Dates: September 19-24, 2023

People: Mark, David



It was an early start today. We rearranged our school carpool to help run me to the airport. We left the house at 6:00 a.m.  Everything at the airport was running smoothly until we boarded the plane. We must have been on the plane for no more than 2 minutes when they came on the speaker at 7:45 a.m. and announced that they were doing an engine inspection. One of the pilots had seen something and it needed to be looked at. This was going to take 2 to 3 hours. It turns out that they had spotted evidence of a bird strike from the plane's previous flight that hadn't been found yet.

As everyone got off the plane this led to a mad dash of everyone wanting to go to the counter to figure out updated flight plans. There were certainly many people who were going to have connections that they would miss. Thankfully I had a 3-hour layover at Midway so I wasn't as worried about my options yet. They began calling people up to the counter by destination to talk with them about options. They never did call me up. I was debating whether I should look at other arrangements or whether to hold tight and hope the inspections went well and this plane would leave when ready.  

As of 8:10 the flight had a new departure time of 10:10 a.m.  About 25 minutes later they moved that estimate up to 9:30 a.m. with signs that the maintenance check would go well. And indeed by 9:00 a.m. they started boarding us again saying the check had gone well and this plane would be leaving as originally planned.  At 9:20 the pilot came on and said they had just a little bit of paperwork to wrap up and we will be ready to depart. He mentioned that the bird debris in the engine is officially called snarge by the FAA. At 9:33 we pushed back from the gate an hour and 43 minutes late.

The flight to Midway went seamlessly. I did some walking around there and eventually did lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern. We boarded on time and were able to get out of Midway for Seattle in good order. On the four plus hour flight to Seattle I was able to watch Spider-Man Across the Spider-verse. I also watched episode 5 season 1 of Ahsoka. There were no great views of Rainier when we rolled into Seattle today. You can see just a bit of the summit off in the clouds.

We landed in Seattle at 2:35 Pacific. I was texting with David immediately and found out that he had left his conference a little early and was on the train already nearing the airport. We made the decision to have him continue on to the car rental place to get the car while I had time to get off the plane and get my bags. It ended up taking him longer as Fox was a little slow getting him the car. But it turned out well and he didn't have any major problems with them. We had a Toyota Corolla Cross 2023 to drive for the 5 and 1/2 days.

David picked me up at SeaTac and I helped him navigate us out of Seattle and on South down towards Mount St Helens. Along the way we stopped in Chehalis and hit the Walmart for groceries and a Little Caesars for supper. From there it was still another hour and that drive to get down to the Climber's Bivouac trailhead and campground for Mount St Helens. The drive back in there was very remote but mostly good road. It was only the last bit that ended up being on a dirt road.

It was dark when I got to the campground and we drove around the loop seeing a number of other vehicles there already. We found a good parking spot and a tent site just across from it in the grove of trees at the middle of the campground. There was a clearly designated tent pad and so we got things set up. I walked over to the trailhead and was intending to get us paid for the night but all their envelopes were gone and we had no way to pay our $5 for camping that night.

It was a lovely campground and mostly full that night. We had lows in the upper 40s overnight and it rained on us some overnight making for a wet tent in the morning. 


We were up about 5:45 today to a wet tent and some wet ground. Little did we know at the time how much this would affect the rest of the day with our hike. What was rain down low was snow up high on Mount St Helens.

We made a quick breakfast at the car with mini muffins, donuts and Golden Grahams cereal bars. We made sure to get all of our gear together and then took a quick walk over to the trailhead for a start on the day. I decided we could leave the tent in place as it was near to the car and shielded in the trees. We hoped perhaps it might dry out a little bit before we would pack it up later.

Mount St. Helens Trip Report

Upon returning to the car we got to work on taking down our camp. We decided that since we would be setting it up in a couple hours again at the camp before Adams there was no need to do a full packing of the gear into the bags and everything. So I rolled up everything and threw it in the car. we kept the rain fly separate hoping it might air out in the car.

We started navigating our way over to Mount Adams. I had looked at the ahead of time and downloaded maps on my phone as we would be out of cell signal almost the entire way. Most of the way over there was on decent paved road. There was a section or two that went into dirt forest road and got a little bumpier. It was a bit of a circuitous route but it worked. 

It took us nearly 3 hours to get over there simply because none of the roads went very quickly. We hit road to the little town of Trout Lake and then followed on the Adams highway up towards Morrison Creek campground. At the camp there and we could have some decent views of Mount Adams itself. There's a beautiful campground and we checked things out for a few minutes. We weren't sure if we could make the drive up the next 3 mi of the road to the Cold springs campground. We had read a report that it was 4WD recommended with clearance needed. We had been mentally preparing to have to hike the road in the morning making for an incredibly long day on Adams. 

As we looked at the first two tenths of a mile of the road it looked fairly tame. We also didn't see any signage mentioning four-wheel drive. There was just one main sign saying trailers not recommended. Our rental car had pretty decent clearance and so we decided to give it a go. The first mile or so was very easy and just a typical narrow dirt road. When it began to climb up the slope it did get steeper and there were a lot of drainage humps in the road. When we slowed to stop for one we had trouble getting traction to continue without momentum. So the steepness nearly got us. The road was never very rough in having any big rocks to dodge. The main difficulty was just being somewhat narrow and steep. They were also a few tight switchbacks which explains the strong recommendation against any trailers. We made it up to Cold Springs campground and had nobody else up there when we arrived. It was another beautiful spot and fun to have it to ourselves. We got up there at 4:30 p.m. and knew we had a full evening ahead of us.

We got the tent set up quickly and it was occasionally drizzling on us at camp. We did MREs for supper. I tried the shredded beef meal and it was quite good. Eventually the rain would stop for us. We decided on trying a fire as there was some good firewood left over for us. There had been a forest fire in this area in the last 5 to 10 years and so there was a ton of dead wood on the ground. We took some time gathering wood and got a good fire going and enjoyed that until bedtime. It was a big help because it was also quite cold up at the camp. Without the fire we probably would have had to spend the evening in our sleeping bags just to stay warm. Sometime before dark another gentleman showed up and took the camp spot near us. We invited him to join us around the campfire and he did for about 45 minutes. His name was Tim. He was up in the northwest for a friend's wedding and was taking a day out to try and hike Mount Adams tomorrow.

We headed to bed in the tent around 9:30 and bundled up nicely as it was getting quite cold. It would definitely get below freezing overnight. 


It was an early and cold morning at Cold Springs camp.  The tent walls were frozen with moisture and our breath was visible in the air.  My tempe sensor wasn't working but we figured temps had to be in the 20s.  We put on all our layers and kept moving to try and warm up.  We had bathroom breaks and breakfast at the car as we got ready for the big day up Mt. Adams. As we had done the day before, we left the tent up hoping the sun might cook off some of the moisture from the rainfly.

Mount Adams Trip Report

It was around 4:30p when we returned to the car.  It was a long but good day.  Legs didn't feel too broken up from all the miles and elevation.  At the car we immediately set about heating up some MRE meal packs.  We figured a quick protein and calorie hit would be good after the big hike.  As the heaters worked we set about tearing down camp.  We hit the road while still eating food. 

The drive down the road from Cold Springs went well and we didn't have any problems with oncoming traffic on the narrow road.  This would be just the beginning though.  It was a long, long drive up to the Mt. Rainier area.  I did some of the driving to give David a break, but it was a full 4 hours or so.  While I was driving the GPS didn't give an audible notification and so I missed a turn.  Thankfully we caught this after only 4 miles or so.

On the road up to Randle we hit a long section of slow-going dirt road which then only turned into narrow and bumpy paved road.  We could see now while the relatively shorter distance in miles was going to take so long in hours.  Once we hit Randle it was going to be good highway the rest of the way but still a number of miles to go.  

When rolling through Morton we had a quick pull-over by the local police for being 10 over the limit.  Thankfully he let us off with a warning.  When we arrived at the Rainier entrance the entrance booths were already closed so we just drove on in.  It was a dark, dark drive into the beautiful park.  We rolled into the Cougar Rock campground and things were quiet.  There was no self check-in and the Ranger Station was closed.  From our vantage our only option was to find an open first come-first served spot and go for it.  We headed into C Loop and quickly found C-5 to be the perfect tent site for us.  

We were surprised temps were a very calm upper 50s.  We set up our simple camp and had a few snacks before getting ready for bed.  It was dawning on us the nature of our trip up to this point:  Drive, Hike, Sleep, Repeat.  That would pretty much hold true the whole way. 


We woke up to a pleasant morning around 545 at Cougar Rock in Mt. Rainier NP.  Today we couldn't leave the tent so we did a quick tear and breakfast there in the campground.  We started the drive up to Paradise and made a stop at Ricksecker Point where we took some beautiful shots of the mountain with the clear morning skies.  We finally had a great morning without the clouds.  I was surprised to see how much snow had melted off the mountain since I was there last in July.

I was struggling this morning with my motivation about getting to Camp Muir.  I was still stuck on the August reports of the icy and crevassed nation of the Muir Snowfield.  I was internally dreading the idea of 2500 ft of climbing on such a snowfield.  When we arrived at Paradise I was instantly met with some hope.  Looking at the mountain it sure appeared that the snowfield was far from continuous on the path up to the Camp.  Maybe we would be able to hike on rock and dirt for much of the route and just see how it would go.

We spent several minutes once at Paradise to look around and enjoy the morning.  We didn't feel too much hurry to get started on the route today.

Camp Muir Trip Report

We finished our hike to Camp Muir at 2pm. It was a beautiful finish with the sun back out and the colors in the meadows illuminated. On the return we came down the Alta Vista trail and found the 10th Mountain Division memorial at an intersection. We also encountered a ton of people and the Paradise area seemed every bit as crowded today as when our family was there in July.

We toured around Paradise a bit with a quick walk in the Visitor Center and Gift Shop. We also made our way over to the historic Paradise Lodge and enjoyed a walk through there and a nice sit in some of the comfy chairs. After being settled with our relaxing around Paradise and a few more snacks we decided it was time to hit the road for our very long drive up to the North Cascades. With traffic, drive time was approaching 5 hours. Yuck.

We headed back up towards Tacoma and then Google Maps routed us away from I-5 and downtown and instead we went north on WA167 and then I-405. We eventually joined up with I-5 on the north side of Seattle. We hit an Arby's at a gas station in Arlington for supper and then followed WA530 out towards Marblemount.

It was dark by the time we hit the Cascade River Road. It was good pavement at first and then we found the last 13 miles in to the trailhead would be dirt road. The two car campgrounds were both closed for the season. The backpacker campground near the Cascade Pass trailhead was by permit only, and we were too late in the day to get one of those as the ranger office's were closed already. We had scouted out a few dispersed ideas. One of them was just off the S Side Cascade Rd. We started onto this road and it was very narrow and very dense in the woods. We found an even smaller side road off of it which looked like it would lead to nowhere. At this time of night we weren't willing to adventure even deeper into the dense woods so we headed back to the main road. Our Plan B was to check out parking and camping at the South Fork Cascade River trailhead. There was a gate here closing the old road and the trail proved to be nice and flat at the start and we decided this would be a good tent spot. We knew we were setting up late and tearing down early so we would hardly make an impact at all. It was 8:30pm when we finally setup.

It was quite pleasant outside with temps right around 60. We did a quick camp setup and got packs ready for the morning. One more night running through our routine. One more full day of hike-eat-drive-camp. 


We woke up at 5:45 a.m. to our campsite in the National Forest. We were thankful that it had not rained last night and so we were able to pack up the tent in a fairly dry state. I never did get too cold overnight and I think it was in the '50s in the morning.

We drove the rough dirt road up to the Cascade pass trailhead. There were a few sections that looked as if they had been washed out this summer and repaired. The road is certainly passable by most any two-wheel drive vehicle. It does narrow in spots and there's a lot of washboard making for a bumpy ride. We hit the trailhead about 6:15 and spent some time going to the bathroom and finishing breakfast.  Probably already 20 cars up there, mostly from overnight hikers. Plenty of space left in the lot though.  At the trailhead we can hear the heavy winds which were above us. We were also amazed at the sheer walls of the mountain slopes around us. Add some trouble getting a GPS lock to get us started, but we did finally hit the trail at 6:30. It was getting just light enough we didn't have to turn on the headlamps as we started.

The skies were all clouded and there was a light drizzle at times as we began our ascent of the switchbacks. Thankfully in the trees none of the winds were finding us.

Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trip Report

We made the drive out and there was a moderate drizzle that continued on us as we drove. We encountered two different cars in some of the narrow sections of the road and made some delicate passes. The rest of the drive out we really didn't see many vehicles along the way. We made it out to Marblemount and we headed east on highway 20 for the Newhalem Visitor Center for North Cascades National Park. The rain seemed to get stronger along the way. We were debating whether we wanted to stop and get an MRE meal and to work on our gear before the airport but the rains put both of those options off.

We spent just about 10 minutes at the visitor center and then we were back out to the car to head back for Seattle. Along the drive back to the city we did find a nice pull off on the side of the road and a moment when the rains had stopped to each eat an MRE meal. We were fairly hungry from not eating too much along the trail this morning. I tried the beef taco one and it was decent.

As we neared the city it was again a question of what route to take because there was heavy traffic on I-5. It seemed no matter which route we would take things were going to take a while. We decided on a stop at an REI in the Bellevue area. We walked around the store for a bit and I grabbed some replacement trekking pole tips. 

As we returned out to the parking lot we had some comic relief. We had parked near the back of the lot in some compact car parking spots. And just two spots over from us was a massive Ford truck taking up two spots with its back end sticking way out the back of the compact spots. There was just something so funny about a truck so large in the small compact car slots.

We also had the epiphany on these moments that this parking lot was the second level of a parking garage. We realized that if we could get down to the lower level we would have some cover from the rain and opportunity to work on our gear in the car. So we made our way down there and took about 25 minutes to get our gear packed up in our bags ready for the airport. This worked out fantastic. We were also able to dump a lot of trash from the vehicle so that we would be pretty much ready to drop the vehicle off and be good.

We made one last gas stop and then made it to the car rental return and dropped it off. Then took the shuttle to the airport. It was about 7:15 p.m. when we got in to SeaTac airport and it dawned on me that I had 12 hours till my flight would leave. That would be a long time to spend in the airport. We found our way to the USO. David showed his credentials and they were very kind to let me in as a companion with him.

David explain to me how things usually work in the USO. They do have a lot of food that you can grab and a bag check for your big luggage to get out of the way. We're also pleased to see that this one did have showers in the bathrooms. So we immediately headed for the showers and took clean clothes with us to get all freshened up.

After the showers we went to the eating area and I grabbed a cold cut ham and cheese sandwich, the yogurt parfait, and a bag of Sweet Maui onion potato chips. They were tasty. After we finished eating we went into the big sitting room which had what seem like two dozen recliners. We picked out two of them, put our feet up and relaxed. I spent maybe an hour on my phone and then watched episode 6 of season 1 of Ahsoka. By about 10:00 David and I were both trying to fall asleep in the recliners to get some sleep for the night. 


David and I spent the night in the USO in Seattle airport. At about 12:30 a.m. they had a briefing for a lot of the guys going overseas to Japan and Korea. The lights were basically on the whole night and this was quite noisy when they did the briefing. I remember waking up for bits of it but I also remember going right back to sleep because I was so tired.  Aside from a baby crying that I would hear from time to time, I had a decent bit of sleep until 3:10 a.m. when I woke up for good. I knew I had an alarm for 3:30 and so I decided it was time to get moving and get some food. The USO would close at 4:00 a.m. and starting at 3:30 a.m. they would start to encourage people to leave.

I got a bowl of cereal for breakfast and ate the remaining applesauce cup I had from the car. We finished up our breakfast time and around 3:45 and we went to the baggage check room and grabbed our bags and headed out. It was a fantastic experience to join David in the USO and ever so appreciative of their hospitality for us last night.

Bag check and security for the airport went pretty smoothly. The security line wasn't quite as bad as when we hit in July, maybe it was because we were a little bit earlier this morning. After security I found my way out to the S Gates where David's flight would leave. I stayed out there with him till about 5:30 when they started to board. I then found my way back to my gate in the B concourse. I did a lot of walking today and learned the layout of Seattle's airport.

Thankfully my flight for Las Vegas left on time without anything going on. During the flight I was able to watch The Prestige, a Christopher Nolan film I had not seen in a long time. It was every bit as good as the first time I had seen it. Fantastic movie. It finished up just as we landed in Vegas.

When I boarded the flight in Seattle I was trying to figure out which side of the plane to sit on for the mountain views. The pilot was just coming out of the cockpit as I walked by and so I asked him if I wanted to see Rainier which side of the plane. He seemed to think about it for a moment and then he says probably on the left side.

Sure enough our flight path took us down towards Rainier and indeed from the left side it was like doing a flyby. I shot video for 3 minutes just trying to cover every aspect that we were seeing. It was quite amazing. I doubt the pilot took that course just for me, but it was really amazing how it turned out. I also had hopes of seeing Adams and St Helens. But by the time I got down there we were too high and above too many clouds to see Adams. And Mt St Helen's was off the right side of the plane.

Landing in Vegas is always interesting as the terrain is rather unique and still scenic. And you swing around the south side of town and come in along the Northeast direction. And as you land it's as if you're paralleling the strip and you can see many of the famous buildings.

We were on time in to Vegas which would give me just over 3 hours here before I would leave for Detroit.  I walked around a lot of the Vegas airport to finish up my steps for the day.  I was also hungry and wanting to check out the restaurant options.  When I couldn't wait any longer I grabbed a slice of pizza from Villa and then went and read for awhile.  When hunger for lunch returned I hit a Wendy's for a fuller meal.  

We left Vegas on time and once again I was entreated to wonderful views from the plane.  I got a shot of Hoover Dam at a distance as we left the Vegas area.  Our path then took us just north of the Grand Canyon where I took in even more pictures.  We flew almost directly over Glen Canyon and so I couldn't get those views.  Over Colorado we flew just north of the San Juans and I got great shots of the Wilson group and the Redcloud-Sunshine group.  I took in a few shots of San Luis and also the Sangre de Cristos.  It was such a treat to get amazing views over those 14ers.

For entertainment in flight I was watching the movie Devotion, the story of the first African-American naval aviator.  It was a decent movie with fairly good story-telling.

We arrived DTW about 25mins early, but a plane was at our gate forcing us to sit and wait. We eventually hit the gate right on time.