Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hidden Lake Lookout Trail, North Cascades National Park


The Hidden Lake Lookout Trail is found off a tiny turnout from the Cascade River Road, which is a tiny turnout from Highway 20 in Washington State. I attempted to drive to the trailhead in April of this year but became discouraged when I met a man and his Subaru stuck in a snowy ditch halfway up the mountain. After two hours of helping this man get his car free, he began his hike on foot and I went home.

Several months later, I again drove up the mountain and by this time in August the snow was gone. This hike is approximately 9 miles round trip and gains 3,290 feet of elevation in 4.5 miles. The peak and its lookout tower sit at 6,890 feet.


The beginning of the trail is deceptively benign and winds through numerous pine trees before breaking out into the valley pictured above.

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Due to the high elevation and therefore cold climate, spring and summer are short seasons in the Cascades. This August day was characterized by a multitude of wildflowers blooming everywhere. Most had no distinct smell, except one which smelled awful. The red flower is an Indian Red Paintbrush and the other is a Glacier Lily...neither of which smelled awful.


About an hour later, this is the view from what we thought was near the end of the trail. The valley with the flowers can be seen in the background.


After yet another ascent, we arrived at this tiny lake high up in the mountainside. Everyone refers to these small bodies of water as Tarns. At this point we speculated the trail end must be around the corner.


Little did we know that the actual end of the trail is up on Mt. Doom pictured in the background. The small white speck at the top of the black mountain is the lookout tower. The mountain isn't really called Mt. Doom.


Still continuing to ascend, I came across this isolated tarn which would have been a perfect spot to camp for the night


Several hundred (which felt like several thousand) feet higher, Mt. Doom finally felt within reach. At this elevation, most likely around 6,000 feet, trees and most plants ceased to grow. I'm not really sure why the mountain turns black towards the top.


Approximately four hours from the start, we finally made it to the summit. This picture has poor perspective, but the light gray rock is actually a massive mountain several miles away. There were other hikers on the distant mountain but are too small to be seen here. Puny.


Hidden Lake, several thousand feet below.


My feet hurt thinking about the 4.5 mile hike to the car

Friday, October 1, 2010

Onna Village, Okinawa Japan


Onna Village is located on the west coast of the island and contains many of Okinawa's resort hotels and top snorkeling destinations. I attempted to visit as many of these locations as possible in the little free time I had.


This is supposedly one of the top beaches in Okinawa. The fact that there were rocks everywhere, no people, and the smell of rotting seaweed led me to believe otherwise.


I don't believe this location has a name, but is very close to the Renaissance Beach and Hotel pictured on the right. This area was accessed from the back porch of a local bar. Bad children.


Bar decoration at sunset.


This is the Okinawa Zanpa Royal Hotel with Zanpa beach off to the left. The snorkeling here was decent but lacked marine life.


A little further north sits the famous Maeda Point - one of the top snorkeling destinations in the world. This is basically the only picture I have of this place as I did not want to bring my camera with me into the water. The diversity of marine life here was amazing. Around the corner to the right sits a massive cave lined with fire coral - a fact I found out the hard way.


This is Manza Beach and is easily the best beach I visited while in Okinawa.


Like most of the popular beaches, Manza beach also came with a designated swimming area accompanied by signs warning of the deadly Box Jellyfish. Perhaps the crafty jellyfish snagged the missing rider of the jet ski.