 through a construction zone, but they had no maps, no cell service, and no idea if they were headed towards I90 or just lost on a mountain. I wish I had had food or anything to offer, but all I had was pepperoni and peanut butter back in my car. Next time.

The downside of this hike? I absolutely ate it on my way back down. No idea what I tripped over, but I tumbled pretty hard off the side of the trail. No one saw, so I lay there face down in defeat for a few seconds before determining if I broke anything. The answer seemed to be no, just some blood and pain and a little nausea, so I kept running.


Who needs knees anyway? I figured I might as well get back to the car as fast as possible. I had no first aid equipment with me but I had towels in the car, so that was the goal. I stopped every hundred feet or so to try and sop up what I could with leaves. Couldn’t ruin my feetures elite socks, they were white! I spent the rest of the day at work while my coworkers mocked me for hobbling down stairs and not being able to kneel. Or squat. Or do anything involving my right leg. I tipped over helping my first customer. Just fell sideways in slow motion while trying to kneel. Bruised patellas suck. Worth it? Probably yes. The next morning I got a mass email from Fleet Feet Seattle with the owner (Brian Morrison!) saying he broke his foot on a trail run the previous weekend. It’s all part of the sport. I was more embarrassed than injured, but if a seasoned ultrarunner like Brian can break something on a run, then I’m lucky I haven’t just straight up died yet.

Here’s one last picture to make up for the legs. It’s just a bridge towards the beginning of the trail, but it’s actually more scenic than most of the hike was. Might as well leave on a good note!

Annette Bridge

Kendall Katwalk

  • Distance: 11 miles round trip (~15 if you continue on to the lakes)
  • Elevation: 2600ft gain in altitude, very gradual along the trail
  • Weather: 40’s and cloudy at start, 60’s and sunny by the end
  • Commute from Seattle: About an hour
  • Did I trip: Yes, twice.

Ran September 27th, 2014. Started out on the chilly side, which was concerning. Not to mention I was completely unprepared. It didn’t occur to me that if it was 60 in Seattle, it could be 20 degrees colder in the mountains, so I showed up with just shorts and a tank top and my hydration pack, because who would ever need a sweater in 60’s? I left before sunrise, driving through patches of intense for on I90, but I got to watch the sun rise above the valley once I started running and it ended up being 60’s and sunny by the time I reached the top.

Sun lighting up half of Red Mountain

Sun lighting up Red Mountain

The first four miles are mostly through the forest, with occasional glimpses of the views to come. Elevation gain is very gradual, and the path is wide and mostly clear of rocks and roots, which means perfect for trail running! I’m out of shape (or lazy?) so I did hike some sections on the way up. The sun rises on the opposite side of the mountain, so you’ll be in the shade if you’re there early, but that means you get to see the sun light up Red Mountain.

Eventually, you pop out of the forest and run on a narrow trail on the side of the mountain. If you turn around and look behind you, Rainier will be peaking out on a clear day. I think I almost cried when I saw it, some weird combination of runner’s high and beauty and unexpectedness, I don’t know. No one was there to see it, which is good, because I also tripped and fell flat on my face like a champ.

Rainier over the clouds

Rainier over the clouds

I had passed a few hikers on the way up, one of whom was a PCTA volunteer on his way to clear the trail towards the top. I offered to help, but he was aiming to chop up a fallen tree that was lying across the path. The log was almost two feet in diameter, so I figured I’d be better off helping cut back brush and move small rocks than trying to hone my lumberjack skills.

The “katwalk” itself is along the eastern side of the peak, meaning I got full sunlight. It made pictures tough to take, but it was gorgeous running along the ledge.


I turned around at the katwalk since I had to be back in Seattle, showered and ready for work by 3pm. The path continues another few miles, so if you’re up for a ~15 mile hike or run, by all means keep going to the lakes beyond the katwalk! I’d save this hike for a sunny day, I can’t imagine it’s that great in clouds or rain. You’re also stuck listening to the shitty serenade music of I90 for most of the hike until you cross over to the east side of the ridge, when suddenly it’s peaceful and sunlit, and I was lucky enough to have the katwalk all to myself since I was there so early. Here’s a bonus selfie.

10 second self timers exist for a reason

10 second self timers exist for a reason.

On the way back down, I ran into probably 20 parties hiking up, including another trail runner. I only tripped in front of one pair of hikers, but the 7 year old made sure I knew he saw. Parking lot was completely full when I got back to the trailhead at 10:30am, so definitely show up early. It’s a favorite for a reason!