Heather Lake

I hiked to Heather Lake, roughly 5 miles roundtrip with 1000 ft. of elevation gain. Along the trail, we passed by stumps of old-growth trees, with new, thinner trunks shooting off the stumps. We hiked by waterfalls and over rickety wooden boardwalks. A section of trail was flooded by shallow running water. Near the lake, the trail was covered in snow. I had waterproof boots, microspikes, and poles, so there were no issues. I even had mats to sit on in the snow. It’s great to be geared up!

Heather Lake panorama
Heather Lake panorama

The lake was mostly covered in ice and mushy snow. We rested on the shore in the snow, a strange contrast to the bright, sunny, 70° weather. We could hear the roar of waterfalls on the other side of the lake, a robust flow from the snowmelt. As we milled at the lake, the number of arriving hikers started to pick up, and on our way down there were some traffic jams. We also missed a turn, and ended up doing a loop through the snow, stepping over tree branches and walking through mud.

Overall, I enjoyed the hike to Heather Lake. It was leisurely, and the views at the lake were gorgeous.

Spring Reading: Lolita, One Hundred Years of Solitude

I finally read Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. I like Nabokov’s effusive prose, so good.

I read One Hundred Years of Solitude, about the rise and fall of the Buendía family over seven generations. At the beginning of the book, I read it as realistic fiction due to the matter of fact tone. But then flying carpets and magical elements were introduced, and I realized these things were taken for granted as completely ordinary, versus to be interpreted as metaphor. Adding to the realism of this fantasy novel, the book interwove actual historical figures and events into the story, such as the banana massacre. Every time I picked up the book, I felt somber afterwards. The decline of the family and their village is foreshadowed and feels inevitable. Buendía family members are born, grow up, live a unique and solitary existence of their own making, then die. In each generation, the children are named after other family members, and so everyone has one of a few names, and the generations follow a cyclical pattern. Events that happened prior in the book are often recalled. The weight of prior generations stack, so that by the end of the book, at the mention of a single room, several generations’ worth of memories in that room are recalled.  At the end of the novel, a mystery introduced at the beginning of the book is finally revealed, and everything comes full circle.

Geocaching part 8: Electric Boogaloo

I moved back to the westside, so I have a long commute. I started geocaching again to pass the time until traffic dies down. Oftentimes, the coordinates given for the cache are off, but they get me to the general vicinity. So I have to rely on a punny name for clues. Here are my latest finds by campus.

There was a Honeywell box geocache under a lamppost skirt near the Honeywell building.

geocache by Honeywell
geocache by Honeywell

This “basset” cache was found in between rocks in a parking lot.

a geocache for rockhounds
a geocache for rockhounds
a geocache with a basset hound photo
a geocache with a basset hound photo

This “tired” cache was found near a golf course.

geocache in a tire planter
geocache in a tire planter

This tree hugging cache was found in a tree by a parking lot.

geocache hugging a tree
geocache hugging a tree
closeup of tree hugging geocache
closeup of tree hugging geocache

This cache was found on the side of a bike trail. I took a travel bug to bring overseas.

geocache by a bike trail
geocache by a bike trail
geocache with dog drawn on lid
geocache with dog drawn on lid
geocache travel bug
geocache travel bug

This cache was tricky, because the coordinates pointed to a different lamppost. But the hint was “Black,” so when I saw the black tape I looked under the heavy metal lamppost skirt.

lamppost with black tape
lamppost with black tape
micro bison geocache under heavy lamppost skirt
micro bison geocache under heavy lamppost skirt

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

I took a 5-mile walk in the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. We rolled in when the visitor center opened at 9AM, and borrowed binoculars from the visitor center.

At the start of the trail, we saw tens of sparrows diving in the air and flapping erratically, in contrast to the steady glide of larger birds. We saw several gaggles of Canadian geese. Whenever the geese took flight, they would shatter the silence with their loud honking. On the Twin Barns Loop Trail, we tried to find the three baby owls, but apparently they had changed trees. On the Estuary Trail, we spent some time observing two statuesque herons. They slowly waded in the water, then were patiently still as they fished. We also saw crows, red-winged blackbirds, various species of seagulls, and even an eagle soaring over a narrow strip of trees in the middle of the mudflats.

The visitor center overlooks a freshwater march. As we walked farther along the trail, the freshwater started to mix with the saltwater of Puget Sound, and we could smell the saltiness in the air.

An overlook on the Estuary Trail
An overlook on the Estuary Trail

I was surprised by the length of the boardwalks. The boardwalk to get to the Puget Sound Overlook was a mile long. The landscape was surreal, flat grassy marshes and mudflats (it was low tide) as far as the eye could see in all directions.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time birdwatching. Fellow birdwatchers were all friendly, eager to share the location of any birds that were spotted. Many brought a full-size telescope or a camera with telephoto lens. As we walked back to the parking lot, we passed by a lot of families, so we were glad that we were able to enjoy the wildlife refuge when it was uncrowded. The trails are all flat, so the wildlife refuge is a place I would consider taking my parents for a relaxing stroll.


Afterwards, we walked around Olympia. I ate a crab benedict for brunch. We saw the old legislative building and the current state capitol. The gray marble interior and chandelier felt cold and unwelcoming compared to the natural beauty that the capitol building overlooks. Outside one of the chambers, there are portraits of current Washington statesmen. One portrait stood out from the rest: a man wearing black sunglasses. It turns out, that man is the Lieutenant Governor, has accomplished quite a lot as a politician, and is blind. We strolled along the nearby boardwalk at Percival Landing, which displayed sculptures along its length. We climbed a wooden tower to get a view of the lake.  Then we made our way to the farmers market. All these locations were within ten minutes of each other. Olympia’s core area is conveniently walkable.

Umtanum Ridge Crest

I wanted to get away from the unceasing Seattle rain (at record levels this year!), so I drove east towards Yakima, where the skies are blue and the sun beats down relentlessly. I hiked Umtanum Ridge Crest, a 6-mile roundtrip hike with 2400 ft. of elevation gain.

Though I was only 2 hours away from the Puget Sound, the Umtanum Canyon region was like stepping into another world. The coniferous trees of the Sound were swapped for desert fauna, short grasses, sagebrush. Wildflowers were in bloom—blue and purple drops, yellow flowers in star and circle shapes— peppering the rolling hills. Overgrown shrubs encroached on the trail.

Beginning of the trail
Beginning of the trail

There was no forest cover. The packed dirt trail was exposed, winding through hills, always with a moderate incline. We trudged along the dusty path of loose rock, walking past waterfalls and rocky caves.

After some winding turns, we could see the end, the top of a mountain. The trail turned extremely steep. Any steeper and the trail would be a scramble. There were some incredibly fit freaks of nature doing a 50K race, and they ran up and down the ridge with great agility, undaunted by the ridiculous incline.  We pushed along, legs burning, but spurred on by the sight of the end of the trail.

Stacked rocks at the end of the trail
Stacked rocks at the end of the trail

At the top, we soaked in the panoramic view. The way in which we came had a view superior to that of the other side of the mountain. Looking behind us, we could see a massive caldera, with a single yellow tree inside. The valley undulated below us.

Umtanum Ridge Crest panorama
Umtanum Ridge Crest panorama

We ran back down the mountain, as it was more efficient than walking down slowly. The wind died down. The bugs, which gave the hike the white noise of a constant buzzing hum, swarmed thicker as we descended, no longer deterred by strong winds. I kept swatting them away from my face.

As we trekked back, we passed the familiar curves of the trail, the caves, the waterfalls, past the live railroad tracks and the green suspension bridge.

On the way home, we passed by a store that advertised in big letters, “APPLES”, “ANTIQUES”, and interestingly, “ASPARAGUS.” We stopped by for groceries and ice cream.

The next few days, my legs ached. It hurt to walk, especially up staircases, even to stand up. I will remember this hike fondly. Washington’s diversity of ecosystems is astounding!