Sunday, April 20, 2014

Deer Mountain to Silvis Lake Trail, Ketchikan, Alaska

The Deer Mountain to Silvis Lake Traverse is a trail that's been on my to do list ever since my early days in Ketchikan. It never worked out for a variety of endless excuses but mostly because I never made it a priority. Also, when I lived in Ketchikan my job included wilderness hiking 5 days a week. It's hard to get motivated to do a long hike on one of your few days off when that's what you do all summer anyway!

 I had hiked to Blue Lake 3 or 4 times over the years and to Silvis Lake a couple times as well. Now it was time to connect the dots! The last couple years I was getting really anxious about doing the full route so we set aside a day and Max organized some folks from town to come with us. This hike is a bit of a one day monster at 13ish miles and probably 6000 feet of elevation gain. The first 2 miles you go straight up the side of Deer Mountain to close to 3000 feet and then it is pretty much all up and down until you arrive at the south end of the highway on George Inlet. It is beautifully epic with tremendous views and, snow fields and alpine meadows. Well worth the tired legs at the end of the day! We did this hike July 2nd, 2013, so there was still quite a bit of snow. One of Max's friends, Thor (spelling? His name is pronounced tore), acted as our guide and we definitely needed one. With all the snow we would have lost the trail at several points and not known which ridges to follow.

Some cursory research led me to believe this was a little blogged about hike. I did find a couple personal blogs that mention it including this one from 2009 that gives a short but accurate picture of the hike as well as a brief mention on a cool travel blog called Travel Junkette. Check it out! Travel Junkette also has a great page about things to do in Ketchikan and another great page about life as a seasonal worker. Really cool! edit: by coincidence this picture showed up today Ketchikan's SitNews Facebook feed. What bad asses! 

Here's the trail map straight from the Forest Service's super bad ass Ketchikan area hiking guide. This guide has it all! 

Gina gearing up for our hike. We got started around 8am. We were the only ones to wear our X-Tra Tuffs on the hike. My feet were a little sore afterward but they were dry. Ten of ten would recommend over 12 hours of wet feet!

A quick break at the first lookout. Gazing off towards Anette Island and Metlakatla.

The quality of this photo is shit but off in the distance you can see the town of Metlakatla. What a nice day!

The second lookout. Joel's brother, Neil, led the way up the mountain and he is like a mountain goat. Despite having been running all winter I was huffing and puffing trying to keep up with that stud!
Ketchikan! We really scored on the weather. The day before was low clouds and rain! What are the odds of setting a date 5 months ahead of time, travelling to Alaska, having a rainy foggy day the day before and then having the bluest skies ever for hike day? Incredible!

On top in the alpine and snow. Joel looks handsome as usual.

On our way to Blue Lake. Some of the up and down.

The crew taking a break.

A picture of someone taking a picture of someone. Ketchikan down below.

Cruise ships.

Ridge tops.

Blue Lake! Still mostly covered in snow and ice but some of the emerald blue is showing. 

At the spur trail for the lake Max gazes at the beauty of it all.

Edit (5-7-14): A friend of my sister's sent this to her and she sent it to me. It's me (on the left) and my friend Aaron on the shore's of Blue Lake circa summer of 1994. Wow! I remember we hiked up there and despite the snow in the background of the photo it was warm enough to briefly swim in. So cool! WTF was I wearing? Look at my hair!

The trail is still easy to follow at this point.

Stud hero.

Stud heroes.

If you look closely at this picture you will see a black dot on the snow at the about the midway point down the mountain on the left. This was the only other person we saw this day. He was shirtless and RUNNING the trail. He had already taken a wrong turn which added several miles to his trek. We talked to him a bit and after he left Max informed me he is a college athlete stud in the steeplechase (I think that's what it was). What a stud hero!

Misty Fjords tour plane flying low over us.

Joel and Neil taking a breather.

There were a few steep sections like this that required all four limbs to traverse. My legs were burning!

Fully stoked!

Snow ridge line. Without Thor we would have missed several important turns in the trail due to all the snow.

One of the goats we saw! He was on a near vertical cliff fooling around like a hero! We probably saw around 10 goats total but most of them were way off in the distance. I love seeing them and in the old days when I used to hike to Blue Lake I don't recall them being around. Not sure if there are more now or if I am just more aware of them. I do remember flying in a Beaver for work one day and the pilot saw on north of Ketchikan some 20 miles and made a big deal out of it. I think there may be more now!

Upper Silvis Lake! Due to the terrain we cannot just descend into the lake's basin and rather must continue in the alpine to the left in this picture across the top of that cliff.

There were two or three spots where we had to slip slide our way down some snow patches. One in particular where if you kept going you might roll all the way down the mountain. Luckily, despite my fear, they didn't give us much trouble.

Lots of sunscreen in use!

Another 4 limb operation up this 'cliff.'

This section was so steep there was a long rope tied to the top to help ascend or descend the hill depending on the direction you're going.

I remember my legs on fire at this section. Down and up!

A bear friend!

Gorgeous meadow!

Just fucking insanely beautiful!

360 degrees! Yes.... Lovey G is my user name on 360 Panorama. Hey.... it's hard to think of new user names all the time!
We begin our descent out of the alpine and into the hemlock forest At this point you start to feel like you are getting close to the end but I believe it was still another 3 hours or so to our finish line.

Trail crews have been working in this stretch. It looks like it's going to be awesome when they are all done!

The lake's edge.
A look back from whence we came. Fuck yeah- we studded out!

The dirt road section was maybe 3 miles long and seemed to go on forever. I think it was a bit tedious after the beauty of the alpine. Was still great though!

The stud crew when we were all done! Laura brought us some cold beer as a reward for our hard work. They were delicious! I then proceeded to have 21 more when we got back to town.

If I were to do this again I would probably do a couple things differently. Not because I didn't enjoy this trip but instead to have a different experience. I would go later in the summer so the trail is easier to follow and it would be drier on the feet. Also, I would like to go about half way and camp. Doing it in one day had a go go go feeling about it and it would be cool to be more relaxed. I would also love to see the alpine sun rise and sunset! It was a feeling of accomplishment to finish something that had been on my to do list for so long and it was great to do it with great friends! It's a must do for those who live in Ketchikan!

edit: I thought I would add this 360 of downtown Ketchikan for a few reasons- it's cool! It shows us between beers! There's Dave Rubin's The Rock statue! and finally, if you look above the neon Ketchikan sign that is Deer Mountain where we began our hike that morning. Good times!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hiking Obsidian Falls Loop Trail With Max

I wanted to post about this hike because I really enjoyed it and found it to be scenic as shit. We actually hiked this bad boy in September of 2012 so I'm a little late to the game, but here it is. Max and I drove to McKenzie Pass and camped the first night at Scott Lake. We got there towards dusk, set up camp, started a fire, drank a beer and made dinner. Click on the pictures to see the entire scene if so desired!

Here's the route we took. The only spur we did was to Four in One Cone and some cross country bushwhacking  to our secret fucking awesome epic campsite, Easton Butte. My friend John told me about the campsite and showed me where it is on the map. I'm sorry, but I feel it is my duty to keep the site a secret as it is so awesome I fear that it would be over run with cigarette butt droppers and bullet casings if I announce its location on the internet. It is great though with dramatic views of several peaks. We had ideal weather for this journey!

Look at the insane amount of shit we have on that picnic table! I wanted to make a dutch oven pizza so we had to load up appropriately.

Someone call the flavor police because we have a taste emergency! Wee oooo weee oooo!

Sasquatch stole our pants so we were forced to wear our sweat pants by the fire (picture by Sasquatch). Scott Lake was great but it was a bit dusty this late in the year. Who gives a shit- we're in the woods motherfuckers!

About half of the first day's hike was through some fairly dense smoke created by the epic Pole Creek Fire (not my pic). We weren't even sure we would be able to do the hike as we saw Forest Service trucks blocking off a lot of the side roads off of Highway 242 closer to Sisters. We talked to one of the Forest Service folks and they told us we would be fine at Obsidian. We were definitely out of harm's way but not out of the smoke!

Hazy woods. Hot stud.

Leaving the forest for our first patch of the lava fields. So bad ass!

Hack, cough. Taking the junction to Four in One Cone. We walked through a really cool limited vegetation 'meadow,' hid our packs and headed to the summit. Here's Max kicking ass in the moonscape.

On the ridge line for Four in One Cone. It was super bad ass but must really be something with a view! There are some really neat ancient looking dead trees up here.

There's a sweaty stud on the trail sweating his ass off. What a hero stud.

Scott Trail met the PCT in a huge cool meadow. We turned right on the PCT and ran into these two goats. They told us they had been hiking for several days but were on their way out as they had tired of the smoke. In fact we passed several groups of people who were hiking out due to the smoke.

In the Opie Dilldock Pass area with Collier Cone through the smog in the background. That shirt is making me thirsty.

Despite the limited visibility it is very pretty! The background is nice too!

Heading down the switchbacks from the pass through a super bad ass lava canyon. If you bring your dog make sure to bring booties as these rocks are rough and sharp.

We finally made our way out of the smoke to a beautiful wildflower-strewn creek-gurgling spot called Sunshine Meadow. Just fucking gorgeous! 

Fully stoked!

Oh nothing. Middle Sister in the background.

It's hard to see here but after we passed through Sunshine we crossed an area that was full of obsidian chunks everywhere. Those sparkling rocks in the foreground are pieces of the lava glass. Super bad ass but don't fall down!

Not sure of the name of this creek but it will lead us to the glory that is Obsidian Falls! Some really neat wide open spaces at this part of the trail.

Shit yeah! It's hard to tell from this pic but the talls are probably around 30 feet tall. We went down there and cooled off and picked up 10 pound pieces of obsidian and wondered about them.

We made it to our secret campsite! From where we camped we could see several mountains and would have seen more except for the smoke to the east. I packed a 6 pack of Sierra Nevada IPA pounders in a small cooler full of ice wrapped in garbage bags in my backpack all the way to our camp spot. Unfortunately, I think due to the smoke, I wasn't feeling super hot when we finally got there so I only drank one beer. Max took care of three of them though so it was worth the extra weight. Cheers!

Mountain sunset!

Our insane fucking bad ass ruling campsite on Easton Butte. Its location will remain a secret so littering dumb asses don't ruin it. Not that there are probably going to be too many littering tree chopping dip shits this far from a paved road.

Dense smoke to the east created a really neat sunset effect. Almost ocean like.

Good morning! Smoke still heavy in the valley. Luckily we didn't have to pass through it anymore until the very end of our hike back at the car. This was a beautiful hike that pretty much has it all: mountain views, streams, meadows, waterfalls, springs, lava flows, tree islands, obsidian. What else could you want? Highly recommended! Here is another great description of the hike. Google will take you to many more as well. Get off your ass and do it! And don't forget to get your wilderness pass first though.