Jasper NP – Parker Ridge and Saskatchewan Glacier View

The Parker Ridge Trailhead is conveniently located just off the Icefields Parkway, east of Icefield Centre.

You’ll be rewarded with this view after about 1.3 miles of moderate effort. 

A side trail takes you to this viewpoint and provides for lots of wandering opportunities. 

The ridge provides another great view of the Athabasca Glacier and surrounding peaks. 

Oh how I wanted time to run this ridge, but alas since I was still recuperating from my tendonitis injury, I had to budget my miles. 

This permanent snowfield or glacier was a standout. If you look closely on the lower left edge, you might see what appears to be a person, but since it was still there an hour or so later I’d say unless it’s a frozen body, it’s something else. 

Another side trail provides for excellent views of the Saskatchewan Glacier. Sorry for the poor quality photos; obviously I did not coordinate with the sun.

The colors on this adjacent ridge were spectacular. 

I loved this “end of trail” sign. 

This was a great reminder of how NOT to solve a problem. 

Clearly this trail has been loved to death. This is a well-built switchback trail but many hikers have decided to shortcut the switchbacks. It appears that the maintenance crews first decided to resolve the erosion problem on these social trails with stairs. When that didn’t work they placed sign posts and barricades at every shortcut. Want to guess how many signs have been placed? I counted 75, and guess what, the shortcut trails are still being used. Clearly a better solution is needed.

Hike Details:

  • Date Hiked: 09/28/16
  • Mileage: 4 miles round trip (plus lots more exploration opportunities available)
  • Tip: Hike the Wilcox Pass Trail while in the vicinity

Links:

Resources:

Jasper NP – Wilcox Pass and Athabasca Glacier View

The Wilcox Pass Trailhead is conveniently located just off the Icefields Parkway, east of Icefield Centre.

You’ll be rewarded with this view after about 1.5 miles of moderate effort. 

Starting from the left is Mount Andromeda (11,290′), Mount Athabasca (11,452′), Snow Dome (11,340′) and Mount Kitchener (11,499′)

Mount Andromeda

Mount Athabasca, Snow Dome and Mount Kitchener

Athabasca Glacier

In 1844 the glacier covered all the moraine as well as the Icefield Centre parking lot. 

While you can explore the moraine, which I did in 2015, access to the glacier is now limited to paid tours. 

This trail is not well groomed. Expect plenty of roots to stumble over and on this day it was quite muddy. I was thankful to have my hiking poles to provide a little extra balance and security as I had a little slip-slide action in the mud. The trail ascends about 400′ over the first mile. You may stumble upon these red chairs as you explore the parks of Canada. Or you can do a little research and plan your trip accordingly. GPS coordinates are provided so you can make it a game of geocaching. #ShareTheChair

Hike Details:

  • Date Hiked: 09/28/16
  • Mileage: 3 miles round trip (trail continues for more miles offering more views and possible bighorn sheep sightings)
  • Tip: Hike the Parker Ridge Trail while in the vicinity

Links:

Resources:

Banff NP – Sunshine Meadows

A wise man recently said, turn those lemons into lemonade. That’s exactly what I’m doing as I recover from a bout of tendonitis. Not far from Banff is Sunshine Village, a popular winter playground. In the summer, it provides ground zero access to alpine wilderness with lakes, wildflowers, mountain passes and in the autumn, larch leaf peeping opportunities.

You can drive to Sunshine Village, but to get to the Sunshine Meadows Trail Centre requires either a ride on the shuttle bus ($30 Canadian in 2016) or a 3 mile (5km) walk up the dirt road.  It was well worth the cost in my opinion.

Experiencing larch season was on my fall bucket list. 

From Standish Viewpoint, I could see all three of the lakes in Sunshine Meadows. 

Rock Isle Lake

The trails are well groomed and signed. A free map is available at Sunshine Village and Sunshine Meadows.

If you have limited mobility or time, it’s worth the less than one mile walk to Rock Isle Lake.

Larix Lake is the only one of the three with trail access surrounding the perimeter. The loop from Rock Isle to Grizzly around Larix and back to Rock Isle is a little over 2 miles. 

Grizzly Lake 

Larix Lake 

Many of the larch trees appear to be similar in size, but a few stand tall and grand above the rest. 

The needles of the larch trees. 

Walking among the trees, you could see the variety of colors depending on where they were in the process of losing their needles. 

From Standish viewpoint, you can continue the few minutes to a ski lift mountain viewpoint. 

Near the chairlift is WiFi!

Bonus: You’ll be standing on the Continental Divide 

BEWARE: This sign was positioned about 1/4 mile from the end of the trail . . . but I’m calling it false advertising as the only food being served was a very limited selection in a refrigerator case, such as sandwiches, although the bar was open so you could grab a beer and sit in the sun on the deck. Oh well . . .

Date Hiked: 09/26/16

Miles Hiked: 10

Resources:

Links:

WA – PCT Section L . . . as in Lame

Dates Hiked:  September 13-14, 2016
Direction: Northbound
Section J: Rainy Pass to Canada
-Miles: 70
-Elevation: Gain 13,844′ (198 feet/mile), Loss 14,787′ (211 feet/mile)

At the Rainy Pass Trailhead we were distracted by trail magic in the form of a HOT breakfast and a gathering of hikers. THANK you Brian!!!

I was thrilled to be hiking under blue skies again and with a few days of similar weather forecast, we were heading for the border.

The reds of autumn were breathtaking.

First on-trail bear scat we’d seen. 

I’d seen so many photos of Cutthroat Pass, I was looking forward to seeing it with my own eyes. 

Notice the trail as it traverses along the hill, just below the crest. 

And then there was Granite Pass. 

The combo of the red bushes with the yellow larch in a few more weeks will be even more stunning, but alas we are a bit early. 

Sadly this was to be the end of the road for me. After hiking down to Granite Pass, I had to make the tough decision to turn around. It was 8 miles back to Rainy Pass and paved Highway 20. Many thanks to Joan for helping me make the right choice, to hiker Bobble who gifted me the ace bandage, and to the many others who provided water, ibuprofen and words of encouragement. 

It was quite another adventure making our way back to my car near Snoqualmie Pass. THANK YOU Steve (and Molly) for giving us a ride down the hill and through the crazy maze at Boeing, to all the bus drivers and fellow passengers who helped us find our way through five bus transfers, and finally to Taryn who retrieved us from the final bus stop and reunited us with my car. Joan wrote a detailed post about how we survived this 12-hour ordeal through the Kindness of Strangers.

Due to my leg pain and extremely slow hiking pace, I took few photos. These photos are courtesy of Joan. 

For more details of our adventure, and more photos of ME, please check out Joan (aka Hemlock) blog posts:

 

 

Still smiling despite my misadventure.

Related Links:

WA – PCT Section K . . . as in Kaleidoscope (of weather)

Dates Hiked:  September 4-13, 2016
Direction: Northbound
Section J: Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass
-Miles: 127
-Elevation: Gain 31,815′ (269 feet/mile), Loss 31,013′ (254 feet/mile)

What a great way to start our day. Thank you Anish for sharing our first few miles of Section K. It was so much fun chatting and getting to experience YOUR favorite section of the PCT with YOU!

Another new wilderness for me . . .

I’m not really sure what happened, but it appears I didn’t take any additional photos on our first day of this section. I can’t imagine it had anything to do with our Anish distraction🙂  According to my notes this was one of the best berry picking areas, so in honor of that, here’s a visual of the way we spent many miles hiking. Swoop, swipe, eat, repeat . . .

Morning dawned a day of fog and clouds, but NO rain! 

This section had a LOT of BIG house sized rocks. 

I absolutely LOVE the visual impact of a meandering trail. Where am I going? Where did I come from? 

Ut oh, those sure look like rain clouds. Not easy to forget you’re in Washington with active sky reminders.

Definitely a bucket list destination for this cherry picker. I could only hope for clear skies . . . 

As suspected, those clouds indeed held rain and around midnight I awoke to the first drops. Although a clear day was a fantasy not be be realized, I preferred the fog to drizzle and downpours. 

This 7:30am tease of blue sky gave me optimism. 

The swirling mist gave me more optimism of clear views in the coming hours. 

The 7:45am view cemented my belief in this bluebird day.

At 8am the sun spotlighted this view, one of the highlights of this section. 

By 8:30am, we were left to imagine what we were missing, and my optimism quickly waned. 

Without views, I could still appreciate the wildflower displays. 

After bushwhacking through berry bushes and playing in the downfall jungle gym, I’m always appreciative of a well manicured trail. 

This mountain was HUGE but we only got this one glimpse before it disappeared again. Who are you? Glacier Peak by chance?

The moodiness of this creek suited the day. 

Can you imagine witnessing the collapse of this mountain? Notice the bridge at the bottom left of the photo.

Earlier in the season, this would be a quite treacherous crossing. 

This was a HUGE active nest next to the trail. I’d say it was 6″x12″. Wasp nest? Hornets?

Oh glacier how I want to see you. 

Both Joan and I are feeling a bit grumpy about the weather. Being wet and chilled takes the fun out of backpacking. Thankfully, we’d both successfully kept our sleep systems dry despite the back-to-back days of wet dank conditions (tips will follow in a future post). 

Guess swimming is out today. 

In these conditions, the reds really pop.

A tiny bit of sun, makes me and my feet happy. 

We came upon two thru-hiker gals working to put out a smoldering campfire they’d come across. We gave them all our water since our next water source was nearby. THANK YOU!!! It was ironic that this incident was directly below a sign indicating a fire-related trail closure. 

BLUE skies and the yellow orb really do exist! 

FROST! The price for bluebird skies is colder temperatures. I’ll take cold over wet any day. 

I’ve always called these glacial cirques, but when Joan used the term amphitheater, I thought how much more perfect. This area is home to the marmots and pikas, two of my favorite furry creatures. 

The natural resupply for this section is Stehekin. This was my third time in Stehekin over the past month (more details to follow). Just like Skykomish, I can’t say enough positives. I truly loved this area, especially the Ranch where Joan and I spent a night in this cute little bungalow. 

We met lots of hikers and other visitors. One thru-hiker who really stood out was No Skip who thinks my new trail name should be HighLighter, since I’m a self-declared cherry picker and all. It fits me, but it’s so hard to change after all these years. I’m considering it though. What do you think? His blog post about Joan and I is worth a read. We also had time to chat with two gals we’d been leapfrogging with on trail, Alexandria and Christina. We both regretted getting their contact info (please contact us if you are reading this). Meals are served family style at the Ranch and we had the best visit with Doug and Mary-Ann, a couple from Bellingham who we’d both like to connect with again in the future (hope you got my email).

As we said goodbye to Section K, we were greeted by Brian, a trail angel and hubby of a thru hiker. He was providing early morning trail magic. THANK YOU Brian!

For more details of our adventure, and more photos of ME, please check out Joan (aka Hemlock) blog posts:

 

 

 

 

Related Links:

Photo credit: Joan

WA – PCT Section J . . . for Jan and Joan (together again)

Dates Hiked:  August 28 to September 2, 2016
Direction: Northbound
Section J: Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass
-Miles: 71
-Elevation: Gain 19,128′ (269 feet/mile), Loss 18,068′ (254 feet/mile)

While I was thrilled to share some more trail miles with my adventure buddy Hemlock, I was more than a little nervous pairing up with my friend who floats up the climbs while I suffer and slog. What was I thinking? I’ve heard this is the most challenging up/down section of the entire PCT, even more than the sierra section. This sign at the beginning of the trail did little to alleviate my anxiety. 

The first stretch is known for two things, the Alpine Lake Wilderness (ALW) and the Kendall Katwalk. After my recent Chiwaukum Circumnavigation trip in the ALW, which was a stark contrast to my Enchantments trip, I was extremely curious as to what I might find on the PCT. 

Why hello Mount Rainier!

Hemlock showing how to walk the Katwalk. 

Although it we were nearing the end of August, fall foliage seemed to indicate the end of September.

This is the scene I’d expected in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. There were plenty of lakes easily accessible via the PCT and thus we happily took a dip in several.

Are you the Four Brothers and Three Queens? 

Hello Ms Grouse. 

Weather be a changing?

Hmmmm . . . (yes, this crossing made me very nervous, especially the transition back to the trail)

Maintaining the PCT is a huge job. I can never give enough kudo’s to all those who help make our travel safer and more enjoyable. We never take it for granted. THANK YOU trail crews!!!! 

Photo credit: Joan

Overgrown and eroded trail in the berry areas is a constant battle for the maintenance crews, where the season is short and the growth the phenomenal. 

Sure enough the weather changed, and we got rain in the late afternoon of our 4th day. I’d come prepared! 

It rained nearly all day our 5th day. 

Occasionally we caught glimpses of what we were missing. See the lake? 

I hiked this section for the spectacular views . . . but sometimes it’s okay to settle for moody images. 

Are we having fun yet? 

When you’re already wet, why not swim? 

The benefit of mucky trails . . . who walks here?

Possibly the most beautiful lake in this section. Oh how I’d like to spend a day there. 

A welcome sight, the Steven’s Pass ski area. 

I can’t say enough positives about the community of Skykomish. From the the hiker friendly Cascadia Inn, to the library with computers, to the deli that not only had yummy food and friendly staff, but even provided a hitching sign (thanks for modeling Delta!). Thanks also to my friend Carol for making our reservation. Gotta love InReach texting!

For more details of our adventure, and more photos of ME, please check out Joan (aka Hemlock) blog posts: 

 

 

 

Special thanks to Taryn, our personal trail angel who stored my car for 3 weeks as well as provided transportation to the trailhead. The logistics of section hiking can be very challenging and Taryn made it easy and gave me peace of mind.

Links:

WA – Alpine Lakes Wilderness – Chiwaukum Circumnavigation (Part 4 – Trails 1591/1574/1584)

Links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

This is the drainage I fought my way through. In the far distance is Icicle Ridge and Cape Horn. 

After far too many miles and hours of bushwhacking and trail finding, I was ecstatic to reach the well maintained trails near Scottish Lakes High Camp, and Chiwaukum Lake.

Heading toward Larch Lake in Ewing Basin. 

First views of Larch Lake. 

Loved watching the development of these clouds. 

My campsite view of Larch Lake. 

The outflow of Larch Lake and the east side of the Chiwaukum Mountains.

Watching the larch trees turn color is on my bucket list for this fall. I was happy for this opportunity to get to know them first sporting green. 

After a rainy night, sunrise provided colorful skies accented by larch tree silhouettes. 

Pink clouds rolled in and out during the early morning hours. 

Campsite selection is key during gusty wind and heavy rain storms. This site was PERFECT! 

The incoming storm and worsening conditions prevented me from discovering Cup Lake. 

Hello Larch Tree! 

Goodbye Chiwaukum Lake . . . 

It was finally time to say goodbye to the Chiwaukum Creeks trails and head to McCue Ridge. 

I’m sure McCue Ridge would have provided some spectacular views, but alas it was a day of low clouds and precipitation. 

Loch Eileen (after a very stormy night in a less than ideal campsite). 

Lake Julius

Lake Ethel 

Who lives at Lake Ethel? To me it looks like a fish with a frog on it’s back, or maybe a mama whale and her baby?

I enjoyed this ridge walk though an old clear cut . . . easy to appreciate views and freedom after all the bushwhacking and trail finding I’d done. 

After the ridge walk, it’s a steep descent down to the Lake Ethel trailhead and Highway 2. 

This sign was confusing, as my map listed this as trail #1585. All the rest of the signed trail numbers matched my map. I’ve also seen this referenced as the Gill Creek trail (I believe that’s how it’s signed on Highway 2).

To complete the loop, I walked Roads 6940 and 6950. Lucky for me a couple of miles before my car, a nice couple who’d just completed a 3-day backpack trip were headed out and turned around to give me a lift.

This Chiwaukum Mountains circumnavigation route was about 50 miles with 15,000′ gain and loss. My solar charger broke so I wasn’t able to track the entire trip thus I don’t have accurate stats for elevation gain/loss and mileage. On the below map, the red was my tracked trip vs the purple was estimated.

The trail sections marked below in green are well maintained; those in red have NOT been maintained.

  • 2.4 miles – White Pine Trailhead  to Whitepine Creek 
  • 5.7 miles – Whitepine Creek to Lake Grace Junction 
  • 1.1 miles – Lake Grace Junction to Lake Grace 
  • 1.1 miles – Lake Grace to Lake Grace Junction
  • 0.9 miles – Lake Grace Junction to Frosty Pass
  • 0.9 miles – Frosty Pass to Lake Mary
  • 2.0 miles – Lake Mary to Icicle Ridge Junction
  • 1.8 miles – Icicle Ridge Junction to Chatter Creek Junction
  • 1.5 miles – Chatter Creek Junction to Index Creek Junction
  • 2.8 miles – Index Creek Trail
  • 1.7 miles – South Fork Chiwaukum Creek from Index Creek to Painter Creek
  • 1.5 miles – South Fork Chiwaukum Creek from Painter Creek to Chiwaukum Creek
  • 1.8 miles – Chiwaukum Creek from South Fork Chiwaukum Creek to Glacier Creek
  • 2.3 miles – Chiwaukum Creek from Glacier Creek to Chiwaukum Lake
  • 2.1 miles – Chiwaukum Lake to Larch Lake
  • 2.1 miles – Larch Lake to Chiwaukum Lake
  • 3.4 miles – Chiwaukum Lake to Roaring Creek
  • 1.1 miles – Roaring Creek to Loch Eileen
  • 1.1 miles – Loch Eileen to Roaring Creek
  • 2.6 miles – Roaring Creek to Lake Ethel
  • 4.6 miles – Lake Ethel to Lake Ethel Trailhead
  • 6.0 miles – Roads 6940/6950

Dates Hiked: August 3-9, 2016

Resources:

Jan’s Tips:

  • Consider accessing the nicer sections (above 6,000′) via more popular trails
  • If you plan to hike the unmaintained trail sections, be sure to have good maps, compass and if like me you’ll find GPS very helpful. Also be prepared for bushwhack conditions and plenty of solitude.
  • As I’ve learned, rain can happen anytime in the Washington Cascades. I used my rain gear, including my umbrella.
  • Be prepared for biting flies. They were horrendous!
  • I recommend Heidleburger Drive-In in Leavenworth for post-trip celebration. Onion rings were A+!
  • For help with trip planning, I recommend Leavenworth Mountain Sports.
  • Permits are by self-registration at the trailhead.
  • More Jan Jaunts posts in Washington and Alpine Lakes Wilderness