Hike through military history on Veteran's Day fee-free weekend. The Admirality Lighthouse on Fort Casey. Photo by Bob and Barb.
This weekend, federal and state public lands agencies are honoring veterans and service members for Veteran's Day by waiving all fees from Nov. 9-11. So, when you head to the hills or the coast this weekend, you can park at trailheads or recreation facilities without hanging a Northwest Forest Pass or Discover Pass or paying an entrance fee.
It's the perfect excuse to extend your hiking season and get outside. Below are a few great ways to celebrate veterans and get outside.
Visit a State Park
It's a fee-free day in State Parks, so you won't need a pass to visit any number of great parks near you.
Hike through military history. What better way to honor veterans than on a stroll at Fort Casey State Park or Fort Flagler State Park. Fort Ebey or Fort Worden State Park also have their fair share of history and hiking to enjoy.
Wildlife watching. Bring you binoculars and a camera and go in search of elk, owls, eagles or mountain goats in any number of state parks around the state. Where wildlife are likely to be.
Weather-proof camping in a cabin. Many of the State Parks have cabins, yurts or platform tents to help extend your camping season.
- Combine wildlife watching and camping in a cabin at Dosewallips State Park, Copalis River Spit in Griffiths-Priday State Park and Potholes Wildlife Area.
Visit a National Park
Pack an extra fleece, grab your camera and a thermos of hot chocolate or spiced cider, and explore one of the three National Parks here in Washington.
Facilities open within Mount Rainier National Park during this holiday include the National Park Inn at Longmire (lodging and meals) and the Longmire General Store (gifts and food items). Visitor information is available at the Longmire Information Center. The Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise will be open on Saturday and Sunday only.
This time of year, there are some road closures and chain restrictions on some roads, so check their website and road conditions before you head out for a Rainier adventure.
If you want to combine a little camping with your hiking, Olympic National Park has some campgrounds open year-round. You can put the money you save on entrance fee toward your campsite fee and hike for two or three days in a row.
There's never an entrance fee to North Cascades National Park, but a three day weekend is still a great chance to get a glimpse of these dramatic peaks covered in snow. Most of the trails in North Cascades National Park have some snow on them, but Thunder Creek is a beautiful, low-elevation trail that is often snow free late in the season. And you don't mind braving some cold, you get a night away by car camping in one or two campgrounds in North Cascades, too.
Hike on National Forest Lands
From the snow-covered trails in the Colville National Forest to river hikes Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, there are no shortage of trails to explore, fee-free, this weekend.
Wherever your outdoor adventures take you, go prepared, stay safe and have a great time hiking!
The Cape Horn Trail is one of the Columbia Gorge's newest trails and is quickly becoming one of its most beloved. Only minutes from Vancouver and with year-round views of the Columbia River Gorge, the Cape Horn Trail is a wild treasure for southern Washington. Its beginnings as an official trail were fraught with controversy and uncertainty.
Nearly three years ago, WTA volunteers began redeveloping the user-created Cape Horn Trail in accordance with a Forest Service recreation plan hammered out through a long planning process. At the time nobody knew if it would succeed.
But thanks to the efforts of the collaborative group that formed to implement the plan, the trail has met the expectations of planners, hikers and other trail users alike.
Addressing local worries, long-term budget woes
Local residents worried about traffic, trespass and vandalism. Conservationists were alarmed about impacts to rare flora and fauna such as peregrine falcons and Larch Mt. salamanders. The Forest Service wondered how they could monitor and maintain yet another trail after years of budget cuts with no end in sight. These issues came to a head during the planning process that forged an official recreation plan adopted in early 2010.
The Cape Horn Conservancy (CHC) was a keystone organization that grew out of the planning process. Formed to steward the trail, the CHC has met regularly for the past three years with the Forest Service, WTA, and Friends of the Columbia Gorge to collaborate on volunteer events, trainings, fundraising, grant writing, and outreach and education.
Created together: new trail, protected habitat, sweeping Gorge views
Together, the groups have improved and maintained every section of the 6.5 mile trail, constructed three new bridges, three sets of steps, rerouted large portions away from sensitive habitat, built 400 ft. of turnpike, installed trail signs, built new trail segments to link the trail to two new pedestrian underpass tunnels, constructed 1/4 mile of ADA trail, and, most notably, built a magnificent stone overlook site with a sweeping view of the Gorge.
For hikers, the full loop provides fantastic views of the Columbia River Gorge, an intimate look at the Cape Horn Falls and a challenging workout as it climbs and descends the rocky slopes of Cape Horn.
WTA's has taken a lead role on major construction and reroute projects; hosting more than 30 work parties per year for the past three years and training volunteers. The projects were funded collaboratively, too, with grants made to the CHC and WTA by the National Forest Foundation, South Gifford Pinchot Resource Advisory Committee (RAC), Jubitz Family Foundation, Columbia Gorge Environmental Foundation, plus many individuals who have generously supported WTA, the CHC and the Friends of Columbia Gorge.
Finishing the big stuff this winter, a future of collaboration
Looking ahead, Cape Horn volunteers and WTA aim to finish rerouting one of the last major sections this winter, marking an end to the major redevelopment phase of the trail. After that, Cape Horn can be more than just a fantastic hiking destination—it can serve as a model for how a collaborative effort can succeed in building and maintaining great trails into the future.
When you sign up online for a work party with WTA, you'll get an email confirming your sign up, which includes a handy list of items you'll need to take with you. The list usually reads a little something like this:
- Work gloves
- Heavy boots (hiking boots o.k.)
- Long pants (no shorts!)
- Lunch, water and snacks
- Any personal medication you may require
These are important things to have on any work party, but winters in the Pacific Northwest can be cold and sometimes wet, and WTA works year-round. So how do you stay dry (and happy) on a super-wet winter work party? After all, your fellow volunteers will provide warm smiles, but that might not help cold fingers.
Tips for staying warm and dry
Whether in the Issaquah Alps or out on the Olympic Peninsula, these little tips will make you more comfortable on your next winter work party.
- Long underwear: Most trail work pants are loose-fitting enough to fit another layer underneath. A good first layer of long underwear will keep you nice and warm, while letting you move around comfortably while you're brushing, digging, or playing in the dirt.
- Warm hat or fleece headband: Very important to prevent catching a chill during lunchtime or even while you're working. Wear it under your hard hat or by itself during lunch to keep your ears warm.
- Gaiters: Washington can be muddy, and nothing makes for cold legs like damp, muddy pants. Keep the muck at bay with a pair of gaiters (waterproof ankle or knee high boot and pant covers), but be sure and put them on before you go tramping through a boggy area.
- Soup or a hot drink: It might take a little more planning ahead in the morning, but having soup for lunch on a dreary day makes lunch especially rejuvenating. Just be sure you bring it in a wide-mouth thermos so you can get all the good bits. If you're devoted to PB&J for lunch, bring a thermos of hot tea, coffee, cider or cocoa to sip on all day long.
- Two pairs of gloves: It's a great idea to bring two sets of gloves. Especially on a rainy day, there's nothing like being able to pull on new, dry gloves after lunch instead of the muddy ones from the morning. Some volunteers also say they wear liners (for warmth) or latex gloves (to keep hands dry) under their work gloves.
- Rain gear: This should probably go without saying, but it's important to remember your waterproof (not water resistant) coat (and maybe pants) when you head out. Even if it doesn't rain, it's better to have them on hand. Just be sure and put the gear on at the first sign of rain—it won't help much if you're already drenched.
- Extra shoes: After your snacks and refreshment at the end of the day, there's nothing like being able to change into clean and dry shoes at your car. Bring something comfortable that will let your feet breathe a little, like flip flops, crocs, or sandals.
And for those of your with a little extra time on your hands, enjoy this little instructional video on what not to wear to one of our work parties, (unless you're joining us for a costume party at the end).
After twelve years as advocacy director, WTA bids a fond farewll to Jonathan Guzzo. As he takes the next step in his career, he leaves hikers in a much better position than when he arrived in 2001. From trail funding to coalition-building around trails, Jonathan has delivered time and again for hikers.
In 2001, WTA's advocacy program was focused almost completely on the state legislature. During his tenure, he took it from that narrow focus to a program that was effective across a broad range of issues and in many different venues, from state and federal land managers to the US Senate.
In Olympia, Jonathan poured his first three years of work into reforming the Non-Highway and Off-Road Vehicle Activities program (NOVA). This program allocates gas tax revenue for projects that are accessed via a non-highway road (like those on national forests and national parks). His efforts were instrumental in changing the allocation from being 20 percent for non-motorized projects to 80 percent, which has been a boon for trail maintenance projects around the state.
Under Jonathan's leadership, WTA also became a national leader for other funding programs, including the federal Recreation, Heritage and Wilderness and the Recreational Trails Programs as these came up for reauthorization. At the state level, Jonathan successfully advocated for funding for DNR lands and Washington State Parks.
Jonathan's collaborative approach brought together trail groups that had squabbled for years, uniting hikers with equestrians and mountain bikers in particular around issues of mutual importance. After researching a ground-breaking report about the state of recreational access on Washington's public lands last year, he took a lead role in pioneering the Sustainable Roads Analysis Process on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This public process is culminating November 13 in Everett, and will help the Forest shrink the size of its massive road system.
"I'm proud of the work that I've done at WTA," reflected Jonathan Guzzo on his long tenure. "Our advocacy program is as respected as an innovative, engaged and effective model for positive change. Over the past twelve years, I have worked hard to address difficult issues in a collaborative spirit, and we've won important victories in the process."
Jonathan is taking some well-deserved time off before taking on his next professional venture.
"The time is right for me to take on new challenges and learn new skills. I'm looking forward to watching WTA as it continues to succeed on complex issues and win victories for hikers."
And WTA looks forward to working with Jonathan in whatever new position he takes on. We thank him for a great twelve years!
Washington has entered a transition season, one where winter has come to the high country while fall still reigns supreme lower down. Sun, snow, sleet, wind, rain—you captured it all and faithfully reported your adventures back for the hikers who will follow in your footsteps.
Seasonal safety basics
The changing season also calls for a few changes in your hiking safety basics. Revisit your 10 essentials, and consider adding extra clothes and emergency supplies. Get religious about checking conditions and knowing the weather report.
There are some grand adventures awaiting you in the days and months ahead, but like the land around you, your safety routines need to change with the season. In short, go prepared and be extra careful out there.
Six trails, one weekend in Washington
You can get all these views from one single weekend in Washington, making this state a pretty good place for a hiker to live. Match the photos to the trails and trip reporters who captured them below, and then dive deeper into trip reports for more ideas for your late fall hiking.
Top row left: "We were right on the edge of the weather, so we had lots of clouds, but also lots of sun and not too much wind ... We saw a couple of groups of bighorn sheep on the sides of the canyon and some aspens and cottonwoods still holding on to some yellow leaves in the canyon itself." —East Rim Waterworks Canyon in the Naches Valley. David Hagen (aka mytho-man).
Top center: "Make sure you are properly prepared and this isn't for beginners. Overall the elevation gain is not that bad at all and would be a great hike with some better weather." —Fisher Lake by Lismic
Top right: "The trail was covered by snow starting 1 mile from the trail head ... Because it was snowing heavily, the trail was muddy and wet. Make sure you bring your waterproof hiking boots to enjoy the hike." —Melakwa Lake by Elsa
Bottom row left: "There were clouds hiding most of Baker, but the glacier was clear. A light drizzle started about two miles up the trail, but subsided when we reached the glacier. We enjoyed the blue ice in the crevasses and the interesting serac formations. —Helitrope Ridge by geezerhiker
Bottom center: "The trail is in great shape - trees and native rose shrubs nicely brushed back. There are several new areas where the hillside is slumping - wouldn't be surprised we loose the north most turn of the old switchback down to the beach this winter. The views were as awesome as always. If you have never done this relatively easy, close in hike, put it on your list." —Ebey's Landing by wafflesnfalafel
Bottom right: "Soon Mt. Rainier emerged over the horizon. We reached the summit at 11:47. We had lunch below the beacon ... We saw no one else on the trail." —Katchess Beacon by Yasobara
Krista Dooley, our Youth Programs Manager, modeled one costume idea before promptly getting stuck and needing a zipper assist out of her cocoon. Photo by Rebecca Lavigne.
Some people are planners. Others, not so much. This is just as true for hiking as it is for Halloween costumes.
If you are still scrambling for a Halloween costume, we put together a few last-minute costume hacks from gear you may just have sitting around. If our suggestions don't suit your costume fancy, perhaps they'll spark some inspiration.
Turn your sleeping bag into an oversized bug cocoon
All you need to really pull this off is something buggy on your head to look like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. You can use paper cutouts taped to your glasses or makeup to create big bug eyes. Use a bit of wire (or craft pipe cleaners) to create antenna.
Want to really sell the costume? Attach a stick to your pack or head, where your cocoon is "hanging" from.
A note of caution: field-testing this costume at Washington Trails HQ proved it might be the least practical option of the bunch. Two potential downsides: unless you have a bag that unzips on the bottom, you will do a lot of hopping around tonight. And unless you stay stationary, you will certainly wreck the bottom of your sleeping bag. Also, it's best for outdoors costume parties, where you won't roast inside your 10 degree bag.
Overstuff your pack to 'Monster' proportions and go as Cheryl Strayed
Do this costume now, before Reese Witherspoon steals your thunder.
Have a different hiking hero or heroine? Pick a hiker who has made history and run with it.
Be a trailhead
You can be your favorite trailhead or get creative with a new trail of your own.
What you need to look (at least a little) like a trailhead kiosk:
- A piece of flat cardboard to hang around your neck.
- An old map.
- Some regulations. (Feel free to type these up yourself.)
Want to go all out?
- Attach a second sheet of cardboard (sandwich board style) and share even more info for the Halloween hiking public (like what to do if you encounter Sasquatch or a Zombie on trail.)
- Glue a shoe box to the cardboard, cut a hole in the top and make people file a permit before getting past you to the pumpkin juice. You can use a stack of post-its as your permits.
- Download a photo of your favorite summit, print it in color, and roll it up into a conical hat for your head/summit.
- Glue a lost car key or pair of sunglasses to your board.
Be a Google mapper
The upside of this is that you can just wear your regular hiking clothes. The downside is you have to find something that looks like a blue ball attached to a green metal arm.
- Step 1. Keep your pack empty, and attach a cardboard box to the outside. It should look like a radio from 1940. (See below.)
- Step 2. The blue camera ball. Find something that looks like a big blue ball. Maybe your kid's globe or a soccer ball? If you'd rather hike ultralight, a blue balloon with black marker on it would be easier on your shoulders.
- Step 3. Connect the blue ball to the pack with a green arm. This is the toughest bit, and a trekking pole would probably work in a pinch.
Have your own hack? Tell us about it
If you use your boots, poles, pack, compass, maps, tent or other hiking item for a Halloween costume, tell us about it. Or better yet, share a photo with us.
Join WTA and be a part of this a great new project! Washington Trails Association is working with the City of Issaquah to develop a trails system for their Park Pointe property, located between the Issaquah high school and Tiger Mountain.
Originally intended to be a housing development, the City of Issaquah preserved Park Pointe as part of a 2010 agreement involving a transfer of rights to protect open space and views near the city. Situated on the edge of Tiger Mountain, the 102-acre park is adjacent to Issaquah High School.
The trail being developed for the area will provide a loop hike within the property, as well as connections to the High School trail and other access trails on Tiger Mountain. When finished, the project will add almost two miles of trail to the trail system in the Issaquah Alps.
Sign up for an upcoming work party
This is a great opportunity to get your hands dirty and help out your community right in your own backyard.
Visualize what flows into the Skagit River via Streamer, an interactive mapping service from the USGS and Department of the Interior.
This summer, the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) released an interactive mapping service they've dubbed Streamer. It lets you trace the flow of major rivers and streams both upstream and downstream.
Why should Washington hikers care? Because so many of our hiking trails and access roads follow water drainages. Plus, if you care a whit about maps (as many hikers do), this thing is just awesome to play with.
- See how rivers that start on opposite sides of the same ridge (like the North Fork Skykomish and Little Wenatchee Rivers) take wildly different paths to the Pacific.
- Learn how many miles of streams flow into Lake Chelan (178 miles) with a single click.
- Wonder which waterways connect us to Oregon, Montana and Wyoming? Streamer brings us all together.
Below are just a few of the trace results for Washington's well-known waterways (like the Elwha and Columbia Rivers), but seeking out the source of your local river is equally interesting. Some fun searches? Trace the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie, the Suiattle, the Snake or Okanogan Rivers.
Tracing the free-flowing Elwha River
What flows into the Columbia? Pretty much everything
A final observation: streams and brains
After spending more than an hour tracing the branching pathways of water through Washington's topography, it struck us how many of the smaller pathways looked so familiar to the trail maps we scrutinize before, during and after hiking adventures.
Also, the more complex the pathway, the more the streams and rivers resembled one—or all—of the following: veins, leaves, trees or brains.
What do you see when you look at Washington's waterways?
Trip reporter Sangaek recommends Lodge Lake as "a great hike for a lazy afternoon stroll (with kids)."
A case of the Mondays? Not a chance, with so many incredible trip reports flowing in from a gorgeous weekend of hiking. If you are searching out your next fall hike, or just some inspiration to get outside, you could do worse than spending an hour cozied up with a cup of coffee and trip reports.
File your own adventure. What makes a great trip report? This time of year, snow conditions are always important information to share with others. How are the fall colors? What about the state of the road, the trailhead facilities and the trail itself? Last, but not least, include your photos of the trail, the scenery or just your hiking buddies!
Below are photos and links to trip reports from great adventures over the weekend. Use them to plan a trip, or just take the kind of coffee break that will keep you jonesing for fall hiking all week long.
Snow-covered larches at Carne Mountain
Volcano views from Mount Ellinor
Focusing on the details at Wallace Falls
A beach, trails galore and fall fungi at Saint Edwards State Park
Overnight skies at Railroad Grade
We missed Mount Rainier so much we could hug it. Photo by karmot from Skyskraper Mountain earlier this year.
With the federal government shutdown officially over, we rounded up some key information to help you get out hiking Washington's federal lands in all their autumn glory.
What we know, and what you need to know to go hiking
- National Parks are open. All three of Washington's National Parks opened today, as staff return to work and begin opening facilities. Check their websites and social channels for more information.
- National Forest and BLM staff are back on the job. Staff were headed back to work today with normal seasonal hours.
- National Forest Passes are once again for sale.
- Hikers are incredibly generous with each other. This can be a tough season for judging conditions. You helped each other out with very detailed information in your trip reports. Hikers, thank you so much for being such an incredible community.
- We sure missed our federal land manager partners. From the rich body expertise provided on trail, in ranger stations on social media channels, we sure felt the absence of federal staff during the shutdown and are glad to have them back on duty. If you head out hiking, make sure to thank a ranger for their service.
- In Washington, we are very lucky to have great hiking options on a diversity of lands. You all did some incredible hiking, and we loved seeing fall unfold in your trip report
- Find a great fall hike. Check out recent trip reports, look for larches, hike a State Park, take the Hike of the Week, or find your hike in our seasonal suggestions.
Time will tell
- Seasonal closures. This is normally a transition season on public lands, when snow and end-of-season reductions in staffing limit facilities like campgrounds, roads, and some ranger stations and interpretive centers. It might take a few days to sort out exactly what's open and what's closed for the winter season.
- Unreported trail damage. WTA had to move trail work parties off of 12 trails on National Forest lands during the shutdown, but beyond maintenance to those trails, wet and snowy weather may have changed the landscape of many other trails, and put other forest crews behind on their seasonal maintenance.
- Long term impacts. It may be a while before the full impacts of the shutdown on the employees, parks, and surrounding economies are fully tallied.