Friday, July 27, 2007

Summer hiking

I don't really like to hike during the mid-summer, it tends to be too hot, too buggy, and sometimes too crowded for me to enjoy. My favorite times are spring and fall, before or after bug season, and in cooler weather. Fall hiking may have lots of other trail users, hunters, but also bright colors and good access, less snow and mud. Spring hiking has the problems of snow obscuring trails and dangerous or impossible stream crossings.

I still hike in the summer, although I try to find areas less popular and shaded thus cooler. In the Pacific NW, cooler weather is usually easy to find on the west side of the Cascades or at higher elevations. Mosquitoes may be annoying but are not as obnoxious as in Arctic areas and black flies are usually only mildly annoying. However, one summer after a particularly wet winter, black flies were a real nuisance here. I occasionally see people using netting hats but I don't really feel I need one, deet and normal clothing is adequate unless bugs are really bad.

Hiking is popular in the area, on some trails I almost never get to a place where I can't see or hear other hikers. I've also seen hikers line up to sign trail registers. Yet other trails are rarely used; possibly because they aren't featured in popular trail guides. I wish I could switch my work schedule at times so I had weekdays free and could avoid the crowds.

Of course summer hiking has its particular rewards, beyond the rewards of hiking anytime. Because of mild weather, I don't need to carry or wear a lot of clothing resulting in a lighter pack. Some meadows are bright with summer flowers against green grasses. Lakes and streams can be a joy to play in, rather than a risk of hypothermia. Soon huckleberries will be ripe and I'll hike slowly, picking and eating as I go.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

PNW trails and storm damage

I've been hiking the local trails since April this year, mostly in the Cascade Mountains near Highway 2. I have seen a lot of trail and road damage from last winter's windstorm and flooding. Several trailheads are inaccessible because the access roads washed out. After a couple of detours, I found that Washington Trails Association's website had a more up-to-date list of status than the Forest Service sites (storm damage). I've been surprised and pleased at how quickly the Forest Service has done the simpler kinds of road and trail maintenance. Of course other groups also do trail maintenance, notably the Washington Trails Association, the Student Conservation Association, and the Mountaineers, and are working hard to repair trails. I feel guilty because I don't volunteer for trail maintenance work although I do donate money. I have several reasons, at this point the most relevant being my health.

Many trails are inaccessible and the roads won't be repaired soon. Some of the roads have washed out before, I remember at least once before the Index-Galena road washed out and was inaccessible for years. Some roads should be abandoned but many serve popular areas and probably should and will be re-opened. I hope when the most damaged roads are rebuilt they are rerouted to minimize future chances of washout.

I don't have a real point here except that damage occurred and groups are working to repair the damage. Various governmental fees and taxes as well as non-governmental organizations provide the financial means. My Forest Pass fee (actually I get the Interagency Annual Pass, formerly called the Golden Eagle) seems reasonable given the amount of money required. And there are many users of the forests besides hikers, some of whom pay fees and some do not so I think it is reasonable for general tax revenue to be spent on maintenance.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

More Yellowstone trails

It is more than time to finish up my Yellowstone hiking. I hiked briefly on a few more trails and took an all day hike along Cache Creek.

Cache Creek is my favorite Yellowstone hike, I hike it at least once on every trip. I like the open vista west along the Lamar River valley with herds of bison visible both near and far. It is also the best place to see wolves, I've seen them 3 times along this trail but not this year. For several years, wolves had a den on the north side of the road near the hiker trailhead and I often heard the wolves when hiking. I did see coyotes, pronghorn, elk, and of course bison. Two coyotes appeared to be looking for pronghorn young, they were hunting cooperatively. I hiked past the junction to the Thunderer and down to Cache Creek but did not feel like crossing the creek. A nice hike with few other hikers on this trail. The picture above is Soda Butte creek near the trailhead looking toward Baronette Peak.

Trout Lake, near Pebble Creek campground is a short but steep hike to a lake with lots of trout. It is popular because it is a short hike, many fish, and also because otters can often be seen, at least that is what I've been told, I've never seen them. Fishing doesn't open on the lake until June 15th but I saw 2 groups of people fishing when I was there. A bit frustrating because the crowds of fishermen cause game to avoid the area. This year I didn't see anything but trout and ducks at the lake.

Daly Creek in the extreme NW corner of Yellowstone is also a nice hike. Three years ago I saw a lone black wolf about 1/2 mile into the hike and could hear wolves at a den across highway 191. This year I didn't see or hear any wolves or other wildlife besides elk. I went up to the first campsite and the only other hikers were 2 volunteers hiking on their day off. I did see some bear and wolf or coyote scat that was not recent. This picture is looking toward the Gallatin Mountains.