until next year

I did a 5-mile hike around Saint Edward State Park in North Kirkland. I hiked the various looping trails. Each trail met at the same spot: a picnic table on the Lake Washington shore. I was pleased with the morning hike. The day was as warm as a winter’s day could be. The sun’s rays were diffused by the clouds, providing a pleasant, mild glow.

In the park, there is a seminary building with intricate windows and brickwork. The style is such a contrast to the clean lines and materials of modern buildings. Living around Seattle, with all the sleek new constructions, I find myself appreciating these sturdy old buildings more. A public notice said that the seminary was going to be converted into a lodge. Nearby, towards the lake, there is a stone grotto. The surrounding grass was thick, uniform, and an unnatural shade of emerald, undoubtedly maintained by a gardener. Inside the grotto, a single fresh rose was placed on the altar.

Someone in the hiking group went to the same college as me, graduating the year before with an economics degree. What a small world. There was some overlap in our electives. It’s strange how an immediate connection can be formed with a fellow alumnus, because we both experienced the same purgatory. Or if I used euphemisms, the same transformative experience. Studying all day didn’t put a smile on my face, but it was fulfilling, better than that fleeting happiness. Anything worthwhile requires great effort. Or maybe it was worthwhile because I put in great effort. I will hear back from grad schools in a few months. And I’ll be starting an evening grad course at the University of Washington when I get back from vacation, so there’s a lot to look forward to in 2017.

Bear Mountain

I hiked to the top of Bear Mountain in New York with my parents and little brother. We ascended on the Appalachian Trail, then descended on the Major Welch Trail. The Major Welch Trail is significantly steeper, with more challenging terrain, so in hindsight it would have been safer to ascend on the Major Welch Trail and descend on the Appalachian Trail. But the challenge made it fun.

In the Seattle area, most of the trees are evergreen, but on the East Coast, most of the trees are deciduous. The ground was coated in golden leaves. Also, unlike the dirt trails common in Seattle area hikes, the Bear Mountain trails were mostly rock. In the first segment of the Appalachian Trail, stone steps were set into the mountain, making hiking easy. Towards the end, we hiked over large slabs of rock. Not small rocks of a talus slope, but the rocky face of the mountain itself.

We reached the tower at the summit. There was a view of mountains and the Hudson River. It is also possible to drive to the summit, so the summit was rather crowded. There were fellow hikers, a large group of motorcyclists, even a bride and groom taking wedding photos. On the one hand, having a developed park at the summit of the mountain made the summit crowded, but on the other hand, we could buy food and drink at the top. There were many a hike where I would not have minded a vending machine at the summit, as unnatural as they are.

Bear Mountain Panorama
Bear Mountain Panorama

We ended up taking the Major Welch Trail down the mountain on a whim. At times, the trail was a single slab of rock with an incline sharper than 45°. My parents took plenty of breaks going up the mountain, but going down the mountain, they were even faster than me and my brother. They held hands down the entire way, helping each other over crevasses and particularly steep sections. I tripped and fell on a slippery rock. My family teased me, saying I’m supposed to be a “hiking expert.” My mother told me to “pay more attention.” And so I trudged down cautiously with a bleeding arm and hand. I told them that the cuts did not hurt, but my ego stung.

Afterwards, we met up with my older brother and got some Shake Shack. Twas a good day.

Rattlesnake Mountain

I had a leisurely hike at Rattlesnake Mountain, starting from the west side of the mountain at Snoqualmie Point (the popular Rattlesnake Ledge trail is on the east side of the mountain). The elevation gain was mild, so we comfortably chatted the whole way. There is not much to see on the trail itself, as the trail is always surrounded by trees. Occasionally, I’d see the massive stump of an old-growth tree. The trail’s dirt was packed, but not too packed, perfect for trail running.

On the way down we stopped by Stan’s Overlook and ate a snack. Who was Stan? I imagined a hiker proclaiming with a Mufasa voice, “Everything the light touches is visible from my overlook.” Through the trees, we could see a valley and Mount Si. There was also another clearing that only afforded a view of power lines. Someone joked of the unimpressive view, “that must be Joe’s Overlook.”

Afterwards, I went to the Issaquah Salmon Festival. I was hungry from the hike and quickly scarfed down some baked salmon. There was a booth selling fried alligator. I had never eaten alligator before, so I wanted to try it. The alligator tasted like gamey chicken. The alligator by itself was rather bland, so the fried breading and sweet chili sauce enhanced the taste. The texture was similar to that of chicken, only springier and chewier.

fried alligator
fried alligator

Annette Lake

I hiked to Annette Lake, a relatively easy hike at 7.5 miles roundtrip and 1400 ft. elevation gain. Most of the hike was through forest. The ground was covered by trees and ferns.

Near the beginning of the hike, there was a bridge overlooking a waterfall.

the roar of the waterfall cut through the silence
the roar of the waterfall cut through the silence

Towards the end of the hike, there were several talus slopes. These clearings afforded a glimpse of the surrounding mountains. There was even a fallen tree blocking the path that I had to climb over.

a hint of color through the clouds
a hint of color through the clouds
clouds burning away
clouds burning away

In the morning, where the trail meets the lake, the lake and the sun are in the same direction. So if someone wants to take photos of the lake that are not washed out, they should plan to be there later in the day (or camp overnight!). I enjoyed the warm reflection of the sun on my face. At the far end of the lake, a tiny cascade generated the soothing sound of trickling water.

posing at the lunch spot
posing at the lunch spot
Annette Lake panorama
Annette Lake panorama

Burroughs Mountain in Mount Rainier National Park

I did a loop hike of Burroughs Mountain in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park. Starting from the parking lot, I hiked south to pass Shadow Lake, up to the Glacier Overlook, through the Burroughs, then down towards the Glacier Basin Camp. Then I backtracked to the start of the Burroughs. To make a circuit, I hiked north towards Frozen Lake and back to the Sunrise parking lot.

I started hiking early in the day, when the mountains were shrouded in dense fog. I knew the views were amazing and that there were mountains surrounding me, but I couldn’t see Mt. Rainier, only the terrain in front of me. As the day went on, the sun burned away the clouds. Little by little, Mt. Rainier became fully visible. Every step was simply breathtaking.

Back at the visitor center, I went on a guided ranger walk. The ranger taught us how different animals survive Mt. Rainier’s harsh winters. Bears sleep deeply to conserve energy. But their heart rates do not drastically slow down, so this is not true hibernation, and they will wake up when disrupted. The gray jay uses its sticky saliva to paste seeds to the tops of trees to store food for winter. Elk and deer move to lower ground, below the snow line.

Shadow Lake
Shadow Lake
The teal water of Glacier Basin
The teal water of Glacier Basin
The sun started to come out
The sun started to come out
More sun, fewer clouds
More sun, fewer clouds
Third Burroughs, last of the three Burroughs
Third Burroughs, last of the three Burroughs
"Derelicte" in front of a glacier
“Derelicte” in front of a glacier
A panorama of awesomeness
A panorama of awesomeness
Another panorama of awesomeness
Another panorama of awesomeness
On account of the fog, I was unaware that I hiked all that
On account of the fog, I was unaware that I hiked all that
just stop
just stop
Final panorama
Final panorama