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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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