Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hiking to Secret Lake

secret lake

Took the family to that Secret Lake from last year to ease Amy into the hiking season. Absolutely perfect weather! The mountains were CRAWLING with people on this first-weekend-after-school-ended. People were literally camped 100 feet from I-90. But not many people know about this Secret Lake.

secret lake

We hiking up the fisherman's trail, watching out for Devil's club and bears. We saw one guy hiking out with a plant in his hands. I was SO proud of both Amy and Casey for making the tough hike. Amy was a little under the weather so for a while I carried all three of our packs.

secret lake

When we arrived the lake we had it all to ourselves. Over the winter I had ordered a 7-piece, packable fly rod from Cabelas. I set it up for Amy and then Casey and I went exploring.

Secret Lake

On the far side of the lake there is a funky little fort made on the talus slope. Also, Casey saw a brown newt. Looked like the same species that I saw at Lake Father's Day last week.

Secret Lake

It took an hour to get back to truck -- we were all tired when we got home and we ate ravenously. The adventures are coming fast this time of year. Woo-hoo!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lake Father's Day

Lake Father's Day

For Father's day, the amazing Vlad Karpinsky from the Trail Blazers club invited me to go fishing with him. The lake we went to is not exactly a secret lake, but since it was his choice I am not going to divulge its real name. Let's call it Lake Father's Day. Enough clues will be dropped so that if you've been there you'll figure it out.

vlad karpinsky

We parked our cars at a yellow gate and walked just over two miles on logging roads to the lake. The way to the lake is unmarked and I never would have found my way there alone.

Vlad Eatin' Berries

Vlad stopped numerous times to load up on some of the most bountious salmonberries either of us had ever seen. He finally got me to try some and they were sweet. Save some for the bears, Vlad!

Looking from the Launch

At the launch, Vlad inflated his two Sevylor Trail Boats - one for each of us. I had never tried one before -- I'd seen guys in them and they always looked uncomfortable to me. But you know what? It was VERY comfortable! In most ways it was completely superior to the whole float-tube experience. Drifting along in the trail boat in the sun with a gentle breeze, I actually fell asleep while fishing. Now that's relaxing!

Up Close

As for the fishing? Well, it was slow. We each had three strikes. I converted two of them into the net. Both were brook trout: one was a gorgeous little guy of about 10" with bright spots. The second was a much larger 14" fish with muted colors. Vlad converted one of his strikes and reeled another brook trout up to his boat. We didn't see any of the 18" rainbows that Vlad had caught there earlier this year but I wasn't really surprised. This lake is low enough that its spring peak season is already over.

fly fishing

I was impressed by the experience of the trail boat. And more importantly, I realized that a 4lb, packable boat opens up so many more alpine lakes. The universe of accessible fish just exploded like a big bang! It is SO EXCITING! In fact, I just ordered my very own Trail Boat using a gift certificate from my in-laws. Thanks, Bill & Kathy.

And Thank YOU, Vlad, for taking me fishing. Happy Father's Day to both of us.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

John Wayne Trail: a 39 mile ride

The John Wayne Trail starts near Rattlesnake Lake in North Bend and continues halfway across the state. On Sunday afternoon, I put my hyrbridized cruiser/mountain bike on the trail and rode up to Snoqualmie Pass and back. Its approximately 19 miles each way. According to Map My Ride, the ride gains 3,000 feet of elevation.

At 5 miles you start to get to the interesting stuff. Here is the beginning of the climbing walls -- lots of people milling about today! The cool trestles that supported the old Chicago-Milwaukee start here too.

If you click on this image and look closely you can see this climber hanging from a piton.

This beautiful craggy wall just begs for some climbing. Never seen anyone on it.

Here's one of the fantastic trestles that span each creek valley.

Looking down (100 feet?) from the trestle over Hall Creek, you can see a new trail that begs for some exploring. It looks like it is part of the new Change Creek Trail which is likely an adventure all on its own.

Every now and then a break in the trees rewards an angler with a view of the South Fork of the Snoqualmie. They say it has the biggest and healthiest fish of the three forks. With fishy spots like this one glimpsed above, one can see why!

Here is yet another example of exactly how rough a winter we've had. This little creek, merely a drip in the rocks now, was clearly a 15 foot-wide torrent of destruction ealier this year.

The stretch between 10 and 18 miles is difficult. It is somewhat desolate and foreboding. At 15 miles, I considered stopping and turning back, missing my goal by a mere 15%. But I kept going by taking it just one mile at a time.

At 17.2 miles, less than a mile from the end of the trail, I met with THIS problem. The last washout had not yet been repaired! I was advised by some fellow bikers on the scene to just hoof it the rest of the way but I portaged my bike through the creek instead.

And a few minutes later, I arrived at the (still closed) Snoqualmie Tunnel. When open, you can ride the 2.5 miles through to the other side, provided you have a headlamp.

There's a nice outhouse and some picnic tables WAY out here. Lunched at one of the tables and then called some family to tell them I was thinking about them. The ride back took another two hours.

On a personal note: Surprised myself by doing this ride. If you would have told me that I could ride 19 miles uphill I'd have said you were crazy. Feels good. Except for my wrist, which is killing me!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Calligan Lake, Hancock Tree Farm

Misty Shoreline

Calligan Lake sits at 2200 feet where the Hancock tree farm borders the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Like most of the lakes in the ALW, Calligan has a late season start -- June 1st. The lake gets some pressure due to a crude but motor accessible boat launch but on many days, even weekends, one can be the only angler there all day.

The Green Shack has Moved

The lake has changed in the last couple of years. This funky fishing shack has migrated a quarter mile east from its original plot and has been commandeered as some kind of floating garden house. There are planter pots with little plants in them on raft that supports the shack. To what purpose??? Fascinating!

Helping the Loons

There's a new sign at the launch -- it says that there are only 15 nesting loons in the state of Washington and not to disturb the birds if you see them. None were seen today, though here is a picture of a nesting platform.

His and Hers Indicators

Calligan contains a mix of self-reproducing rainbows and cutthroats. Mostly coastal cutthroats. Old timers will tell you that you can catch these guys up to 20" or more at Calligan, but I've never seen anything larger than 14 or 15". The fish are wild, feisty, moody and hungry. There isn't a lot of food in this lake so the trout can get very agressive.

Wait a minute, this isn't a cutthroat!

On this sunny Wednesday, early in the Calligan fishing season, the two best fish caught were neither 'cutts nor 'bows, but brook trout! This one, a 15" old timer with black gums, could not resist the Steak Salad and Lobster fly. This exciting fly was recommended by Rex Takasugi, though I don't recall where he got it from.

The Pink Lady fishing

The lady and I were the only people on the lake this day. We fished for six hours and caught 15 fish (she: 8, me: 7). The brook trout and the scenery were the stars today. Props again to our friend Alex who took Casey on a hike to Twin Falls and made this day possible. Thanks Alex!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cedar Butte

rattlesnake lake,cedar butte
Rattlesnake Lake from Cedar Butte Summit

What a day! Lucked into some tickets to the Mariner's game, so Casey and I took three kids from Youth Group. We all had a great time and afterward we took the kids home -- the last one we dropped off at Wilderness Rim. While we were there, we figured we'd get another training hike in -- this time Cedar Butte.

Cedar Butte is a great little hike -- perhaps three miles round trip with 800 feet elevation gain. Enough to get you sweating a little bit. Once again, Casey was a champ. We made the summit and took some pictures between 6:40 and 8:00pm. On the way down we had that time-honored discussion about what we would eat when we got home! We were very hungry, having hiked through our dinner time.

cedar butte
Cedar Butte Summit

Casey asked me the next day "Hey dad, when is the next hike?" He doesn't like fishing, but he likes hiking! That's good enough for me. I'm thinking of hitting the Thorp Lake Trail next. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Poo Poo Point with Casey

Casey at the back of Poo Poo Point

There's a bald patch on Tiger Mountain above Issaquah where the paragliders and hanglider's launch from. The hike to this "Poo Poo Point" is 1.5 miles and 1700 vertical feet. That's steep in my book. Its quite a slog up the hill but I figured it would be a good training hike for Casey and I.

Backside of Poo Poo Point

We almost gave up, just over halfway. We were in the process of talking ourselves out of pushing on when a petit woman of perhaps 110lbs came jaunting down the trail. On her back was a child of at least 30lbs. She lied and said we were almost at the top. So we pushed on, and anytime we started thinking of turning back I thought "If that mom can make it with a kid on her back, we can make this."

poo poo point

We left the trailhead at 6:20pm -- I figured worst case it would take 2 hours to get to the top, leaving us enough time to get back before dark. Well it was worst case -- we got to the top at about 8:10pm, stayed for only 10 minutes then we had to HURRY down for over an hour to get out at 9:20pm. If we had been ANY LATER at all it would have been bad news. We were the last off the mountain by far.

I figure I burned 1000 calories on that hike!

Lake Joy, with Friends

jeff costlow,jr hughes,lake joy

Lake Joy is a quirky lake outside of Carnation. Locally known for large bass, though there care cutthroat present, too. On Saturday morning, my two best friends and I portaged the jon boat to the undeveloped public launch area and circumnavigated the lake.

lake joy

A few rainstorms came through but we toughed them out. We each caught two bass -- the largest was probably 11", and I think one of them might have been a smallmouth but it got off as it was being netted.

lake joy,jr,jeff

It was a really nice time. I think we should do it again next month when the bass fishing heats up.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Click for larger image

In addition to being a bad fly fisherman, I am also a bad mountain biker. If there is an opposite of "Hardcore" then that's me. My bike has more in common with a Barbie banana-seat special than a real mountain bike, and by that I mean that I have most of the completely uncool bike features such as:

  • Kick stand
  • Fat Seat
  • Thumb Bell
  • Old Timey Fenders

Anyway, yesterday morning, in the record heat, I put on my helment and started my bike down the Deer Creek Trail. The Trail goes DOWN DOWN DOWN and then its flat and then it goes UP UP UP. I'm so lame I can't ride UP that stretch so I was pushing my bike. In the heat, sweating and already tired. I was half-way UP when I heard something in the bushes to my left. I figured it was a deer (since it was Deer Creek) but as the noise-maker came into view I saw that it was, indeed a black bear, about 50 feet downhill from me.

What to do? If I turned around I could hop on my bike and be out of there in a second with no worries. But then I'd have to climb the WHOLE hill again on the way out. The bear was facing the other way, so I quietly kept on pushing even though I really wanted to take a break.

When I finally turned a corner I engaged my kickstand (quietly) and lay down on a rock to catch my breath. After a few minutes I was on my way.

First thing when I got home I changed my shorts.

Just kidding about that last part. A little too exciting nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Battleground Lake, Kalama River

Battle Ground Lake

Battleground Lake is a pretty little lake in the "town" of Battleground just a few miles northeast of Vancouver. Every winter for some reason, the department of fish and wildlife dumps hundreds of ten pound steelhead into it. I didn't honestly expect to find any of them still in there but I at least wanted to get a look at the place. The place was CRAZY with people. We fished for a while anyway and talked to people but after catching only some small fish we decided to pack up and head north.


The Kalama river is a favorite of many people -- its accessible, wadeable and often has good runs of kings, silvers and steelhead.


We didn't catch any fish or even see any. So I got some pictures of Amy fly fishing. She loves to fish the moving water. The lady can throw a line, that's for sure.


On the way home we saw a traffic accident two cars in front of us. Someone had hit their brakes and a minivan flipped up in the air and came down on its side. No one was hurt. I barked at Amy "Stay in the truck!" Strangely I had a had a vision about saying that earlier in the trip; such a manly thing to yell. I approached the minivan, inspecting the things strewn out the broken windows. Thank Goodness none of them were children. I asked the woman inside if she was alone and she said yes, no kids. I asked her if she was okay, she said yes. I turned around and a woman was running toward me "I'm a nurse!" she said. A man was right behind her "I'm an EMT!" he said. "Okay! I'm outta here!" I have no problem turning the situation over to professionals. When we left they had gotten the woman out of the car and she was looking back toward us. She seemed okay. That's the important thing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Coldwater Lake

Coldwater Lake
Typical Coldwater Lake Resident

My wonderful sister Patty had Casey for the weekend so Amy and I could enjoy a whole weekend of Marital Harmony Fishing. As my sister lives in Federal Way, I chose SW Washington as our destination.

One of my favorite spots anywhere is Coldwater Lake at the foot of the Mount St. Helens volcano. The lake is inside the park, just before the Johnston Ridge Observatory. It is an 800 acre lake created when the 1980 eruption dammed the Coldwater Creek valley. The creek filled the valley and thus Coldwater Lake was born. Cutthroat and Rainbow fry moved into the lake where their descendants live today.

The Lake is a long drive from Snoqualmie -- about 4 hours. We arrived at the park around 3pm. I had stupidly left my NW Forest Pass in the other car so we had to go to the Johnston Ridge Observatory/Gift Shop to get a new pass. The guy at the Ridge said the lake was turning over, visibility was nil and that fishing had been very slow from what he'd heard.

There were a few boats coming out of the lake. The discouraged anglers reported not even any nibbles since morning. Flush with optimism even in the face of discouraging news, we launched into a light breeze. I stuck a 15" fish within a few minutes and then we had to return to the launch so I could get my hat which I'd forgotten in the Truck. One of the skunked boaters was still packing up and he was annoyed about us getting into fish right away.

The sun beat down REALLY hot for hours. We were able to pick up a half-dozen between the two of us out in the very middle of the lake trolling or stripping streamers. The largest of these very silver fish was about 17" -- there's a picture of him with Amy in the sun.

In the evening hours we found ourselves at "the point" about halfway across the lake. There are coves on either side of the point and a little inlet there, too. There were black beetles and flying ants struggling at the surface and fish were starting to take them.

I put a small black beetle on Amy's pink rod and handed it to her. We sighted a fish coming toward us and she made a perfect cast to it. It boiled on her fly and then thrashed and thrashed. She brought it to the boat -- it was that beautiful fish you see in the picture. We didn't tape it but its probably in the 21-23" range. Biggest fish either of us had seen in a while! I don't think the picture does it justice.

Coldwater Lake
Taken on a #14 Beetle Pattern

That Pink Rod sure catches big fish. I'm thinking I should start fishing with it. Just kidding.

For the next hour we chased similar fish swirling on beetles. I lost two beetle patterns in fish but wasn't able to get them to the boat. That's okay -- it was great fishing! heathman lodge

That night we stayed at the lovely Heathman Lodge in downtown Vancouver, WA. Imagine a giant log cabin with a four star restaurant inside. Or imagine the interior of The Great Wolf Lodge but for adults. The room was impeccable. In the morning I swam some laps in the pool and cooked myself in the hot tub. Then breakfast at the restaurant was phenomenal: Crab Cakes and Salmon Benedict. Mmmm. Stay there if you can next time you are in the area.