Saturday, March 19, 2016

Plan C

Two friends and I headed to Mt. Rainier yesterday with a plan to hike to Camp Muir, the small, flat-ish area at an elevation of 10,000 feet on the massive 14, 411-foot mountain where most summit climbers put up tents and spend their first, often somewhat breathless night,  before climbing to the top the next day.

When we arrived at Paradise, however, the winds were howling and spindrift snow was blasting the landscape -- this at the relatively "low" elevation of 5,000 feet -- such that we didn't even want to get out of the car, much less climb five thousand feet of elevation higher into the teeth of the nastiness.

We considered a Plan B: To drive a bit lower and snowshoe out the Stevens Canyon Rd (still closed for the winter and snow-covered) toward the Tatoosh peaks;  but it turned out that the winds were whipping there too, and we were also concerned about avalanche potential.

In the end, we drove further down the mountain below Longmire,  hiked/snowshoed the Kautz Creek trail up toward (but not quite to) Indian Henry's Hunting Ground,  and wound up having a great outing. From our lunch spot on a high, snowy knoll, we could look out toward Mt. Adams (above) and some of the westerly Tatoosh peaks.

Once back at the car at the end of the day, we watched a lenticular cloud form over Rainier, an indication that the high winds on the mountain had not let up. Magic Hour photographic light was wonderful.

Post-hike dinner was at the Wildberry in Ashford, a sweet little restaurant run by a Nepali Sherpa family.  I got to say "Namaste" a lot, drink Nepali tea, and we three hikers enjoyed a fine meal. I had Nepali dalh (lentils) and was in vegetarian heaven.

Hike stats:

Approx 8+ mi RT
2300'+ ele gain

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Teaching

The soft drone of  monks' voices, chanting together in monotone in the Tibetan Buddhist monastery, went on for minutes, which, peacefully and serenely,  blended into hours…


A Lama friend of mine offered a teaching Sunday, a Kunrig Empowerment,  and the Seattle monastery was full to overflowing with students: Tibetans, other Asians, and Westerners.

"This teaching and the prayers we will say will be of great benefit to those who are suffering and sick," the lama told his students. "It will benefit all sentient beings."  The lama had put out the word on Facebook -- my friend is, after all, a modern lama -- that his social media contacts could submit the names of individuals in need of prayer. That Facebook posting resulted in a list of nearly five hundred names, and even more names were coming in as prayers began.

I turned my camera shutter to "silent" and worked as unobtrusively as possible. The light in the monastery was incredible,  and there were moments when the faces of the earnest students were practically glowing.

"Be kind to all beings," the lama told the students at the end of the nearly six-hour ceremony. "If for whatever reason you cannot be kind, at least do no harm."

Friday, March 4, 2016

Bless You, Rain Shadow

Despite what you might have heard, it does not rain all the time in Western Washington. Come summer, we'll have several months of sunny weather, not too-hot…practically perfect.

The thing is -- though trees are budding out and some folks are outdoors cutting grass and washing cars and doing Summer Stuff --  it is only Spring.  The weather one day can be just nice enough to get you wanting for more of this goodness. And then, the next day, it gets gray and chilly and rains. And rains. And rains.

This is the time of year when my hiking friends and I are grateful for the Cascade Mountain rain shadow.

You see, our wet weather here generally moves in off the Pacific, soaks Western Washington and makes all the tall trees, ferns and mosses happy, then bumps up against the Cascades. More often than not the rain does not make it over the mountains. And so,  when it is rainy in Seattle, chances are that it is dry just east of the Cascades.

Five friends and I crammed into a van Sunday and headed east, destination: Black Canyon, between Ellensburg and Yakima. It was raining, hard, when we left Seattle; but, once over the mountains, we found sunshine. Sweet, blessed sunshine.

We hiked in sagebrush,  and through stands of aspen trees, not yet budded out.
Six adults, playing outside. And taking maximum advantage of the Cascade Mountain rain shadow.