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Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

The wife is currently out of town in Colorado meaning that if I want to go on a hike, I either go alone or I find a friend. Both friends I would normally go with couldn’t make it, so I went alone. I can’t go with new people because they move too slowly for me. I used to be a slow hiker but I can keep up a reasonably good pace.

Anyhow, last weekend I did Alta Mountain which is about 20 miles off of Interstate-90 around 60 miles from Seattle.

Alta Mountain is a long hike and gains 3500 feet. The first 3 miles I walked, I thought I got to the wrong place because the signs were not obvious what I was hiking. The hike was also more-or-less flat which is a boring hike. I wanted something difficult! Flattish hikes are not challenging.

Anyhow, at the 3 mile mark the hike started getting more difficult. I realized I was probably at Alta Mountain after all. But more than once I went the wrong way, including going to a lake. And I nearly got lost several times on this hike due to the trail being so poorly marked. And I had a GPS!

After I got to the lake, I realized I had gone the wrong way. But I had already walked a long distance on a hot day and I was getting tired. I trudged back 20 minutes to the junction where I found the direction I should have gone. At this point I had already walked 7.5 miles; did I want to walk another difficult part?

I took five minutes to decide and did it. I continued upwards. I hate going up after I’ve already mentally committed that’s all downhill. And it was a tough slog. Multiple times I almost gave up.

But I didn’t. I kept going. I almost turned around 3 times, but in the end I made it to the top.

I only stayed five minutes. I wanted to come down. But, I made it.

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So that’s what I did last Saturday.

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Climbing the Murderhorn

A couple of weeks ago, I climbed a mountain in the Seattle area that I had been dreading – Mailbox Peak, also known as the Murderhorn.

Mailbox is a beast. It is 3 miles, one way, but gains 4200 feet for an average climb of 1400 feet/mile. For comparison, when I am hiking I start to feel the incline at around 500 feet/mile. So, this was nearly 3x worse.

What’s worse is that the first 1/2 mile of Mailbox is reasonably flat gaining only 300 feet. Moreover, it’s not actually 3 miles one way, it is 2.8 miles one-way. That means that this stupid hike gains an average of 1700 feet per mile at the most difficult part! This makes it the hardest hike I have ever done.

But I did it!

I had to drop the wife off at the airport that Saturday morning at 5:30 am. I knew that if I went home after that then there is no way I would have climbed the mountain because I’d be too lazy. I would have to go straight there.

So, that’s what I did. From the airport I went straight to the Murderhorn. I waited a few minutes for the sun to come up after arrival and by 6:15 am I was making my ascent.

Name: Mailbox Peak (the Murderhorn)
Distance: 5.66 miles
Low point: 675 feet
High point: 4813 feet
Elevation gain: 4143 feet

The good thing about hiking early is that (a) there is nobody else on the trail, and (b) it’s fairly cool, since hot weather makes it more difficult.

I made one additional change on the Murderhorn – instead of bringing only water, I also brought along some Gatorade. That stuff is a performance-enhancing drug! It really works!

On the way up, I had to stop for 3 breaks of five minutes each, and then one more for about two minutes. It was difficult work; my average speed was super slow and I had to take breaks much earlier than I normally do (I typically try to not take one before two miles).

But when I finally got to the top, I felt great! I could walk around without wobbly legs and I had plenty of energy! I attributed it to the Gatorade because I don’t normally feel that good.

I also think I was on an adrenaline high because I climbed such a difficult trek and was the first one to the top.

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Why do they call it Mailbox? Because there’s a mailbox at the top stuffed with junk:

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This is a shot across the highway at a mountain I haven’t climbed yet. Maybe next time:

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And to prove to you that I really was there and that these are not some generic pictures:

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On the way down, I counted 64 other crazy people who planned to make the ascent that day (all of them after me, ha, ha, ha!). It was about 10:15 am when I was done and I thought to myself “Hmm, now what do I do for the rest of the day?”

I relaxed a bit and walked around a bit more, feeling very proud of myself.

And that’s what I did a week and a half ago.

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Last weekend, the wife and I went on a hike to the north cascades, which is about a 2 to 2.5 hour drive. The hike was 12 miles round trip and 4000 feet elevation gain, so including travel time and hiking time, this was an all-day affair. We had to leave fairly early (before 8:30 am) in order to get there in good time.

Name: Sahalee Arm
Distance: 12.1 miles
Starting elevation: 3516 feet
High point: 7617 feet
Elevation gain: 4101 feet

This hike is deceptive, and a little annoying, because it starts off easy and gets more difficult as you get closer to the end. I don’t mean difficult because you get tired as time passes, but instead more difficult because it gets steeper the further you go.

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You can see from the graph above that last little bit is much steeper than the beginning part. It’s also on loose rock, known as scree, which is slippery and hard to climb.

I ended up taking over 35,000 steps that day, most of them on the hike, as per FitBit:

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Below are some pictures from the hike. Below is a shot of the wife trudging her way up the mountain. We hadn’t even reached the difficult part yet:

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From the 4.5 mile mark, you can see how far we went:

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We didn’t go to the top because it’s still covered in snow and the trail only officially goes to as far as we went. Besides, we had just come 6 miles and 4100 feet. But if we wanted to continue, it was another 1000 feet up and 1/2 mile to go.

No, thanks. I was done. Below is a shot of the very top:

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Looking out to the top isn’t that interesting. Instead, if you go back at the Google Earth image, you can see a lake. Here’s a view looking out from the top of the mountain:

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I’m not the only one who loafs around when I get to the top:

 

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And that’s what we did this past weekend.

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A couple of weeks ago I was going through the grocery store when I picked up a pack of batteries for my GPS which I take to go hiking. In general, two AA batteries last a bit more than two hikes. They say that the battery lifetime of the GPS is supposed to be 16 hours. Well, it’s not but it’s not that far off.

I was in the store and I figured I’d pick them up. They were a bit more expensive but I thought I’d give them a shot. They were these new Energizer Advanced Lithium batteries.

I thought that this was just a marketing gimmick. To me, all batteries are the same. But perhaps these would be better.

It turns out these are better.

I did my first hike with these new batteries on July 13. It was an 8-mile roundtrip hike. I did my second hike with them on July 20, a 12-mile roundtrip  hike.

The GPS is still showing full battery.

I couldn’t believe it. Usually I can squeeze 2.5 trips out of a pair of batteries but these ones are still showing full after two hikes, the second of which as a 7.5 hour excursion.

Maybe this is not just a marketing gimmick after all.

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I like to think that since I’ve been going to the gym more often, and that the wife has forced me to go hiking more often, that I am in reasonably good physical condition. I am not an athlete, never have been and never will be, but I like to think that I am better that most people.

Well, last week I went on a hike that changed my perception of myself. The wife and I climbed Mt. Si. This is a very popular hike in the Seattle area that is about 30 miles from the city. A lot of people start climbing it as soon as the weather turns warmer and the snow melts.

Name: Mt. Si
Round-trip distance: 7.6 miles
Starting elevation: 668 feet
High point: 3948 feet
Elevation gain: 3280 feet

A one-way trip of 3.8 miles gaining 3280 feet is 863 feet per mile. For comparison sake, my rule-of-thumb is that 500-feet per mile is the border where you start to feel it turn from comfortable to having to exert effort. Mt. Si makes you exert 1.6 times that effort the entire trail.

I would say that it was one of the toughest hikes I have ever done.

But here’s the thing – on the majority of the hikes we do, the wife and I probably pass 75% – 80% of all other hikers on the trail. By no means are we going fast but for the most part, we pass others, not vice versa.

On Mt. Si, pretty much everyone passed us. At least 80% of all other hikers.

It was humiliating. They passed us on the way up and on the way down.

Do you know what it’s like to go hiking as much as the wife makes me do, and then get passed by everyone else?

Sheesh. Not good for the ego.

In the photo below, Mt. Si is the one on the left in yellow:

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Elevation Plot

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Fast forward to today. The wife and I hiked another trail on the way to Mt. Tennerife, although we never went to the top because (a) we went the wrong way, and (b) on the way we did go, there was too much snow at the top.

The trail we went is the purple trail above. This one starts off pretty easy. You can see we start closer to the highway and it’s pretty flat.

Name: Mt. Tennerife (partial hike)
Round-trip distance: 9.7 miles
Starting elevation: 789 feet
High Point: 3832 feet (~100 feet lower than Mt. Si)
Elevation gain: 3083 feet

This hike started off easy, but then at the 2-mile mark it started getting more and more difficult. It inclined much steeper and I started sweating more and more. I had to rest a couple of times on the way up.

“What’s going on?” I said. “Why is this so much work? It’s worse than Mt. Si last week!”

This was also not good for the ego, but at least nobody passed us – not even one person. Of course, we only passed two other people on the trail. We clearly took the road less traveled.

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You can see the point at which it stopped being flat and starts being steep. Upon doing the math, it gains about 909 feet per mile which is even worse than Mt. Si!

Ack! No matter it felt so difficult!

Anyway, we went a reasonable distance and then turned around when the show got too deep. You need special equipment in snow and we didn’t have it.

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So that’s what we did today, and last Sunday afternoon.

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The past few days, the wife dragged me down to central Oregon to do some hiking. We were last here two years ago and she made me hike back then, too, but not nearly as much as now; the hikes were easier back then. In other words, the preview version (dating) was different than the release version (marriage).

On the other hand, my body is growing accustomed to these hikes. I used to lag way behind the wife and at the end, I was nearly dead. But now, I have no problems keeping up with the wife and she lags behind me! I’ve also noticed that my upper legs have gotten larger and pants fit more awkwardly now than they used to.

Yesterday, we did a hike around the South Sister mountain in Central Oregon. There are three mountains known as the Sisters, and we did the southern most once (hence the name). This was one of the most difficult hikes I’ve done this year due to the elevation gained, as well as the altitude. Indeed, it was the highest I have ever ascended this year.

Name: Moraine Lake/South Sister
Distance: 12.7 miles
Starting elevation: 5466 feet
Max elevation: 8622 feet (2012 record!)
Elevation gained: 3450 feet

This hike is down in Oregon and as I said, it was a tough hike. Below is an outline of the path we took:

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The hike starts off fairly flat and we made great time – moving at 2.8 miles per hour which is much faster than our typical ending speed of 2.0 miles per hour (that is, we start off fast and end slow). I was thinking “Gee, this is easy!”

But after the 4.5 mile mark, I started to get tired. The altitude started getting higher making it a lot more difficult and not only that, I was hungry. I didn’t realize how much the lack of food got to me. Only 30 minutes earlier I felt great, but suddenly on the steeper incline I could barely lift my legs. I could walk for about 45 seconds and had to take a short rest. This occurred over and over again. Finally, we stopped so I could eat something and I felt much better.

I couldn’t believe how the lack of food affected me (I was fine for water). I had a decent breakfast, but obviously I had digested it all.

This hike is one where it gets more difficult the higher you ascend. Some hikes are steep at first and level off (such as Mt. Baker in Washington), this one starts off shallow and gets steeper:

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The climb just gets higher and higher!

During the first 3.5 miles, I was all like “Man, I’m so going to the top!” Then, about 30 minutes later when it got steeper and I was out of food, I was like “Oh, I am so not going to the top!” We ended up not going all the way up for two reasons:

  1. It was too far and we were too tired (well, I was).

    It was still another 1+ mile and 1600 foot elevation gain to get there.  That is a very steep elevation gain for that distance. For reference, 500 feet per mile is the border of where it starts to become a difficult. This is triple that.

  2. The sun sets at 7:00 pm. We had to make the return trip before it got dark. We didn’t have enough time to make it to the top and then back to the car before the sun went down.

So we made due with sticking to 8600 feet which is what you see above. Below is where we went up to:

 

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Believe me when I say it was a tough slog getting up there. I took a picture from up there at what I thought was the top:

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But that little red bit peeking out is not the top. There’s still a lot more to go after that. Even from up there, you can still see some pretty good views:

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From the start of trail to the lake you can see there near the center of the picture is 3.5 miles, and then to where I am standing it is another 3.2 miles.

The climb down from here is not too bad except for one part where there are steep rocks and loose footing. It took a while to come down this part:

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One thing about central Oregon that I haven’t noticed in Washington or B.C. are the colors of the rocks. As you saw in one photo above, the ground is red. I don’t know what type of rocks these are, but the type of material they are is colored red which makes is distinct from nearly every other place I have been.

Finally, speaking of rocks, when I was at the top resting after a long ascent, I picked up a small rock and for some reason banged it against another one. I expected to hear a “click” – the sound you would hear if you bang two pieces of rock against each other.

But it’s not what I heard.

Instead, I heard a “clank,” as if two pieces of metal were clanking against each other. It was a very clear, distinct metallic clank. “What the—?” I said. I clanked it again and it kept making the same noise.

“That’s weird,” I said.

I then banged the little rock against another rock, as if to test it. This one made a wooden clicking noise, as if you were banging two wooden sticks against each other.

“What the—!” I said again. Two rocks located right next to each other making different noises?

The only explanation I have for this is that both rocks were different types of rocks, or maybe they were positioned in such a way so as to echo differently. I wished I had paid more attention in science class in seventh or eighth grade where we probably learned this stuff.

Here’s where they were located:

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The one on the left made the wooden sound, the one on the right made the metallic sound. The small one on top of the wooden one is the “banging” rock. Finally, I tested the small rock on yet another rock off-screen and it made the typical rock-and-rock clicking sound.

Whoever knew science could be fun?

Anyhow, we made it back to the car with about 30 minutes of daylight to spare. I was done, though. Even though I would have liked to have made it to the 10,200 peak of the mountain, my body would have protested vehemently.

And that’s the story of the time we climbed partway up the South Sister peak in central Oregon.

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As I’ve been hiking a lot more during the past couple of years (since I met the wife), I’ve worked my joints a lot more.  For the most part, I don’t suffer too many injuries but recently I have felt it a lot more in my hips (the same joint that gives me trouble 100% of the time the rest of the year if I do certain motions).

But I’m lucky – compared the wife I’m getting off easy.  So far this year:

  • She has suffered from tendonitis in her Achilles tendon; the sore one was 1.5 times as big as the other.

  • Persistent pain in her foot from twisting it at work and not quite allowing it to heal.

  • Today, she tripped on a hike and now has a large bruise on her shin with major swelling.  It looks pretty cool, it’s like there’s a golf ball under her skin.

    Below is a picture of the bruising, it doesn’t show up that well on camera but trust me, it’s there:

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    Here’s another angle:

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    Yowsa, that’s a lot of swelling!

Who says that hiking, a low impact activity, can’t be hazardous to your health?

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