A week in the wilds of Washington's North Cascades

As we headed into the wilds of the North Cascades for a week-long backpacking trip, our choice in pants announced to the world that we were serious. Serious about the fact we were hiking. Serious about not carrying the extra ounces involved in pairs of shorts. Serious about responding swiftly and definitively to fluctuations in weather and body temperature. If we broke a sweat on an uphill slog, two zips and we sporting modestly cut shorts. If the weather switched from a sunny 73 to a windy 62, two more zips and we were back in pants.

Bob making a deft adjustment

In early September, my sister Laura, my boyfriend Donnie and I joined my father and three of his friends from North Carolina (one Vance, two Bobs) for seven days in the North Cascades, a 150- by 270-mile national park nestled up against the Canadian border in Western Washington.

Before this trip, I had only seen the North Cascades from the southern part of the state, where they registered as faint blue peaks on the horizon, 200 miles north of Mount Rainier. Up close and personal, the range was as remote and wild as I'd imagined — far less traveled than other parts of the range which includes Adams, St. Helens and Shasta among other well-known icons. During our 47-mile clockwise loop from the Bridge Creek trailhead to Easy Pass exit, we encountered only a couple people. Which is a shame, because in our convertible pants, we looked good.

Here are a few highlights from the trip:

  • I'll start with the hiking itself, which took us along crystal clear rivers, through moss-covered forests and meadows of wild flowers and up and over glaciated passes. It was incredible.

Donnie, my father and a Bob, hiking through a valley

Vance ascending Park Creek Pass, the first — and most grueling — of the two passes. Aftermiles of switchbacks, we stopped just short of the top to eat sandwiches in the sun and listen to the marmots call each other.

Here we are, about to crest the pass, refreshed after a nap in the sun. (Note: we have all chosen the shorts option at this point in time.)

My father on the scree-filled peak of the pass, where you could see into two immense valleys at once.

Donnie and his mad map skillz

The frosty early-morning start on the last day

Bob, paused

Other Bob, in motion

Ascending switchbacks on Easy Pass, the second of the two passes, which was fairly true to its name

  • A tip: when walking mile after mile with a 45-pound pack on your back, it's important to give your feet — or someone else's — plenty of TLC.

Donnie looking after Laura's heelspost river crossing

  • We arrived at our campsite along Bridge Creek around noon on the second day and spent the afternoon lounging on the rocks by the river, washing our hair and socks with Dr. Bronner's, reading books and taking naps. After reading instructions to remember the rules, Laura and I played a game of cribbage.

Laura, probably confused by the rule that grants a player "Two for doing it." (Her response: "I'm a LADY!")

Me, plotting cribbage domination

Socks on the line

  • Vance found a women’s shirt by the side of the trail, and rather than leave it be or carry it out, he put it on and wore the rest of the trip. We decided periwinkle was his color.
  • The 13 minutes it takes a dehydrated meal to reconstitute feel like an eternity when they follow a day of hiking. Sadly for Laura, the pork and broccoli stir-fry she's waiting for here was the most disgusting thing she'd ever tasted — so bad, in fact, that she threw it in the privy.
  • We hit the park during a transition time: wildflowers were still abloom in some spots, but in others, the brilliant reds and yellows of autumn had arrived in full force.

Indian Paintbrush

Water droppies
Water droppies
  • Mushrooms proliferated along damp forested sections of trail. They grew on trees, they pushed up from beneath the soil, they came in orange and brown and spotted red. We continuously stopped to admire.
  • Two members of our group ran across black bears. The rest of us ran across bear poop — which was also tremendous, but far less exhilarating.

It was the size of dinner plates.

  • While we're on the topic, each campsite had a very comfortable privy, basically a box with a hole in the top that looked out over something pretty, usually trees.

Trips to the privy were joyous occasions, to be celebrated.

  • The water in the North Cascades is crystal clear, but also friggin' cold. After 10 seconds of submersion, our toes went numb.

The North Fork of Bridge Creek

Deep pools that would have made great swimming holes if the water had been 40 degrees warmer

  • After we got off the trail, Donnie ate a one pound — get that: ONE POUND! — buffalo burger at the Buffalo Run Restaurant, where we went to replenish our calorie deficits and drink Alaskan Ambers. We were all proud of him.
Donnie and burger
Donnie and burger
  • After burgers, we rented two unintentionally retro cabins at the roadside Clark's Skagit River Resort near Marblemount, Washington. The flowered wallpaper, patterned linoleum floors and rotary phone on our cabin's kitchen wall indicated that neither the buildings nor the decor had been updated since the 1960s. Clark's was clean and charming, though in a weird, outdated sort of way. Another characteristic of note: anywhere from 50 and 175 bunnies roam the resort grounds at any given time — the discrepancy, I suppose, due to the fact that it is located on the North Cascades Highway, and in an area populated by hawks and eagles. When we'd step outside to enjoy the breeze or check the progress of our drying tents, we'd have to sidestep the rabbits munching on the lawn. None were interested in petting.

Back to civilization

Thanks to Donnie for the second pic, of Bob removing his pant leg.

My story about an old-school book scout — with The New Yorker

Exciting news on the freelance front: Last week, The New Yorker published my story, "An Old-School Book Scout," about Wayne Pernu, a Portland book scout who makes his living buying books for cheap at yard, estate and library sales and reselling them at Powell's Books. Relying on his knowledge and intuition (rather than a barcode scanner) and reselling almost exclusively to the brick-and-mortar establishment (rather than on eBay or Amazon.com), Pernu is a rarity in his profession, and one of the last of his kind.

Check it out! http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/03/the-book-whisperer.html

Home, home on the range: Ditch Creek Guard Station in winter

Five friends and I snowshoed through the dark to the Forest Service cabin in Oregon's Umatilla National Forest, aware only of what fell within the narrow beams of our headlamps — snow, mostly, and the dark silhouettes of trees. It wasn't until we woke up in the morning and stepped outside that we really knew what surrounded us: snow and trees, yes, but also a pole fence and horse corral, a meandering, half-frozen stream, and multiple pairs of fresh animal tracks — sometimes parallel, sometimes crossing — evidence of the nighttime dramas we'd missed.

The Ditch Creek Guard Station is one of about 70 houses and fire towers that the Civilian Conservation Corps built in Washington and Oregon in the 1930s for the "smoke chasers" who patrolled the forests for fires. The Forest Service now rents the structures out for $35 to $90 a night to campers interested in hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, horseback riding, fishing and hunting on the surrounding forest land.

Our cabin consisted of a kitchen stocked with pots and pans, a living room with a futon, table and chairs and a bedroom with two sets of sturdy bunk beds. While there were a propane-powered fridge, stove, and freestanding heater, the water was turned off for winter, so we scooped up a pot of snow from the yard and melted it on the stove whenever we got thirsty or wanted to flush the toilet (this happened once, at the end of our stay; we called it The Big Flush and all gathered 'round).

My friend James and three pots of melted snow

The Forest Service has excellent taste in art.

On Saturday, we snowshoed to Penland Lake, which, this time of year, is completely frozen over. Cyclones of snow periodically lifted up and spiraled over the lake before setting themselves down again.

On the way:

Jake, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever/Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever mix (introductions were never short), during one of the times he WASN'T wearing his fur-lined moccasins.

Lots of running happened

Also, lots of resting

The coolest cabin ever.

Me, Stasia, Laura

Ditch Creek flowing through its valley, south toward the north fork of the John Day River

Moustache vs. Moustache, and why a person should even bother

Packing the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on Saturday, whiskery men pitted their facial hair one against another at the 2012 West Coast Beard and Mustache Championships. They competed in categories that included natural mustache, chops-style mustache, freestyle mustache, full natural beard and partial beard.

In honor of the competition, which the "Portlandia" blog covered here, I've talked with a few men across the country about the moustachioed way of life. Nashville web developer Michael Eades, creator of Moustache May, a month-long competition in which participants grow a 'stache and post its picture to a website every day for a month, encourages everyone with the potential to grow a 'stache to at least try. Not doing so, he says, "is like having a pair of wings and never bothering to try and fly."

Here's what Eades and a few other 'stache wearers have to say about the upper lip accoutrement:

Name: Casey Paquet Age: 33 Location: St. Petersburg, FL Occupation: Director of Web Services for a private liberal arts college Favorite kind of moustache: Handlebar, “because it seems to be a lost art.” Most common reaction: “I am shocked at how many people want to touch it. A lot of folks actually swoop in to take hold of it without asking, which is rather awkward.” Grooming regimen: “I am REALLY bad about grooming. I often say I wish I could find a moustache mentor — some old dude that could teach me the proper method of grooming.” Why should someone grow a moustache: “For the most part, the gentleman wearing the non-ironic moustache displays an air of confidence, a willingness to take the risk that a bare chin and cookie duster poses.”

Name: Michael Eades Age: 31 Location: Nashville, TN Occupation: Web developer Favorite kind of moustache: “The Handlebar ‘stache style is absolutely my favorite. There's a regalness to it that no other `stache configuration seems to be able to embrace.” Hardest food to eat: “Most food isn't that hard to eat with a properly groomed ‘stache but occasionally a good beer will find its foamy way into the trouble zone.” Grooming regimen: “I trim the ‘stache up every few weeks to keep it free of stray hairs and to keep its overall shape. I usually apply a tiny bit of wax to it each day as well, so give it the proper curl.” Most common reaction: “I do occasionally get hollered at by at a group of drunken frat guys who tell me it's a ‘bitchin' moustache.’ I take this as a compliment.”

Name: Johnny Mayer Age: 24 Location: Portland, Oregon Employer: Rocco’s Bar Grill and Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade Why he has a moustache: “I enjoy it. I have a good facial shape for it.” Moustache realization: It’s not a cure-all. When I was 16 or 17, I worked at Safeway. Everyone in the produce department and upper management had a moustache. I thought if I grew one, I could advance up the ranks. But I later found out I didn’t work hard enough.” Hardest food to eat: “Anything with sauce.” Grooming regimen: “I trim it every once in a while when it gets scary. I don’t really take care of it. I wear it; it doesn’t wear me.”

Name: Adam Orcutt Age: 37 Location: Northwest Indiana Favorite kind of moustache: “I have always been inspired by the wild west, so I decided to grow a Hungarian/wild west style moustache. That is what I currently have and I think I am sticking with it for the long haul.” What a ‘stache says about a person: “I think having a moustache tells the world the you have confidence and you take pride in how you look. I find most people that wear moustaches to be honest, outgoing, and usually up for most anything.”

Name: Jay Wiggins Age: 39 Location: Phoenix, Arizona The psychology of moustache wearing: “You begin with the moustache wearing you, and then you start wearing the moustache. There’s an acceptance that happens psychologically. There’s a point at which it becomes part of you.” Most common reaction: “At baseball games and things like that, people always want to give me a high five. I enjoy that part of it.” Hardest food to eat: “Pretty much all foods are annoying.” Grooming regimen: “In the morning, I put a little bit of hair wax to curl it up and out. I’ll trim the lip portion.” Why ‘staches are great: “There’s a whimsy and novelty about it.”

Name: Aaron Aninos Age: 26 Location: Concord, North Carolina Occupation: Graphic Design student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Why he enjoys having a moustache: “It keeps my upper lip warm during the winter, and it also serves as a ‘flavor savor’ when I'm drinking a nice frothy beer, preferably a Fat Tire.” Hardest food to eat: “Anything with a thick and heavy sauce. Which sucks, because I'm half Italian.” Why someone should grow a moustache: “I see growing a moustache to show that you have confidence in yourself and dedication, extraordinary managerial qualities, and in most cases you probably are a huge fan of Tom Selleck.”

The Q&A was compiled in 2010.

Wood, in its various forms

On a recent drive from Asheville, North Carolina, up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, I encountered a wall of kiln-dried and neatly stacked firewood three times my height and, on Ox Creek Road a few miles later, a stable so dilapidated the weather was the same inside as out. Then, along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that parallels the Parkway in that area, I walked upon the remains of Rattlesnake Lodge, the summer home of Dr. Chase P. Ambler and his family. The two-story structure, originally surrounded by a terraced garden, tennis court and swimming pool (!), burned in 1926, a mere 13 years after it was built. Crumbling stone walls are all that remain amidst the hardwood trees.

Vancouver, BC: where I first discovered fire on TV

Among Canadians, the fireplace channel seems to rank right up there with ice hockey and poutine in popularity. During our three-day stay in Vancouver BC, my sister, friend and I saw no less than half a dozen crackling fires on television. *

Though you might not guess it, televised fires have an extremely detrimental effect on conversation. Before we noticed the fire on the TV high in the back corner of The Ascot Lounge, a “handsome” new bar on West Pender by our hostel, we’d had a lot to talk about as we sipped red wine. But as soon as we caught sight of the pixelated burning, our conversation ceased, and we all stared slack-jawed at the screen, mesmerized by the crackling and flicking flames and the flannel-clad arm that periodically appeared to shift the logs with a poker, sending red-hot embers spiraling up the chimney.

* Disclaimer: None of us have cable, so this may be a “thing” we're just not aware of. I’d rather attribute it to Canadian genius, and the fact that it just makes sense in this part of the world, where it gets pretty chilly and starts getting dark at 3:30 p.m. during winter.

When we weren’t enthralled by fires on TV, we did manage to get out and see the western coastal city, the third largest in Canada (behind Toronto and Montreal).

Gastown, the city's oldest neighborhood, in the rain. It rained a lot during our visit.

The steam-powered clock at the corner of Cambie and Hastings streets

Some highlights:

  • The waiter at a cafe on a busy street in the west end spilled the pitcher of soy creamer all over our table and my sister (who fortunately, was still wearing her raincoat). After he wiped up the creamer with a rag, he knocked over the half and half.
  • We entered Vancouver, BC with the hypothesis that all Canadians are just plain nice, based on our interactions with our Canadian friend Luke and the Canadian vinyl siding salesman we sat next to on an airplane recently. As we rolled into the city and began to seek out our hostel, we watched an 18-year-old in a crosswalk notice a blind person crossing the street from the opposite direction AND TURN AROUND TO LEAD HER BY THE ARM TO SAFETY before running off to wherever he was going. Sold! Our hypothesis was true.
  • We ran across a crew of bagpipers making music in the parking garage beneath the Pacific Centre shopping mall where we parked our car at night and found the droning, kilt-clad vision lovely for its incongruity. Then we realized there was a logical explanation: a parade was about to take place outside on the street. It was still cool.
  • On the only blue-sky day of the trip, we drove an hour north to Squamish, or “Sḵwx̱wú7mesh snichim” as the aboriginals say (a word that, for obvious reasons, is a lot of fun to try pronouncing). Located at the base of the 2,300-foot granite monolith called Stawamus Chief, the town is paradise according to many climbers I know. Rather than roping up, however, we hiked to the top of The Chief along a 6.8-mile trail, which followed the cascading Shannon River for a mile or so before cutting through the hardwood forest, over wooden staircases and past granite slabs, to the snowy and icy terrain on top. At the summit (the third of three, we think—although there’s really no way of really knowing), we enjoyed PB&J sandwiches and an expansive view of the Howe Sound, Whistler and the peaks in Garibaldi Provincial Park.          We are eternally grateful for the chains that kept us from plummeting to our deaths.                                                 Laura, getting a little crazy by the edge.
  • Perhaps it was all the physical activity, but we were all blown away by our 4 p.m., post-hike dinner of clam chowder and fish and chips at the Parkside Restaurant, located in downtown Squamish. Best meal of the trip. We liked our waitress too.
  • Vancouver’s Chinatown, centered on Pender Street downtown, is one of the largest in North America. After bypassing the open sacks of dried fish bladders and dehydrated geckos (good for asthma when boiled as tea) in one market, I found and purchased two large tins of tea leaves, one jasmine, the other black rose, for only $6. I celebrated my find with a delicious plate of fried rice and sweet and sour chicken at the nearby Jade Dynasty restaurant.
  • Our hostel, the St. Clair, offered inexpensive, private rooms furnished by metal-framed bunk beds and not much else. Stark, yes, but clean, inexpensive, centrally located and a good option for travelers on a budget. (I would not, however, recommend The Cambie Hostel a few blocks away. We walked in to the attached and affiliated pubone night and left after 20 minutes of being ignored by the too-cool-for-school waiters who repeatedly walked by our table and chatted with patrons at the bar. Though the atmosphere is funky and comfortable, the poor service just made me mad.)

    The ceiling across from the check-in desk at the St. Claire

  • As soon as we crossed the Canadian border, our phones sent us text messages telling us they were entering expensive, roaming modes (i.e. going on vacation too), so we shut them off. Being without signal for three days was actually a wonderful break from what’s become normal.
  • We sung this a lot, to the tune of “America the Beautiful”: “Oh Caaaanada, oh Caaaanada, from sea to shining seeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaa.”

Orcas Island in November

Life is quiet on a San Juan island in the fall. I know this because my sister Laura and I just spent two days on Orcas, the largest island in the archipelago off the coast of Washington State. In the waterfront community of Eastsound where we stayed, “shut” signs excuse many shops from business, the streets were empty of people, the wind blew fiercely across the water, and the sun set by 4:45 p.m., driving us to our pajamas soon after. After months of running at full-steam, we welcomed the slowdown.Anacortes - Orcas ferry


The ferry ride over

Here are some highlights of our trip:

  • After a cold and rainy ferry ride to the island on Tuesday, we turned up the heat so high in our room at the Outlook Inn that we passed out from heat exhaustion. Laura did not wake up for 12 hours.
  • After serving us coffee and pastries, the flannel-clad woman at the Wildflour Bakery burst out that we were “so tall” and then apologized, saying the 12-year-old in her could not resist commenting. We wanted her to be our friend.
  • We ate burgers at the Lower Tavern, a dark, cinder-block building that seems the center of the town’s nightlife and offers microbrews, “the best burgers in town,” a pool table and a juke box that lights up in time to its own tunes (which seemed to be vintage video game soundtracks when left unattended).
  • The Island Market, where we picked up crackers, cheese and double-chocolate Milanos to fill up after our overpriced salads at the Madrones Grill.
  • We hiked up Mount Constitution (2,409 feet) in the 5,000-acre Moran State Park, skirting the edges of small mountain lakes, crossing fields strewn with dead ferns and moss-covered logs and passing through foreboding forests where fog surrounded the dark trunks of the trees. From the stone tower on top, we could see miles out across the water, to other finger-like San Juans, even over the border into Canada.

My sister-friend, and moss.

  • We watched the sun set over the water from the end of a pier in Olga, on the eastern side of the horseshoe-shaped island.

  • The wind was so fierce on Thursday that, during our morning run along the back roads, we had to lean forward 45 degrees to keep moving forward. Later in the day, I began to question my choice of dangly earrings.
  • One last thing: let me recommend traveling with a Bota Box, a box o’ wine (Malbec, in our case) that’s actually pretty good. You save the glass it would take to produce four wine bottles and always have inexpensive but good wine on tap. Plus, it’s classy!

On a separate but semi-related note, I have decided to start memorizing poetry, a practice my grandfather felt important in life. My first project is Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, which I feel is appropriate theme- and image-wise for our stay on the wild isle. Here it is, from memory:

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.

[That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Here’s the rest:]

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting– over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

Finding clarity on Pescadero Beach

The paper fortune teller I found beside a sandcastle on Pescadero Beach along the coast of California is a quick way to find out whether "you will make a thing cool!!!" "you will catch a fish" or "you will have a bad drim."

Though whether you'll be "rich" or "helthe" or "not have solnting you licke" is up to chance, as you stroll along the mile-long stretch of sand and sea along Highway One 15 miles south of Half Moon Bay, a few things are sure: you'll see rocky outcroppings, vibrant tide pools, skittering sandpipers and rolling fog, you'll appreciate that relatively undeveloped places like this still exist, and you'll want to build an elaborate driftwood fort — or move into one already made that suits your style, like this one:

After your stroll, become master of your own destiny. "Travel to a place that you [will] like" and "have nice things": head four miles down the road to Duarte's Tavern (pronounced Doo-arts), a family-run resaurant that's been around since 1894 in the seaside town of Pescadero. I recommend the thick, creamy artichoke soup and the sweet, flaky olallieberry pie (pronounced oh-lah-leh-berry). Their fresh seafood is tasty too.

Meri Chritmas! I hope you mak a new frend.

Yurt life: Thanksgiving holiday near Jackson, Wyoming

Living in a yurt is much different from not living in a yurt. It’s colder, for one. Only a thin layer of canvas separates you from the 20 below outside, and you consistently find yourself wearing multiple pairs of pants. Secondly, it’s a lot more work. You begin tossing around pioneer words like "fetch," "haul," and "stoke" without a second thought.

I spent the Thanksgiving holiday yurt-sitting with my sister and two friends near Kelly, Wyoming, about 20 miles down a straight, flat road from Jackson. Though we were technically care-taking three structures — a living room yurt, a bedroom yurt and a school bus converted into a guest room, all located a few feet from each other in a log-fenced yard — we confined ourselves mostly to the living room area, near the only source of heat, a wood-burning stove.

Kitchen area

The skylight

During the day, moose wandered through the yurt park (drawing the ire of Stacy, a dog who apparently didn't realize that she would not be the victor in a moose-dog battle). At night, standing in the bitter cold under the wide-open sky, we could hear coyotes howling in the distance.

Despite our middle-of-nowhereness, we prepared a full-on Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a turkey breast, sage-sausage stuffing, cranberry relish, green bean casserole, pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie topped with hand-whipped cream (took two hours and multiple shifts on each of our parts, but was so worth it).

The grains

Cranberry relish prepared by the lovely Anna Brones (Anna reflects on Thanksgiving food preparation here)

Before digging in

The Jackson area has received a ton of snow so far this year, and when we weren't cozied up in the yurt, we took advantage. We hiked toward Bradley and Taggart lakes one morning, post-holing frequently, but managing to avoid the bull moose spotted by other hikers and take in an incredibly crisp view of the Tetons. On another day, we shredded the pow (I have no idea what this means) on the slopes of Grand Targhee.

And now, one last shot, the yurt at dusk:

Smack-pop-stick: Seattle's giant wall o' gum

The exterior wall of the Market Theater on Seattle's waterfront is like the underside of a middle school cafeteria table, times 100. Since the early 1990s, people have affixed wads of chewed gum to the brick wall, located in  the downward-sloping Post Alley right beside the Pike Place Market. The result? A giant saliva-infused, molar-molded collage.

There's no denying it's disgusting. At the same time, though, it's a cool example of an ongoing community art project. And, if you look closely, you can find some interesting arrangements of colors, shapes and textures.

I did my part.

In Washington's Goat Rocks Wilderness: the cutest warriors ever!

In the Goat Rocks Wilderness of southern Washington, the marmot population is acting particularly feisty these days. During the subalpine area's brief summer season, the groundhog-like creatures emerge from their rock piles to engage in epic pushing battles atop large boulders. On a recent backpacking trip, I witnessed multiple skirmishes between the pear-shaped creatures, who would stand nose to nose on their hind legs, shoving each other like 8-year-old boys on the playground.

A hoary marmot between fights

The 105,600-acre wilderness between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams in the Cascade Mountain Range is absolutely beautiful during the summer. Glaciers melt into creeks and cascade downhill, catching sunlight as they ribbon through the grass. Red columbine, pink mountain heather, long-leaved phlox, lupine, shooting stars and red paintbrushes bloom in the meadows. And packs of musky-smelling mountain goats roam the high hillsides, dipping their large rectangular heads to munch the grass.

We saw around 10 mountain goats grazing on the hillsides above the trail. Here is one, for example.

My friend Tim and I started hiking at the Berry Patch trail head mid-afternoon on a Sunday and spent the following two days exploring. We passed through the flowered Jordan Creek Basin — a.k.a. Paradise! — and climbed up Goat Ridge to Goat Lake, which was still frozen except for a few crescents of melted turquoise water around the edges. We set up a base camp less than a mile down the trail in a hemlock grove overlooking Goat Creek Valley, executing, in the process, a picture-perfect bear-bag hang — high off the ground and far from the tree trunk. We proceeded to take numerous pictures of our work, and we're pretty sure other hikers did too, when we weren't in camp. The following day, we hiked across meadows, rock fields and snow pack to the top of Old Snowy, a 7,930-foot peak above our camp that afforded incredible views of Mount Adams to the south and Mount Rainier to the north.

Red columbine and raindrops

The seed pods of the Pasque flower, also known, appropriately, as mop heads

The mop heads kind of resemble furry sea anemones.

Here, the mature Pasque Flower, which likely wants nothing to do with its crazy-headed younger siblings.

The avalanche lily blooms one to two weeks after snow melt.

Tim climbing toward Old Snowy

Mount Adams from the top of Old Snowy. As we stood among the rocks on top of Old Snowy, misty clouds swirled into the valleys below us, where they hung for the remainder of the trip.

Sunset light from our campsite

Mount Adams

Look at that beautiful bear-bag hang! Let me know if you want a copy of this pic.