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Category Archives: hike

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year here. So far. It reached 100 on the valley floor. Sheesh. Did I mention that we are completely without air conditioning for at least another couple of weeks? It’s enough to make a girl and her dogs crazy.

We drove up Boulder Creek to the Freezeout Pass trailhead and headed up the trail to 8242 foot Tiffany Mountain. It was 73 when we started. I was soon sweating on the steep trail through the burned forest. Many trees have blown over since last summer (sort of like the situation at my house) so there was quite a bit of clambering over and around the deadfall. Once we got out of the trees, it was the same steep, rocky ascent to the summit. Horned Larks were all around us. This is a place where they nest each summer. The snow has only recently melted up there but already it’s very dry and dusty most of the way along the trail. Wildflowers are just getting started. They could use a little bit of rain but none is in the long range forecast. At the top, the view was the best I’ve ever seen up there. Not a cloud in the sky and little haze either. I could see Mount Baker and Glacier Peak to the west and Moses Mountain to the east. And there wasn’t much wind either. On the way down, the wind picked up and I didn’t linger in the burned forest. The trees groaned and creaked and swayed in the wind.

We stopped at Boulder Creek to cool our feet on the way home. The dogs probably enjoyed that part more than the hike. I experimented with using my knee as tripod to get some pretty water images.

Back at home, it was 87, in the house.

Most of the snow has melted so ski season is mostly over and hiking season is officially underway. Mountain Bluebirds and Spotted Towhees added a few sprinkles of color in an otherwise pretty monochrome setting. The songs of Western Meadowlarks accompanied me for much of the hike. This area burned in the giant fires of 2014.

The morning’s bird list: Gray Partridge, Dusky Grouse, Golden Eagle, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Say’s Phoebe, Black-billed Magpie, Clark’s Nutcracker, Common Raven, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Mountain Bluebird, American Robin, Brewer’s Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Spotted Towhee, Western Meadowlark, Cassin’s Finch.

When your birthday is on the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring, you might have some expectations for the day. I got it in my head that I wanted to see sagebrush buttercups – one of the first wildflowers that shows up in our shrub-steppe habitats. Well never mind that here at our house, there is still over a foot of snow on the ground. Wet, rotten, sloppy snow. Spring birds like bluebirds, phoebes, juncos and others have arrived so it does sound like spring but right now as I type this, it is snowing. Again. I keep thinking I am done with winter but it’s clearly not done with me.

So if I wanted to see buttercups, I was going to have go somewhere else. I went east and north to McLaughlin Canyon, near Tonasket. The day started out sunny but was soon overcast and breezy and fairly cold at 37° Fahrenheit. Good walking weather. There were a few patches of snow and there was lots of water everywhere. I imagine in the summer this place is very dry and full of rattlesnakes so this was a good time to visit. Melting snow sent cascades of water over the cliff faces and in the shady spots, the rocks and shrubs were covered with ice.

Shortly after I arrived I heard the wonderful song of the Canyon Wren! Have you heard them? Listen here. I heard several others while I walked. The trail starts in a narrow section of the canyon and all that water found its way to the path so it was a bit of a struggle to keep my feet dry. I was somewhat dismayed by all the weeds. This area burned in 2015 when much of Okanogan County was on fire and its recovery is slow. I did see that some pine trees have been recently planted so hopefully they will grow quickly and hold the ground in place during spring flooding.

I walked til I was overlooking the bottom of the canyon and the Okanogan River. Still no buttercups. The hill below me was steep and not appealing for walking but it did look warmer and dryer than the ground I’d been walking on. I used my binoculars to scan the hillside and sure enough, a good two hundred feet below me, I saw the bright yellow color of the buttercups. I found them. It was worth the climb down and back up.

The dogs had great fun exploring a new place and so did I. We were all grateful to be walking on dirt again.

Afterwards, we drove down valley and managed to find some Sandhill Cranes in the snow. It is the time of year when they migrate through this region but most years, the lakes and ponds are thawed and the ground is mostly snow-free. I imagine they are having trouble finding enough food to eat.

And here at home today it is still snowing. Big, fat, fluffy flakes. Winter needs a new calendar.

It was a hair-brained idea given the fact that my to-do list is a mile long. However this might be the last day like this in 2016. The weather forecast shows lots of rain and wind for the next four days. Snow in the mountains too. So the girls and I threw together a little bit of stuff and headed to Blue Lake. Our dog friend Wyatt Ann is staying with us and she’s not in such good shape but she was a real trooper, having great fun on the trail.

Blue Lake is close enough that a person can get to the trailhead and do the hike and get home and only use up half a day. Unless she lollygags. And this time, I did not. That to-do list was waiting at home.

Last week Marcy and I and Guthrie and Sky hiked over Cutthroat Pass, starting at Rainy Pass and ending at the Cutthroat trailhead. We knew the weather was iffy and carried extra clothes and gear. The first half of the route is on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and several through hikers passed us, moving at a pretty fast clip aiming to be in Canada in just three days. They had only seventy miles to the end of their long journey from Mexico. I always wonder about the long-distance hikers and, if by the time they reach this scenic area, do they even care how beautiful it is? Or are they just walking with their heads down, hoping to get this grueling hike over as soon as possible? No doubt, they have seen lots of wonderful mountain scenes along the way.

We took our time. It was ten and a half miles and we both made many photos along the way. We stopped for lunch before the pass thinking it might be too windy and cold on top to be able to relax. It never did get terribly cold. There was some frozen precipitation before the pass but it was hard and dry and we never needed our rain gear. Near the top we were treated to splashes of blue sky but the sun never materialized til we were almost finished. We did stop at the pass where it was not windy and were treated to a flock of Mountain Bluebirds!

The blue sky and bluebirds were a great contrast to the fall colors of the larch trees and mountain ash and other deciduous plants.

As we headed down, I was surprised that Sky remembered there was a lake down there. She has only done that route downhill twice before. That dog never forgets an opportunity to jump in a lake after a stick.

Winter is coming quickly to the mountains. Now the passes and peaks are snow-covered. I hope to get up there another time or two but it might not happen. So glad I went last week.

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