Summit Lake

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Our newest adventure was up to Summit Lake. Again was my husband and I as well as our two daughters they’re 9 and 14. Was a fantastic hike. Even though we’re well into July it wasn’t hot. So that was convenient, not only keeping us cool but I feel like the weather kept a lot of people away on a holiday weekend and even the bugs. Was nice to have the trail pretty much to ourselves.

Anyways, before I get ahead of myself the ride there let’s talk about that first. The road up to Summit Lake is a very primitive forest service road 7810. It isn’t maintained. Has to be one of the most rugged and bumpy forest service roads I’ve been on in along time. The ruts from water run off and larger exposed rocks, sometimes even boulders aren’t forgiving. Thankfully we took our pickup because we’ve heard that it’s best to have a high clearance vehicle for this ride. This is very true, but it isn’t impossible for a lower clearance car to make it. You’re just going to find yourself taking longer to get to the trail head. Took us almost an hour to make it six miles on this road. Weren’t trying to beat up the truck. Didn’t need to blow a ball joint or tie rod. Let me tell you though once you make it about halfway even though the ride sucks it’s rewarding. Amazing waterfalls on this road heading to the trail head. Definitely worth stopping to admire.

Once you’re at the trail head there is a large dirt parking area. When we were here there were many trucks, SUV’s and a few cars. If I were to of guessed maybe 12-16 cars parked. So wasn’t to bad. We made it to the parking area around 9 a.m.

Got our packs on and started our hike. Trail started out nice, slight incline, a couple switchbacks in the beginning. You cross over a nice wooden bridge that is over top a small creek/waterfall. The wind off the water was brisk. Made for a nice spot to take some photos. Continuing on the hike we continued to climb at a moderate rate. Nothing that was too hard or unbearable. My kids weren’t complaining so that’s always nice. The forest was very thick, super dense. Not much for clearings or distant views (not that we would had much of one anyways, was super cloudy.) the forest scenery was nice. Lots of moss on the trees, wild flowers were extremely plentiful. So many different types and shades of colors. Loved stopping to admire them all. The smell too. If I could’ve captured the smell in one of my photo’s you better believe I would’ve. It smelt strong of pine and noble. Was so fresh. It’s a smell that never gets old. A smell that you can’t buy in a candle or a spray can. Literally the only place you can get this smell is out in the wilderness on the mountain. Was absolutely amazing.

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Got to a junction in the trail at Twin Lake one way was continuing to Summit Lake the other way was to Bearhead Mountain we went to the left continuing to Summit Lake. We’ll save Bearhead Mountain for another day. Taking in the view of Twin Lake through the clouds was nice. Just past the lake you cross over another creek, this time your going over logs, be careful a couple were loose, so you may lose your footing. Also this portion of the trail seemed to be a bit muddier than anywhere else on the trail. So be prepared with proper footwear, there is one other spot you cross another stream, this one your going over on rocks and logs, chances are your feet may get wet. Continuing upward it’s pretty much a steady incline, but nothing that takes your breath away. I feel this hike is very good for beginners.

The hike to the lake is only around three miles. So six miles round trip if you don’t stray off on other little trails and detours to see things. We made it to the lake in about an hour. Absolutely beautiful. Least what we could see. Remember the clouds? Super thick. So there is a trail that continues up to the ridge that provides views of Mount Rainier and the lake below. We decided to complete the hike to the top in hopes that just maybe the clouds would break. We made it to the top enjoyed more flowers, clearings long enough to enjoy the cliff side full of flowers, and boy were the clouds moving quick. Was really fun being up there watching them. We sat at top taking in the clouds and each others company while we had lunch.

After lunch we walked a little more around up on the ridge, saw a patch of snow. The girls loved that. They enjoyed a July snowball fight. Other hikers laughed and smiled as they watched the kids play in the snow. Was a fun sight and made for a nice little break.

Also with this particular hike you’re able to camp at the lake basin and up on the ridge. No permits needed. Definitely something to check out if you’re into backpacking. Saw plenty of groups on their way down as we were going up with there tents, and sleeping bags. Saw lots of campsites and some were large, some smaller, but definitely peaceful. I could totally imagine myself there in a hammock. Get this… there was even a composting toilet at the lake. While it was a little walk, it made the lake nice and clean. We used it. Haha. But beware it was out in the open.

There were plenty of other groups spread around the entire lake by this time in the afternoon. Lots of space in between each of the groups giving everyone there space to enjoy the serene calm deep blue waters. And no exaggeration here. The water was super blue. A few of the groups had dogs, they were playing in the water, one man was fishing a couple cuddling in a blanket they were sharing on the bank. Was so picturesque. There were times that the clouds cleared long enough to see across the lake, and other times where they were so thick you couldn’t see the people or the shore on the other side. The kids played in the water a bit, husband slung rocks across the water and I took it all in. Laughing kids, the beautiful scenery and the smell. I absolutely couldn’t get over the amazing fresh smell.

Was around one when we decided to start our hike back to the truck. Didn’t take us too long to get back. As it never takes as long going back as it does going. We stopped along the way to enjoy more of the sights, the flowers, tons of tree fungus to look at. The girls loved touching all the different nature aspects, especially the moss that covered the trees.

Overall… Would I recommend this hike? Absolutely. Was it hard? No. Would I recommend for families or beginners? Absolutely. Dogs allowed? Yes. Oh, and it does take a Northwest Forest Parking pass to park here. You can purchase a day pass for $5 or  a yearly pass for $30. You can purchase this anywhere you can buy Discovery Passes, Fishing Licenses, Ranger Stations or Online. Bring a tent and a bathing suit… The only real downfall was the road, going down was a tad hard on the breaks of the truck. And the clouds. They took the view away. But I still enjoyed myself. Usually I’m the type that has to have a view, a sweetener to the end of my hike. I honestly just wanted the exercise and didn’t care where we hiked. We’ll have to go back again when we know we have a clear day to see the view and pitch a tent or throw up a hammock. Have fun and as always be careful when your out there and remember to always let someone know where you’re going to be hiking.

Highrock Fire Lookout

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We hit the mountains and tackled High Rock Lookout just outside of Ashford, WA. Been planning on going for weeks and the weather was predicted to be just perfect. So we wanted to capitalize on that amazing view. Plus, this wasn’t our first time. We attempted this hike a few years ago, but I ended up not finishing. Andy made it to the top. Not sure if it was my sleeping the night before, eating habits, or the elevation. I didn’t get to finish. So this hike has been on my mind for sometime.

 

Getting there, you go towards the Nisqually entrance of Mount Rainier, turn towards Skate Creek road 52. There will be a sign again before you make the next turn, which will be a right. From here on out it gets tricky. I advise checking Washington Trails Association for better driving directions. Because the forest service road doesn’t have signage and there are plenty of forks in the road. My husband was driving and just the luck of the draw both times we went, he got us there. The road isn’t too bad. A car can make it no problem. Some pot holes, so pay attention if you are indeed in a low clearance vehicle.

Once at the trail head (I do suggest starting your day as early as you can, popular hike, parking fills up, there is overflow parking up the dirt road more, but it adds to your hike) make sure to turn your vehicle around if there is room. If you start early there should be space and once you come back down to your car you’ll be thankful you did. Not much room to maneuver, especially if you have a large vehicle.

Starting your hike. It’s actually a relatively short hike. Topping out at 1.6 miles one way, it’s not to bad. Only if it were level and on solid ground. The start of the hike is dirt, switches back a few times, depending on the time of year (Today June 30th, 2019) we saw lots of wildflowers. Definitely lots of color heading up. At one mile into the hike there is a marker on a tree to the right of the trail. Honestly when you see it swallowing the fact you have almost another mile to go is grueling.

At this point there is a few spots to scramble up large flat boulders. Nothing that is hard. Just watch your footing on loose pieces and more like gravel type rock. I suggesting having hiking/trekking poles. The extra security is always nice. Some more switch backs, the trail is constant up at this point. No flattening, no break in the incline. I believe the elevation gain for this one is around 1500 feet. So it’s a big incline.

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You’ll get to clearings where you’ll see Mt. Adam’s and Mt. St. Helen’s. Be sure to stop and take in the sights. Continuing on the trail to the right, you’ll see a couple clearings where you can see the lookout. Don’t climb the mountain up to the lookout. The hillside is very unstable with large rocks and boulders. Could definitely be dangerous. You’re almost there. Just stay on the trail.

The last stretch to the top, you’ll know it because again you’ll see the lookout. Will be right in front of you as you come around the last switch back bend. But don’t get in to big of a hurry. To the left just at the bend there is a boulder with a plaque talking about how and when the lookout was made. Kind of cool history. Plus the view of Rainier is absolutely breath taking. Continuing on, you will soon reach the end of the dirt path you’ll see more info up on a tree about the area. Cool to read about it. The space just beyond that tree there used to stand a cabin where the people that manned the lookout stayed. The building has since been demolished.

Now the tricky part. This is where I gave up the first time. I know crazy. Was almost there. But the rock face made me nervous. And even today, it proved its point. Even still at this point you’re still climbing up, but now it’s on solid rock. No dirt, no cushion. And on this rock is smaller rock, gravel like, even what seemed to be sand like. HUGE slipping hazard. While going up I did ok. My husband did ok, my two daughters 9 and 14 did ok. I did expierence a bit of vertigo climbing this portion of the trail. Not sure why, heights usually aren’t an issue. But today, it got to me. We reached the lookout. Looked around, walked around the edge of the building (the porch) a few times. Was graced with a view of Mt. Hood even. Probably my favorite part. We went inside, they had a guest book to sign we did that. Was nice to have the break inside away from outside (shutters were closed) as I was really not having fun anymore. My husband sensed it. So we decided to go down to a flatter spot to have our lunch. Remember me describing the climb to the lookout from the dirt path… now we have to go down. Which I almost did, head over feet. I slipped and slid on the loose sand/gravel. I squealed, thankfully my husband wasn’t far and was able to make it to me before I did fall. It was super scary. I didn’t like it. He made sure our kids made it to the flat dirt spot. Then came back for me. Held my hand the whole way down, he could feel me shaking, and we both could hear it in my breathing. Was literally one of the scariest moments of my life. Thankfully, I just ended up with a pulled muscle in my thigh and a bruised ego. But I’m happy that’s the worst it was.

We sat on the flat spot a good long time to allow me to catch my bearings. Let the kids eat. And take in the scenery. Was a little warm I’d say 70/75ish. So tee shirt, pants weather. Make sure you dose yourself heavily in bug spray. Our hike in wasn’t terrible early in the a.m. around 7:30. But up there around 9:00/9:30 the bugs to seemed to come out with that warmer weather. We ended up reapplying bug spray after lunch. Not even sure what type of bugs they were. Flying and annoying is the best I got. Haha.

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Now our decent back towards our truck. Definitely wasn’t going up. Was a quick decent passing LOTS of people, some groups, couples, one family with kids and plenty of dogs. We were so happy we started early. Less people, bugs weren’t as bad, and we had the view, by the time we left and saw Rainier again on the way out the clouds consumed the mountain.

Overall… Do I recommend this hike? Yes. Is it hard? I feel it to be more moderate/hard. If it were a 3 mile hike one way at that grade, yes that would be hard. This is a great conditioning hike, for beginners. Would I recommend for families? No. While we were a family, I think part of my issue was not only worrying about where I was stepping but I had my eyes glued on what my kids were doing, where they were the entire time. Like I said, my kids are 9 and 14. They did the hike no problem. But overprotective mama bear says not that one again with them (or me, lol) Can dogs go? Yes. Saw plenty of dogs. Just keep in mind that final climb to the lookout. Saw a couple dogs that were not liking it and seemed to be scared of the height. Also, remember the lookout is on a hill there really is no where to be, sit, stand around the lookout itself. If you have a dog on a leash. It could be a tripping hazard to you or even others. Do you need a pass to park? No.

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It was a great hike. I’m happy I was able to finish it this time. Having lost over 100lbs helped. Will I ever do it again? No probably not. I went up and saw it and called it a day and that was my goal. Just to make it to the lookout and say I did. Happy hiking, please enjoy and be careful!

Mashel Falls, Eatonville, WA

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It’s been awhile since we’ve done a hike-hike. You know the type that is all terrain, enough bugs biting to share with the world and scenery that is beyond beautiful? That was how our morning started.

Nothing overwhelming, something simple. I haven’t hiked since my fall a couple summers back. To the day my knee still is feeling it and I managed to add an ankle injury from the gym to the list as well. So I wanted to start the year off with something low grade.

Decided to check out the waterfalls in my town. Mashel Falls in Eatonville, WA. I’m not exactly sure the distance of this hike as it isn’t advertised on any hiking websites or books. Plus the signage at the hike is a bit poor as well.

There are a few different ways to accomplish this hike. I’ve done all three, but today we will capitalize on today’s adventure. We parked at the Bud Blanchard trail which is on the way out of Eatonville heading towards Mt. Rainier on the right. Gravel parking. The sign there at the parking area says 1.4 miles to the trail head for the falls, after that I don’t know the distance. Today’s trip I clocked it at just around 5 miles round trip on my Fitbit.

The first 1.4 miles is relatively flat, easy walking, gravel pathway. Parking at Bud Blanchard you end up walking past Smallwood Park where you also have the option of Parking. Would shed about a half mile off the overall hike if you park here. So now that you’ve walked by smallwood park your almost to the falls trail head. It’s to the left just after you go over a bridge that crosses over the river.

Once you’ve made that left on to the hiking trail be aware of signs. They’re no longer the wood signs you’ve been seeing. Now they’re blue, yellow and white triangle markers that are hung on the trees. So if you come to a fork in the trail, look up and on the trees for the signs telling you which way to go.

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It’s been along time since I’ve been to these falls. And let me tell ya, this hike was a breeze compared to when I did it before. The hike itself was decent. Some hills in places, someone brought in gravel which helped eliminate mud and super slippery areas. Which was nice.

After hiking for a bit you come up on signs telling you to turn to go to the lower falls. It’s short a sweet little hike getting there from the main trail. Once you do get towards the bottom someone has made stairs helping to get to the base of the falls. They’re much larger than your average stair. So watch your step. But once you’re down there it’s rather rewarding. There is also a great swimming hole here. Don’t forget your bathing suit.

If you were to continue on the trail, you would run into more signs pointing you into the direction of the middle falls. Out of all the falls. This one is my favorite. The walk down is similar to that of the lower fall hike. Also stairs at the end. This portion of the falls is awesome because it’s the largest and you can even go behind it. Just be careful the rocks are super slippery. Also watch your footing in general around this fall because there is lots of loose rocks and boulder’s. This would be a fantastic spot to stop for lunch. Just remember to pack out what you pack in.

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Continuing on the trail you come to signage for the upper falls trail. This hike is a little further and the trail isn’t maintained. There is trees and overgrowth over the trail. So keep that in mind if you plan on doing this portion of the hike.

There is an option to continue on the trail on the main trail. That way will lead you to the pack forest via forest service road. Its about five miles to the park. Best to walk back to your car and drive if you’re interested in seeing the pack forest. It’s used mostly for children camps and get togethers.

After having seen all three of the falls, hiking back to Bud Blanchard trail head was a breeze as the majority of the hike was all down hill. Which made for a quick return. Keep your eyes peeled for wild life too. In all forms. From small scooting creatures to those on four legs.

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When someone finds out I’ve done this hike almost always the first question is, “Can I take my kids?” The reason this is a question so often is because there has been a number of people whom have died on this journey to the falls. Here is the answer…
Parking at Bud Blanchard or Smallwood park are your safest ways to get to the falls. Yes, the hike does have cliffs. Yes there is mud in places (which has been covered with gravel) that can potentially make a slipping hazard over said cliffs. The trail is a single file hike in a lot of spots, so walking with your kid, hand in hand wont be an option. Also there is a TON of stinging nettles. Thankfully just as many ferns to counter act the sting, but still. Kids under five I wouldn’t recommend this hike just for the sheer safety and potential fall hazards with it being cliffy. Wear your child if you can, or go do the hike first to see if you feel the level of difficulty and the terrain can be handled by your child.

Mashel Falls is a great half day hike. Make it a stop on your way to or from the Mountain. Be sure to check out the town too. Lots of great little shops and things to see and do.

Point Defiance Tacoma, Washington

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There is so much that can be said about Point Defiance Park. I have so many memories in this park. Out of all the parks I’ve ever been to in my life this one I think tops out as my most frequently visited. So much that I refer to it as my second home. I come here for business, pleasure, and exercise. Andy and I even had our wedding reception here at one of the lookout points. It’s my go to for outdoor entertainment for whatever occasion, it can be dressed up or down. The location and beauty make it that much more desirable.

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Point Defiance is a large urban park in north Tacoma. Topping out at 760 acres the park includes Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. A large rose garden, rhododendron garden, Asian garden, beaches, trails, a boardwalk, boathouse (complete with small craft boat rentals, fishing derbies, a store and supplies), five mile drive, Washington State Ferries has a dock/boat here that goes to Vashon Island.

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http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/

Fort Nisqually museum is here. Be sure to stop here for a walk down memory lane and see where this fort came from and the purpose it served to the area. It’s definitely a fun expierence getting to walk through all the buildings and learn about the area in the 1930s and the Hudson Bay Company.

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https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/fort-nisqually-living-history-museum/

An off leash dog area, tennis courts, boat launch and marina, then to top it off among all this, the old growth forest. Point Defiance receives more than three million visitors a year.  That is CRAZY!

Over the course of the past three years Point Defiance and surrounding areas have taken on a new look. A bit of a face lift for the North Tacoma area. Point Defiance will be connecting to Pointe Ruston and Ruston Way. A huge extension to the park as most of us have known it. The opening to this new connection in Tacoma will be happening this spring. I’m anxious to see the new areas and get to enjoy new views and aspects of the park. Looking for the day that Andy and I get ambitious and walk the entire water front with Point Def included.

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I have been coming to Point Def all my life. For tons of different reasons. Going to the zoo, picnics in the park or at the beach. Andy and I even had our wedding reception here as I mentioned… I bring tons of my clients here for photos many times of the year. Its a beautiful setting for a multitude of reasons. The park even offers a rental space for events. Four different areas in the park to get married. I have been there shooting a wedding once when there were three happening. The park being large enough we were never on each others toes either, so that made it nice.

https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/pagoda-rental-fees/

I highly recommend weddings here at this location. Its beautiful, the space they offer is amazing. I would say weddings that are less than 100 guests would be ample for the pagoda space. The gardens make for a great place to take photos of the bride and groom, the wedding party and family. Then there is even the beach and forest for a large variety of different possibilities of what can be offered at the park for options when it comes to weddings and photos. Plus the location is close to many hotels and the Sea-Tac airport if you have guests coming from out of state. Its easy to find and ample parking once your at the park.

  • The flower gardens come spring and summer are so amazing. The variety of different flowers. They’re even all conveniently labeled so you will know what you’re looking at. So many different patterns and colors. Gardeners layout great color schemes and patterns to the gardens that it makes it very pleasing to the eye.  There are many different paths and ways to walk to admire all the beautiful flowers and plants. The rose garden is in a fenced area since there is wildlife at the park they try keeping them out. A lot of these flowers would make a wonderful snack. This is also one of the locations where weddings are held. Out in the grass with the beautiful landscape and lush greens and colorful flowers as the backdrop.
  • There is a duck pond complete with an island and bridges you can walk over and admire different types of water dwelling birds. The pond is also stocked with huge koi and native turtles. Go on a hot summer day and you’ll see the turtles out bathing on the rocks in the middle of the water. This pond also has fountains and a waterfall. Seasonal of course.
  • The Asian garden is where the Pagoda is. There are also a few different water features in this garden, a small waterfall and ponds with an amazing arched bridge. Makes for the most wonderful photos. Again the ponds are complete with a vaiety of koi fish.
  • Owen beach is a wonderful place to stop at and relax for the day. If you come during the summer be sure to get an early start. Parking lot gets full. If you come late in the day be prepared for a long walk down the parking lot to the beach. And remember at the end of the day when your tired, the sun got the best of you, you have to walk back up that hill to get to your car. Can be quiet the hike. The beach is wonderful. Lots of things to see on the beach, can watch fishermen out in the sound, with an occasional killer whale sighting . Watch the ferry go back and fourth to and from Vashon Island, all while soaking up an amazing view of Mount Rainier in the distance. Also during the summer months there is a concession stand that is open, and a private operator that rents out kayaks. Definitely fun for the entire family down at the beach.
  • Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is a fun place to visit also. All times of the year. They have a large variety of animals to see and events they put on. One of their more popular events is during the holidays. Zoo Lights. Definitely something you might want to take in at least once in your life. The zoo has got a few face lifts over the past ten years. Just this past year the aquarium was renovated and updated.

https://www.pdza.org/

Here is a link for upcoming events that are scheduled to be happening at the park this year,

https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/point-defiance-events/

 

 

Dechutes Falls, Yelm WA

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In Pierce County? Looking for something to do that’s off the beaten path? Check out this hidden gem in the woods. Dechutes Falls Park is located in Yelm. It’s a bit of a ride out there. The scenery is beautiful. Lots of farm land and once you get closer, there gets to be more rolling hills and mountains in the distance.

The parking area is small, come early in the day as it does get busy. Especially on those hot summer days. There is a great swimming hole, so don’t forget your suit.

In the parking lot there are a couple picnic tables which make for a nice lunch either before or after your hike. There is also a porty potty on site. No other facilities are here for the publics use.

The start of the hike is a pretty steep hill down a gravel pathway. Once at the bottom of the first hill you will be coming to the trails to get to the viewing areas to see the falls and the river. Fall, winter and spring seasons it gets super muddy, rocks are really slippery. If you have small children be sure to watch them close as the river is flowing heavy and one wrong move and they can end up in the river.

Once your go down the first trail to see the falls, go back up to the main trail and continue following the path. You will end up at a slower part of the river (during the summer) allowing for great swimming. This is glaicer water so it does get chilly. So refreshing on a 90* western Washington day.

Got to love the super blue water, little pools of water and the overall scenery. Remember if and when you go, leave no trace and be sure to pack out what you packed in. Contribute to keeping the park maintained and cleaned up. Be sure to watch your step too.

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