Lake Serene & Bridal Veil Falls

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Lake Serene

We began our trek up to Lake Serene on 11/24/13 around 10:45am. A little bit of a late start, but it can be hard to wake up early on a Sunday morning! The beginning of the trail meandered slowly upwards through the forest, passing over a few small creeks and occasionally gave us glimpses of a majestic mountain peak (Mt. Index?) above. It was very quiet morning, but we did hear a loud CRACK and the sound of some sort of debris falling. That definitely woke me up. We didn’t see any of the aftermath of that event, but assume it was ice/snow breaking off in the mountain above. It was becoming a sunny day, so perhaps the warming temperatures loosened some ice/snow. After about 1.5 miles we reached the primary junction: left 2 miles to Lake Serene, or right 0.5 miles to Bridal Veil Falls. We knew we were limited on daylight so we decided to go to Lake Serene first, since that was the main objective of the trip.

We continued along the forested path, accompanied by the roar of Bridal Veil Falls. We crossed over the falls on a well built wooden bridge and eventually came to a smaller waterfall. It was mostly dry but partially frozen over so there were some pretty icicles to observe. As we were admiring the view we heard another loud CRACK, this time much closer, and quickly turned away as some ice/snow tumbled down the rocks on the falls. Late morning is definitely the time to hear the mountain waking up!

Smaller waterfall just past Bridal Veil Falls

Smaller waterfall just past Bridal Veil Falls

I would describe the rest of the trail as rocky and full of stairs, so it was definitely a workout. Trees were the main view along the trail, but every now and then we’d reach a stretch of trail with a clearing. The open mountain views gave me a good excuse to take breaks along the way!

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The last section of the trail was very icy and partly covered by snow. We ran into a couple people who had microspikes or other forms of shoe traction devices, and were a little jealous. Still, we managed to get past those areas by choosing our footing carefully.

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After what felt like much longer than 2 miles, we reached Lake Serene! We found a nice area next to the lake to have a snack and take in the awesome views. The lake was partially frozen over and the opposite end of the lake had accumulated a lot of snow. My favorite part of the lake was hearing the loud BOOM of snow/ice falling down the sheer cliffs across the lake. This must be a very large lake, or very high cliffs, or both, because there was a sound delay. You would see some snow/ice fall down part of the cliff (it looked like a small misting of snow, just trickling down), and then hear the huge BOOM a second or two later. The sound seemed so much louder than it should be based on how much snow appeared to have loosened. It just goes to show how huge the scale of this place must be!

Lake Serene

Lake Serene

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Snow accumulation on the opposite end of the lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left the lake around 1:30pm. The descent was much easier, except for the icy section at the top. We had to be very careful with our footing. Around 3:30 we made it back to the junction with Bridal Veil Falls and decided to make the quick 0.5 mile trip up to check it out. This section of the trail can also be described as very rocky and full of stairs, but again it was totally worth it. The viewing area of Bridal Veil falls brings you right up to the falls. In the spring you would probably need a very good rain jacket for the spray. There is also a beautiful open view of the mountains. Waterfall + mountain views = one of the better places to hang out.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

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Mountain views from the falls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived back at the trail head at 4:45pm. The trip took us a little longer than we thought it would, although we did spend a lot of time at each destination. It was almost dark we when got back, so we were glad we had flashlights in our packs! We weren’t the last people to leave – there were at least 10 cars still at the trail head, so hopefully everyone else up there brought flashlights too.

Overall, I really enjoyed this hike. It was strenuous and I was sore the next day, but the beautiful scenery throughout the entire journey made it worth the effort.

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Trail Work Party

Coal Creek

I just got back from a Washington Trails Association (WTA) Trail Work Party. My hands are tired, so this post may be a little short!

A few months ago, my husband and I were hiking to Upper Wildcat Lake in the Alpine Lake Wilderness when we passed by a WTA trail work crew. The crew members immediately shouted “HIKERS!” as we passed by to alert the crew further up the ridge. After we got over being slightly embarrassed by our enthusiastic announcement, we were so impressed by the work they were doing – these people brought shovels, grub hoes, a saw, among other things all the way to a very steep ridge in the wilderness – and of course very thankful for their efforts. I have recently found myself with some free time, so I figured that now would be the perfect time to join in!

The work party I joined was at Cougar Mountain – Coal Creek Falls. We met at the trail parking lot at 8:30 am, loaded everyone into capable vehicles, and drove up a ways closer to our destination. After an informative safety talk, we got to work. My first task was extracting a sizable rock from the middle of the trail and leveling the area for better drainage. With some teamwork, it was completed! We then were recruited into the rock hauling team, which meant maneuvering small boulders (200ish pounds) onto a 6-person carrying device and then hauling it up the trail. This was repeated 4 or 5 times so that we could gather enough stones for a set of stairs. The next time I see stone stairs along a trail I will definitely wonder how far a trail crew had to move them! It is very hard work and I will certainly be sore tomorrow. We finished up around 2:30 and were rewarded with cookies, brownies, and some hot tea and cocoa.

I really enjoyed this experience. It was a very good workout (who needs the gym?) and helping improve our trails is a satisfying activity. Most of the 16 volunteers were retired folks, so I felt a little out of place although everyone was very friendly and easygoing. It would be even more fun for me to bring along a friend next time. I just need to convince someone to haul boulders with me for a day!

Check out the WTA Trail Work Party website if you’re interested. I highly recommend it!

6 Ways to Undo the Couch Potato Curse

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We live in Seattle, Washington and are lucky enough to have hiking trails through mountains, along the Puget Sound, and next to beautiful rivers and lakes. As a result, going hiking often sounds like a great idea. In theory. However, when you are curled up underneath a cozy blanket that idea can become difficult to execute. Daylight is short this time of the year, so here are some helpful tips to encourage you to put on your hiking boots and get going before the natural light is gone:

  1. Have a go-to source for hiking inspiration. I recommend the Washington Trails Association website. It is free and it provides season appropriate hiking suggestions, which means you won’t end up attempting to hike something that is currently more suitable for cross-country skiing. There are also Trip Reports, provided by users, which gives you access to recent trail updates and gorgeous pictures to lure you outside.
  2. Find a reliable hiking buddy. Motivation comes more easily when you have a motivated partner. It could be your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, cousin, mom, dad, sibling, co-worker, etc. If no one you know enjoys hiking (baffling, but this does happen), try searching for hiking groups online in your area. In the Seattle area, there is a neat looking group called the Seattle Hiking Meetup Group. They have over a 1000 members, and have had almost 500 past meetups. No excuses!
  3. Have a ready-to-grab day pack. This pack does not have to be super fancy, but it should hold the 10 Essentials. Going on a hike in the woods is not the same as taking a stroll at the mall. Always be prepared for an accident and do not underestimate weather conditions. Having a ready-to-grab day pack will allow you to get up and go hiking without conducting your own search party around the house for a spare book of matches.
  4. Invest in hiking gear you love (and can rely on). When I was a kid, the first day of school feeling of excitement was at least 80% New Clothes Giddiness. So, it makes sense that I am also excited to try out new hiking pants, shirts, socks, gloves, whatever. Perhaps this doesn’t work for everyone, but if it helps you get the motivation to leave your cozy blanket then it is worth trying! The caveat to this point is that you should make sure you choose decent quality gear. No one wants to be on the side of a mountain in a stylish “rain jacket” that doesn’t work.
  5. Make sure you have the correct Recreation Pass. This is a lesson I learned the hard way more than once. Not all trail heads have the facilities to provide day-use passes, so it is smart to plan ahead. Washington State has some (maddeningly) complex Recreation Pass rules, particularly in the winter when you may have to deal with Sno-Park passes too. The two main passes I use are the Northwest Forest Pass (use on U.S. Forest Service land) and the Discover Pass (use on Washington State Park land). You would need a different pass for National Park access. The Washington Trails Association kindly provides a Recreation Pass Guide to help make sense of the rules.
  6. Reward yourself. Hiking the trails of Washington State can often result in some serious exercise. It can be nice to reward yourself with a tasty meal or some other personal indulgence after you have completed your mission. There is no doubt that there is plenty of reward on the hike itself – the clean air, the peace and quiet of the forest, the astounding views of an alpine lake –  but having another reward at the end of your journey is a pretty nice incentive. For me, it is hard to beat a burger and fries after I’ve finished a long hike! After that, I curl up on the couch underneath my cozy blanket, and repeat.

How do you motivate yourself to get up and go hiking? What are your favorite late fall/early winter hikes around the Seattle area?