Monday, June 30, 2008

Iron Horse State Park

Driving passed crowded Rattlesnake Lake you will find a quiet mountain biking trail that extends more than 100 miles east on what used to be part of the path of the Chicago - Milwaukee - St. Paul - Pacific Railroad and is now called Iron Horse State Park. Rich with history, this trail is perfect for a slightly strenuous but totally rewarding weekend bike ride. My partner in crime had walked it at the beginning of the week and found that it was perfectly suited for riding and invited me along to explore further than his legs took him.

It was a hot day here in Seattle and the mountains gave us no reprieve. The trail starts out easy enough, but you start to realize you are slowly climbing up. It's a slow incline, but in the heat and for a long distance it really starts to affect you. All along the first part of the trail the sides are covered in wildflowers. The daisies were plentiful and that made me happy. We were riding pretty quickly so I did not get a chance to snap many pictures on the way up the trail.

Although it was extremely warm, there were many creeks that crossed the trail and as we came upon one the air would cool considerably, almost 20 to 30 degrees at some points. The old rail road signs were still posted along the path and we pulled into a clearing at "Ragnar". The smell of the railroad filled my senses and I felt transported back in time. Del was really excited about this trail and the history of the railroad and town so he had done some research after his first trip here. I felt lucky that he did because all along the way he was able to give me the history of the area, which is cool because usually I don't know much about where we go and end up researching it after. It's nice to know this stuff out on the trail. Check out this page to read a little about it.

After a crazy 2 mile push up a particularly steeper incline, we came across the trail head for Cedar Butte and took a quick water and Power Bar break. Three hikers had just come down off the trail and they stopped to talk for a moment. Apparently there was still a lot of snow on the trail and they had had a few adventures. The climb is about 2 miles up with a gain of 900 feet to about a 1900 foot elevation. The hikers had started their climb at 9 am and it was about 2 pm when they finally made it down. For 2 miles, you know that had to be a harrowing adventure for them! We congratulated them on their descent and continued on up the trail.

Del had been wanting to stick his feet into a stream and about 12 miles in we found a great spot just off the trail. We hid the bikes a bit in the brush and hiked into the trees. Taking off our shoes we each found a spot to sit and cool off our tired feet. The water was ice cold, but felt amazingly good. These falls come from the Cedar River Watershed, which is the City Of Seattle's water supply. We felt adventurous and decided to take a quick sip from the waterfall. It was cold, clean and tasted exactly like snow. Pretty neat drinking from the source of the water that comes out of the tap. Tasted quite a bit different though!

At this point it was getting kinda late, so we decided to head back. I took a couple quick shots of the bikes with the hills in the background, then we were off. The descent was excellent, although very bumpy. Taking the trail at 15-19 miles an hour over very rocky terrain we had to keep our head down the entire way to make sure we didn't hit a rock and go flying over the handlebars. My shoulders and neck today are pretty sore from the effort, and it's pretty jarring riding over rocks...but still a ton of fun flying down the trail at a nice speed.

There are a few points along the trail where you come across a bridge that spans over a stream, waterfall or a gorge. There are quite a few rock formations on either side of the bridges and we saw a ton of climbers scaling the walls. We stopped at one particularly large bridge because Del had taken a moment to look over his shoulder and saw the hillside covered in green sulfur. He took a few shots and since I was waiting, I figured I'd pull out the camera and snap a few of my own. This shot looks to me like the hill is neon green. It wasn't dark at all, but I lifted the camera to the sky to get a little blue in and it darkened the landscape making for a pretty ominous picture.

This is actually a bridge that Del is standing on. They are still covered in dirt and rocks from the railroad tracks, but this particular one is hovering very high over a large run off stream from the water shed. I tried to also capture the stream, but we were pretty high up and it's hard to get a good shot from a camera phone, but I tried anyway!

The final leg down took no time at all and in total we went almost 30 miles. It was another lovely weekend exploring the Pacific Northwest.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

RZA Interview at the Warwick

Yesterday I was asked to drive one of our camera men over to Seattle to do an artist interview with RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. This would be the second interview I have done, and he's a multi-platinum recording artist with one of the most notorious Hip Hop groups in the world. Heck yeah I want to go!

I was aware of the group, but honestly I couldn't pick them out of a crowd even if they were on stage singing "Hey, we're the Wu-Tank Clan" but I was curious to see a true hip hop tour in action. I had worked at an urban label in LA so I was aware of how rap artists can be, and I was not disappointed in this case.

The shoot was scheduled for 5 pm and we were told we only had 15 minutes to interview him. My camera man Motzo wanted to run by a record store to grab their latest album and maybe a poster for him to sign, so we left Bellevue at 3:30 so we would have time to drive over, find parking, get to a record store and then set up the equipment.

Little did I know how much of a fan Motzo was. He had brought from home two old LP's from Wu-Tang, a magazine that had an article with RZA and then went to the record store and purchased three cd's and a t-shirt (which he proceeded to put on in the lobby). I knew this was going to be a long shoot.

We got to the hotel at 4:15 and started calling the tour manager. No answer, straight to voice mail. This is typical with shoots and I wasn't surprised that we still hadn't heard from them, however Motzo was a bit say the least. He was pacing the lobby, checking and then re-checking equipment, and going over the questions that he wanted to ask RZA. Around 4:50 the tour bus pulled up and a couple people wandered out on to the sidewalk. Motzo jumped up from the couch and stood in the middle of the lobby, looking at these poor people like he was a stalker, wearing his Wu-Tang shirt he looked like a crazed fan. He even helped them with their luggage as they walked in the door.

Finally we get the call from the tour manager who said they would be down in 15 minutes. We search for a nice place to shoot, find one in the bar and proceed to set up our lighting and cameras. An hour goes by, and still no RZA. We call the tour manager, she says he snuck out to do a radio interview and will be back in 20 minutes. By this time we've been there for 2 hours, and have taken up half the bar during happy hour.

The bar manager comes on duty and immediately walks over to where we had set up to ask what we were doing. Of course we hadn't got permission from the hotel to do a shoot, we had only planned on being there for 30 minutes! The director for the hotel was called down and we were told we would have to leave. After some talking the director finally figuring out who was staying in their hotel and that we were interviewing him, so we were given the ok. All this took 30 minutes...still no RZA.

At this point I said to Motzo "I give him till 7 and then I'm out". Sure enough at 6:58, 3 hours late, RZA comes walking in. I mike him up, we get rolling and 8 minutes later it's all over. He gave us some great shout outs, but our audio was having issues and Motzo was so nervous that I think the whole thing was a bust.

After the shoot, Motzo had RZA sign about 14 different things (including his shirt!!) and then with a quick wave he was gone. In all, RZA was a nice guy, very polished and totally Hollywood (although he's from NY, LA always gets you in the end). I'm sure I'll think twice about doing another interview with a hip hop artist!

I wish I had taken pictures, but I was so exhausted by the time he showed up that I didn't even care :) Next interview will be We Are Scientists. A nice little indy more hip hop for me!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Rattlesnake Mountain

The plan for the weekend was to head over to the Olympic Mountains, but the weather outlook wasn't so great so we decided to stay on the eastside and try an extension of a hike we did when I visited at Christmas.

The first time we did this hike was in December
and it was very snowy at the top. The hike is two miles up a switch back that winds through forests filled with large bolders, ferns and wild flowers. When we finally reached the ridge it was completely covered in snow and I was just exhausted. The weather was sketchy and I couldn't really see over the edge, all I knew is it was a long way down. We made the trek back down in the dark (of course, in true Del and Stacy style) and thus began my passion for hiking.

This time around we were seasoned hikers so we decided to go past the ridge and follow the trai
l until we hit around 5 miles and then trek back, making it around 10 miles round trip. The day turned out to be lovely; high clouds, no rain and a slightly humid 72 degrees. The trail head parking lot was very full when we pulled in so we knew that the trail was going to be packed, however the nice thing is that most people only go up to the ridge, then come back down. I figured the rest of the trail would be pretty deserted as only serious hikers would take the rest of the trail.

Getting up to the ridge was super duper easy and I was more than pleasantly surprised. We even stopped for 20 minutes or so at a waterfall we had to climb down to off the main trail to find. It was here I realized two things: first, I had started a bit of a mini-internship of sorts with Del as he has started to teach me about photography; and second, all this hiking was doing me a world of good as I could make it up these hills no problem.

We hiked back up out of the area where the waterfall was and headed up to the ridge. There were so many people out there that we didn't even bother to walk out to the ledge. Instead we opted to take a couple pictures just before you get to the ridge and then proceeded to walk up to the next look outs which were a lot less crowded.

There are two additional look outs just a couple miles up from the ridge. From there you can get a really great picture of the ledge and the mountains and lakes in the distance. However, the best part was looking to the north to see Mt. Si. It's still amazing to me that we climbed that mountain and you can see the entire thing from Rattlesnake Mountain. In fact, I remember being on top of Si and looking down on Rattlesnake Ridge and thinking "I was exhausted getting to the top of that, and now look where I am!".

The trail continues for another 9 miles or so and we just kept trucking. Del had me take a picture of the map on the way up just in case we lost our way and it did come in an extent. We were trying to get up to Grand Prospect, which was supposedly 8 miles in from the trail head. There were a couple lovely look outs, but no signs stating what any of them were. We came to a clearing and enjoyed the last of one jug of water and some trail mix. I can't even stress enough the importance of three things: water, snacks and good shoes. Those three together made for a
much more pleasant climb than our previous ones with old worn out hiking shoes, only 2 bottles of water and 2 pb&j sandwiches.

About 7 miles in we hit a snow pack. Sticks were found and we continued forward for a bit where we came across a couple forestry service roads. Now that we are off the mountain and I've been able to research it a bit, I'm pretty sure one of those roads lead to Grand Prospect, but when you are on the trail it's not the smartest thing to start exploring 8 miles in unless you have camping gear. Since we were not coming to any look outs and it was around 4 in the afternoon, we figured it be best to turn around and head back down the mountain.

We came to the same clearing we finished the first jug of water at and stopped for lunch and to take a few shots. We could still see Mt. Si through the trees and could look down on North Bend. Beyond that to the north you could see the snow covered hilltops leading up to Mt. Baker. It was a great place to stop for lunch and rest up a bit.

I have to say, I was pretty impressed with myself. I know it sounds vain, but I can't believe that just a few short months ago I could hardly make it up a 2 mile climb and now I was looking around at the hillsides and thinking "I've climbed that, I could climb that." I was sweaty and smelly and tired, but I could easily go another 8 miles...and that's exactly what we did!

The way down was nice and when we got down to the ridge again there were only a few people up there so we ventured out to take a few shots. I had my camera put away, so I didn't get anything but I did have a nice chat with a photographer who was scouting for a photo shoot with a local hiker who has cancer. He had never hiked before and when I told him how far we had hiked that day he looked at us with awe. It was a nice feeling :)

I didn't start to get really tired until the last mile of the journey. My knees were hurting and I had been bitten by three large ants and the bites itched like crazy! We made it down and stopped to look at the Rattlesnake Lake, which was so full it had crested the shore and covered some of the grass on the shoreline. Again, no pictures...but I highly recommend seeking this lake out (you can drive to it) and sit on the shore. It's surrounded by mountains and is so lush and green this time of year it's amazing to think it's only 30 minutes out of the city.

We came home and had a celebratory pizza and our weekend ritual of rum and diet Pepsi. Although I was not as tired as some of our other hikes, I probably should have had caution with the alcohol because when I woke the next morning my emotions were all over the place. We headed out to breakfast and when I got back to his house I just burst into tears. It was the strangest thing. I had to go home where I had a good cry, took a long shower and a nap. I felt bad for Del as I couldn't really articulate what was going on with me but I'm glad I headed home to work through it.

I've always thought that women's emotions were such a strange thing and as of late after conversations with some of my friends I've discovered that alcohol just compounds it and takes it to a whole new level if not kept in check. If there is one thing I can recommend to my girlfriends out there (and you know who you are!!) is if you feel the emotions coming up, just walk away. Go home if you are with someone or don't pick up that phone and call the guy who you think you can take it out on. Work through it, have a good cry, call me (or another girlfriend) to vent and I promise you will feel better in the morning!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Big Creek Falls / Otter Falls

It's been a bit since I posted and I've been having so much fun exploring the Northwest so I wanted to just quickly put up one of my recent adventures. I will be adding my Mt. Si adventure shortly, but it was a doozy and will take a bit out of me just to write it down!

As a side note, my iPhone was stolen from Del's truck on one of our bike rides a couple weeks ago so all these pictures are taken with a Nokia N75. As the new iPhone is coming out shortly, there are no replacements for me so I will have to wait until the 11th to get my phone back. :(

The Big Creek Falls / Taylor River trail is an old forestry service road that has been reclaimed by the forest. It is about 10 miles round trip and gains about 700 feet to an elevation of around 1800 feet at the falls. Del had done a search for trails around 10 miles and found this one. Seeing as the gain was not much we knew it was going to be a nice stroll through the trees and would give him opportunities to get some really great shots in.

The drive in took us past quite a few trails, two even big enough for a large trail head, then to a dirt road that followed the Taylor River. We weren't exactly sure if this was the correct trail, but a quick question to a passing hiker let us know we were in the right place. We threw on the backpacks and started up.

The trail starts at a bridge over the Taylor River and winds upwards through a beautiful and lush forest. It was a beautiful sunny day and luckily the trail is not that busy, which was strange because it was a Sunday, but everything I had read about this trail mentioned that it wasn't often used. We soon discovered the drawback, as we came across the first of many downed trees across the path along with the multiple waterfalls and streams that went directly across the trail.

I can't even count the number of waterfalls we came across. At two points the stream over took the trail and we had to find a way to scramble over it to the other side.
After 5 miles we reached Big Creek Falls, which I ended up only taking one picture of because there was a group of people who had hiked up to a rock mid way up the falls to have a picnic and Del wanted to wait until they were out of the shot. So we took a short break to enjoy the sun and the spray from the falls.

I had read that there was another very large waterfall in the area called Otter Falls. Del pulled out Tom Tom to see if we could navigate towards it. Luckily because we were on a forestry service road, Tom Tom picked it up and lead us in a direction...the wrong direction! We continued up the road another mile and came upon a lot of snow, which is really exhausting to walk on, and a fork in the trail. A sign pointed us to Snoqualmie Lake, which was another 2 miles up. We took stock of our supplies and decided that we would have to leave it for another time. Still no Otter Falls, however.

I mentioned to Del that the trail to Otter Falls supposedly before Big Creek Falls and is marked by a pile of rocks. He had seen a little tower of rocks on our way up so we started back down, stopping at Big Creek Falls to take a couple pictures.

We were pretty tired at this point, already having gone 7 miles through snow, streams and trees so on the way down Del pulled out his trusty phone and played us a little music. "Touch pinky's body..." It was a welcome sound and helped moral, however we were pretty exhausted.

Still, when we came upon the pile of rocks we just had to see if we could find the falls. You could hear them from the trail and at one point Del looked up through the trees and saw the top of the falls about 1500 feet up. It was a beautiful sight and I knew we were in for a treat. The trail was unmarked and also completely unmaintained. We basically made our own trail over trees and up a hill until we came to a crest where you could see the falls thorough the trees. Once we came up over the crest and down into the valley created by the falls and Libby Lake, we were able to see the bottom 500 feet of the falls. They were breathtaking and honestly these pictures don't do it justice. Del took some amazing shots that will make their way to his website.

As always, it was awelcome sight to see the Explorer after the hike. The sun was setting creating an orange glow and the moon was almost full and was rising behind the hills. It was a great hike, a wonderful Father's Day and a good time with my partner in crime.

Speaking of crime, that evening Del's truck was broken into AGAIN. This time taking his GPS, so this was our last adventure with Tom Tom. However, I have a bit of a surprise for him tomorrow, so I'm thinking this won't be the last post that includes the beloved GPS.