Category Archives: Camping

Backpacking out to Spectacle Lake


Thursday, Friday, and Saturday – 14-Sept-2023, 15-Sept-2023, and 16-Sept-2023

I absolutely adore the North Cascades and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Truth be told, I’m not 100% sure what the official boundaries on either of them are… but at this point I’ve come to just assume that everything in the general “North of Mt. Rainier” region is the North Cascades, which I’m pretty sure is accurate. So I’m not going to quibble over details in this case, and simply enjoy the opportunity to explore the wilderness.

I took three days for Spectacle Lake, with Sunday left untouched to unpack and decompress – Leaving on a Thursday morning to help avoid the crowds, and giving me a chance to grab some nice breakfast sandwiches for the drive on my way out of Wilsonville.

The drive itself? Lovely – long, relaxing, and calm… an advantage of heading up toward Seattle in the morning on a Thursday. I drove, listened to music, let my mind wander, and soon enough I was parking at the trailhead and forging into the wilderness.

The first evening I set up camp near what I expected to be a small, unnamed lake on the trail up toward spectacle. I was a bit surprised, looking at the map, that it didn’t have any campsites nearby… but I figured that was because it was fairly close in to the main campsites… or, that people simply didn’t mark the sites down as such.

I arrived a bit before sundown, took the small game-trail off the main route to the lake, and started setting up camp.

Or… trying to set up camp.

I was successful, thankfully, but I did realize why it wasn’t listed as an official campsite – while there were quite a few good spots, the “lake” itself wasn’t really much of an open-water lake, as much as a large mud pit with a small puddle in the middle. And by “mud pit”, I mean “my poles sunk 3+ feet in when I was probing the ground”.

I was careful, making sure to probe and confirm that my campsite was firm and secure, and had myself a nice dinner before heading to the incoming stream to fill up on water for the day ahead.

The incoming stream was where I let my guard down. I hopped down to the stream from the embankment, and found out that the “streambed” that I was hopping to was, in fact, another mud pit. A mud pit that I sunk hip-deep into before I caught myself on the embankment.

Kind of reminds me of that time I slipped into a randkluft on the trail to Elk Meadows…

Thankfully, I did catch myself fairly quickly, and was able to haul myself out of the muck and mire without any major hassle. I was quick enough that the mud didn’t soak fully through my pants, and my boots didn’t get any grime inside them – I stripped the muddy gear off quick, changed into my spare pair of pants, and proceeded to filter my water from higher up on the embankment.

The next morning dawned to frozen mud pants.

I mean, that was the plan, so I’m not unhappy about it at all – by leaving the muddy pants out to freeze, it kinda separated most of the gross and grime off… I was able to roll them up and lash them to the outside of my pack once the morning sun thawed them out (which happened as I snacked on my breakfast and sipped coffee), with them being servicable if not actually clean.

I ascended, slowly but surely, past the lake, through a burn, and up the steep portion to Spectacle Lake itself. I took my time, enjoyed the views… and hustled a little bit, to make sure that I was able to get a good campsite!

The hustling paid off exceptionally well – when I arrived, I passed a group who was just heading out… who mentioned that they’d just left the prime spot on the lake! The campsite right at the end of the peninsula sticking out into the alpine lake, with views on basically every side.

Legitimately, I couldn’t have asked for a better campsite. I set up the tent, had a snack, read my book… and realized that it was still only 11:00 in the morning.

So… I stretched out, and headed upward into the mountain passes surrounding the lake.

Something about that phrase… “into the mountain passes”… it just sounds so excellent, doesn’t it? It sounds like something from Lord of the Rings, or one of a hundred other high fantasy books that I grew up reading. Back then, in middle school, I always wanted to be some grand explorer… maybe a mad scientist some days, maybe a space captain others, and at least once or twice I wished I was a Jedi…

But oftentimes, that explorer forging into “the mountain passes past the cities and above the clouds”.

I’m that explorer, now.

Kind of neat to think about, isn’t it?

Anyways, I forged onward through the passes above Spectacle Lake.

Tying back, I’ll just say this – if there’s a spot in Washington that Mountain Trolls would live, it was that pass. Turns out, part of the Pacific Crest Trail runs past Spectacle. And, that part of the Pacific Crest Trail had actually been blasted out of the rock with dynamite – something I became quite aware of as I noticed blast scars, drill holes, and other beautifully unnatural rocks.

It was neat – and almost tempting to move my camp into the interesting little campsites that’d been literally carved and blasted from the rockfaces surrounding me.

I pressed on – exploring, resting, reading, and noshing on snacks.

I turned around when it felt right, and made my way slowly and carefully back to camp; not wanting to overdo it on my knees by adding an extra rushed thousand feet to my elevation for the day. I got back just before sunset, with the perfect opportunity to watch the sky as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Then? More reading, a bit of a nap, and a long quiet opportunity to stargaze. There were a few teams around me, sure, but thankfully everyone seemed to be on the same page regarding noise (or more accurately the lack thereof). The stars wheeled, I pondered, and then I slept.

The next day broke beautiful, just like the previous day.

Breakfast was lovely, the sun shone perfectly, and the hike out was easy. I took my time, read a bit, and even took the opportunity to pack out some trash – a few hats that I found, some socks… even a partial swimsuit that I found in a pika (sorta like a small gopher) hole!

And, turns out, that “trash” would be pretty impactful to my hike out! As I descended from the lake, I passed a fair number of people – every so often I’d run into a group who seemed like the folks who’d want a new hat, so I’d ask them if they’d like one of the ones that I’d found.

Now, keep in mind that most of the trash I’d accumulated was pretty gross… but the hats themselves were actually quite nice. I’d asked around the lake to make sure they didn’t belong to anyone, and felt bad that they’d probably end up getting tossed when I got home… so hey, why not right? Trail magic!

One of the folks I ran into excitedly accepted the offer – then quickly made her way on up the trail. I didn’t think too much of it, until she caught back up to me a few miles from the trailhead! Turns out, her name was Carmen and she was just doing a quick “up and back” training run… which definitely puts my backpacking speed in context, if anyone was curious.

We chatted on the hike out, which made the remaining mile or three go exceptionally quick. We chatted about work, about adventures, all the fun things – definitely an excellent way to pass the time on the slow portion of the backpacking trip!

The remainder of the adventure was as lovely as the hike itself had been.

I drove out slowly, without a rush, stopping into Cle Elum for a quick dinner before hitting the main highway. I stayed in town for a bit of extra time, having heard some live music as I was eating a glorious hamburger, and was rewarded with a Pacific Northwest rendition of Sweet Caroline… an absolutely lovely callback to the East Coast.

Definitely a solid adventure.

Camping and hiking up on Rainier!


Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – 21-July-2023, 22-July-2023, and 23-July-2023

I’ve never really been up to Mt. Rainier.

I think I know why – but at the end of the day, it was just a confluence of circumstance that had kept Rainier out of my target-list for places to go adventuring. When Jess asked if I’d be interested in car camping and doing some day hikes around the Rainier National Forest… well, no time like the present to explore a new spot, right?

I had Friday off, while Jess didn’t, so I spent some time packing up and relaxing. Blueberry bacon pancakes, coffee, more bacon… yeah, it wasn’t a bad start to the day.

After Jess was off work, we packed up her truck and headed North. Through the highway, into the woods, and onto the back roads we went, braving the challenges of finding a good dispersed camping spot. More of a challenge than we were expecting, interestingly, as the area that’d been recommended to us… was actually houses. In the woods. Banjo noises thankfully not included.

We found a good spot, though, and soon enough camp was set and stars were being gazed upon.

In the morning – bacon and veggies and coffee!

Then – A hike up to Noble Knob.

Yuip. Yup Yuip. I may have picked the hike based on that name alone, but you can’t prove it so it’s fine.

It was a nice hike. Long, but not too steep. Dusty and warm, but not too exposed or brightly sunburnt. We found a lake, we swam, and I even flew the drone around a bit. We chatted, spent some good woods time together, and even met a couple with their two Malinois who were heading in to watch the sunset. Watching the pups play was definitely a nice bonus to the evening!

Dinner, more stargazing, and a beautiful sunset… What more could I ask for?

The next day brought with it another quick breakfast, a medium-length hike out to the Rainier viewpoint (on the aptly-named “Rainier View trail”, along with another drone flight and some good reading on top of the hillside. Then a drive home, some excellent burgers and onion rings from a roadside fry-shop, and a quick stop to grab some equally excellent roadside flowers.

Yay adventures up to Rainier!

Backpacking up the White River Glacier again, 2023 edition!


Friday and Saturday, 20-Jan-2023 and 21-Jan-2023

Man… it’s been ages since I’ve gotten my tent up onto Mt. Hood! 2023 is nearly a month old, and so far… You know what? Let’s not be harsh on ourselves here, huh? I’ve been getting by. I’ve been decompressing, getting into the flow of the year, and spending quite a bit of good time in the gym.

I’m socializing, making plans, and getting projects done… but that “getting out into the cold” itch still needs to be scratched, doesn’t it? Yeah it does! And so Thursday evening saw me packing a bag, and Friday morning found me driving the well-travelled road up toward Mount Hood. I had a good breakfast in my belly (Pine State with a friend!), and a nice and easy plan for the weekend. The weather looked good, and road conditions seemed positive. So was I, with a lovely relaxing trip on the horizon.

The universe obliged.

Hiking in, the slopes were beautifully devoid of the howling mobs. The sky was blue, clear, and crisp. The temperature was cold… but soon enough I had my sleeves rolled up and my jacket wrapped around my waist. I wasn’t quite sweating, thankfully, but the combination of the sun and exercise were definitely doing their job at keeping me warm.

I made camp, did some quick setup to make sure I had space to carve a good shelf for my tent out of the snow covered hillside, and took a walk up the ridgeline of the glacier. I enjoyed the sunset, appreciated the cold, and let myself slowly expand out of the compressed form it’d taken over the last few weeks.

As Yoda tells Luke, “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” I can take that to heart… I’m realizing that I need time alone in the wild woods to let myself expand back outward. Time at work, time in the city, time in the gym… I enjoy all of them, but they shrink me down a bit in a way that only the open sky can rectify.

This trip did an amazing job of that rectification – As the sun set, and I finished carving my little campsite out of the slope, with snowshoe and ice axe, I felt good. I felt excellent!

I ate my dinner, read my book, and drifted off to sleep way earlier than I expected. Not a bad thing.

The next morning was beautiful and clear – though there were a few lenticular clouds hovering over the summit block of Mt. Hood, indicating the oncoming snow expected in the late morning.

I breakfasted, hiked around a bit, and enjoyed the last bits of cold as the day warmed up.

Packing and hiking out went quickly, and I was back at the car far earlier than I’d really expected… though the snow was definitely starting to fall in earnest. I’d put chains of the car before leaving, in case the snow was thicker than expected, and they definitely helped power over the packed snow and ice of the parking lot. But… I didn’t need them after that.

I felt a little silly, taking the chains off at the end of the parking lot… but hey. Better to have them on and not need them, versus having to battle through the snow to get them on if I had needed them, right?

Without chains, the drive home was quick. I didn’t have to stop, and I simply relaxed. I think I put some music on… but maybe not? I felt great, exceptionally thankful for an excellent evening in the snow.