Blue's Boots

Andrea's adventures on the trail…

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November 2016 – This has been a great year (minus a nasty shoulder surgery in February). I visited Yellowstone NP and Grand Teton NP in May, which were both firsts for me and were amazing!  Of course I did a lot of hiking this summer at Mt. Rainier National Park, as that’s my backyard playground. I had a wonderful 3-day backpack trip to Young Lakes in Yosemite in July with S&S, which was jaw-dropping gorgeous!  I also visited the Goat Rocks area again, I need to do so much more exploring there!  September took me back to Headlight Basin and Lake Ingalls for the golden larches. And I got to go back to Zion National Park in October where we hiked the Subway and the Narrows. Now it’s the time of year when my snow-shoes are starting to get restless and head up to Rainier for the winter season…..  It’s been a good good year 🙂

~~ Andrea ~~


Paradise, Mt. Rainier NP

After countless times heading up to Rainier, I still never EVER get tired of it. I am so blessed to be able to call this place my backyard playground!!  Since we had the wettest, gloomiest October on record, when the sun broke last Friday I headed straight to Paradise for a Washington-style tanning session with my Mountain. Not enough snow yet for snow-shoes, but still an amazing day spent alone away from politics, work, cell phones, Internet, etc.  Mt. Rainier is the best sunny-day attitude adjustment one could hope for 🙂

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Zion National Park – Narrows

The Zion Narrows is a must-see for anyone visiting Zion National Park.  The hike starts with a 1-mile paved trail, then when the pavement ends, the in-river hiking begins!  IMO, it’s well worth it to rent canyoneering boots and neoprene socks, along with a walking stick, to do this hike, though plenty of people just use regular sneakers. The canyoneering boots give a lot more stability on the wet river rocks that you will be walking on for miles.

In the Narrows, you can go as far out and back as you want, whether it’s 1/2 mile or several miles. Most of the hike is actually in the river, with 800-foot-tall canyon walls on either side. Some parts have a bit of dry land that you can walk on, but be prepared to get wet for the majority of it. Water levels depend on season and weather conditions. Of course, if there is any chance of rain, this is a hike to avoid because of the threat of flash floods.

There really aren’t words to describe what it’s like being in this canyon, so I’ll just let the photos do the talking…

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Subway – Zion National Park

We got lucky and won the lottery for a Zion Subway permit, so had a quick trip down to Utah and back last week 🙂  This whole national park is incredible, and deserves more than just 2 days, but at least we got to see some of the best of it!

The Subway is a 9.5 mile hike/scramble from the trailhead, down steep canyon walls to get to the river, then up the canyon formed by the Left Fork of North Creek to an amazing area of waterfalls and rock formations. Water gets cold this time of year, but the weather was nice and we ended up not using the dry pants we had rented from an outfitter. Canyoneering boots and neoprene socks do come in very handy here, since your feet are continuously wet from hiking in and out of the river.

It’s a strenuous hike, with miles of rock scrambling and hiking inside the  river itself, but worth every single drop of sweat.  This place is pure magic. A loaded bacon cheeseburger and an ice cold beer are recommended after completing this one!

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Lake Ingalls and Headlight Basin – Alpine Lakes Wilderness

The autumn golden larch season in central Washington is amazing!  Headlight Basin is a perfect spot to backpack and enjoy the show, with Mt. Stuart as the backdrop and Lake Ingalls a short scramble away from camp.  J and I headed out on a Monday to avoid the crowds that swarm here on weekends during larch season, and backpacked up to Headlight Basin to spend 2 wonderful nights there. On our down day I finally got out to Lake Ingalls for the first time, and spent a glorious morning up there by myself – so beautiful and peaceful! It’s a fun, short scramble to get up there, and very worth it. Unfortunately we didn’t see any of the mountain goats that almost always live here, but that was the only downside to the entire trip. So glad to be able to experience such beauty and to have great friends to share it with 🙂

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Goat Rocks – Snowgrass Flat and Goat Lake

I spent a fantastic 2 days in a solo trip in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. I’m not sure why I haven’t explored this area more, I’ll definitely be going back!  I hiked 5 miles from the trailhead and camped near Alpine camp, just west of Snowgrass Flat. After setting up camp next to a wonderful spring and relaxing for a while, I took a 4-mile afternoon stroll across Snowgrass Flat and north a ways on the PCT, with Old Snowy Mtn. and Ives Peak as my backdrop. Wide open spaces describes this area perfectly, and the wildflowers were at peak bloom. Views south include Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens.  Stunning! (see day 2 below)

After a good night’s rest at camp, I got up the next morning and hiked up to Goat Lake, which is just spectacular. There are some campsites at the lake that I will definitely be going back to. The views from Goat Lake south down the valley with direct views of Mt. Adams are wonderful, and again the wildflowers were putting on a huge show. I ate a leisurely brunch at the lake and just soaked in all the amazing views 🙂

When I got back to camp, after a 5.5 mile r/t to Goat Lake and back, my campsite was so swarmed with biting flies that after 5 minutes I knew I couldn’t stay there. They were horrible, going in my ears, up my nose, biting my arms and legs. I could not get away from them, so I decided to pack up and head back to the car. The little buggers followed me from camp 5 miles back to the trailhead. Other than the flies, though, it was an excellent trip and I’ll definitely be going back again!

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Upper Palisades Lake, MRNP

I’ve posted this hike before, but it’s one of my favorites at Rainier and I got some great photos this time, so here it is again!  Wildflowers were at PEAK bloom, it could not have been better!  Mosquitoes were not nearly as bad as I thought they would be, so that was another bonus. We got to camp, read for hours, wandered around the lake, and had a very relaxing, lazy afternoon.

We were up at 5 a.m. the next morning and headed to the meadow above the lake, to watch the dawn light hit the Palisades cliffs (along with Jetboil, coffee, and tea). The pink only lasted for a couple of minutes, but it’s so totally worth it, especially with the acres and acres of lupine in full bloom in the foreground.  LOVE this place!!!

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Young Lakes, Yosemite NP

I had a wonderful 3-day backpacking trip to Young Lakes in Yosemite with S&S last week. Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite is gorgeous, and though it’s crowded, it’s not nearly as much like Disneyland as the Yosemite Valley is. We hiked north toward Glen Aulin, then veered northeast toward Young Lakes and left most of the crowds behind. It’s a 7.25 mile hike up to the first lake, which is at 9,850 feet. Raggedy Peak steals the skyline at the first lake, and we camped at the base of it, but the real show is at the 3rd lake.

On day 2 we day hiked to the 2nd and 3rd Young Lakes, and it was just stunning! There’s a small scramble up to the 3rd lake (at almost 10,200 feet elevation) through a small waterfall, but it’s easy and short, nothing a pair of hiking poles and good boots can’t handle. The payoff is very much worth it. There are 360-degree views at the 3rd lake, it’s beyond words in the English language 🙂  So very very glad we took a day to explore this area before heading back to camp at the 1st lake.

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Coldwater Lake Kayak, Mt. St. Helens

J. and I had a great 2 days camping at Seaquest State park, kayaking Coldwater Lake by Mt. St. Helens, and hiking for wildflowers by Johnston Ridge Observatory. Coldwater Lake used to be a little creek, and was formed when St. Helens erupted and a natural dam blocked the valley, creating a beautiful 5-mile lake perfect for kayaking. We ‘yaked 3 miles out, and turned as weather started to change and get windy, so 6+ miles overall. By the time we got close to to the dock, sun was out and it was HOT, but perfect for being on the water.

The next morning we were up at 5 a.m. to hike Harry’s Ridge trail, but were in low, heavy cloud cover and only ended up hiking a couple of miles. No crater viewing today, but the wildflowers were putting on a beautiful show for us.


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Crystal Lakes, MRNP

It was a beautiful day for a hike, and I’ve never gone up to Crystal Lakes in Mt. Rainier National Park before.  I’ve hiked to the top of Crystal Peak and looked down on the lakes, so I decided to make it happen today. Up at 5:30 a.m., and on the trail by 7:15 a.m. It’s 2300 feet of elevation up up up in 3 miles. The lower part of the trail is through scrubby forest, not that exciting, but when you get near the top and to the lakes it’s a beautiful subalpine area. I was lucky enough to have the entire Upper Crystal Lake basin to myself for almost an hour before any other hikers showed up. I had my foldy-chair, a book, a thermos of iced tea, and brunch. I found a great rock outcropping to sit on, and I just kicked back and relaxed and enjoyed the amazing view!  Once other hikers started showing up it was time to leave, and I was thankful that I had a nice time of solitude for a while.

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Packwood Lake, G.P. National Forest

First backpack trip of 2016, first backpack trip since my shoulder surgery in February, and first time to Packwood Lake!  S & S and I headed out on a gorgeous Friday morning on the 4.5 mile trail to Packwood Lake. It’s a huge, beautiful lake with a nice island and great views of Old Snowy Mtn. in the Goat Rocks  Wilderness.

Our first campsite (with picnic table!) was nice, until I discovered that we were camped close to a mosquito bog and I was ambushed by the little blood-sucking critters. We packed everything up and moved to a much nicer campsite a short distance further along the shore, so glad we did. It was a perfect site, right on the shore, good fishing spot, protected from wind.

Saturday morning was gray, good chance of rain, so we packed up and headed out by 11, and took a different dirt bike road back to the car. The shoulder did quite well, it was a perfect trip to test out how things would go, both with carrying a backpack and sleeping on the ground. Now… I want to get out even more!

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