June 12-14, 2010

Dan's 48th *gasp* Birthday Weekend

Money is still a concern as neither of us are working full-time yet, but we made a pretty great weekend for Dan. We had quite the celebration over the weekend for his birthday and it even continued into Monday.

Saturday, June 12:

We got up and pretty much just jumped into the car after making some coffee and grabbing the stuff in the refrigerator and tossing it into the cooler. We were out of the house with plenty of time to catch the 7:50am ferry to Seattle. The sun was out, the sky was completely blue and Mt. Rainier was out in full glory as the boat pulled out of the harbor.

As always, click to view a larger picture, use your browsers "back" button to return.

Mt Rainier from Ferry

We drove up I-5 from Seattle to Everett where we got on Highway 2. We wiggled up to Granite Falls, WA to get on the Mountain Loop Highway. This was the road on which our Corolla made it's maiden voyage when we first got it 2 years ago this month. I love it up in this area so much. Dan likes it too because you get that alpine feel, but you can go early in the season because it's only about 1500-2500 feet in elevation.

Birthday Trip Map

We made our first stop in Verlot at the Ranger Station to make sure our National Park Pass would work at the trail heads. Lucy had a good run around on the grass with Dan. I bought a small guidebook of trails in the area since I didn't need to pay for parking.

We headed up to the Big Four Picnic Area and found the last parking lot in the shade. We loaded lunch stuff and water into the backpack, leashed up Lucy and headed up to the trail. The picnic area and trailhead are at the site of an old hotel. There are some small stone buildings and foundations in the picnic area.

We've been here before with the intention of hiking the 1.25 miles up to the base of Big Four Mountain to see the ice caves. A big storm washed out the bridge over the Stillaguamish River here a few years ago and there has been no way across in spring so we hadn't been up there before this weekend.

Trailhead & look at this skunk cabbage! It was huge and already smelly even though it wasn't blooming.

Trailhead for Big Four Ice Caves
Giant Skunk Cabbage

The climb wasn't terrible, but after a long winter inside, I was feeling every step. :) Lucy was a trooper on the boardwalks and bridges, although Dan did have to carry her over the metal bridge over the big river.

Bridge over Stilliguamish River
View down Stillaguamish River

We saw lots of flowers either just starting or getting ready to bloom. I wish I could remember what we decided these white flowers were. It's got "dogwood" in the informal name. I made Dan take pictures because they were so pretty and looked so much like dogwood blossoms. These plants were about 3-5" tall growing off some mossy rocks. (I'd look it up, but the book is in the car that just left with Dan. I'll try to remember to fill it in later.)

We got about 2/3rds of the way up and in a giant pile of trees, probably deposited by an avalanche over the winter, we lost our trail and had to backtrack to find the way around. Unfortunately for Lucy and I, there was a pretty scary river crossing on a jumble of logs and some strips of tree bark. Yeah. Not my favorite. Dan went over first, scouting slippery spots. Lucy hopped over after some encouraging from both of us. I went over last and, although I didn't break any speed records, I made it in one piece.

Flowers on Trail
Flowers on Trail
Hey! Where's the trail?
Avalance Hazard Sign

Just one more steep climb and we came out at the base of Big Four Mountain. We were at 1900 feet and the mountain rose up to 6135 feet above us. Ahhhhh.

Big Four Mountain from the trail
Big Four Mountain from the snow caves
Our picnic spot at the base of the Big Four Mountain

That's our picnic spot on the far right side of this picture to the left.

The start of an ice cave, misty
The start of an ice cave

Dan and Lucy went right on down to explore around. I wandered down a few minutes later after catching my breath and having some water. We found a great grassy spot away from everyone else and had a lovely picnic lunch after some exploring.

Dan wanted to head over a little saddleback rise to see more of the waterfalls cascading all around us and Lucy and I headed back along the snow at the base to look at the start of the caves this year. Mostly it was a giant snow pile with some holes in the bottom. Not quite a cave yet, but still pretty amazing.

On our way out, I noticed that crossing the stream coming out from the base of the snow had an extra leap as there was a new finger of water coming out. The warm temperatures were melting a lot of that snow. At that stream crossing, the logs were now almost under the water and getting across was a lot more wet, but Dan and I managed to stay pretty dry. Lucy just swam it this time. :)

We quickly were back down to the car. We took a minute to look at the trail guide and the map and decided to head up across Barlow Pass and take a side road (49) up to a couple of hikes that looked like fun.

Right at Barlow Pass, the road turns into a one-lane gravel road. (it's gravel between the *'s on the map above) It's not a bad road, but you do have to go kind of slow because of random, attack pot holes. It's such a fun road! Lots of great FREE Forest Service campsites there too if you don't mind the bushes or can pack your own potty.

We turned off onto FS Road 49 and headed east up into the Glacier Peak Wilderness. About a mile up the road we saw the "parking lot" for our trail. It was a pull out just big enough for 3 cars to squeeze in and two cars were already parked there.

One of the "staircases"

The trail to North Fork Sauk River Falls is not a long one. Less than .5 miles round trip. But it was really tricky and what Dan and I agreed could be called "technical". It was steep. And muddy. And did I mention steep? And it just sort of drops off into this gorge that you can hear is roaring with water, but all you can see is mist down there somewhere. We made good use of the hiking poles and chose our footing carefully and made our way down. Around a bend you could see some of the falls and below us was a series of several "staircases" down to the viewing area.

I put quotes around "staircase" because I felt that was a very generous description for what lay below us. ;) There were what used to be blocks of wood, but now were mossy, spongy places for moss & ferns to grow out of, with mud & gravel puddles between each one. There were "hand rails" too, but I wasn't sure it would really hold us up if either of us fell. I did put a death grip into one "rail" at the top on a really tall step down. I felt it squish in my hand and water oozed out of the moss covering the "rail". Yeah, probably not helping much.


But when we got to the viewing spot. WOW!! I would say that the North Fork Sauk River Falls were flowing sort of on the big side. The falls is described in the book as "spectacular 45' falls". Dan and I are both pretty jaded growing up visiting Yosemite when it comes to waterfalls, but this one was pretty amazing.

We Made It!!
N. Fork Sauk River Falls

The climb back up was challenging, but it seemed less slick going up than it did coming down. I got my thighmaster work out for the week on those stairs for sure!

Dan wanted to head up the road to a campground he saw on our map. He wondered what a campground up this far looked like. Well, it's not much. :) We walked out through the "campground" to the river and walked around a bit with Lucy. The campsite had a fire ring, a table built into a tree and a stump turned into a chair, but that was it for amenities. Now we know.

Our next stop on FS #49 was on the way back down. We stopped at the Harold Engles Memorial Grove Trail. It was what we call a "nature hike". A mostly level loop, usually (but not this time) accompanied by signs telling you everything you need to know about nurse logs and the like.

We first stopped at the 14-foot diameter tree dedicated to the former ranger, then looped to the right to see the dense old cedar grove with interlocking branches. So beautiful! The trail was very narrow and plants were growing over it. Lucy had to dip her head down to tunnel through the plants. Dan scared a lady on the trail. We just quietly came around a corner and she wasn't ready for us I guess.

H. Engles Memorial Grove Trail
Interlocking Cedar Branches

We looped through the woods and back to the tree and headed the other direction to see the river. The trail ran out where a very large pair of trees fell into the river. Not much of a view, but it was a nice walk.

Back to the car and down to Mountain Loop Highway again. We headed the rest of the way on the gravel road towards Darrington. From there we headed out through Arlington and south on I-5 to Seattle to catch the 6:50pm ferry to Bainbridge.

We grabbed some burritos at our local take out place for dinner and went home to collapse on the couch and rest our weary feet.

Great day!


Sunday, June 13:

Oh, the soreness. :) We had a good workout on Saturday and Sunday was more of a leisure day at home. We lingered over the Sunday paper and opened my parents' card to Dan. After that, Dan went out to do some mowing while I did some work inside. Unforunately our mower died halfway through the front yard, but we don't think about those things on birthday weekend.

Dan got to request anything he wanted for his birthday dinner and he chose my mom's lasagna (thanks mom!). I made all the separate layer parts and we spent an hour or so relaxing out on the back deck with all the animals and a bottle of wine we bought a few years ago. It's a 2005 Torii Mor Pinot Noir we got at an artisan winery in Oregon. It cost more than any other bottle of wine we've ever purchased, but it is so great. It's a very complex wine that changes in your mouth from fruity to buttery. Fantastic. And, since we already paid for it, it cost us nothing.. well, nothing this year. :)

Back inside, I assembled and put the lasagna in the oven while Dan went downstairs to do research on Happy Hour in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. More on that later. We had a wonderful dinner and put a serious dent into the bottle of wine. Instead of birthday cake, Dan wanted cheesecake for dessert. It was yummy too!


Monday, June 14:

Back to work for Dan. He's got a lot of contracting work so he dove right in to it. I drove our lawnmower to Sears in Silverdale to get it checked out and hopefully fixed. I did a couple of other small errands while I was out.

I got home in time to have lunch with Dan. He opened the birthday card from his parents that arrived in the mail, and then he went back to work for the rest of the afternoon.

Zappa Plays Zappa
Around 4pm he wrapped up and headed for Winslow. He met up with his friend Robert (my friend Mindy's husband) on the 4:30 ferry to Seattle.

Robert was kind enough to buy Dan a ticket to the Dweezil Zappa show at the Moore Theater in Seattle tonight! It will be Dan, Robert and 2 of Robert's friends from the Shipyards.

Dan's got a list of happy hour specials around the theater so they're planning on cheap food and beer for dinner and then off to the show. I'm here at home finishing up this report.

I think Dan had a pretty great birthday weekend.


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