2016 turned out to be a great year for hiking, even if Andy and I had to cancel plans for the hike I was most looking forward to! We covered a lot of trail this year, and spent more time camping and backpacking in one year than we have since we started dating! We also volunteered for our first trail work party with Washington Trails Association, and I joined the Alpine Trails Book Club, which combines hiking with another of my favorite pastimes - reading. 2017 is already off to a good start, but some of the adventures we had in 2016 will be hard to beat!
In January, Andy and I finally made it out for our first hike with the snowshoes we got as a gift for Christmas in 2015! It was such a relief to finally have good snow after the unusually warm winter we had the year before, and the Marten Creek trail provided a quiet, beautiful, easy to follow trail for our first expedition. A few weeks later, we spent a lovely weekend with some new friends at the family cabin on Whidbey Island. Since our friends enjoy hiking just as much - if not more! - than us, our trip wouldn't have been complete without a hike at Ebey's Landing. I've hiked the trail several times, and it's different every time. On this particular cold January day, the foaming sea was an almost tropical shade of blue.
For most people Super Bowl Sunday means staying home to watch the game and binge on snacks, but after discovering an impressive absence of crowds last year on game day, Andy and I decided to venture out to one of the busiest winter trailheads in the state - Hyak - for a snowshoe up to Kendall Peak Lakes. Since the Seahawks weren't actually playing, we saw more crowds than we'd hoped, but most didn't venture past the first mile, and by the time we reached the lakes, we nearly had the place to ourselves. Later in the month, we spent a day exploring the bluffs and beaches at Deception Pass. Even though Andy and I visit Whidbey Island multiple times a year, this was our first trip to Deception Pass. We both loved the rugged views and gentle trail, and I expect we'll be returning in 2017!
On the first day of spring, we made it to our first Alpine Trails Book Club hike on Old Sauk River. It was a beautiful meander through a mossy wonderland with occasional views of the river, and combined with excellent company, and discussion of Grandma Gatewood's Walk, made for a perfect celebration of spring. While the rest of March was a little too busy with work and the rest of life for hiking, we did manage to fit in a lovely trillium-filled hike in the Redmond Watershed Preserve on Easter. With how close to home the Watershed trail is, I'm always astonished with how few people I see on the trail. It may not be as glamorous as trails like Mt. Pilchuck or Snow Lake, but the quiet woods have a quiet beauty of their own that I love.
The first weekend of April, Andy and I volunteered for our first Washington Trails Association trail work party on the Shinglemill Creek trail. During the morning, we mostly cleared the trail of overgrown brush and pulling out nettles by the fistful. After lunch, I got to move on to the exciting task of helping to start cutting a new spur trail. In this particular area, that mostly involved digging up ferns in the path of the trail and replanting them nearby. While I had a great time, Andy was absolutely obsessed! I think if it were up to Andy we would've spent every free weekend we had in 2016 doing trail work. Even with our busy schedule in April, including a trip to Newport for my birthday, we found the time for a long river ramble along Boulder River in the North Cascades. It was muddy, and crowded, and by the last mile my feet were aching, but the views were spectacular, and we managed to have a wonderful time!
Rain, cold weather, and tons of mud weren't enough to keep us indoors in May! After a sunny spring hike several years ago with a friend, I was excited to share the profusion of wildflowers and stunning views along the Iron Bear - Teanaway Ridge trail with Andy. Sadly, low dense clouds obscured all views and while I was still more than happy to admire the colorful sprays of flowers decorating the trail, Andy was not impressed with the hike. Maybe some sunny day, I'll be able to convince him to give it another chance so he can see some of those views I remember! On a particularly soggy Sunday, we met up with the Alpine Trails Book Club for a hike to Barclay Lake. The rain managed to keep the crowds on this popular trail to a minimum, and while it was cold and wet, the company, conversation, and scenery made this my favorite book club hike of the year!
We kicked off June with another WTA work party - this time on the Jack Creek trail outside Leavenworth. It was cold, filthy, miserable work, and we had an absolute blast! Andy and I will definitely be signing up for more trail work next year. The following weekend, we attempted an overnight trip to Lily Lake & Lizard Lake, but with rain that wouldn't let up and a lack of good rain gear, we wound up turning it into a day hike. I was disappointed not to spend the night, especially since the lake had several lovely looking campsites, but I definitely don't regret our decision to spend the night warm and dry at home! Later in the month, once the weather had turned a bit more summery, I mete up with some friends for a girls camping weekend. We managed to find the perfect dispersed site on the North Fork Nooksack, and had a great time, including a short and spectacular hike around Bagley Lakes. We had such a good time, that I hope to make the girls camping weekend an annual tradition!
In July, we finally made it out for our first backpacking trip of the year, and what a trip it was! Because of thunderstorms that were forecast almost everywhere else in the state, we wound up hiking to Marmot Pass on the Upper Big Quilcene River trail. It was a grueling trail, but between the meadows we hiked through in the last two miles and the breathtaking views from Marmot Pass, I loved every minute of it - even if we ended up limping our way down the last mile or so of trail! For our next trip, I let Andy choose the trail, and he chose very well! Our campsite on Lost Lake was my favorite of the year. Another highlight of July was the Alpine Trails Book Club hike to Sauk Mountain. On the hot, cloudless day of our hike, there were views galore - even at the trailhead parking lot!
Speaking of hot - our backpacking trip to Snow Lake, Gem Lake, and Wildcat Lakes on a sweltering August day may have been one of the prettiest hikes of the year, but it was also definitely the toughest. We got off to a bad start when I left the topo map at home - a mistake that nearly ruined the trip and one I definitely won't make again! At the end of the month, we spent four days in Seiku with Andy' family, hiking up and down the coast. Maybe someday, I'll find the time to write about that phenomenal trip!
With a forest fire closing the trail we'd planned to spend a week hiking on for our anniversary in September, and the fact that I'd been having issues with severe foot pain, Andy and I used the week of time off we'd both requested from work to spend a full week at the family cabin on Whidbey Island. I was heartbroken to miss out on the week-long hiking trip I'd spent so much time planning, a week of relaxing, kayaking, and cider tasting on Whidbey was an excellent way to celebrate. Sadly, this meant I only had time for one hike in September - my favorite month for hiking - but it was a great one! We'd been to Melakwa Lake once before, and it hadn't made a lasting impression, but something told me it was time to return, and I'm SO glad we did. I'm not a huge fan of hiking trails off I-90, since they're so consistently crowded, but Melakwa just might be worth the hassle!
After early mornings and long drives seeking larches at their golden peak two years in a row, I decided this year to forgo the annual larch march in favor of a visit to what might be my favorite mountain in Washington - Mt. Baker! I decided on a new trail for us, to the Park Butte lookout. We were a little late for the spectacular fall color I'd hoped for, but there were still a few lingering blueberries to snack on while we climbed, and the views from the trail can't be beat! Otherwise, October was the month of the Watershed! I must have hiked it at least once a week to watch as the maples transitioned from the summery greens to a blaze of fall color.
My parents purchased a cabin in the mountains at the end of October, and Andy and I took the first free day we had in November to join my family for a day at the new place. While in the area, we stopped for a loop around Gold Creek Pond, which was especially pretty on the cold calm day. Shockingly, we only saw three other people while on our short hike - perhaps the cold kept people away? For the November hike to Lake 22 for the Alpine Trails Book Club, we had plenty of rain, but thankfully no snow! Once again, the cold, wet weather kept crowds down, and we had a great time getting drenched. Maybe that's the theme of 2016: wet weather = no crowds, sunny weather = all the crowds!
We may not have had any at home, but our adventures in December were all about snow. For the second year in a row, we joined Andy's family on a trek up snowy Smithbrook Road to cut down a Christmas tree. This is quickly becoming our favorite holiday tradition, although it wasn't quite the same with the 59er Diner gone - temporarily, hopefully! Late in December, while we were in Wenatchee for one of our several Christmas celebrations, we spent a sunny Friday snowshoeing the Fish Hatchery loop outside Leavenworth. While Andy and I snowshoed, his dad, sister, and three-year-old niece skied a short loop. It was a lifesaver for all of us to have a warm restaurant right next to our shared trailhead so we could all meet for a hot drink after being out in the cold. I'll definitely be writing more about this fun little adventure soon!