Mineral Ridge, Selkirk Abbey Brewery, and the Extended Spring of my Journey

After stopping at the Visitor Center and the Forest Ranger Station for information on the trails in Idaho and Western Montana, I went to Mineral Ridge, a 2.5 mile, 700-foot loop in the Coeur D’Alene National Forest at one of the ‘ends’ of Lake Coeur D’Alene. I tacked on the 400-foot long trail constructed by scouts to a mine dug into hard-rock, and the one-mile uphill climb to the Elk Road and viewpoints, stopping to enjoy the many flowers lining the trail, counting the different kinds flowers, never less than seven once I was out of the lower heavily shaded part of the trail, in total 20 different flowers. My certainty regarding their identities lessens, the more I investigate. For example, several different flowers resemble the daisy. Am I underestimating the variety which I am encountering?

My interests have evolved as I have hiked. Initially I hiked for the exhilaration of the climb, the rush upon reaching the summit, and the sense of accomplishment. To this, vistas added wonderment at the valleys, mountains, ridges, forests, deserts, lakes, and rivers against the sky always transforming from blue sky, grey sky, rolling ridges of clouds, storms approaching, never still, never finished, never completed. Then, the movement of animals and birds, so many birds, drew my eye, but the flowers have captured me in this extended spring from Southern California north to Bellingham, Washington, and now East into Idaho and Montana. From the extraordinary bloom of, for once, well-watered Southern California, not only the once in 25-year desert bloom of Anza Borrego, but the equally uncommon flowering of all Southern California, through middle California up to the coast and the Redwood Forest, over to Grants Pass, Silverton, Tillamook, the Olympic Peninsula, to Bellingham, spring traveled with me. The flowers have taken me with their variety, each perfect in form, such simple, little beauty, reproduced in great numbers across the land. I am awed, humbled, and grateful.

A shout-out to Zach, the sophomore college student and football player who hiked down Mineral Ridge with me. Among other things, we shared injuries, his condensed into a few years of playing football; mine, drawn out over a life time. Also, to Brian the bartender at Selkirk Abbey, completing his PhD. Good luck to both, and thanks for the engaging conversation!

The routine to my stay in an area has evolved into sampling three offerings: sample from the must-do day hikes, the must-do local restaurants, and the local breweries. I’m an occasional beer drinker, preferring mixed drinks especially a gin and tonic or whiskey on ice, but have been developing a better appreciation for a well-crafted beer. My taste in beers is for those with a lighter, refreshing touch, those with a lower IBU that go down smoothly after a sweaty hike, such as the Belgian white beers and similar, as opposed to the stronger heavier ales, IPAs and so forth.

Eastern Washington and the Panhandle of Idaho has a large collection of breweries. The Selkirk brewery caught my eye as a Belgian brewery, atypical among the omnipresent IPA focused breweries that seem to dominate the craft brewery industry. Selkirk has a varied and changing selection of beers on tap, but most of their production is distributed out-of-house. I sampled several before purchasing a glass of their Chapel, a withier, Belgian. Afterwards, I sampled the Saint Augustine, a rye saison ale, which wow, a bit stronger, more complex, richer flavor than the whites, and in my opinion, more balanced taste than the IPAs. I purchased a couple bottles to validate this assessment. There are two other breweries that I plan to visit.

Coeur D’Alene and Tubbs Hill

The six hour drive to Coeur D’Alene began along the coast with the temperature at 54, before turning inland before Seattle into green woods, an easy climb across the Cascades into suddenly a desert, the temperature 90, with wide vistas, dry greener than the dry deserts of the South, across the river and reservoir, and as suddenly into farmland with irrigated fields labeled, field corn, sweet corn, timothy, alfalfa, peppermint, peas, beans, and potatoes, more and more potatoes, greater variety that I expected in Potato Land then through Spokane, into Idaho and Coeur D’Alene, near Lake Pend Oreille , and home to a naval base?  I was as surprised, as you must be, to learn that the Navy tests new equipment on the 90,000 acre, 25 mile long, 1-3 mile long lake, clear and calm. Locals pulled my leg, saying that the bottom of the lake had never been found, but on-line it max’s out at 1150 feet. I read an article, Exploring the Depths, by Nick Rotunno in the Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press, Feb 17, 2011 about an exploration of the depths. Surprisingly, native species of fish have colonized the depths, where nothing grows. No sign of Nessie’s cousin, however.

In the morning, I went over to Tubbs Hill, a public park, on the Lake. A short, easy hike, on uneven ground, about 2.4 miles around the hill on the main trial, perhaps 100 feet up, the uphill trail goes another 300 feet. It is very popular, with families, runners, slow walkers, and more serious hikers – we recognize each other.

I met Tony, an ex-Marine on disability, walking the loop twice a day as therapy. He kept up with me, saying the challenge was good for him. He had spent time at Camp Pendleton and Oceanside, where I have spent the last three winters. I updated him on the changes to his old grounds. I couldn’t help but think of all the servicemen and women on the day after Memorial Day.

After Tubbs Hill, Gross Donuts caught my attention. (I have had a life-long weakness for donuts, surpassed only by that for coffee.) Gross Donuts appears to put fruit filling in everything, bear claws included, but then it was afternoon, perhaps other varieties had sold out. How strange. I prefer the light fluffy bear claw where sweetness comes from the claw itself.

This post has been corrected, correction in italics, the name of the lake.



Whatcom Creek Trail and Leaving Washington

I’m leaving Washington, heading over to Idaho for a week, then onto Montana for two weeks, where I hope to connect with two of my AT Trail friends!

I like Washington very much and although I could stay longer if  I wished, I’m looking forward to returning to Michigan and the Mid-West for the summer. I have plans to visit family, reconnect with Michigan friends and so forth.

There is much more to do here in Washington, and I’ve been enjoying the seafood, the oysters seem exceptionally tasty. Ordinarily, I don’t care for oysters, but these are very good. Washington will move to the top of my list for a return visit, at this point.

My last trail here was the easy Whatcom Creek Trail at Whatcom Falls Park, a metro park. Alltrails(TM) lists the loop as 4 miles, maybe, and 400 feet, no way. The paths were wide and a good amount paved. There were two waterfalls, a dam with the spillway running, a large pond, and a fish hatchery.

A family approached me by the water lilies near the outermost end. The grandfather was wearing a Tigers shirt, which led me to ask if they were originally from Michigan. The “Cool Family,” grandparents visiting from Michigan, parents transplanted from Michigan, and a wide dark-eyed, eyed-dark haired handsome grandson, born in Seattle, who stopped his bike in front of me and stared up at me, while we talked. I’ve been having this effect on children lately. Is it a grandfatherly thing, or like Tim Allen in the movie, the Santa Clause, with my beard and greying hair, am I starting to resemble Santa Claus the first? I have put on more weight than I like since selling my house. I miss those stairs! The family was headed back while I was still heading out, and we ran into each other again back near the exhibits. It was a fun surprise to see them again.

Since leaving southern California at the end of March, I’ve gone many places and seen wonderful sights, but the highlight of the last two months was seeing Candypants again. There is a special bond forged on a trek between trail friends. Although we’re not in each other’s lives, although we may be of widely different ages and life styles, and even though we have changed, when we meet again that bond reemerges to be renewed and strengthened.


Reunion with a Trail Friend and Deception Pass

Been pushing myself since the beginning of April, so I took Wednesday off from hiking, including a long afternoon nap, then Thursday met my trail friend from the Appalachian Trail, Candypants, who is working on her RN here in Bellingham. It was great to see her again. We ate at Anthony’s, a local seafood restaurant chain recommended by my Michigan friend, Richard, who visits family in the area regularly. The food was very good, and my wine, a local cabernet, smooth. Best though was getting to know C. better, and to hear about other trail friends.

Friday morning I decided to hike around Deception Pass. Did so, got some nice pictures and met: Krusty, an ex-marine walking three dogs, and at the top of Goose Neck Viewpoint, Rick and Dick. Rick is quite the hiker, with Phantom Ranch, John Muir, parts of Switzerland and much, much more. It was fun to swap hiking stories with him. On the way up, I was ambushed by a stealth squirrel, sitting as still as a statue on a fence until I noticed him watching me. I wonder if he would have jumped me, if I got closer and didn’t feed him?

Next was Anacortes to hike Mount Erie, but every road I tried was blocked. Finally, it was getting late, so I left but the traffic was intense. Memorial Day weekend is the wrong time to head out there. Although it is very beautiful.

Oyster Dome and the Oyster Bar, Bellingham

I’m liking Washington very much. The people have been great, very welcoming. The Olympic Peninsula was awesome and now, Bellingham, seems like a very nice place. I selected Bellingham because one my best trail friends from the Appalachian Trail lives there with her partner and it is close to Canada. As I got closer, I heard more and more about the good restaurants there, specializing in sea food. I’ve been enjoying the seafood up the coast, and was curious. It’s hard not to like the hiking, the seafood, and the view of Puget Sound around Bellingham.

At the RV Park, I met Liga from Latvia, a displaced person from WWII. The young woman groundskeeper at the RV Park recommended Oyster Dome to me.

Some shout-outs: Bender, at the top of Oyster Dome, a 70 year old hiker. He had hiked up from the opposite direction, longer but 1,000 feet less than the 2.5 mile, 2,100+ feet that I had just done. He brought me up to speed on other Washington hikes. Dwayne and Sue showed the Calypso orchid to me. Pounder and Maribama and Mary the to-be-nurse who walked down with me part way. And from Switzerland, Marianne and Arno who were passing through and stopped at the Oyster Bar. Their  beautiful curly yellow-haired child of perhaps 2 took an interest in me. So we chatted. They were from Zurich where I had spent some time over the years. They updated my memories of restaurants, hotels, and sights.

The drive to Oyster Dome is a very narrow, winding, 25mph or less, two-line lined on one side by rock and the other at times by a rock wall or guardrails separating you from Puget Sound below. At places, the rock wall had been taken out, whether by falling rocks or vehicles?

The hike up Oyster Dome is like Dog Mountain, unrelenting up roughly 1,000 feet per mile. I counted 17 different flowers on my way up, but became suspicious that several different flowers were variants of one: the same leaf and stem, but the flowers were white or salmon or white fringed with salmon, 5 or 6 petals up to 8. So I dropped my count to 12 different flowers plus 1-5 pending further investigation.

Near the top, the trail reminded me of Maine: steep, rocks and roots, but lacking the mud and rain that’s Maine. Near the top, the trail could go any of several different directions. In fact, I continued towards the top until I heard voices down to my left. There the trail opened to a rock ledge with a great view of Puget Sound.

Down below, my truck hadn’t fallen into Puget Sound. You park on the edge, off the road, somewhat tilted seaward. I turned my rear view mirror in and my truck hadn’t been side-swiped. Hurray!

The Oyster Bar is close to the start of the Oyster Dome Trail. I sat outside to enjoy the view with a plate of oysters and a Trappist beer. The Oyster Bar is an upscale, white table cloth, restaurant, with an excellent wine list, yet reasonably priced and friendly to sweaty, smelly hikers, like me, as well as casually dressed travelers. While there, boats left the shore to go out to the oyster farms in the Sound. Nearby is Samish Farm Shellfish Market (Taylor Shellfish Farms).

The menu looked appetizing, but I was there for oysters. I selected a dozen, two each of 6 varieties. I enjoyed all, but liked the Royal Miyagi from Georgia, British Columbia, with its kiwi finish, best. Fanny Bay and Kusshi from Vancouver Island, Fort Hood and Kumamoto from Puget Sound, were mild described as cucumber, clean, melon rind, and honeydew. My least favorite was Barron Point, described as a musky finish. But to tell you the truth, without the descriptions, I question my ability to characterize the differences, and if not for the size and shape differences, one variety from another. I very much liked the Oyster Bar and recommend it to anyone who enjoys oysters. I did not try any of the other items. I met the owner on the way in. After my meal, I asked permission to include the Oyster Bar on my blog.

Mima Falls and onto Bellingham

A day of rest followed by a six mile easy hike to the popular Mima Falls in the Capitol State Park. Children were playing in the 25 foot high cascading waterfall.

The Mima loop looked interesting, but I hadn’t downloaded the map, so I walked about a mile and it seemed to be wandering away from where I wanted to go, so I turned around. Glad I did, because when I checked the map, the Loop wound for 12 miles before returning to connect with the Mima Falls six mile loop.

Onto Bellingham, Washington, on the border with Canada. Up 5, past Rainier, highway driving then suddenly coming over a hilltop, a spectacular view of Seattle. One of the top views of a city, in my humble opinion, reminded me of Duluth approaching from the east. No place to stop to for a picture in either case.



Hurricane Ridge, Mount Walker, and Staircase

Hurricane Ridge had opened the weekend before I arrived, so drove up at 6AM, about an 11 mile drive up 4,000 feet along an interesting, scenic drive. If you’ve read any of any other posts, “interesting”means “pay attention to your driving.” It’s a long way down. There were three tunnels, if I remember correctly. I arrived before the Ranger station was open, but no matter, there was snow everywhere, so I stood on a picnic table to get a good picture, tried a few other spots and headed down.

I must have driven up before the deer were up, because I passed by several on the way down. When I stopped to roll down my window to get a picture, they would look up at me, waiting to be fed, then nothing forthcoming, go back to browsing. It is illegal and a bad idea to feed the wildlife, because human food isn’t the proper diet for them, and they come to rely on humans providing their food, and when the tourist season stops, ….

The next major stop was Mount Walker Viewpoint. It is 2+ mile, 2,000 foot ascent, or .5 miles by the narrow gravely road. It was very narrow. Several times the truck slipped on the steep gravel/rock road, so four-wheel drive. There are two viewpoints at the top, one to the north and one to the south. There were four eagles flying about the north viewpoint, but by the time I got my camera out, they had moved away. Still it was fun watching them soaring. Were they parents and children, I wondered.

The last major stop was the Staircase, named because to pass over, the explorers constructed a staircase of logs, rock and dirt for the pack animals to climb. There had been a fire a few years ago, so there were warning signs to watch out for falling rocks and trees. I haven’t mentioned the trees before, but sometimes on the roads cut from the rock, leaving a steep vertical wall of rock to one side of the road, trees fall only to dangle over the edge, sometimes pointing downwards. Eventually they will come down, but when?

I did the couple mile loop, a not-so-easy, easy trail. Cross the river on a bridge, then up the rock and dirt trail on the west side, with some good views of the cascades. Cross back over on another bridge, which had replaced one that must have been washed away. You can still see the metal brackets in the large rocks in the river. I’m guessing that bridge had been washed away. The new suspension bridge is higher up. The cables are anchored at each end by two large concrete blocks sunk into the earth far back from the bridge itself. Four other cables from the sides, two at each end and side, reduce the swing. Still I could feel the sway on the wind.

On the way back on the other side, I met Ian who builds tree houses and has been on the TV shows about tree houses. He was admiring a freshly cut cedar tree that had fallen across the trail. The section across the trail had to be removed so people could pass through. From the way he was touching the tree, I knew he worked with wood. My father worked in wood after he retired, and I recognized the look in Ian’s eyes. He was imaging what he could make with that wood.

The trail on the way back had been rerouted because the old trail had fallen away in the rain. Back to my trail to shower and rest for a day.

My Olympic Peninsula adventure was completed. I had driven 1,000 miles in the week since leaving Portland and hiked over 30 miles, the longest hike was around 6 miles, but 1 mile here, 2 miles there, 3 over there, and it adds up. I was happy, tired, and fulfilled.


Sol Duc and Port Angels

Sol Duc is a “resort” in the park, with hot springs, campgrounds, RV camping, a waterfall, a hike through an ancient forest, and the salmon cascades. I stopped at the ancient forest trail, which is an easy, perhaps 1 mile loop among trees as much as 750 or 850 years old when the signs were put up. Not as mossy as the Hall of Moss, with a few nurse trees, and a marshy section where the yellow flowers of the skunk cabbage were in blossom, dominated by tall, large trees. From there I shot up to the waterfall walk, 1.2 miles one way, where a blue bird that I have never seen before was flitting about the parking area. The trail was easy. I met a couple hikers, Missy and her husband, from Texas, I forget his name, sorry! but only remember Missy because it is such an unusual name.

The highlight, however, was the Salmon Cascades, which is a hop, skip, and a long jump off the road. When I arrived, a young couple said the fish were jumping. An elderly man said they were salmon, that there were eight species that run at different times. I was lucky enough to catch some good pictures.

I stopped at the Nature Bridge Campus for another 1 mile walk to a waterfall, before moving onto Port Angels, which was full of pleasant surprises. The ‘best’ Chinese restaurant on the Peninsula, the Dynasty, was walking distance from my motel. I had to point to the menu items that I wanted for the waitress, but the meal was very, very good.

After dinner, I walked down a side street to a small park overlooking the harbor. A line of vehicles obscured two racoons from me as I approached. Luckily, I was far to one side, when I noticed them. They had seen me first, one stood on his hind legs to warn me away. I kept my distance, as they were fed by people from one of the cars. I’ve met bears, rattlesnakes, but I was more afraid of those two racoons, because were used to being fed, they no longer feared people.

Back at the budget motel, I was surprised by the force of the shower. I posted on Facebook: OMG. If you’re old enough to remember when shower heads were like fire houses, exfoliate? Stand in the shower. Massaging shower? Pfff. Align your spine? Stand in the shower. Remember when showers were for adults, unsafe for kids under four feet? Gravity fed water from mountain top shower.” It was fantastic.


Third Beach and Cape Flattery

In the morning, I decided to visit Third Beach near Fork where Stefan and Astrid had seen the eagles. Again, I started early, 6AM, to hike down the 3 miles to the rocks and logs before the beach. There were several groups who had spent the night on the beach. Two of the young men said there had been four eagles around high tide the afternoon before. I wasn’t expecting to see the eagles who move up and down the coast, but I had hopes, after a while, I gave up, moving on to Cape Flattery, the western-most spot in the lower 48 states. To my surprise, on the drive, I saw eagles. None that I could get a picture of, I was driving, but there they were, also ravens and, perhaps, vultures, besides the sea birds, and song birds. One raven cut in front of me, then trapped by the trees lining the trees, feverously flapped his wings trying to escape. I slowed, but with no opening, he was tiring, until finally a space opened. The poor bird escaped.

The path down to Cape Flattery is short, 1.2 miles and 300 feet, much of it one wooden steps, paths and platforms. At the end of the trail, you can feel the waves crashing into the caves beneath, about 200- feet down to the water, or so they say. It always seemed to be someone coming down the wooden path when I thought I could feel the waves. One of the men there said the waves vibrated his camera on its tripod. Unable to get a steady picture, he had to hold the camera in his hands.

If you are brave enough, or foolish enough, you can leave the platform out to the westernmost edge of the lower 48 states. I did, but drew the line at tapping the edge with my hiking stick, which reminds me:

I broke one of my ultra-lite hiking poles, slammed it in a car door in a second of inattention. It looked OK, but when I tested it, snap! At Cape Flattery, a local Native American artist had left some hiking poles he had carved from wood and that he had left by the trailhead on the honor system for $5. I picked one out but it had a small plastic, damn, peace sign decoration. A young couple laughed, “too hippy, for you?” “My hippy days were 50 years ago,” I replied. I thought about cutting the peace symbol off, but the decided that would violate the spirit of his work, so when it isn’t a serious hike, I now carry a new, hand-carved, Age-of-Aquarius, hiking stick.

The panoramas are top to bottom: Third Beach, the view from the platform at the end of the Trail (westernmost point), and along the drive to Neah Bay.

The Hoh Rainforest and the Circle of Life: the Nurse Tree

More than any other attraction, the Hoh Rainforest drew me to the Olympic Peninsula. The drive from the 101 out to the Rainforest was beautiful. Once there I walked through the famous Hall of Moss trail, about 1 easy mile not suitable for those handicapped, and the slightly-less-easy Spruce Trail, about 1.2 miles, which I liked better. I also walked down the River Trail, far enough to say that I had been on it, with a straight face, while not claiming to have done it. The backpackers said there had been an avalanche, further up, that blocked access to the further reaches of the trail.

The spring-fed stream at the beginning of the Hall of Moss Trail was pristine, in contrast to the slightly  less blue glacier-fed water of the Hoh River. You can see the algae growing in the stream.

While everyone walks the Moss Trail, almost no one goes down the Spruce Trail, which smells like Christmas. There, I saw some wildlife, birds, squirrels, a garter snake, and across the river, signs where elk had been foraging among the red alder, but no elk.

The large root ball measured 19.5 feet across and was taller than that. In the rainforest, and elsewhere but especially in the rain forest, a fallen tree can become a “nurse tree.” Trees and plants root on the elevated platform in the race to the sun and feast on the nourishment provided by the rotting tree underneath. When you come across a line of trees standing on toes, the “nurse’ has rotted away, the only evidence of its life, the line of trees marking its grave. There were examples all around the Hoh Rainforest of nurse trees, the picture of the line of trees shows one that has disappeared into the earth. The circle continues, for while the nurse helps its adopted offspring to get a head start in life, I imagine, the nurse also provides access underneath the children for the fungus to enter, there to eat away at their insides and in due course, for them to fall, and to nurse a new generation of trees and fungus.

I very much enjoyed the Hoh Rainforest. It was everything that it was said to be. There are so many awesome places that I have seen in the last seven years. Can it really have been seven years since I started these adventures in 2010? So much to back-blog on slow days, and so many pictures and stories from my past to share in the future.