Behind the Scenes of Our Funtivities

Learn more about our adventures when we are out Browning Around!

Silver Star Mountain - Wow!

Natalie had researched Silver Star Mountain hike for a little while. Silver Star is outside of Battle Ground Washington and with traffic I think it is about a two hour drive from Portland. We knew it was something we wanted to do for sure, but there was a challenge just getting to the trail head. Road #4109 was in bad shape and required a high clearance vehicle to get to the trailhead. But how bad could it be?? It isn’t always smart to go alone on a challenged road incase you run into an issue. But nothing ventured, nothing gained and we had beer and each other.

Looking back from where we came up the trail.

Looking back from where we came up the trail.

This was a hike I wanted explore later in the day to perhaps catch a sunset. We picked a day during the middle of the week and planned to leave early to get to the trailhead around 3pm or so. After battling Portland traffic we arrived at the high clearance road. As we climbed we saw someone in a Honda Accord trying it. Seemed odd to me based on what everyone was saying on social media. Wasn’t long and I realized he was going to get very far at all. The road was washed out, big boulders and certainly took patience to climb in my Tacoma. The road was just 4 miles long, but it felt like it took forever to get to the top.

We arrived at the parking lot and found only one other vehicle, so we knew we would have the mountain to ourselves. The hike to the top has two routes. One is a steady climb and is on the west side of the mountain. Almost like a fire service road all the way to the top. The more eastern route is probably the best route. It took us through some beautiful wild flowers and green grass to a rock arch we passed through. We also had a view or Mt. Hood as we traveled. There were a couple of steep traverses that required all 4 appendages and some focus, but nothing too bad - it was a long way down.

Ed’s Arch

Ed’s Arch

Once out to the clearing you think you must be near the summit, but you still have some trail ahead of you. The trail takes you around the mountain and back into the trees for a short stint. You then climb up a fire service looking road to the top. Once at the top you have 360 views and you can see all the mountain peaks. My mistake was just hiking in a tee-shirt and not bringing a coat. There was a cold wind blowing that day, plus a cold Citrus Mistress I was shivering a bit. We knocked out our photos and dropped down in elevation just a little and the breeze was gone and I was perfect temp.

As we got down to more of a plateau and the west facing trail I launched the drone to get some aerial shots of the mountain. The sun was starting it’s sunset show at this time and the video and stills from the drone were amazing. I felt like we were on some Austrian mountain and not in Battleground Washington.

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We sat and enjoyed the sunset with a little Fireball, but now it was time to beat feet and get back to the truck. I did come prepared with a flashlight and headlamp, but we did have some thick overgrowth to walk through. Flashlights were not going to show if something was lurking in the trees. I certainly had a quick pace back to the truck and when we arrived at the truck we still had a band of sunset glow and city lights on the horizon to watch.

Silver Star Mountain is an excellent hike and only about 50mi from Beaverton. There are two routes to get there and one is vehicle friendly and the other one is not. Bring supplies and notify friends if you take the high clearance trail to the top. There are no services around for some distance if you should have a problem. Try to get a sunset hike in and enjoy the views as they are outstanding.

Mini-moon Canada Bound

Get Outside:  Minimoon in Whistler

September 3, 2018 we were married at Smith Rock State Park in central Oregon.  My wedding gift to my wife, Natalie, was a mini-moon to Whistler with a couple stops along the way.  I wanted it to be a surprise so I made her guess where we were going.  I made her guess the location using a couple props.  Didn’t take long with the black comb and the whistle. 

 

Wednesday night we headed for Bellevue, WA to spend the night with my parents.  This was a chance to say “hi” and also to a way to save some time traveling to Canada the next day.

 

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Walking back across Capilano Bridge

Walking back across Capilano Bridge

We got an early start to avoid some of the horrible traffic around town.  Fortunately, our early start and heading out of town while people were heading in, we made good time.  Natalie had a surprise stop for me at the Capilano Suspension Bridge park.  It was busy, but we found a convenient parking spot and crossed the street to check this place out.  I had never heard of this place and was thinking it was just one suspension bridge.  Well yes, it is, but there is a cliff walk and a tree to tree park. 

 

We went right for the suspension bridge and wow was it high above the river below.  Our first obstacle was an older gentleman that had collapsed on our side of the bridge.  He was blocking everyone’s access to the bridge.  I immediately shoved my camera and pack into Natalie’s arms and rushed over to help.  I knew from his appearance that it wasn’t a major medical problem it was something else.  He had collapsed from over exertion and needed help getting to his feet.  I called over for a wheel chair and for some water to get him into a more comfortable position.  The benefit of helping is we got to the first of the line and were allowed out on the bridge all by ourselves for a brief moment.

 

Sea to Sky Gondola ride - worth it!  Open year round too.

Sea to Sky Gondola ride - worth it! Open year round too.

This bridge is 459 feet long and supported on land anchors.  Once you start walking on the bridge with a bunch of other sightseers the bridge gets to swinging.  It is like your worst drunk walk that you have ever had just to cross the bridge.  Once you get to the other side; look up!  There are many tree to tree adventures awaiting you.  We spent some time in the trees and then crossed back over to go to the cliff walk.  This is pretty cool and makes you think from an engineering perspective, how is this staying attached to the granite. 

 

Our next stop on our journey was to stop at the Sea to Sky Gondola ride.  This is a 10-minute gondola ride just off the Sea to Sky highway.  It climbs about 2500 feet up a steep granite wall to the restaurant at the top.  It is a breath-taking ride to the top with amazing views of Howe Sound and some of the surrounding areas.  The gondola is open year around despite the weather.  When you get to the top take a moment and walk out to the decking and enjoy the view of Howe Sound.

 

A hike behind Sea to Sky Gondola

A hike behind Sea to Sky Gondola

We took the suspension bridge across to the hiking trails and started to explore.  There are a few hiking trails, some being short and easy and others that require a little more out of you.  We certainly got our steps in and stopped back at the snack shack for a bit of liquid refreshment to fuel up for another trail. 

 

Sea to Sky Gondola ride is a must see and worth the price of admission.  You can save a few dollars by purchasing the tickets ahead of time, if not you can purchase them there - $42.  The parking is also plentiful and free.  If you are up for a little more of an adventure, park at Shannon Falls and walk to the ride – it is a short hike.  You can also hike to the top, but it is steep and a not for the faint of heart.

 

From Sea to Sky we hit the road to get to Whistler Village and get checked in to our hotel.  I had booked ahead and found prices pretty fair for being across the street from the village.  I Aava hotel was just about $100 a night for a ground floor room with two beds.  I will say parking was a potential issue.  But for a bit of a sum you can get a pass and park underground.  This is not for tall vehicles as the ceilings are pretty low.  I think I could have reached out the window of my truck and touched the ceiling.  It was a little unnerving to drive through there.  I was just hoping that all the sprinkler heads and other plumbing were all at the same height.

 

That night we hit the village and got some dinner and a few drinks.  I reminisced about when I was here during the new year around Y2K and the interesting nights we had.  Not sure we would get away with some of that stuff now😊

 

The next morning, I had planned for us to go do the Superfly zipline tour in Cougar.  It was a short ride out of town and so we hoped in the truck and made our way to their basecamp for instructions.  I had never ziplined and Natalie had a little experience.  For both of us this was different; ATV side by side ride to the top and 5 ziplines to get you back down the mountain.  With the first one being 8 tenths of a mile and 600ft above the trees and the rest shorter, but each different in speed, length and views.  They tell you to allow 3 hours with travel to and from Cougar and the zip lines.  We were in a group of 4 other couples and had a great time. 

 

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Superfly gives instructions on safety and operation of the apparatus you are attached to.  I will say they do a great job keeping you safe and making sure you have fun.  I did take my GoPro Hero 4 camera with me so we could record everything.  The part to keep in mind is when you hit the braking mechanism on the landing.  It can be a pretty abrupt stop and if you have anything loose in your hand it may get launched.  I had my GoPro tethered to my wrist so I could put both hands on the apparatus upon stopping.  So, keep that in mind if you grab your phone and want to record it.  You really aren’t in a position to put the phone back into a pocket due to the riding position you are in. 

 

A flag that I had made to add to our photo sessions outdoors.

A flag that I had made to add to our photo sessions outdoors.

Following the zipline tour we headed out for another hike at Joffre Lakes.  This is a hike that includes 3 lakes and some amazing teal blue water.  This first lake is a short 5-10 min hike from the parking lot.  We found the signs detailing the trip to the first lake kind of funny.  It said 15 min hike to the first lake, when in reality it is much more like 5 min.  We think it was in tourist time and not actual time.  We of course pressed on to the second lake which was more demanding.  As with most hikes it is a climb and this was the same.  I don’t have the stamina that Natalie has and it gets a little frustrating at times.  Both our packs are about the same weight, just I am packing up a few extra pounds on my mid-section.  All the staircases and switchbacks are all worth it when you see the lake.  Absolutely amazing and takes your breath away.  As usual we packed a couple beers and sandwiches with us to keep us fueled up.  After we spent some time at the lake, we were told of a cascading waterfall not too far up the trail.  It was getting late and we still had to get down so the third lake was out of the question.  We decided to crack our beer and sandwiches at the waterfall and even shared a sandwich with a stranger.  This is a must see if you are in the area and have some time to hike. 

 

On the way home, we made a couple of other waterfall stops to maximize our trip.  But we did have a ferry to catch at Fort Casey on Whidbey Island and needed to be smart with our time.  This would be the next leg of the adventure – Mt. Ellinor.

 

We did make the short ferry ride to Port Townsend and took 101 south to Hoodsport where I had booked a room at Glen Ayr.  We arrived around 9:30-10pm and had to ring the bell to get service.  A very nice man came down and greeted us and got our room squared away. 

 

The next day we awoke to a light mist and fog.  We had planned to climb Mt. Ellinor at the end of the summer, but were met with a stomach bug that prevented the climb.  This time we were all good and just had to work around Mother Nature’s decision to make it cold and foggy.  We questioned attempting it, but we were there in the area and might as well give it a try. 

 

We took the fire service road to the trailhead and were immediately met by cold and fog.  But we packed our bags and geared up for a climb.  That climb starts as you leave your parking spot and does not stop.  You continue to climb through the trees pretty much to the top.  We made it worth it was the quiet, the cool air, the brilliant fall colors and that we practically had the place to ourselves. 

Mt. Elinor hike….

Mt. Elinor hike….

 

I have always believed you don’t need to always wait for the best weather to hike or explore.  This time we missed the big sweeping views, but we had these amazing fall colors – almost looked fake.  Plus, the fog limited your view of what was ahead on this steep climb and just gave a different perspective.  Days like this are almost more of a mystery and I prefer that.   

We didn’t stay too long at the top because were exposed to the winds and the wet from the fog.  Plus, we still had to drive back to Beaverton after we got down.  I will say the climb down was much quicker and seemed to fly by.  We passed a few other hikers, but again pretty much had the place to ourselves. 

 

We had an amazing mini-moon packed full of funtivities and memories.  We never really seem to waste a minute or leave any stone unturned.  There is a pro and a con to this for sure.  I crashed on the way home and Natalie crashed a day later from all the fresh air and hiking around.  We certainly love Canada and all the beauty it has….  I would almost venture to say, we wouldn’t mind moving there!

 

 

 

 

Unplanned Funtivities with Walmart Christmas Onesies

We decided to spend a couple of days in Hood River and get in a couple hikes before we head north to Bellevue for the Christmas holiday.  We had looked at going to Cougar or down to the southern coastline, but decided the shorter drive after work and snow was what we wanted. 

Natalie having fun in the fresh snow

Natalie having fun in the fresh snow

Thursday after work we headed out for the slow drive out I-84E to Hood River.  But this drive was much better than the +4hr drive down to southern Oregon like we planned.  Natalie booked a familiar hotel for us to spend a couple nights in.  We don’t ask for much and really just need a place to feel safe and hang our coats.  The Sunset motel seems to be perfect for us.  Only a mile from down town Hood River, just off the freeway and right across the street from a Safeway and other stores.  The room isn’t big, but enough room for us to spread out. 

The weather was not supposed to be great in the afternoon so we weren’t sure how to spend our Saturday afternoon.  We wanted to go somewhere with a view of Mt Hood and maybe not too many people.  We settled on Chinidere Mountain; a hike we have done during the summer with some amazing views of hood and the forest below.  We thought there might be a light dusting of snow, but nothing we couldn’t hike through. 

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We arrived on FSR 1310 and began to ascend.  There was a sign mentioning that there was “no winter maintenance” on the road ahead.  With a lifted 4x4, I wasn’t too worried about the road.  Our first obstacle was a rock slide that threw some rocks and boulders onto the road.  We took a few minutes to clear out the worst of the rocks and boulders and then pressed on.  We then started to hit snow, which got deeper as we ascended.  As we trail-blazed and the snow got deeper the truck started to hop and bounce around.  The truck was working harder to get through the snow and I started to question if we should try and go another 2.5mi in the snow to the trail head.  The only tracks in the snow were from a fox and my Goodyear tires.  This meant we were alone!  Great for the solitude and quiet, but not so good if we have a breakdown or get stuck.  It was time to pause and come up with a new plan.  Looking up towards where we would probably be hiking, the clouds started to roll in and we would not have a great view from the top.  On top of that I didn’t bring a sweatshirt or something to wear under my jacket, so I would have been cold the whole way. 

Our new plan was to get out the Walmart Christmas onesies, crack a beer and take some funny photos.  I had this idea in mind of story-boarding the photos when I shared them on social media.  I tried to craft them around a naughty elf breaking into my cooler.  Having fresh snow and the place to ourselves we had a blast.  We ended spending 2 hours goofing around. 

This was an unplanned spontaneous afternoon in the snow with Walmart onesies and had a blast.  We seem to always structure our outings and they are pretty much predictable.  But days like this are my favorite; where we make something out of nothing.  These are probably some of my favorite goofing around images that we have done.  So, get out there and don’t be discouraged if everything doesn’t go as you planned.  Sometimes those unplanned afternoons are the most memorable. 

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Get Outside:  Metolius River Trail

We followed up the Tam McArthur Rim trail with the Metolius River trail on Sunday.  A couple years ago we had a hiking adventure from trailhead following the river downstream to the hatchery at Wizard Falls and then back to the car.  This time we drove to Wizard Falls at the Hatchery with the thought of getting a photo of the blue water that flows under the bridge and then go see the fish at the hatchery.  Such a beautiful drive through Camp Sherman down to the hatchery.  The area was empty and so there was no traffic to distract me as I drove us to our destination. 

The weather was having some fun with us.  Sprinkling on and off with the sun and blue skies poking through every now and then.  The question became do we bring the rain jackets or not.  Ultimately being from the Pacific Northwest, we erred on the side of caution and brought our coats.  Seemed like we would put them on and then the sprinkling would stop.  Take them off and then it would start sprinkling again. 

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Our hike took us upstream a mile or so in search of some fly fisherman.  I really wanted to photograph fly fisherman out in the river.  I was rewarded on this trip with 4 fishermen on various parts of the river.  Although I was happy to exercise my 24-70mm 2.8, in some instances I wish I brought my other heavyweight the 70-200mm 2.8.  I needed a little reach through some of the tree branches.  Regardless I was not disappointed by what I put into the can. 

 

Hiking off season has some benefits – no crowds.  We probably saw a total of 10 people on the trail system.  There were a few more visiting the hatchery, but that was it.  Once we returned to the hatchery, we decided to keep hiking and exploring down the river.  Neither of us had done the whole trail and the weather was looking promising enough.  I believe it is 6mi roundtrip from Wizard Falls.  You hike down one side of the river and then cross the bridge to travel upstream on the other side.  Downstream we found a couple fisherman that I could get a good angle on and photograph.  I was in photographer heaven because of the fall colors still hanging around, the peaceful nature of the Metolius river and catching people out doing what they love – fishing!

He had the river to himself

He had the river to himself

 

Once back in the car we saw the large dark cloud that was hanging over Hwy20 and our route home.  Although I was grateful it held off on dumping on us on the trail, I knew we were in for a long ride home.  Sure, enough the heavens opened up and the wipers were on full speed.  Thankfully we had to slow our pace due to a severe accident near the junction of Hwy20 and 22 involving 4-5 vehicles.  Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to driving down the curves in the pouring rain.  A lifted truck with knobby tires doesn’t instill confidence around wet corners.  Thankfully we made it home in good time and in one piece. 

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I really am glad we took the time to explore down stream and enjoy the fall colors.  We were thinking of hitting a trail on the way home instead.  But we would have missed having the river to ourselves and being able to enjoy those lasting fall colors.  If you go bring a few quarters to feed the fish in the pond. It is fun to see all those fish swarm to the food.