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Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

This past summer, in August, the wife and I headed down to Hood River for a special event. In case you don’t know, Hood River is in Oregon and is one of the beer capitals of the state. There are five breweries in a town of something like 7700.

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But that’s not what I am here to talk about. We didn’t just hang around Hood River, but instead did a hike around Mt. Hood. The wife and I have hiked around Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, and Mt. St Helen’s, all in Washington. This is the first (or second) time we’ve hiked around Mt. Hood.

I’m not sure how many trails there are around Mt. Hood, it doesn’t seem to have as many as Mt. Rainier or Mt. Baker. The one we went on started around 5800 ft elevation, and went up 3000 feet (to 8800), and was around 3.5 miles one way. I also forgot my boots, so I had to hike in my runners.

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But the part I thought was pretty cool is where the hike ended. Mt Hood is only around 11,250 feet. When we got to the end of where we were going, I looked to the end and realized that we only had another 2450 feet up to go if we wanted to get to the summit.  From where I was standing, it didn’t look too far of.

The below is a photo looking up to the top of the mountain:

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The next picture is me looking down from the mountain, back the way we came. On the way up, it seemed like it kept going up and up and up…

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But to put all of that in perspective, when coming down the mountain I looked back and snapped a picture just to see how far I really was from the top. As it turns out, I was a long way off:

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So while was there at the end of the trail, I was thinking “It wouldn’t be too bad to keep going” even though I intellectually knew it would be.

But taking a step back and getting some perspective, it would be a difficult climb to go the rest of the way.

You win, Mt. Hood.

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Hiking Haleakalā

I haven’t really written that much about it so far, but this past January the wife and I visited the island of Maui in Hawaii.

I had last been to Hawaii in 1995, so 22 years had elapsed between visits (closer to 21 years and 2 months since I went in December 1995, and returned in January 2017).

One of the activities that the wife and I did was go up Haleakalā, which is the tallest mountain on Maui. There’s one road that goes to the top, and it takes about an hour and a half to get up there since the road is fairly narrow and windy. On the way up, you go through multiple climate zones – from lush rainforest at the bottom of Maui, to temperate 2/3 of the way up, to a moonscape at the very top.

The coast of Maui, of course, is at sea level while the top of Haleakalā is at about 10,000 feet. The map below shows you the geography of the island, although obviously there is much more elevation distortion than what you can see on the map. I just couldn’t figure out how to make Google Maps make the elevation even more obvious. The red pin below is the top of the mountain.

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To me, Maui looks like a turtle with the head in the northwest, and the body in the southeast. It has two sets of mountains – Haleakalā in the middle of the big part of the island (the turtle’s body) and then a set of mountains in the northwest (in the turtle’s head). Eventually as sea levels rise, the island will split into two, between the head and the body.

The rainiest part of the island is between Haleakalā and the town of Hana on the far east coast, about halfway up. That is, Hana itself is not nearly as rainy as the rainforest that is halfway up to the top of Haleakalā. This is one of rainiest places on earth, getting more than almost anywhere else in the world. You can see above how dark green it is, while the other edges of the island are more beige indicating how comparatively dry it is. It’s because the big mountain prevents rain clouds from getting over it, so to lighten up they have to dump their precipitation.

Anyhow, at the top of Haleakalā, there is a visitor center and you can go for a hike. But it’s cold. And windy. I brought along a winter jacket, and a couple of tuques, because I knew it would not be pleasant weather conditions at the very top.

I decided to take a picture of me at the top. I’ve done a number of hikes but this is the highest I have ever gone hiking. You can see in the picture below I’ve taken refuge out of the cold to take this picture in the visitor center to prove I’m up at ~10,000 feet above sea level.

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So what’s the top of the mountain like, besides being cold and windy? Well, we went and January but there was no snow, so I’m assuming that snow at the top is rare. But if you wish, you can go for a hike and that’s what we did.

Now, some people for whatever reason can get altitude sickness. This is a general feeling of having the flu – fatigue, nausea, and headaches. I don’t get altitude sickness (at least, not at this height) but the wife did. We went down about 1500 feet on a hike (about 2-3 miles or so, I can’t remember) but on the way back up the wife took way longer than normal whereas I felt fine. There were other people on the trail as well who were clearly feeling the effects of altitude. I don’t know why I felt okay… but I did.

Anyway, on the way up I took a handful of pictures with my phone, and you can see it looks like what I imagine the surface of Mars looks like – all desert-like. The picture below looks pretty bad because I took three different photos and then tried to reconstruct them by globbing them together, whereas I should have just taken a landscape photo.

Oh, well.

The point is that (a) iPhone cameras are merely okay, and (b) the top of Hawaii looks way different than the bottom.

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Believe it or not, the wife is on that long trail downwards. I’m not sure where, but it’s somewhere. Keep in mind that while it looks like a nice, sunny day, I’m wearing a fleece jacket and a pair of tuques to keep my noggin from freezing.

On the other hand, this landscape doesn’t look completely different than other places that we’ve hiked. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this type of geography on other mountains that we’ve climbed in either New Zealand, Patagonia (South America), or even in Oregon or Washington.

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The wife didn’t enjoy this hike nearly as much as I did. I kind of liked being at the top of the world (even though it’s still only 1/3 as high as Mt Everest). We eventually made our way back to the car, and headed back down the mountain where the wife felt better (I was fine the whole time).

And that’s the story of the time we went to the top of the highest mountain in Maui.

 

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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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Today we took a friend on a hike near Mt. Rainier.  Mt. Rainier is the highest mountain in Washington state standing a little over 14,000 feet.  It’s a two-hour drive from where we live and worse yet, it’s a popular attraction, pulling in lots of tourists especially on a day like today when it was +30° C.  Thus, we planned to leave the house around 6 am to get there by 8:30 am after picking up our friend so we could beat the crowds.

This was further complicated by the fact that I had to take some friends to the airport this morning to catch an even earlier flight.  Thus, I’ve been up since 4 am, and I didn’t sleep well the night before. 

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Anyhow, this hike was going to be different than previous ones.  My left hip still hasn’t fully recovered from previous hikes and the wife has a sore foot plus Achilles tendon which has been flaring up all week (in spite of her protests to the contrary).  What made this hike easier was that it was flatter with much less climbing.  It did go up and down but the inclines were gradual and it wasn’t that much effort.

Name of hike: Berkeley Park
Length: 8.2 miles
Low point: 6259 feet
High point: 7057 feet
Total elevation gained: 1982 feet

Below is a Google Earth map of the route we took that shows you the terrain.  The end point in the top left hand corner is a very steep 400 foot ascent in 1/3 of a mile, or roughly a 1200-foot-gain per mile.  For comparison, an ascent of 500 feet per mile is my limit of “easiness” before a hike starts to feel difficult.

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Even though the hike is fairly flat, it has a lot of up-and-down.  It climbs, descends and then climbs again.  We would pass hikers on the way up who would exclaim “Oh, whew, it’s all downhill from here.”  Well, that wasn’t really true:

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There’s actually 3 large up and down portions, and above you can see the steep ascent to the top where we stopped.

Of course, we’re not really at the top, we only go to 7000 feet or so. The real peak of Mt. Rainier is still another 7000 feet above us and is a long way to go:

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A number of people I know are in the category of “I climbed Mt. Rainier!” I’m not in that category and I have no plans to join them.  From the top of the peak of where we were, we did see some people climbing down from the top of the mountain so it is possible and my friends aren’t just making these claims up.

In the following picture, it’s nearly impossible to see the scale of just how high this peak is:

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Our friend came this high (where the picture was taken) while the wife and I scaled to the top.  It drops down 100 feet from this point and then climbs up 400 feet in 1/3 of a mile, a very tough climb.

Yet from the top up here, you can see a lot.  We took a picture of our friend  down below, my camera zoomed to the highest level:

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From here, she (wearing pink) doesn’t look that far away.  But according to the Pythagorean theorem she is ~2400 feet (0.45 miles) from me.  Hmm, that doesn’t sound that far.

Here’s a picture from Mt. Rainier from the top of the peak we climbed:

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I decided to take a huge panorama picture of about 270° (3/4 of the way around a circle).  You’ll need to click on the picture to see a better shot of it, this blog shows it way too compressed:

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That panorama shot turned out really well, I think!

And that’s what we did today.

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As the wife and I have been doing a bunch of hiking lately, it’s not without its consequences. Injuries are starting to pile up.

For myself, I have bad hips.  But that’s made worse by tight hip muscles.  To that end, as my tensor facia latae muscle (on the side of my hip) moves back and forth over the greater trochanter (the bony protrusion on your hip that sticks out the furthest), it hurts.  It started hurting this past weekend as we made our ascent up a fairly steep trek.

The wife has different injuries than me.  She has a tendonitis in her Achilles tendon. She started doing research on the Internet about how to treat it, but has yet to find any treatment that says “Don’t bother resting, continue doing what you are doing and it will magically get better in spite of the stress you are putting on it.”

That’s the problem with being a weekend warrior and not a professional athlete – your body isn’t used to the excessive shock you put on it on it every 6-7 days.  And then it protests.

Man, getting old sucks.

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When the wife first started dragging me hiking, I had a difficult time finishing the hikes.  I would get winded and at the end my muscles ached, not to mention my hip.

But as time has passed, I’ve improved.  By no means am I going to win an Iron Man competition, but I can complete most hikes of 8 miles fairly easily and I have much more endurance (the wife now lags behind me instead of vice versa).  And ever since getting the GPS and tracking my hikes, I look forward to doing the walk and then mapping it on Google Earth.

Today we did a 9.7 mile hike near Mt. Baker in northern Washington.  The wife got me up at 5:30 am again (one part about hiking I do not enjoy) and we drove 2.5 hours to trailhead.  This was a moderately difficult hike.

Name of track: Skyline Divide(I keep wanting to call it SkyDrive)
Distance: 9.7 miles
Starting elevation: 4067 feet
Highest elevation: 6583 feet
Elevation gained: 3447 feet

I’m going to skip showing you the topographical map and instead show you the Google Earth image.  I played around with the angles to show you how close we got to Mt. Baker.

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This hike contained a lot of saddles – a dip between two peaks.  Those stupid things are what I call “Hope Killers” because you hope that you’ve gotten to the top, but no, your hope is killed and you have to descend and then ascend again.  But wait! After 4 miles I don’t want to descend again only to have to go up hill one more time!  Going down should mean the end of the “going there” and instead be “the return path.”

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See those ups and downs in the chart above?  Those are saddles.  Ups and downs.

What follows are pictures from the hike:

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At the end of two miles, and 1700 feet elevation gain (which is tough), you come to a grassy knoll.  Out there in the distance?  That’s Mt. Baker.

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That’s me standing and posing for a picture in front of the mountain.  This was on the way down.

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To get an idea of where we were, we didn’t go to the top.  In the above image, we went to a peak that was still a ways off from Mt. Baker itself.

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The last part to the top where the hike finishes is a tough slog of 300 foot gain in less than half a mile.  Above is the wife going for a walk at the top of this part as if to say “I’m finished.”

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But as you can see, she was so excited to get to the top that she leapt for joy.

I also decided to perform a magic trick at the top here.  I’ve been working on something special – my levitation effect.  Below is a picture of me practicing it.  Obviously, there’s no wires or forklifts to hold me up, the below shot is completely unfaked.

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It was hot today; I brought along two liters of water but it was a mistake to bring that little.  The sun beating down on us up there was tough to take, and the horse flies drove us down after resting for 50 minutes (the wife said every five minutes for 25 minutes that she was ready to go; finally I said “These flies are killing me, and so is the sun. You can stay but I need to leave).

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And that’s the story of the time we went to Skyline Divide.  It was a tough hike today because of the hot weather, steep elevation gain in the first two miles, continuous up-and-down in the saddles, and horse flies.

But I survived.

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Fresh from our 16 mile hike that we did yesterday, the wife insisted that we do yet another hike today.  I was a bit sore from yesterday, but not too bad.  The week prior I felt much worse.

This hike was a 70 mile drive from Seattle.  We got there around 2:15 pm and made the 7.3 mile round trip up the mountain to the lookout (a cabin built at the top of a mountain).  Even though this was a shorter hike and less elevation gain, I thought it was harder than yesterday.

Name of track: Thorp Mountain
Distance: 7.3 miles
Starting Elevation: 3463 feet
Highest Elevation: 5848 feet
Elevation Gained: 2445 feet (includes up-and-down backtracking)

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As I said, I found this hike to be more difficult. Our moving-to-stop-time ratio was lower today (meaning that we stopped and rested more often than yesterday) and our average moving speed was less as well.  What’s more is that the track gets progressively more difficult; the last half is where well over 2/3 of the elevation gains, and the last 1/2 mile gains 800 feet.  That is work.  On the way up, I kept saying “How much further is it to the top of this stupid mountain?!?”

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It also wasn’t nearly as warm today as it was yesterday.  Yesterday I could walk in a t-shirt and shorts, but today I had to wear long pants.  Then I had to wear a long sleeve shirt.  Then, in the final sprint to the top and after we got there, it was so cold I had to put on my toque, gloves and jacket.  That was pretty much all the clothes I brought along.  It was cold!

As for pictures, the below is a view of the lake that you can see in the topographical map above:

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This next shot is a view of the lookout cabin.  It’s gray all around because of the fog.  If it were a clear day, you would see blue sky.  When the fog rolls in, the temperature drops.

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This picture here is me wondering how much further it is to the top.  That last stretch nearly killed me.

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But the highlight of the track?  1/3 of the way through, we got to see the carcass of a dead horse that had died there the previous year (2011).  How did it get there?  I don’t know.  My theory is that it was a horse-and-rider that was trying to cross the river (small river) when it slipped and fell.  They couldn’t get the horse up and then it either drowned or die of injury.  That’s a tough way to go, even for a horse.

Still, it was cool to see (if you’re a guy).

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Here’s a link to the terrain view in Google Maps, and below is the screenshot in Google Earth.  I’ve been playing around with the 3D rotation and this much better captures the trip we went on because you can see the depth.  From the above graph, it looks like there is a long way from the top of the mountain to the lake.  But from Google Earth, it’s clear that there’s a steep drop!

We couldn’t see it at the top because it was so foggy.  But man, it would have been neat to see.

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And that’s what we did this afternoon.

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