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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

MEMORIAL DAY HIKE

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Going to hike 'the ridge' day finally arrived.
We have been saying we will for years.

Manastash Ridge trail guide - we climbed the Girl Scout route. 

When our youngest son, Clarence, started college in Ellensberg, Washington he would tell us about these great 'short' hikes he commonly took. One of the hikes we heard about routinely was Manastash Ridge and he promised he would take us on the hike some day. On Monday 'some day' arrived.

Papa had the day off. We had no other commitments - except the yard, so Papa got up, sprayed the fruit trees, mowed the lawn and by 8 a.m. we were on our way west along I-90 to Ellensberg. The weather was sunny but not summertime hot. We took hats, jackets, and lots of water - and at the last minute I decided I should take a cane. Papa of course had his walking stick.

Sun-fried, wind burned hikers

Our son has always expressed confidence we could make the hike. At the last minute I seriously questioned (privately in my own mind) if I should make the attempt but then he asked if I thought I could do it - "pwfftth"  - I answered, "Of  course I can" and off we drove along a couple back roads and over to the base of the ridge.

 Cars filled both sides of the decently sized parking area and as I looked at the ridge I pointed up and asked, "Is the where we are headed?" Apparently it is a popular venue.

My son asked again if I could do it. This time I replied, "we are about to find out." I warned him I am not fast but I am steady and can keep going. He said he hiked up and back in 38 minutes one time. I think he must have ran all the way. He figured it might take us about 3 hours. It did - to get to the top! I am slow. Coming down was about an hour and a half.

As we left the car, being young and agile, he soon turned around and walked backwards so we could chat. When we reached the base of the hill he got an idea, "hey I think I could do this backwards" and he did! And we had a terrific visit.  He walked the whole 2 miles up hill backwards! hours of backwards walking - uphill!

Here you can see Cla climbing backwards 
and trying to hurry to overtake me and stay ahead. 
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I do have evidence that I got ahead a few times,
- tortoise and hare style.

I took few pictures - they took many. I kept walking.

After crossing a small but gushing stream (on squared logs), a steep vertical climb starts the 2 mile hike up mountainous desert terrain. There are no real 'level' spots. You begin to climb and you keep climbing, sometimes more - sometimes less. That  incline was OK for me going up - just like doing stairs - but it was the worst of the trail coming back.


There were many people on the trail. Imagine my surprise, soon after that first climb, when I saw a child coming down the trail carried in a pack on her mother's back. Little Miss Red Head was clearly not terrifically happy. In a few minutes we saw dad with baby and 2 siblings. They posed for us.


 Seeing them gave me great courage. He asked with concern if we had seen his wife with Missy Redhead and shared that she was indeed not happy. I remember when I was young and strong enough to hike with children on my back. It was as pleasant to remember such vigor as it was to watch it.  It was also fun to see children run ahead as the parents worked together taking turns with the young ones. I remember baby packs ... but never mind -  those are other stories for other days.


As we approached the initial sharp rise, we were walking together. Our son walked in front of us.  He continued backwards and only tripped twice.

The first time Cla stumbled I chuckled at how he bounced up and suggested he stay down for a photo if it happened again. LOL. He is so accommodating. 
Note the distant lone tree on an otherwise bare hill side (marked with red arrow center top right).  Here we are only about half a mile into the hike. This lone tree was a land mark of sorts to us. 

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Flowers bloomed in profusion everywhere: in grassy swales, along grass clumped slopes, under the trees, on bushes, and even among dry bare rocks.

Flowers of all varieties grew and opened among the stones.
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Sometimes it was necessary to be watchful enough to avoid crushing the pink bitterroot that sprang up everywhere, randomly in the rock.

Notice the small bud to the left of the open bloom. 
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I suppose Cla knew it would be a long hike when we hadn't made the first incline yet and were already lollygagging along stopping to look at flowers and bugs and bushes.

Tiny pink bells tipped in white and white inside covered some bushes.
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I hike to look and see and hear and smell. At the base of the hill the sweetest scent on the breeze tantalized my imagination ... what was that heavenly smell??

White phlox  with arrowleaf balsam root
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Eventually I figured out it was phlox (although there were so many flowers that it might have been a blend). It was proliferic in white with a swath that bloomed pinkish along one trail area.

-Perhaps there are several varieties or else soil ph and other factors affect its color.

I was not the only slow poke taking pictures.
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Clarence also loves nature and especially flowers. He has a soft spot for the awe of such things. You can see an album of flowers here. It was a beautiful day and place with spectacular views of mountains, the sky and KittitasValley.

Looking north west from about 2/3 up the trail
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I suppose that was one of the things I enjoyed the most, besides the flowers and being out hiking. I have longed to do more than drive over that ridge in a car. Every time we drive through I want to get out, take a  hike, stand on the crest of one of those hills and fill my very soul with the view.

Notice our lone tree landmark (circled in red at center).  We are now above it 
about 2/3 or 3/4 up the trail looking down on the tree and somewhat south west.   
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As a child I often climbed the large hill behind our house. I would lay on top, in the grass and watch - sometimes the tiny people and cars below but sometimes nothing but the mountains or clouds. We lived in a valley and I often imagined and wondered, as I went about day to day tasks and chores, about my own tiny speck of nothingness if someone high on the hill or even higher in a plane were to see or watch me as I watched them.

I have always felt those unseen eyes viewing me. My parents sometimes taught us to remember God can always see us, even if no one else can. Do you feel unseen eyes? Does everyone? On Monday if you drove through the Kittitas Valley I may have been watching you - except when I was watching my feet to make sure I did not fall down!

At the car, before starting out, knowing I walk a mile most days in about 15 minutes just ambling along, and knowing the hike was about 2 miles, I decided to leave my wide brimmed hat at the car but also knowing the winds along high ridges can be very cold I decided to take my fleece lined windbreaker.

About half way up (just behind Cla's head) 2 trees flank the trail
and evergreens begin to grow scattered here and there but not thickly. 
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I should have thought to wear sun screen. DUH! I also know it is easier to sunburn on a hike. The sun toasted my left cheek on the way up, rose over the high point of the day and worked on it again despite some minimal cloud cover on the way down. I soaked a cloth in cool water and vinegar. By patting the burned area gently and laying the cloth on my hot face (and refreshing it often) I managed to not blister or peel - at least not yet, and as of yesterday the pink is turning brown.

On the way up my windbreaker was a nuisance. I am too fat to tie the arms around my waist so I had to loop them around my neck.  That worked OK but sometimes fell open and off. I was plenty warm until we were almost to the top. As we moved from the exposed trail to the more exposed ridge I became very glad I had it to put on.

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At the top there are two thermometers on the post marking the summit. They are on opposite sides of the post making one in the sun and one in the shade. The shaded one said 40° F. The sunny one showed about 60°. The wind made both temperatures feel much cooler.

Almost to the trees flanking the trail. 

When we reached the tree line we felt like we had really achieved something - but were only about half way. We were neither up nor down and both were a long way away. No problem. We were enjoying the day and had no time constraint than daylight. We continued to work up way higher and before long, one slow step at a time could look back at how far we were above the 2 trail-flanking trees.

Looking back at the two trees below ...  and still climbing.
Soon our ears began to give notice the elevation had changed. 
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We saw people of many ages but we might have been in the older and fatter category. On our way down a middle age man of a trim build with a boy about 10 years of age told us, 'You give me courage - if you can do this I will make it!" I told him to take it more slowly ... he was VERY red in the face. Cla told us he saw a couple in their 70's pass him on one trip up. They apparently do the trail daily!

It is an interesting trail with a lot of variety. One old rotting tree looked like a totem pole to me - see the bearded face near the top?


Many young athletes ran the trail in groups and singly. Other people had their dogs with them. I considered the value of a 'pack dog'. I was glad my son offered to carry my water.


Our son told us some people ride horses to the top and there are also 4 wheel drive trails up the back. 'Road apples' along the trail attested to his words and eventually we saw some of the riders. At the top several quads arrived while we were there.


At the top there is a cairn with a book to sign sealed in a metal box. The site is also used for Geocaching.



There are also several memorials to soldiers that died in recent conflicts of the past decade. It is very sobering to stand at those sites, see the t-shirts and mementos left by comrades and peers and read their tributes.

Marker gives coordinates and elevation

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A few hundred yards more, near the trail (that continues several miles in both directions and links to other trails), the highest area is marked with a US Geological Survey Marker. I know it is illegal to disturb these formal markers in any way whatsoever.


We pose at it and then carry our own rocks to add to the new cairn forming a short distance away and then explore the area a bit.


After about 45 minutes on the ridge we decide we must start down. We consider alternate trails but stick to the same one.


 About half way down a nice couple, passing while we rest,
offer to take a photo of us all together.


Some places along the trail are wide. By zigzagging back and forth I manage to descend those areas at a fast rate of speed. The zigzags also relieve tired muscles, alternating the legs that are uphill. Papa says we are dancing down the slope!


The initial steep incline (almost back to the start) is very difficult  and slow for me to pick my way down. It takes over a third of our descent time. I must use both my cane and Papa's walking stick on these steeper areas. I have seen hikers with ski poles - I am going to get some of those!


Near the end, with me moving like traffic in a construciton zone, Clarence wandered ahead for privacy - he was talking to his fiance on the phone. He stopped though every so often and we finished together. I am put in mind of when I used to wait for him as a child. Our roles are curiously reversed now.

Coming down. 


I expect to have a lot of muscle soreness later in the week but am pleasantly surprised that, although I definitely can feel that I had a work out, I am not in pain. My husband doesn't fare quite as well, his desk job  does not contribute to limber vitality, so we go for long walks each day. My physical therapy (for leg pain) pays handsomely. I have learned many clever ways to strengthen and baby muscles. Those exercises all help both of us.

When we walk Papa tells me he's never seen me go so fast.
I have never seen him go so slow!


I am ready to go again. My muscles and my mind remember ... but memory will only serve so long. I want to breathe and move ...


Do you know any good hikes?