Blue's Boots

Andrea's adventures on the trail…

New Zealand

I recently got home from a phenomenal trip to New Zealand. It’s been on the top of my bucket-list for many years, and I finally spent 5 weeks exploring both islands. I’m so thankful I was finally able to get there.

I hiked the Milford Track, much of the Abel Tasman Track, and I did the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I also spent time visiting geothermal areas, going on riverjets, swinging on ziplines, kayaking, walking through redwoods canopy, visiting with family, and hiking several areas around Kaiteriteri and Takaka.  Overall I hiked over 92 miles. The Milford Track was the best multi-day hiking/backpacking trip I’ve ever been on, and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was the best dayhike I’ve ever done in my life. Click on the “New Zealand 2019” page to the right for more photos and comments.

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MTTA Bruni’s Snowbowl Hut

The MTTA (skimtta.org) hut system south of Mt. Rainier is a true gem!  There are 3 huts and 1 yurt that are available by reservation (sno-park permit required at the parking area). All are heated and have fully equipped kitchens and sleeping spaces. They are accessible year round, but winter is my favorite time to snow-shoe up and stay at one of the huts. Bruni’s Snowbowl has space for 14 people. It’s a shared space with whoever else has reservations for the same night. The beauty of these huts is that you only need to bring your sleeping bag, clothes, and food. And of course, you need to pack out everything, including your own trash.

Weather was perfect a few days ago, and there were openings at the Snowbowl hut, so I went for it!  It was a 3.5 mile snowshoe to the hut, then I spent a lazy afternoon reading and enjoying the spectacular views of Mt. Rainier. There is a lovely gazebo and fire ring near the hut, and at sunset all of us staying there (even though we were strangers) went to the gazebo to share the sunset together. We had lovely conversation over dinner, all brought together by our love of being outdoors and enjoying the beauty of Mt. Rainier.

This is what recharges my batteries and fills my soul up. So much beauty!

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Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon

I’m still feeling amazed at my trip to the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the Wallowa Mountains of Eastern Oregon. This place is pure magic! I camped along the FS road just before Two Pan Trailhead at the Lostine River, so I could get an early start the next morning. The hike up the E. Fork of the Lostine River toward the Lakes Basin is beautiful!  Trail is a bit chewed up by pack horses and rocky in spots, but still fun to hike. After the 1st set of switchbacks you break out into miles of breathtaking meadows in the E. Lostine River valley. It’s hard to watch footing here, because you are definitely not thinking about the trail, but instead about the views surrounding you on all sides.

After another shorter ascent, you get to the Lakes Basin area of Eagle Cap, with Eagle Cap Peak as the perfect backdrop. I found a nice campsite at Mirror Lake, and after an 8 mile hike and 2200 feet of elevation gain, I was happy to take a nap and sit and enjoy the amazing views for the rest of the day.

On Day 2, I day hiked from Mirror Lake thru the Lakes Basin to Moccasin Lake, Douglas Lake, Lee Lake, and Horseshoe Lake. Another wonderful 8-mile day, but fairly level for most of it and just stunning views the whole way. I had lunch on a little island at Horseshoe Lake, and had the entire area to myself. I sat for a long time and completely enjoyed the peaceful quiet and solitude. I was impressed with the amount of wildflowers still in bloom at the end of August. This whole area is like a hybrid between Yosemite granite and Cascade sub-alpine plants. In other words = Perfect!

On Day 3, I got a very early start back to the car, campsite all packed up and boots on trail by 6:30 a.m. It was hard to leave, the morning light and the reflections on the lake are superb. I’ll definitely be spending more time here next summer.

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Spray Park, MRNP

Yet another wonderful overnight backpack trip at Mt. Rainier, from Mowich Lake to Eagle’s Roost campground for a quick overnight (thanks to DH for driving me up that nasty road and dropping me off!). Early the next morning I continued on up to Spray Falls and then Spray Park, where I spent a long time enjoying the crazy lenticular clouds that were forming over Mt. Rainer. It was fun to sit up that high and just watch the clouds shift and morph. Not to mention the views of everything else – Mist Park, Mother Mountain, Seattle Park, Carbon River Valley, etc. This is one of my favorite areas of Rainier.

After lunch I started the steep and rocky hike down to Cataract Valley, where i had planned to stay a 2nd night. When I got there I realized that my water filter wasn’t working, so I kept on going down to Carbon River, over the bouncy suspension bridge, and to Ipsut Campground where my bike was waiting for me to coast back to my car. All in all it turned out to be an 11-mile hike/5-mile bike day, and my knees were very mad at me, but it was still worth it!

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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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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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Goat Rocks Wilderness

I’ve been wanting to backpack at Goat Rocks for several years, and finally got out there this summer. J. and I hiked from Walupt Lake up the Nannie Ridge Trail to camp at Sheep Lake for 2 nights. It was a lifesaver being at the lake and being able to swim because of the heat. A lot of other water sources around the area were dry from our crazy weather this year.

On day 2 we day-hiked north on the PCT toward Cispus Basin, nice and early in the cool of the morning. Such a gorgeous area! The huge basin before Cispus Pass is gorgeous and we spent a lot of time just taking in the views. Then heading over Cispus Pass and into Cispus Basin it was jaw-dropping views all over again. That afternoon was spent back at Sheep Lake, floating in the water and keeping cool in the afternoon heat.

The hike back out to the car next morning was much easier than the steep hike in. I definitely need to do more exploring in this area, I want to visit Snowgrass Flats and Old Snowy Mtn, but that will be another trip.

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