Friday, October 2, 2020

Trees, Trails, and Eye Candy

Matt and I made it to Seattle on the evening of August 14, which means we've officially lived here for about six weeks. (It feels weird to write that we live here, but that's the case, isn't it?!)

Having arrived in the Pacific Northwest at the tail-end of summer, our priorities were to get in as much hiking and outdoor time as possible before the weather got too cold and wet. In fact, we had already missed the best window for more intense hikes up Rainier and the Cascades because the weather gets treacherous much earlier in the big mountains.

Still, we've had good luck hiking at least once a week, not including those ten days we spent cooped up inside due to the wildfire smoke. We've been making the most of the last days of summer.

We moved here for so many reasons, but the trees? The hiking? The views? Those are the big ones, and we've gotten to spend some quality time taking it all in. 

Talapus Lake Trail
Our original plan on this day in August was to hike Rattlesnake Ledge. We stopped at Nuflours, a dedicated gluten free bakery, to pick up lunch (quiche) and desserts (a donut, lemon bar, and brownie), then drove out to Rattlesnake Ridge, only to find the trail was closed. Undeterred and starving, we set up chairs on the bank of Rattlesnake Lake to eat. 

Lunch was delicious but annoying - I am just not one for crowded beaches, pandemic or no. That's why I left Florida.

Luckily, the Washington Trails Association has a handy app that helps you search nearby trails, read reviews, and see if they're open. We chose to try the Talapus Trail, which is an intermediate 10k roundtrip hike.
Because of our delay, we arrived at the Talapus trailhead in mid-afternoon. We estimated the hike would take us about three hours; we knew we'd beat sunset, but I was anxious not to dawdle too much.

The hike was beautiful. The parking lot for the trailhead is at the top of a long, secluded dirt road, so there really wasn't any road noise on the trail. It felt like we were deep in a forest.

At first, the terrain was fairly flat and packed. Both Matt and I were wearing normal running shoes, and for the majority of this trail they were sufficient.
The best thing about the Talapus Trail was we didn't have to wait to get to the end to enjoy a gorgeous lake view. Around 1.5 miles (halfway to the turn-around), we came to the first lake and the trail's namesake, Talapus. 
Talapus Lake. Is it weird to call views like this eye candy?
We left the trail to climb down and take some pictures. At this point, it had still been fairly even and easy, with very little steep inclines or switchbacks.

The trail to the second lake was definitely steeper and a little more difficult. The terrain was still packed and mostly clear, but there were more rocks and roots the higher we went. It also started to get chilly. I mentioned out loud that I really need to learn what to wear for hiking, because temperatures drastically drop under the canopy, especially as the elevation climbs.
Around mile three we finally came to our terminal destination: Olallie Lake. Here, we paused to enjoy the view and have some snacks. A curious and brave chipmunk joined us. I would have been happy to stay longer, but the day was getting downright cold. Packing up our garbage, we headed back.
Olallie Lake
The return trip on any out-and-back has the potential to be a little boring. You've already seen the major landmarks and your mindset is a little more focused on getting back to the car, as opposed to enjoying the journey. Still, we paused once more at Talapus Lake, breaking up the monotony of the return trip.
They do allow camping on this trail. There are no bathrooms and fires aren't allowed, but since hiking to a campsite is something we've never done, we think this could be a good first experience with it.

I highly recommend this trail for newbie hikers. We passed some families with little kids, and we passed lots of dogs. (Humans were all masked and did a good job moving aside as necessary.) There were parts that I found tedious, but I think this is a good trail when we want to undertake a longer hike without planning for a full day.

Washington Park Arboretum
In mid-September, we endured the smoke and watched the weather like hawks, waiting for the all-clear for outdoor activities to resume. No one warned me about fire season!

We were insistent on getting outside as soon as the air quality returned to "good", but we hadn't really planned anything because we didn't know when that would happen, so when the blessed day finally arrived, we made the decision to return to one of our favorite places from our last two trips to Seattle and visit the Washington Park Arboretum.
The Arboretum is about ten minutes from us and barely counts as a hike. While there are some unpaved paths to explore, much of the park is paved and the biggest hills are pretty tame. This will probably become a running destination for me once I get more comfortable going out alone and once I need to increase my distances, because the trails go on for miles and you can wind through them in infinite ways.
We wandered through the north part of the park down to the south, enjoying the well-kept groves. The Arboretum is loosely separated into sections by continent and plant type; we started near the Pinetum Loop and walked down to Azalea Way. There is so much to see here, but we weren't really in the mood to read signs and learn about plant species.

Instead, we stopped at a well-shaded bench and listened to the birds for awhile.
The Arboretum is well-maintained and as far from intimidating as a hiker can get. I plan to take advantage of its proximity and paved paths soon!

Twin Falls
We heard about Twin Falls from Scott and Robby, so when we decided to go we invited Scott to come along. Unfortunately, Robby had to work.
The three of us and Kogi (Scott's teacup Yorkie) got started in early afternoon. Despite being told this trail was easy, I found parts of it challenging from the get-go. There were some steeper areas that really burned my quads and lungs.

I was breaking in my new hiking boots and was glad to have them! I enjoyed splashing in the mud and puddles left over from the weekend's rain. The boys were jealous.
This is a fairly short hike and we reached the top of the falls easily. Scott had never ventured past the bridge that allows for a bird's eye view of the falls and river below, so we decided to keep going. 

After a time, it became clear that the path was just getting steeper and wasn't going anywhere interesting. We checked GPS and discovered we were on a never-ending trail that would eventually meet other trails and never...end.
So we turned around.

On the descent, we took the stairs down to the bottom of the falls, where we got some more photos. 

Then, Scott showed us the slightly off-road detour that offered the best views and a place for a snack break. This brought the 2.6 mile hike to around 5k. 

My happy place is definitely in the middle of a river surrounded by trees.
Overall, this hike would be my first choice for visitors. The trail itself is easy and the visual payoff is fantastic.

Heybrook Lookout
Our latest hike had to fit a very specific set of criteria: it had to be close enough and short enough to complete in under 4 hours so we could be back in time to log on to Zoom and witness Wyatt's first birthday cake smash.

For a midweek hike, this one was perfect. We had the trail to ourselves until the very end, and as a fairly narrow trail with a specific destination, crowds would be hard to avoid on a busy day.
I asked Matt if we could live here. He reminded me that we do.
The hike to the Haybrook lookout tower is short, but the flipside of that is that it's also steep the entire time. This was the most challenging trail as far as terrain goes; once more, my boots were appreciated! The paths were dry and easy to follow, but they were full of rocks and roots. There really wasn't a flat or clear area the entire way, and there were no plateaus or places where the trees opened up so we could rest off the trail.
Matt told me the hike would take about an hour, but it took 45 minutes to get to the lookout tower, where we used the bathroom (literally a box deep in the trees, no walls, no privacy, no TP) and climbed to the top to take in the view.
You can rent out the top level to camp in overnight! We want to do that when it reopens after Covid.
I enjoyed this hike from start to finish. The atmosphere is the epitome of what I love about forests: big trees; lush green everywhere; dappled, sun-spotted ground just does not get better. The only thing this hike was missing was a rushing river.
Hello up there!
The trip back down was tough on my knees the way the trip up had been tough on my quads, but it only took 20 minutes. The hour round-trip estimate was fairly accurate after all.
Despite bad traffic on our way home, we made it in time for Wyatt's birthday!

When I used to think of hiking, my mind would go to our trip to Rainier, which we planned ahead and which took all day. My perspective of hiking has changed; now I know they don't all have to be huge, all-consuming endeavors. It's been a treat to find these smaller, less intimidating hikes nearby. They offer gorgeous views and a good workout, and I love that we can just decide to go whenever want, without tons of prep and planning.

I now know a few hikes I can take friends on once having visitors is a realistic option. In the meantime, I'll continue exploring and adding more to my list. I want to make the most of these last warm days while we have them.


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