Ol’ Blewett


Rain, rain and more rain was on the forecast today. Despite that, armchair enthusiasm was running high!

We headed up for Snoqualmie Pass, bolstered by rumor that there was enough snow to make it worth the effort to break the snowshoes from their long, long hibernation.

Well, there was snow, but it was a lot higher than any of us really cared to hike in this sorta November slop.

So instead Blewett!

If it’s rainy on the west side, it’s usually a little less so over there. The fact that the place is absolutely steeped in mining history is another selling point, at least so long as I’m concerned.

The arrastra
The Arrastra

We got to the old townsite and took a quick tour.

First we swung by the arrastra, a curious artifact sandwiched between the US 97 and Peshastin Creek just south of the Blewett historical marker.

The crushenator
The Crushenator

The second site we visited was the remains of the old stamp mill, which is in surprisingly good condition considering the proximity to the highway. Definitely a gem hidden in plain sight for the history minded road tripper.

Briefly we headed back down the highway thinking that a hike along Negro Creek would be fun, but with the high water, didn’t seem worth the treacherous crossing. So…back to Blewett.

We built this city on Rock n’ Roll

We followed the little footpath which passes the Keynote Tunnel and followed it to it’s end before beginning  uphill.

Two thick metal cables were stretched down the hillside, inviting us upwards to find their source.

Gaining the ridge granted us some beautiful views of the surrounding hillsides partitioned by low, soggy looking clouds.

Nuclear Moss
Nuclear Moss

Continuing up, we passed countless collapsed adits and cuts, sometimes marked by small piles of shattered, milky quartz left behind by those who still search these hills for precious metal.

One small cut even contained a pick axe and shovel. Modern no doubt, but waterlogged and weathered.

Old tram something probably

The ridge made a nice stopping point and allowed us ample views up and down the US97 corridor.

Leaving the ridge, we opted for a more direct path to the car.


Blewett can be a fun place to visit, but be aware that there is a lot of privately claimed land in the area and many potential hazards in the form of open shafts and deteriorating tunnels.

Respect all private property postings, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because many sites are full of hazards, and… some people can get pretty weird when that funny yellow metal is involved. Just a friendly word of caution.

As always PACKITINPACKITOUT!, leave it better than you found it, take only pictures leave only feet prints, and especially in the Blewett area: STAY OUT, STAY ALIVE

It is in these hills that Juan Valdez and his trusty mule...
It is in these hills that Juan Valdez and his trusty mule…

Happy Trails!







Uh, not going that way.
Uh, not going that way.

Despite the flood warning today a couple of us Bipeds decided to head for the hills.

Due to the inclement weather being particularly inclement, our mine search was called off in favor of a dry hike: The Snoqualmie Tunnel.

Being an abandoned train tunnel, it really fits the bill for a rainy day hike, and when better to visit an abandoned tunnel full of ghost trains and ectoplasmic hobos? Halloween!

That's not bogeyman, is it?
That’s not bogeyman, is it?


The trailhead was flooded when we arrived, so we parked along the road near the freeway on-ramp and made our way down an embankment to reach the eastern portal.

The tunnel was pretty much as expected; cool and a little damp. Perfect for a day when the alternative is; cold, and sopping wet.

The sound of rushing water bounced off the walls as we approached the western light.

Rockdale Creek, which flows over the top of the portal was raging. We hiked up and around to take a closer look.

Yeah, it's raining out
Yeah, it’s raining out

At the top, large chunks of wood barreled down the swollen waters. An eerie deep rumble accompanied by a slight tremor, signaled a boulder tumbling through the culvert below our feet.

Heading back to the shelter of the tunnel we saw a group of bicyclists preparing for the trip down to the exit 38. “Beware the bogey man”, they warned as we walked by.

“They were just kidding though, right?”

Rockdale Creek rip roarin'
Rockdale Creek rip roarin’


Little Heart Lake 4204′

Little Heart Lake
Little Heart Lake

To get to Little Heart Lake you’ve most likely passed Copper Lake, and while extremely diminutive by those standards, Little Heart is nonetheless an alpine gem and a destination unto itself.


Little Heart Lake can be reached by taking the West Fork Foss River Lakes Trail #1064


There is a gap high above the south end of the lake which could be used to reach the remote north west arm of Big Heart Lake.

from the NE
from the NE

Camp Robber Peak is also attainable via this route.

Note: You may have to get wet…


I can personally vouch that there are Cutthroat Trout in this lake.

Wide open and reasonably accessible boulder shores in the north-east corner of the lake provide ample room for fly-casting.


There are a few established campsites at Little Heart Lake and along the trail that connects it to Copper Lake.

There is little opportunity to camp between Little Heart and Big Heart.

Campfires are prohibited at Little Heart Lake and at any point over 4000′ along the trail.

Other regulations may apply.

All kinds of talus!
All kinds of talus!

McClellan’s Butte 5162′

Ol’Mac looms…

If you are driving down the I-90 and spending more time looking out the window than on the road, McClellan’s Butte is hard to miss. It’s the big rocky spire, sorta looks like the Matterhorn from some angles.

Anyway, most rubbernecking hikers probably fall into one of two camps:

A: Man! I gotta climb that thing!


Hanging out along the ridge
Hanging out along the ridge

B: There is no F$%#ing way you’d catch me up there!

Well guess what? Ol’ Mac’s Butte is a win-win!

The prominent rocky spire doesn’t disappoint those looking for an airy scramble, and allows some decent bragging rights the next time you’re rubbernecking down the ’90.

Alternatively, if exposed scrambling isn’t your thing, the Butte provides a challenging enough hike and great views from a slightly less lofty perch just below the imposing monolith.



Distance: 9-12 miles RT

Elevation gain: 3700′ ft (1128m)

Difficulty: YDS-1 hike, YDS-3-4 scramble

Licks to get to it’s center: The world may never know…


Spittin’ Image!

McClellan’s Butte is named for General George B. McClellan, a civil war era general and moustache aficionado which history seems to hold in mixed regard.

In 1853, George was here in the Washington territory surveying possible routes for the coming railroad.

Ultimately, he came to the conclusion that Yakima Pass near Tinkham Peak would be the best option for the rails, however no one else of consequence shared his opinion and Yakima Pass was never used.

McClellan’s efforts were however recognized, and his name was bestowed upon the butte, perhaps, some speculate, due to their uncanny resemblance.

Later Ol’ George even made an unsuccessful presidential bid against the incumbent President Abraham Lincoln.

In the end McClellan died of a heart attack in Orange, New Jersey at the age of 58.


Biggest trees on the '90!
Biggest trees on the ’90!


We start out just off the Tinkham Road exit on the ’90. The trailhead is just a little way south of the interstate up a dirt road.

(There does however exist cheaters parking area further along the FS 9020)


The trail briefly winds along through forest, then beneath power lines, meandering along old grades. Early along there is a split, either way you’ll end up at the John Wayne Trail (Old Milwaukee Road)

Heading west at the split along an old grade will take you along the “official” trail.

Reaching the Milwaukee Road, you’ll likely hear Alice Creek to your left and might see a bicyclist or two scoot on by, to continue up the butte trail, look to your right.

Off trail scrambling
Off trail scrambling

It’s within this next section that one can find the “old” trail which ambles past the Alice Claim , where one can view a handful of mining relics from an earlier era.

The next grade crossing is that of the FS 9020 (the cheaters parking area), not a lot to see here but a gravel road, and usually some parked cars. Press on!

You may have noticed by now that there are some pretty impressive trees along the trail. Somehow these giants were spared the lumberjacks unforgiving sawblade, while their less fortunate brethren are now only massive stumps.

These are some of, if not the largest trees along the ’90, so feel free to plop your butt down and view them with reverence and awe.

Lotsa big ol' trees
Lotsa big ol’ trees

The trail now begins to climb, and soon, at about the halfway point, the next and most dangerous landmarks will appear…


As is evident from the lack of trees (or most anything but rock and snow) avalanches regularly thunder down these gullies when conditions are right for it.

Avalanches don’t always happen when you might expect!

Even during a nice, sunny spring day, so long as there is snow in the upper reaches, a slab of white death can break off and before you can say “Kalamazoo!” you’re history.

Just food for thought…. be aware!

Always check the Northwest Avalanche Center website for current avalanche conditions. (…and donate!)

Post thaw avalanche chute
Post thaw avalanche chute

Avalanches aside, these gullies can also be dangerous to cross for the unprepared as when they are snow filled they can be extremely steep.

Furthermore they can be undermined by flowing water and a simple posthole could potentially put you in the drink, or worse.

Carry the right gear, and know how to use it.


So after the avalanche gullies, the trail continues up and up.

Eventually you’ll round the south end of the ridge and sparse views of the FORBIDDEN lands of the Cedar River watershed will appear.

The trail does a large sort of U-Turn and soon you’re traversing the west side of the ridge.

The forbidden lands
The forbidden lands

(Note: this is a good place to jump off trail if you wanna scramble the whole ridge)

Here is a nice pleasant respite from the singularly upward direction of the trail prior to this, and with westward views and mountain meadows to boot!

Soon you’ll find yourself passing below the large rock walls of the ridge  before turning upwards, just below the summit block itself.

A steeper rocky section of trail is the last little bit to conquer before finding yourself at the landing beneath the imposing, monolithic block that is Ol’ Mac.

Ol' Harry up on the block
Ol’ Harry up on the block


As you will certainly see, the block is pretty exposed.

Climbing out onto it, you might think that exposed is an understatement when you discover that the block essentially terminates into oblivion, and any resultant falls from here would likely result in death, or worse.

Stay within your comfort zone, this isn’t a place to screw around.

That being said, the block isn’t technically difficult, and affords many hand and footholds that have been tried and tested hundreds of times before. (Never hurts to double check)

I read somewhere that at one time there existed an aviation navigational light at the top of Ol’ Mac, part of a system of lights that guided aircraft to Seattle.

“The Closer” ascending the block

In those times there was also a handhold and more of a path to the top. (At the moment my book collection is in storage,  so I’ll get back to you all about the specifics)

Along the scramble you can occasionally spy remnants of those days etched into the rock.

Once on the top you’ll be handsomely rewarded for your efforts (weather permitting) as you are standing upon one of the best viewpoints along the I90.

360º of unobstructed views!


In Cascade Alpine Guide vol. 1, Beckey describes a couple different routes;

One of them is ascending to the summit ridge via the upper south slopes by way of the second avalanche gully as a moderate winter or spring snow climb.

This one I can vouch for, as a couple friends and I took it one spring without knowing it was really a route. The slopes here are steep, but if you keep your wits about you, the ascent to the ridge is a piece of cake. Some light class 3 scrambling is the worst of it.

Ascending the south slopes
Ascending the south slopes

Keep in mind however, there are a lot of loose rocks, and you are climbing directly above a fairly popular trail.

Another is the East Spur, which I gather is essentially taking the first avalanche gully directly to the summit, I’ve looked at it and intend to give it a try someday, appears to be a long class 2-3 scramble.

The NORTH BASIN is more of a climbing route, popular when the basin is snow filled. I have read that the rock near the upper reaches is pretty loose and crumbly and may have been a factor in a 2005 fatality along this route.


McClellan’s Butte has a little something for everybody, and while a popular destination, thus far never seems too crowded.

Besides the summit block, the entire trail is YDS class 1, however, McClellan’s Butte, or any mountain should never be taken lightly; Steep Slopes, avalanche chutes, and George McClellan’s ghost are just a few hazards one may encounter while treading upon it’s flanks.

The ’90 snaking across the land


There is often water available along the route, so bring a filter etc and fill up along the way.

Anyway, be prepared, leave it better than you found it, see ya there

Happy Trails!

Jack "The Bulge" at the summit
Jack “The Bulge” at the summit


Take exit 42 West Tinkham Rd. and head south, you’ll pass a WSDOT facility and a gated road on your right before coming to another road veering up and right to the trailhead. Sometimes this is signed, other times not. Either way it is a very short drive from the freeway offramp, so if you can’t find it, you probably went too far.



Currently a NW Trailpass is required for parking.




Beckey, Fred, Cascade Alpine Guide vol.1 Columbia River to Stevens Pass. The Mountaineers Books, 1973










McGarvey Park Open Space

Bright blue sign
Bright blue sign

Growing up here in Washington it seems like there were always woods just around the corner to explore. Many days were spent roaming the woodlands with a stick sword in hand, and a pocket full of pinecones with which to fight the perpetual pinecone war that raged throughout my youth.

View of the "summits"
View of the “summits”

The local wetlands were like our own private Amazon jungle in which we captured treefrogs, pollywogs and garter snakes for our pickle jar menageries.

Little. but noisy frog
Little. but noisy frog

In one large tract of forest nearby my cousins house in Lake Stevens we even found an old cabin and a machete!

That rusted old blade was like Excalibur to us!

Anyway, nowadays most, if not all of those places I knew are gone, paved over in the name of progress.

Suburbs, strip malls and shareholder returns have replaced ferns, swamps and Douglas fir, and some of those developers had real senses of humor. A little swamp where we used to cut cat-tails at, was filled in long ago and replaced by a development called “Starlight Pond”, seriously, you can’t make stuff like that up!

Colorful mushrooms
Colorful mushrooms

Well before I go too far on a rant…..

Once in awhile someone had the foresight to set aside some of these suburban wildlands for future generations to enjoy, and one of them I recently discovered is McGarvey Park Open Space.


McGarvey Park offers over 400 acres of open space with miles of trail though various terrain and ecosystems. Not only that, but the park also offers a “summit” of sorts; Cedar (Echo) Mountain coming in at a modest 896′.

The park is also home to much wildlife, during my visit I was serenaded by a multitude of bird species and there always seemed to be a chorus of frog song somewhere in the distance. At one point a pair of red-tailed hawks screeched as they soared high above.

Forest baby
Forest baby

Many small streams cross the property, with the occasional little bridge spanning the distance.

El Puente
El Puente

The area is abundant in a variety of flora as well, from mixed conifer forest, alder dominated wetlands, and everything in between.

The area was logged a few times spanning the late 1800s, the 1930s and the 1960s, and because of logging/reforestation practices of those times, not many of the conifers are particularly old. However a few old timers do exist here and there.

Another result of reforestation practices of those times (or lack thereof) is that certain overall forest characteristics are a bit unbalanced, but King County is working hard at trying to remedy this over the next few decades.

Sunbathing Garter snake
Sunbathing Garter snake

Also of historical interest was McGarvey Park’s coal mining past. The New Black Diamond Mine operated here from 1884 to 1939. Certain portions of the park are underlain with long disused tunnels, but these are not accessible and do not pose a threat to public safety. Initially my only clue to coal mining here was along one section of trail where bits of coal were visible along the grade.

Summit Knoll
Summit Knoll

Perhaps the biggest attraction of McGarvey Park is the Cedar (Echo) Mountain summit. While only standing 896′ above sea level, it provides a lovely view of Mt.Rainier and peeks at Lake Desire when climbing up the western flank. This would make a great first “summit” for those just getting into hiking or for kids.

Trails also wind around the NE summit of Cedar (Echo) Mountain, offering views of the Issaquah Alps, but the actual high point is never reached by trail.

Trail shot
Trail shot

The trails here are open to equestrian and mountain bike use as well, with a few exceptions such as the “Peak Trail”.

There are many ancillary trails throughout the park meandering all about, in addition to the acres and acres of woodland and wetland. I’m sure you’ll find something new with each visit.

Summit view
Summit view

Neighboring Spring Lake/ Lake Desire Park offers an additional 390 acres of open space and trails with limited shore access and a boat launch.

The Wetland-14 Natural area (awesome name, no?) to the north affords even more open space, but not much in the way of trails at the time of this writing.

Peak trail
Peak trail

I can honestly say that for me this place really spoke to that kid that has never grown up inside. It’s really a place you can freely wander, and really feel like you are far away from the world, yet still in your own backyard.

The frogs that fell silent in the paved over swamps of my youth sing joyfully here, and there really exists a sense of nostalgia and wonderment of those woodlands now gone. Who knows, you might just find yourself brandishing a stick sword as you walk along these winding paths, whistling the songs of days long past.


McGarvey Park can be accessed by any number of points. Some of which even offer a handy-dandy free map, which I found to be a great help.

Licorice Fern
Licorice Fern

Driving directions from wta.org :

From I-405 either northbound or southbound in Renton take exit 4 onto Renton-Maple Valley Road (State Route 169). Follow Renton-Maple Valley Road east towards Maple Valley for a little over 2 miles and turn right onto 140th Way SE. In 2 miles turn left on Petrovitsky Road. Follow for 1.6 miles and turn left on Parkside Way SE. Follow for 0.6 miles and turn right on Woodside Drive SE. Follow Woodside Drive for 0.3 miles and turn left on West Lake Desire Drive SE. Follow for 0.3 miles and turn left on 174th Ave SE. In about 0.2 miles the trail crosses the road and this is where we will meet. (Driving time from Seattle: approximately 50 minutes.)

Spring Lake/ Lake Desire directions from King County pamphlet:

From the Maple Valley Hwy, SR-169, or SE Petrovitsky Rd, take 196th Ave SE, the SE 183rd St to E Spring Lake Dr. Follow around the lake to the trailhead at the end of West Spring Lake Dr SE.

Free maps!
Free maps!







Mt.Teneriffe 4788′

Kamikaze Falls in the alpenglow
Kamikaze Falls in the alpenglow

I’ve been up Mt.Teneriffe many times, with many people. It’s been a favorite of mine since I first trudged up it’s steep slopes, if not for the views and the challenge of getting to the top, then certainly for the lack of crowds.

I hadn’t been here in a couple years though, and was surprised this time around to see that some pretty significant changes have been made, namely a new trail to the summit.

Right this way...
Right this way…

While those in the know have for years known that an alternate to the Kamikaze route existed, slogging up old logging roads and faint boot paths between Mt.Si and Teneriffe, as of late summer 2014 the WA DNR turned it into an official trail.

How about that?

Great right!? A steady moderate grade on a nice even surface as compared to the stiff hike and light scrambling it used to take to get to the top, I’ll bite!

Hell, I can even loop it with ease now, and I do love a good loop.

Well all is not as it seems, for what the new trail offers in easy grade, it doles out distance in spades.

The new trail is 7 miles to Teneriffe summit! Yowza! That’s compared to the steeper old path which is only a couple miles from trailhead to mountaintop.

Well lets throw on some boots and see what this thing has to offer…

The Teneriffe trailhead is little more than a dirt turn out a little ways further down the road from the much more popular Mt.Si trailhead. While the Mt.Si trailhead is tantamount to a Wal*Mart parking lot, the Teneriffe trailhead really can’t hold more than a dozen vehicles at best.

Thems a lot of trees
Thems a lot of trees

There are “No Parking” signs along the road and I understand that the neighbors WILL call the towing company.

During peak season, the strategy here is to get in early, or get lucky, oh and a Discover Pass is required to park.

The trail begins uneventfully enough down a DNR road passing through young forest, most likely logged in the early 80s. The road comes to a fork that until very recently wasn’t marked.

You’d just have to know which way to go, but now there is a shiny new sign directing hikers to bear right to “Teneriffe Falls”.

The left fork as of this writing is still unmarked, this is the “new” trail between Mt.Si and Mt.Teneriffe.


Heading left, the trail continues along the DNR road passing little rivulets cascading down the mountainside before climbing up into denser forest.

Nice wide trail
Nice wide trail

The grade is mostly modest but long. However it does travel through pleasant forest and every so often slight views will open up in thinner stands of trees which breaks up the monotony a bit.

When I was passing through, the forest was alive with the songs of black-capped chickadees and Varied Thrush, which made me wonder why in the hell anyone wears headphones while they hike, I mean really!

Lots of green
Lots of green

Just about then a trailrunner jogged by with headphones on, eh, to each their own I guess. Which reminds me, I imagine this would be a great trail for trailrunning as the grade is mostly very even and the path is broad.

Ahem…. So after about four miles or so of long switchbacks the grade relents a bit and the views start to be revealed.

Teneriffe Summit
Teneriffe Summit

A fork will appear in the road around this time. As of this writing it is marked with a blue ribbon, but really it’d be impossible to miss whether or not that shred of plastic was dangling there.

Going left will result in arriving at Mt.Si in a half hour or less, while going right is approximately another three miles to Mt.Teneriffe. Alright, come on, my legs are aching too, lets keep going….

The Haystack
The Haystack

Thankfully the grade remains mostly light and/or level for awhile giving you a chance to recuperate. The views here really start to open up as well, including an interesting view of “The Haystack” jutting forth from the conifers, seemingly eyeballing you like an immense and hungry Golem.

Up along the top
Up along the top

The tread seems to go on forever until finally reaching a viewpoint to points northward, the first views of such available thus far.

Take a minute to rest up because the trail begins to climb from here yet again.

The switchbacks begin immediately through the upland forest, and you can’t help but feel like you are really getting close now. Then you gain the ridge and start up! Yes, finally, almost there….er, or not. Nope, instead we find ourselves atop the high point more or less northwest of the Teneriffe summit.

Even my legs are aching good now.

Next the trail winds about along a very steep, forested drop off and eventually begins to climb again.

Out of the trees for a bit
Out of the trees for a bit

This has got to be it… I think I see blue between the trees, yes it’s sky alright! Phew!

The trail breaks out of the woods and dumps you out about mid-point on the Teneriffe summit block. If you have any gas left a light scramble will take you the rest of the way up. You did it!

The summit is a nice perch offering great views in all directions.

WARNING: In snowy conditions Mt.Teneriffe can have a nasty cornice on top, if it gives way, or you slip, it’s a long ways down to your certain doom.

When it’s time to head down you can either go back the way you came for a 14-mile roundtrip, or cut down the mileage but increase the difficulty by heading down the old trail.



So beginning from the fork in the DNR road this time we bear right in the direction indicated by the nice, new and shiny Teneriffe Falls sign.

The road ambles along, crosses an ephemeral creek and starts gently climbing, becoming more and more of a trail the higher you get.

Small views begin to open up as you climb above the treetops before the road comes to something of an end marked with a sign. A boot path continues on along the road, but ignore it and head up onto the open talus above you.

High terrain along old trail
High terrain along old trail

After a few switchbacks the well built trail really starts to climb, and the T/A truck stop at the exit 34 really starts to become a fixture of your southern views. Try to look beyond it.

The trail continues to switchback up and up through conifer forest and talus with occasional views opening up along the way. This is a decent workout for most people, but every step is worth it when you finally reach Kamikaze Falls (Teneriffe Falls).

I first knew this place as Kamikaze Falls, I don’t know what the history behind the name is, except maybe that Kamikaze is said to mean “Divine Wind” in Japanese, and usually a divine wind does seem to issue forth from the falls.

Mt.Rainier looms
Mt.Rainier looms

Maybe it’s being changed because of Kamikaze’s WWII connotations, or maybe it was Teneriffe Falls this whole time, hell, I dunno. A rose by any other name I guess…

This is a great destination in itself.

During the summer you can indulge in a cooling shower beneath it’s cascading waters, or marvel at ice formations during winter cold snaps. Kamikaze Falls is incredibly photogenic destination any time of year.

With low mileage, open views and a beautiful waterfall at the end, Kamikaze Falls is a great goal for someone in kind of the low-middle range of hiking endurance looking for a new challenge and a huge reward.

Summit block winter 2011
Summit block winter 2011

At this point if you feel like trudging up to Teneriffe Summit be warned, the rest of this hike isn’t for the timid or out of shape. It’s steep, relentless and often nothing more than a faint boot path.

Look for a trail on your right, it’s a lot more well marked these days so you ought not to have trouble finding it.

The trail basically takes off like a rocket here, gaining the ridge in little time.

Get used to this grade, it’s the norm from here on out.

The route mostly follows the ridge spine, only deviating here and there. Occasionally light scrambling may be necessary up rock outcrops.

On the ascent!
On the ascent!

Most of the way you will find the trail is big on gain, but short on views. However that all changes rather suddenly as you break out of the trees. On a clear day the views are fantastic! Rainier dominates the south while the burgeoning Puget Sound mega-sprawl stretches along beneath the Olympics to the west.

Trail shot "Old Trail"
Trail shot “Old Trail”

Here you will find yourself on even steeper terrain, up mountain meadows and patches of trees before coming out near the bottom of the summit block.

During winter months it is advisable to bring some form of traction aid along with you, such as micro spikes or poles (or both!) it can be treacherous around here.

Takin' in the views!
Takin’ in the views!

The final climb is little more than a light scramble when snow free and offers ample room for all you summit apes to enjoy a picnic surrounded by 360° of the kind of stuff some people can only dream about.

Now that you are familiar with the Teneriffe trails, from here the world is your oyster, well, if you still have some gas in the tank.

Old trail-trail shot
Old trail-trail shot

Make it a loop, take a stroll to Mt.Si or come back the way you came!

As always, leave only footprints and take only pictures, oh take and any garbage you might find along the way too. Not to get preachy but just because orange peels and banana wrappers are “biodegradable” doesn’t mean they should just be tossed on the ground. If you can’t pack it out, don’t pack it in.

Happy Trails, Harry Biped

Badass old man sighted in his natural habitat
Badass old man sighted in his natural habitat






Ravensdale Retreat

"Guess this must be the place..."
“Guess this must be the place…”

Ravensdale retreat is the kind of place you could drive by one thousand times and still not realize it’s there despite the fact that there is a bright, blue, shiny sign out front.

Water, water everywhere...
Water, water everywhere…

The parking area is a non-descript dirt pull off on the east side of SE Ravensdale Way a few miles east of the mega suburb shopping plex quartered by SE Kent-Kangley Rd & Maple Valley Black Diamond Rd SE. (Gee, I remember when that was mostly just trees… Ah progress)

I don’t know the exact history of the area, but judging by some aging, out of place fruit trees and old fence posts I’d guess at least some of it used to be part of an old farmstead.

Hitchcock's "The Ferns"
Hitchcock’s “The Ferns”

The retreat is a young forest, most recently logged in the 1980s but it still has a real “lived-in” feel with dense growths of sword ferns covering the forest floor and a bright, green tapestry of moss dangling from the trees.

Unfortunately the sounds of civilization are never far, with the Retreat being sandwiched in between the BNSF mainline and Kent-Kangley road.

There is also a rifle range in the vicinity, which makes for a steady chorus of chugging locomotives, growling jake brakes and gunfire. (Hmm, kinda sounds like a redneck wetdream)

That being said, as you amble along deeper and deeper into the woods it’s easy to forget these distractions.

Meandering trails
Meandering trails

The Ravensdale retreat is home to many animals big and small. During the course of my walks beneath it’s trees I’ve encountered deer, elk and more diminutive mammals as well as a host of different bird species.

I imagine in total there exist about 3 miles of somewhat developed trails through the area, bisected by a long gravel road (which is actually a driveway to a large estate across the railroad tracks) The eastern section of the park is more hilly in contrast to the completely flat western half.

As a riparian area, the trails here can become boggy or outright flooded during heavy weather. Be prepared.

Water can make travel...difficult
Water can make travel…difficult

The trail is shared by hikers and horsemen (possibly Centaurs… I dunno) I’ve never actually seen a horse, horseman or Centaur here, but I’m pretty sure they exist due, to their leavings along the trails.

Toward the end of the western section there is a curious signpost reading [←Fairytale Trail]-[Gracie Trail→] Who posted it there? What does it mean? Why?

I don’t know, it’s a mystery, but for whatever reason they are there, and they both end up at the gravel road.

The famous "Fairytale-Gracie" junction
The famous “Fairytale-Gracie” junction

The Ravensdale Retreat is a nice place for a walk and to watch the seasons change. I live close by so I like to visit every now and then. If you are more of a walker/hiker or wanna take someone who might not be in the greatest shape out for a stroll, this is a great place to go. That being said it’s not a destination I myself would drive out of the way for.

Who knows though, try it on, it might just become your own little favorite retreat.

For more info visit: http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/waterandland/natural-lands/ecological/ravensdale-retreat.aspx

Happy Trails, Harry Biped

Riparian forest
Riparian forest

Christmas Trees

The Ranger's house
The Ranger’s house

It’s that magical time of year when people start stampeding over one another for the best deal on the latest Elmo and our brains are constantly bombarded with the same Christmas songs we’ve heard since time began.

In case you weren't sure where you were
In case you weren’t sure where you were

Christmas tree nomads take the place their firework brethren stood only months before as the cosmic ballet of hawking holiday cheer marches on.

It’s Christmas!

Living here in Washington, it’s always perplexed me why anyone would go and buy a tree. I mean take a look around you. (Unless you live on the dry side)

"This be bumpkin country"
“This be bumpkin country”

Maybe people buy farm trees because they don’t know that you can buy a tree permit for like $10 from the Forest Service.

It varies in price depending on where you intend to cut or how tall of a tree you want to harvest. Anyway you chop it (lol), it’s a hell of a deal.

In the Mt.Baker-Snoqualmie National forest, a permit for a tree under 12′ tall is only $10.(DEC2014)

Only $20 if you have vaulted ceilings the likes of the Mercer Island crowd and need somethin’ a little taller…

You know, like a Redwood.


Information is available here: http://www.fs.fed.us/ but if you want Baker-Snoqualmie I’ll make it easy for you: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/mbs/home/?cid=stelprdb5337967&width=full

Permits are available for sale at the local Ranger station or at a handful of fine retailers. (REI sells them)

Day-Glo permit
Day-Glo permit

Once you have your map and permit it’s time to go hunting.

Important things to equip yourself with:

1. Weather appropriate clothing.

2. Work gloves.

3. A saw (I’d suggest a bow saw, but I’m not going to tell you how to do your job)

4. Ample rope to secure your tree to your vehicles roof.

5. Emergency supplies; i.e. shovel, chains, extra food emergency blanket etc.

Adverse road conditions, but so pretty
Adverse road conditions, but so pretty

Depending on the weather and/or type of year we are having, you may experience snow in the high grounds, so be prepared.

This is especially true if you intend to bag the elusive Noble Fir.

A Christmas tree hunt can be whatever you make it:

Establish a base camp, snowshoe for days, cut down the tree with your teeth!!!

…or you can just drive around til you find it.

The map will tell you where you can harvest, so having it is vital.

It doesn’t mention however that you may not cut a tree within 150′ of streams, ponds, lakes or wetlands.

Knowing is half the battle.

♪♫I'm a lumberjack, and I'm ok♪♫
♪♫I’m a lumberjack, and I’m ok♪♫

When you finally find and cut your perfect tree whether it be Yggdrasil or the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, you gotta attach your permit prior to transport. The forest service generously supplies a zip tie!

Properly fastened and punched permit
Properly fastened and punched permit

Make sure to punch out the correct date on your permit and you are good to go!

All that’s left is to securely fasten your tree to your vehicle or mule team, ox, whatever you got.

I’m no knot master, so all I’ll say here is make sure that baby can’t come flying off.

Do a good pre-freeway or highway check. No need to cause anymore undue Christmas casualties.

Better do a brake check!
Better do a brake check!

Not a bad idea to inspect your tree for small mammals or bee’s nests while you are at it.

Merry Holidays and happy hunting!

Harry Biped