Cascade Pass to Sahale Glacier Hike

The view from the parking lot of Mt Johannesburg (and its glacier) is already intense!
The view from the parking lot of Mt Johannesburg (and its glacier) is already intense!

Friday, August 29 2014

  I first found out about Cascade Pass on a list of the top hikes in Washington State from the Seattle Times website.  It’s tough to find a good list of top hikes that I agree with, but that one I definitely agree with so far!  Alpine meadows, gorgeous views during the entire hike, and a glacier – what’s not to like?  It’s also located in the North Cascades – a region I’ve never been to before because it’s 3 hours from Seattle.  It’s securely within day trip range but still an all-day commitment.  I decided that this will be the last hike I’m going to organize with the Foster MBA crew before school starts, and I was determined to make it an epic one.  Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse – the sign that summer is finally coming to an end.   

  My hiking partner for the day was a fellow full-time Foster MBA 2016 student and my climbing partner, Emily.  We drove up from Seattle around 6:30AM with the hopes that the weather would be better in the North Cascades.  We drove through the rain for about 3 hours until we got to our destination. The last 45 minutes or so was on a gravel road, kind of rough but not a problem for the Tacoma.  The website said that normal ground-clearance cars can make it up the road, and I don’t disagree – there are just two negative radius uphill turns that might give people some traction issues.  The road itself was picturesque; it wound through beautiful mossy woods and over several fierce creeks, past a couple of campgrounds.  The parking lot at the trailhead was misty, and clouds above were moving fast. The clouds broke through just enough to see an amazing view from the trailhead. Across the parking lot was the glory of Mt Johannesburg and its mighty glacier, which was still rumbling and cracking in the late summer — a not-so-subtle reminder of the power of nature.

  The first part of the hike up to Cascade Pass was just a moderate set of switchbacks.  The fog kept chasing us the whole way up until we left the forest and we got above the treeline, about an hour into the hike or 2.25 miles in. The last bit was over a field of scree and talus all the way to the pass. Foggy for the most part here, but occasionally the mist would part and you got a glimpse of the open air below you.  

Emily is super stoked about the foggy views!
Emily is super stoked about the foggy views!

  When we got to the pass, we met a father and his two sons with 70+ lb packs resting in the little stone circle that marked our lunch spot and first turnaround opportunity. They weren’t super stoked about the weather because they were planning on doing the 25 miles to Stehekin, a village that’s only accessible by plane, boat, or hike.  In fact, almost every single person on this trail was doing a multi-day backpacking trip.  I don’t know about you, but camping in the rain is where I draw the line unless I’m purposefully making it a sufferfest.  We broke for lunch here at about 11:30 and cracked open some beers before the wind and rain really picked up. We had to move up trail to avoid the weather, and just stood around on the trail trying to stay warm, clapping our hands and stamping our feet.  The area off of the trail is very fragile and delicate, so we just had to eat lunch out on the middle of the trail.

  Flickr and other sites showed a magnificent view of Cascade Pass in the sunlight, but all we could see was fog and clouds.  Luckily for us, the sun broke through the clouds just momentarily and we were able to see the magnificent view of cascade pass…for a moment .

The view from the Sahale-Cascade Pass junction.
The view from the Sahale-Cascade Pass junction.

  Totally worth the wait!  We got brave and decided to see how far we could go on the Sahale Arm towards the glacier. We held our beers as we hiked he steep incline up to the glacier, but the rain and fog got worse. The rocks started to get slippery and the dirt became soft and started to slide right under our feet. After about 20 minutes of this we decided to turn back and retreat.  

  We’re glad we turned back! The weather didn’t get much better and we lost all the views. This hike really made me appreciate the hot summer days we’ve been enjoying so far in Seattle. Despite the weather, this was an amazing hike and it gave me a reason to return, possibly as a multi-day trip.  Wasn’t too steep or difficult, but definitely not a nature walk either.  There is a campsite on the glacier that looked very promising, and should have some of the best views in Washington.  People also bring skis/snowboards to let gravity do some work on the Sahale Glacier, too.  Next time!

Cascade Pass guide, courtesy of Washington Trails Association

Quick Hike up Oyster Dome

Thursday, August 28

  Had to get some regularly scheduled maintenance done on my Tacoma, so why not get it done in Burlington (waaay less busy than Seattle Toyota dealerships) and knock out a quick afternoon hike?  I heard about this hike from a friend who really recommended it for some great views of Puget Sound and it’s similar in difficulty with Lake Serene/Bridal Falls, which is another excellent hike near Seattle.  

  Followed the google maps directions to the trailhead, good thing the map is accurate because you can blink and you’ll miss it:

Blink and you'll miss the trailhead!  It's right before the oyster bar/steakhouse.
Blink and you’ll miss the trailhead!  It’s right before the oyster bar/steakhouse.

Parked on the side of the road, showed my Discover Pass, and geared up.  For today’s hike I carried the bare minimum:  my daypack, a water bottle, compass, first aid kit, headlamp, towel, and a rain jacket.  Total setup is definitely less than 10 lbs, which is really light for me…I usually carry a 2L Camelbak, an additional 2L of frozen water, 2-4 cans of beer and a soft cooler in addition to this loadout.  As a result, I was able to make some amazing time to the top – averaged over 3 miles an hour on some pretty steep terrain.  The hike was a nice steady climb for the first mile until the first overlook, which offered a nice preview of things to come and a great little wooden bench for you to catch your breath.  I ran right past it, knowing the end would be much more scenic.  The trail flattened out after the first mile and then got really steep and rooty after another half mile.  

My friend told me that there were also some lakes just off of the trail.  However, I asked some backpackers about them on the way up and they said they weren’t really worth it…not very scenic and kind of marshy.  I decided I’ve seen better lakes and chose to press right for the peak.  The trail junction is a little tough to see:

Oyster Dome to the left, Lizard and Lilly Lakes to the right.
Oyster Dome to the left, Lizard and Lilly Lakes to the right.

I got to the top (3.25 miles, ~1900′ elevation gain) in about an hour and 15 minutes, passing several groups on the way and avoiding some bad intel from a group of teenage hikers who were going the wrong way.  Lucky I had plenty of cell service and could check the route information from the Washington Trails Association.  This is about the fastest I could go without going lighter and just trail running it.  

On a summer Thursday afternoon, only two other groups were there (about 6 people) at the top.  The view was pretty great:

The view from the top of Oyster Dome
The view from the top of Oyster Dome

There are two openings with views at the top: one on the right and one on the left.  The one on the left offered two additional boulders for some privacy.  Of these two boulders, the one on the right can be scrambled onto (or like two V0 bouldering moves)…so that’s the one I chose.  Enjoyed a quiet moment there listening to my iPhone before running back down.

Note:  When I hiked this there was just a ton of used tissue paper/paper towels on these side trails just off of the peak…really gross, please pack it out, people! 

The run back down to the parking lot took me about 45 minutes, with a mix of walking and running.  Because the trail is so clean, you can really get some speed going here!

I don’t think I will be coming back to this hike anytime soon – it’s a bit of a drive from Seattle and the payoff isn’t until the end.  I prefer hikes with a little more payoff interspersed throughout the hike, but this is a fun run with a lot of tree cover.

3 Productivity Apps I’m loving right now

One week until the Foster MBA program starts!  I’ve spent the last several months trying out different productivity apps and websites to try to find stuff that’s 1) useful and 2) so easy to use that it won’t take a lot of time to maintain.  Note: I use Mac, PC, and iOS devices.

Here’s what I’m using, and why:

Sunrise
Sunrise

1) Sunrise – I used to use Google Calendars for everything because I liked how easy it was to add new appointments (click and drag!) and color code them on both PC and Mac.   I synced my google calendar to iCal so I could keep up with my appointments on my iPhone.  I live and die with my calendar – it’s home to my to do lists, itineraries, and directions to where I need to be at any moment.  Plus, it’s one of the few things that Siri can actually read to you in a useful manner.  The problem with Google Calendars and iCal was that they weren’t really great on the iPhone.  I want to see something more visually appealing and clean like the google calendar 5-day/week view rather than the silly dots + list view of iCal.  So I found Sunrise.

On mobile, Sunrise allows you to seamlessly swap between a 3-day view of your calendar and a longer month + agenda view.  I use the 3-day view as my go-to daily planner.  I’m diligent about locations for events and such, so if you need directions to your next appointment, just open up Sunrise, tap the event, and tap the location and boom – directions via google maps to where you need to go.   On the desktop, I use it as a google chrome app and it looks like google calendar.  I still use my color coding system, but Sunrise will also read the event title and automatically categorize it with an icon.  Sunrise also can sync up with TripIt, Asana, Producteev, and a host of other apps to make your life easier.  It seamlessly syncs up with google calendar and facebook too…so if you’re invited to an event, you can see it, accept it, and see it in Sunrise.  Easily the best calendar/scheduling app out there today.

2) Evernote – I used to use Google Drive a lot to archive my files and notes – until it stopped being useful on my iPhone.   It just wasn’t convenient to use on mobile because it eats up a lot of space (it downloads files to your phone…gigabytes worth of stuff while you’re not looking), it was painfully slow, and not great at viewing content.  I finally switched to Evernote and now I use it for a ton of stuff…think of any information that you’d like to save and have on hand at a moment’s notice: blog ideas, to-do lists, websites/articles to read later, membership cards, etc.  You can drop PDFs, word docs, gifs, movies, websites, and all sorts of content in there, either just with a drag and drop interface through the app or using a chrome extension like Evernote Web Clipper.  It’s fast, it’s easy, and great on Mac, PC, and iOS.  Oh yeah, it also can sync up with Sunrise.  Bonus!

3) Dropbox – I used to use Google Drive to upload my iPhone photos to the cloud for sharing, but it was extremely slow and painful.  Every time my phone went on standby, it would stop uploading so you had to sit there with your phone and watch the files get uploaded.  Also, the iOS Google Drive app would download every file onto your device…so when I uploaded a photo from my iPhone to Google Drive, it would make a duplicate on my iPhone’s drive.  Imagine all your photo albums taking up twice the amount of space on your poor, low-end iPhone.  Now Dropbox automatically uploads my recent iPhone photos when I have a wi-fi connection and I can access it on all my devices.  It’s also really, really fast.

Drive to California, Part 3: Northern Highway 1 and Bodega Bay

Near Westport Union-Landing State Beach
Near Westport Union-Landing State Beach

  Made it through countless tree-lined switchbacks on an intermediate road that connected the 101 to the northernmost point of Highway 1.  The road was fairly harrowing, with steep cliffs and trees off to one side of the road, threatening to fall and destroy the road at any moment.  After about 45 minutes through the winding road, the road suddenly opened up and you could see the sky in front of you, and the majesty of the Pacific Ocean was laid out in front of you like a gift.  It left me breathless.  I stopped at the first available turnout to marvel at the view.  To the south, there appeared to be a series of beaches and campsites, and to the north, just impassable cliffs.

  Nearby there was Westport Union-Landing State Beach where they had gorgeous and plentiful campsites for $25 a day.  Amazing area and there were folks surfing, but they had the most god awful pit toilets I’ve ever experienced.  Seriously, the kind of place that you can still smell for hours after you’ve gone there. There were folks there that looked like they were there for a while, and some bikers.  The state park is in disrepair, and there is evidence of the old road that just disintegrated and fell into the beach.  However, the views were still fine, as the campsites are perched up on this bluff overlooking the Pacific.

  Just further down the road was the Caspar Westport Beaches Rv Park and campgrounds, which looked a lot nicer but perhaps not as great views.  They did offer beach camping though, so I assume you could get away from the RV’s and just camp out on the sand.  

  Continued for some stretches and the area really opened up here and there, passing from one small town to the next and disappearing into the forest.  Gualala was the nicest town seen yet, really still like a nice little beach/surf town that was perhaps starting to get some development.  It had the usual amenities: a pub, some restaurants, and a pleasant looking market.  Just to the south of Gualala are several beach access areas that are part of the Sea Ranch public access trail system.  It’s a day use only trail system (parking $7) maintained by Sonoma county, very nice and long, and adjacent to a lot of private property.  This region happened to be perfectly sunny when I drove through.  

  Gerstle Cove Campground in Salt Point State park looked very promising, but it was full for the night. Prices were $35 a night, and there were only 30 spaces (not including the group sites).  Several of the spots were high up overlooking the ocean – and all were taken by RV campers.  Gorgeous views if you can get it. Across the way was Woodside campground, and the small town of Ocean Cove had laundry and store stuff.  More commercial campgrounds were down the road but didn’t look nearly as nice.  Even further was a nice restaurant, Alexander’s that overlooked the ocean.

  About an hour later I reached Ft Ross State Historic Park.  It didn’t look like much from the side of the road initially, but after about a minute of driving past the park entrance, I could see the tops of what looked like a full-size wooden fort!  That would have been a cool stop, but instead I figured I could do some research later and press on to my destination.  The views opened up again after the park and the scenery got a little more…scenic.

Near the Ft Ross campground
Near the Ft Ross campground

  Ft Ross did have a campground nearby, but it didn’t take advantage of the amazing vistas.  The campground was instead tucked away into a little side valley, but I think it had beach access (no dogs).  The campground was almost entirely empty except for the campground host and one family taking up a group site.  Much, much nicer than what I saw at Westport Union-Landing.  Good job, Sonoma County!

  The final stretch towards Bodega Bay was the icing on the cake.  The towns became more and more developed, and there were signs of more and more people.  The views didn’t let up, either.  

The view south towards Bodega Bay from a random turnout
The view south towards Bodega Bay from a random turnout
The view north from the same turnout.  Sea stacks and an arch, amazing!
The view north from the same turnout.  Sea stacks and an arch, amazing!

    This section seemed to be in dire need of repair as well.  A lot of the turnouts had sections that were eroding and were cordoned off.  I looked back at my 3000-lb Tacoma and hoped that the ground didn’t suddenly decide to move.  I pondered staying on this turnout until sunset, but the clouds kept rolling in.  Weather wasn’t cooperating today – I bet the views would be even more spectacular in the winter.

   The last area of note was the town of Bodega Bay.  There were tons of cars parked near the beaches and plenty of surfers in the water.  I’m guessing some lucky Bay Area types were able to get out of work early and feed the stoke.  The town itself was definitely undergoing a transformation – weathered surf shacks stood defiantly next to brand new condos and developments, just off of the main road.  The restaurants ranged from older dive bars to trendy new cafe’s and fancy restaurants.  It will be interesting to come through this town in another 10 years and see what happens – the town has to decide if it wants to keep the Endless Summer vibe or become a summer colony for Bay Area residents.

  The rest of the trip was uneventful, as I turned away from Pt Reyes and headed inland to cross the bay and reach my parent’s house in San Jose.  I did make sure to destroy the first In-n-Out that I found, though!