Garibaldi Lake

I hiked to Garibaldi Lake with my older brother, an 18km (11 miles) roundtrip hike by Whistler in Canada.

The trail started off with long switchbacks through the forest. We passed by waterfalls, streams, fallen logs.

Starting at the 4km mark, the trail was covered in snow. We followed the path worn by snowshoers. Unlike other hikers who used snowshoes, we braved onwards in sneakers, moving slowly and cautiously up packed snow and ice. With snow as high as about ten feet, the path often wound around the actual trail (which was nowhere to be seen, as it was completely covered by snow). We were careful to step where we thought the snow was packed. Sometimes the snowy trail would narrow to less than a foot wide before steeply dropping off, so we would grab nearby tree trunks, branches, anything to steady ourselves. It was difficult to gauge whether the snow was packed or soft, and I must have fell in at least a hundred times, my leg sinking into the snow so that the snow was waist-high. It was exhausting, pulling my legs out of the snow. I imagine my brother, who weighs a lot more than me, must have sunk into the snow more. Luckily, it was 80°F, and the warm sun and breeze dried me whenever I fell in.

Untrodden snowy peaks
Untrodden snowy peaks
Trees with fuzz
Trees with fuzz

We stopped for lunch at a beautiful snow-covered lake. The section of water that was visible was a teal blue. The color reminded me of Blanca Lake, another alpine lake I had hiked to. Our hiking group was quite a site: sitting on snow, eating fried chicken in shorts and sneakers, surrounded by snow. We realized this was not Garibaldi Lake, but Lesser Garibaldi Lake, and pressed onwards.

Lesser Garibaldi Lake
Lesser Garibaldi Lake

After way too much additional hiking, we arrived at Garibaldi Lake. It was completely snow-covered too, save for a section of partially submerged logs.

Posing on a bridge by Garibaldi Lake
Posing on a bridge by Garibaldi Lake

Some birds monitored us carefully from a few meters away. I fed them some blueberry muffin.

No foraging ability
No foraging ability

The way back was long and arduous. Snow had gotten into my shoes and soaked my socks shortly after reaching the snow line. With every step I took, the socks made a squish sound. When we got back to the car, I was so happy to change into dry socks and shoes, and eat a whole bag of sour cream and onion flavored chips.

I will always remember this special hike with my brother. “Hey, remember that time we hiked to Garibaldi Lake completely unprepared for the snow?”

Teneriffe Falls

I hiked to Teneriffe Falls with my coworkers. We were a party of five humans and two dogs.

The hike was moderate, 6-miles roundtrip with 1400 ft. elevation gain. The trail started off flat and wide, straight through a forest. A large black dog came bounding out of nowhere. Much to the annoyance of the two dogs in our party, the mystery dog kept sniffing their rear ends. The mystery dog had a collar, so we figured it must live nearby, or its owner took off its leash. There weren’t any other hikers around us that could potentially be its owner, so we just kept walking. The mystery dog walked along with us, as if it were part of our group. Then, after ten minutes or so, the dog stopped walking with us. “I already did this hike, I’m not doing it again!” we imagined the dog was thinking.

Later on in the hike, the switchbacks started, and the trail took on a mild incline. Every so often, there would be a break in the trees, and we would be afforded a view of the lush green valley, jarringly broken by a high school campus.

The view on the way to Teneriffe Falls (the high school is on the left)
The view on the way to Teneriffe Falls (the high school is on the left)

Soon, the trail went from dirt path to hand-sized rocks and became noticeably steeper. At times, the trail was no longer surrounded by trees, but gray rocks along the face of the mountain.

Eventually, we heard and saw the downstream section of the waterfall. We hiked even more switchbacks until we finally reached the top. We ate snacks at the viewing platform. Aside from a few rocks, there were no dry places to sit.

Teneriffe Falls success!
Teneriffe Falls success!

I enjoyed this hike. It was a good workout, but not so challenging that I would be sore the next day, and we got to walk through a variety of terrain.

Geocaching part 6

You know what I haven’t done recently? A photo dump of all my geocache finds! The following is a typical conversation between me and anyone else when I solicit them to go geocaching.

Me: “Hey, want to go geocaching?”

Friend/colleague/lover/brother/houseplant: “Nah.”

Well I see how it is, you only want to grab food or go hiking or play tennis or do work or attend to your hemorrhoids or photosynthesize or any other activity other than geocaching. That’s okay, I’ll still go about my solitary hobby and post these images with red circles overlaid on top of them.


After playing tennis at Aubrey Davis Park, I found this geocache. The park is also called “the Lid,” because the park covers I-90. It’s a great service to the public, a recreational area that prevents residents from seeing, hearing, and smelling the freeway.

Magnetic key holder on the fence
Magnetic key holder on the fence
Key holder by the Lid tennis courts
Key holder by the Lid tennis courts

I love the view from the tennis courts. The sun sets over the I-90 floating bridge on Lake Washington.

Then I walked towards the baseball field, through a thicket of blackberry bushes. At the corner of the retaining wall, there was a shrub where the geocache was hidden.

A geocache hidden among thorny bushes
A geocache hidden among thorny bushes
Geocache hidden in a shrub
Geocache hidden in a shrub

I was giving a friend a tour of Seattle, and that unfortunate person had to humor me and my inane hobby. When we got to Seattle Center, I swung by the KCTS public television station. Outside, there is a lamppost, and at the base there is an adorable hinged door that swings open to reveal the geocache.

A geocache in a lamppost
A geocache in a lamppost

Now that it’s still light outside when I get out of work, I can rollerblade along the Sammamish River Trail again! I found a cache in a shrub by a parking lot.

A geocache hidden in a shrub
A geocache hidden in a shrub
The geocache was full of trinkets
The geocache was full of trinkets

There was a cache velcroed under a sign about local birds. These tiny caches are called bisons, because these capsules were originally popularized by a company called Bison Designs.

A cache velcroed under an informational sign
A cache velcroed under an informational sign
A bison cache on the Sammamish River trail
A bison cache on the Sammamish River trail

One side of the Sammamish River trail is paved, the other side is mostly gravel. There was a geocache on the less popular, unpaved side. I had to rollerblade on gravel to reach it, which is basically just walking.

A geocache on the Sammamish River Trail
A geocache on the Sammamish River Trail
A magnetic key case geocache
A magnetic key case geocache

While rollerblading on the Alki Trail in West Seattle, I found another geocache inside a picnic table.

A geocache hidden in a picnic bench
A geocache hidden in a picnic bench
A magnetic key case cache on the Alki trail
A magnetic key case cache on the Alki trail

I found a magnetic bison at the Mount Si trailhead.

A magnetic cache
A magnetic cache
A bison cache at the Mount Si trailhead
A bison cache at the Mount Si trailhead

I rollerbladed around Marymoor Park. There was a geocache behind the sign at the entrance. If anyone noticed me, I’m sure they found it odd that I was rollerblading down a grassy knoll into the trees.

The Marymoor Park sign
The Marymoor Park sign
A water bottle geocache
A water bottle geocache

Next to the windmill, there was an oddly shaped tree. Inside one of the knots, there was a bison.

A knot in a deformed tree
A knot in a deformed tree
A bison geocache
A bison geocache

I rollerbladed to the opposite side of Marymoor Park to get on the East Lake Samammish Trail. There was a geocache behind one of the signs.

A sign on the East Lake Sammamish Trail
A sign on the East Lake Sammamish Trail
A magnetic key case cache
A magnetic key case cache

After hiking in North Bend, we stopped by Twede’s Cafe for lunch. There was a geocache in the North Bend Park & Ride. It looked like a drainpipe.

Geocache that looks like a drainpipe
Geocache that looks like a drainpipe

We unscrewed the pipe to find a green egg container, and inside that, a yellow bison with the logbook.

Container in container in container
Container in container in container

Hiking Big Si and Little Si

I hiked Big Si and its smaller neighbor, Little Si.

Big Si, also called Mount Si, was an 8-mile slog. The trail was a series of switchbacks through the mountain forest. There was very little variation in the flora along the path, no ponds, no grassy valleys, no rocky clearings. The tiniest change in my surroundings would excite me.  These wondrous geological features included a two-foot wide stream that cut across the trail, trees that had fallen from forest fire (around the halfway point, there was a boardwalk and a couple informational placards about the fire), and some third item to make this list complete. However, at this time, I can’t recall a third item, because as a whole the trail did not offer much of note. But at least I was surrounded by trees, at all times, everywhere.

When we reached the top, the fog started to roll in, obstructing the view of surrounding mountains, roads, and valleys.

View from the top of Mount Si, and look, there's Mt. Rainier! It's very faint and tiny.
View from the top of Mount Si, and look, there’s Mt. Rainier! It’s very faint and tiny.

We stayed at the summit for an hour or so, hoping for the wind to push the fog away. At one point, the clouds opened up. “Look! The sky is blueing! It blue itself!” we excitedly proclaimed. And for less than a minute, we could see Mt. Rainier in all its snow-covered glory.

So again, there wasn’t much to look at on the trail itself, but I imagine the summit would offer a gorgeous view on a clear day. On the plus side, the hike provided a fantastic workout. My leg muscles were sore for a few days. At the top of staircases, I would look down the stairs as if looking down into the abyss, mentally preparing myself for the pain, taking the first step and wincing, wincing with each subsequent step. I can see why hikers use this trail to train for Mt. Rainier.

On a different day, I hiked Little Si. Compared to Big Si, the trail is wider, there are bigger gaps in the trees, more room to breathe. And the breathing is relaxed, because the elevation gain is less than half that of Big Si.

View at the end of Little Si
View at the end of Little Si

The view at the end of the trail was decent, nothing to write about. No effort exerted, no reward. I can tell I’ve been spoiled by all the hikes in the area. Little Si is definitely less popular than its sibling, Big Si. Little Si is the sibling that is not particularly remarkable, the one that goes through a goth phase in high school, and… there are rock climbing paths on Little Si. Take that, Big Si.

Teavana and Starbucks

“Hello, you’ve reached the voicemail box of COTTIE FAN.”

COTTIE FAN
COTTIE FAN

Starbucks is trying out different Teavana concepts. All stores have an updated, brighter look. The one in University Village is a sit-down café with tea and food, à la Starbucks. The one in Pacific Place focuses on selling to-go beverages at the counter, so has no chairs for customers to sit down on. The one in Bellevue Square is closest to the old business model, where the focus is selling packages of tea and tea accessories instead of one-off beverages.

Whenever I’m at the mall, I make a beeline for a Teavana sample, then I leave without buying anything. When I’m at home, I make simple packet teas. To produce the same taste as the Teavana sample teas, I would have to buy their loose leaf tea, add the same amount of sugar and other ingredients, and would need special tea steeping tools, which is all a big hassle. So the Pacific Place model is best at making someone like me spend money.

I wonder which concept will win. Not the sit-down café. Food has a lower margin. Also, people don’t need to drink tea like they need their morning cup of joe, so there won’t be enough foot traffic.


I’ve been to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Capital Hill a few times now. It’s so aesthetically pleasing. The details in the decor are impressive– sturdy wood, copper, brass, and leather, the split-flap display. All an excuse to make an animated GIF. Here’s the barista explaining how a siphon works. I was so moved by the lighting and the bubbles, that I actually took my phone out and asked the barista if I could record it!

Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room
Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room

Beautiful.

 

Cherry Blossoms and The Tales of the Heike

After three years of living in Seattle, I finally made it to the UW campus to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Everyone else wanted to see the cherry blossoms too; the freeway exit to UW was backed up and cars prowled the campus for parking.

My workplace has cherry blossoms by the amphitheater, but the ones on the UW campus are on a whole different scale, old and grand, with branches that sprawl high into the sky. Children ran around the muddy grass. Parents, eager for a photograph, implored them to stand still for a second and smile. A bride posed with her groom in the center of the quad, as strong winds swirled pink petals into the air. Here, there were old and young, students, everyone, enjoying the majestic beauty of the cherry blossoms. The quad was a lovely madhouse.

I took a photo of one of the cherry trees. The flowers look like they are blooming on the trunk.

Blooming cherry blossoms at UW
Blooming cherry blossoms at UW

At work, I am often reminded by my coworkers that the Japanese love cherry blossoms. With their short, transient blooms, they are a symbol for impermanence in life. It made me pull out an essay I wrote ten years ago about The Tales of the Heike. This is back when I randomly threw in big words to appear smart. I like how I write now. I use common words and my writing is clearer. It helps that my personal writing has no minimum length requirement, double-spaced.


The Tales of the Heike is a warrior tale, a dramatized account of the battles of the Genpei war and the political intrigue surrounding it. It is interesting that one of the first stories recounted in The Tales of the Heike is not about an aristocrat or warrior, but a woman, a lowly dancer named Gio. Gio’s story seems insignificant; Kiyomori’s mistreatment of her does not create any of the hostilities that precipitate the war. But Gio’s story is important in that it has a pedagogic purpose: to emphasize the impermanence of life and implicitly connect Kiyomori’s immorality with the downfall of the Heike clan.

The Heike clan and the rival Genji clan both respect warrior values; however, unlike the Genji, the Heike believe courtly tradition and aristocratic power are important too. Kiyomori’s decadent lifestyle reflects his attachment to the material and the Heike’s loss of military discipline. In the capital, Kiyomori “indulge[s] in one caprice after another” (16). He lavishly provides for the dancer Gio and her family. When Hotoke, a young and skilled dancer, shows up to Kiyomori’s mansion because she wishes to entertain Kiyomori, Kiyomori is offended and arrogantly refuses to see her, as it is against his “principles” (18) to admit an entertainer that he did not summon. The fact that his “principles” do not relate to religion, but rather who he is willing to admit into his presence, and his remark that he does not care whether Hotoke is a “god or a Buddha” (17), show his disregard for religion. Kiyomori does not seek to uphold moral values, but rather pursues his own pleasure. At Gio’s request, Kiyomori sees Hotoke. Hotoke sings a propitious song: “Since I met you, / I’m like the little pine destined for a thousand years! / On turtle-shape isles of your pond, / how many the cranes that flock there!” (18). Kiyomori is pleased by the song’s theme of longevity (pines, turtles, and cranes are symbols for longevity), because he refuses to acknowledge the transience and insignificance of his own life. In his pride he believes he is important, so much so that he does not respect the imperial family and subverts the imperial court, betraying the very people that enabled the Heike to be so powerful in the first place. The loss of support from the retired emperor contributes to the downfall of the Heike. Hotoke not only wins Kiyomori’s favor, Kiyomori “immediately [falls] in love with her” (18), showing Kiyomori’s impulsiveness and fixation towards worldly desires. Hotoke’s song is juxtaposed to the poem Gio writes when Kiyomori forces her to leave: “Those that put out new shoots, those that wither are the same, / grasses of the field—come autumn, is there one that will not fade?” (19). This poem invokes the theme of impermanence; like grass, beauty fades with age, and every person will inevitably die.

Gio reluctantly returns to Kiyomori’s mansion and sings a song at Kiyomori’s request. The song is about how even the venerated Buddha was just a mortal, so all mortals have the capacity to be morally righteous like Buddha and achieve enlightenment. But though people are capable of great good, in reality many (like Kiyomori) stray from what is moral. Gio sings “how sad this gulf that divides us!” (21). People’s unrighteous actions and desires stand in contrast to Buddha’s righteousness and detachment—this separation, this disparity in righteousness, is like a gulf. Also, while existing on earth, people are spiritually separated from Buddha who resides in the Western Paradise. Kiyomori is clearly displeased with the theme of her song, as he is the only one in the room who is not “moved to tears” (22) and he immediately dismisses Gio. Kiyomori is not trying to live morally righteous, and this song reminds him of his own capricious desires and immorality.

In spiritual and political matters, Kiyomori is an example of what not to do. Kiyomori lacks humility; he does not realize his own insignificance. Though Kiyomori’s mistreatment of Gio is minor in comparison to the punishment he deals others, his callousness towards Gio, who is innocent of any wrongdoing, is uncalled for. Kiyomori ignores Hotoke’s pleas to let Gio stay in the palace, allow Gio to sit near them instead of in an “inferior” seat, and allow her to leave. Likewise, because of his ego, Kiyomori turns “a deaf ear to censure” (16) from the general populace and even creates a group of boys to harass those who criticize him, causing resentment among the public (hastening the future decline of the Heike). Kiyomori accumulates negative karma for his excesses, and the rest of the clan is punished for it.

Gio, her sister, and her mother become nuns to escape from “further grief” (24). Hotoke later joins them when she realizes the insecurity of her own position, that one day she too will fall out of Kiyomori’s favor. Hotoke says, “What joy and delight we have in this world is no more than a dream within a dream…To revel in a moment’s happiness and not be heedful of the life to come would be a pitiful course or action indeed!” (25-26). Suffering is caused by dependence on worldly attachments, which are themselves transient. Thus, it is futile to pursue worldly desires. The women, disillusioned, turn to religion to free themselves from worldly attachments and the suffering they cause. They realize their goal should be to seek enlightenment, thereby preventing further suffering by breaking free of the cycle of reincarnation. The narrative notes how young Gio, Gio’s sister, and Hotoke were when they became nuns. It is also mentioned that Hotoke, who was admired for her “captivating… hairdo and costume” (18), shaves her head and wears the garb of a nun. For all the emphasis placed on the triviality of the material, this narrative frequently mentions the material in its descriptions of people since appearance reflects social position. Wealth, status, appearance, even years of life are cast aside in the pursuit of enlightenment, and these sacrifices are particularly moving. Though the women suffered in the earthly realm because of Kiyomori, they are rewarded for devoting themselves to the pursuit of enlightenment when they are reincarnated in the Western Paradise. This stands in contrast to Kiyomori’s burning, painful death. Kiyomori does not pray to Buddha to be reincarnated into the Western Paradise, his only wish is for the head of the Genji leader Yoritomo. For his sins and lack of repentance, he is sent to hell.

By including Gio’s story in the beginning of the narrative, Kiyomori is indirectly characterized through his actions and future events are explained. All the suffering the Heike underwent “came about because… Kiyomori… showed no respect for the ruler above or the slightest concern for the masses of common people below. He dealt out sentences of death or exile in any fashion that suited him, took no heed of how the world or those in it might view his actions… There can be no room for doubt—it was the evil deeds of the father, the patriarch, that caused the heirs and offspring to suffer this retribution!” (168). Kiyormori’s decadent living style and immorality is the karmic cause of the decline of the Heike clan—no other explanation is given. Gio’s story puts a human face on the repercussions of Kiyomori’s immorality, and gives an otherwise discordant collection of stories some fluidity by establishing causation between events.

The Proposal

I took the gondola to the summit of Crystal Mountain. My friends had to use the restroom, so I went off alone to the edge of the mountain to take in the view. Normally, Mt. Rainier would loom large and imposing, flanked by a panorama of the Cascades, but on this day there was zero visibility. Snow fell from the white void in the sky, then merged back into the white void of the ground. Nothing was distinguishable, save for the closest patch of trees.

the picturesque view at the top of Crystal Mountain
the picturesque view at the top of Crystal Mountain

After a few minutes of staring at absolutely nothing, I decided to join my friends by the restroom. But then, suddenly, the man standing right next to me got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. The whole thing was being recorded by a photographer and a videographer. I just wanted to go to the restroom, but that would require photobombing the couple. So I slinked away and waited for a good ten minutes as the couple hugged and kissed for the cameras.

I had been looking out at the void, feeling somber and empty, and then this couple next to me had just declared their eternal love for each other and must have felt over the moon. I imagined what the pictures would look like, the happy couple against a white and empty sky. I could recreate the backdrop with my bedroom wall. When they were done, I went on my merry way to the restroom, thinking, “that was completely unexpected.”

 

Wallace Falls

I hiked Wallace Falls. It was an easy hike with only 1300 ft. elevation gain.

At about a third of the way, we reached the base of the falls. There were people basking by the river. Others were eating at the picnic tables.

About two-thirds of the way, we reached the Middle Falls, which gave the best view of the falls and the Skykomish River valley.

Wallace Falls
Wallace Falls

The final third of the hike was all switchbacks to the top of the falls. There was no rewarding view for hiking the final section. It was all trees, and since we were at the top of the falls, we could not get a comprehensive view of the falls.

We always pass the sign to Wallace Falls as we drive east on Highway 2, so I’m glad that we finally got to explore the area. But I’ll continue taking visitors to Rattlesnake Ledge, which is closer to Seattle, about the same elevation gain, and has a much better view at the end.

Geocaching part 5

During my lunch break, I went geocaching. My workplace’s campus is but a small pimple in the center of Microsoft’s sprawling Redmond campus, surrounded on all sides by Microsoft buildings. Lucky for me, there are a lot of geocache enthusiasts in the area.

It’s getting easier to find the caches, as there are only so many types of caches and so many places they can be hidden. Geocachers call this sense of where the cache is hidden “Geointuition”.

I instantly found a cache disguised as a lamppost plate, the third one I found of this type.

another cache disguised as a lamppost plate
another cache disguised as a lamppost plate

 

Across the street from work, on a derelict basketball court, there was a magnetic cache behind the hoop’s padding.

magnet on a basketball court
magnet on a basketball court

 

Near a water sampling station, there was a cache nestled at the base of a fence.

key holder cache at the base of a fence
key holder cache at the base of a fence

 

And finally, by the marsh, in an open field where people jog and fly their drones, there was an ammo box cache. Apparently it is filled with apple seed kits to take and plant, but the box was too rusty for me to open.

ammo box by the marsh
ammo box by the marsh

Coal Creek Falls

It’s snowy on the mountains, so I took a leisurely hike on the Coal Creek Falls trail on Cougar Mountain, a local hike below the snow line. The trail had very little elevation gain. Though the falls were not as impressive as, say, Snoqualmie Falls, I still appreciated having some kind of rewarding view at the end of the hike.

Coal Creek Falls
Coal Creek Falls

I took a different trail for the way back. There used to be a coal mine on Cougar Mountain, and I passed by a humble exhibit on the history of the coal mine. There was a closed off mine shaft, an old mine cart, and a board with some placards about the mining operation.

A mine cart and closed shaft
A mine cart and closed shaft

Cougar Mountain has numerous crisscrossing trails, and it’s so close! I’ll be sure to return on a lazy day.