Sunday, September 28, 2014

Stunning Hikes Near the North Cascades Basecamp

Even though summer is over there is still plenty of autumn sunshine and beautiful scenery to be explored in the mountains surrounding the Methow Valley.  The changing of seasons means bright fall colors are bursting all around, making for some awesome hikes.  We have had an absolutely amazing summer of hiking and trail running around the Basecamp and wanted to share some of the nearby routes that we have found and loved. 

Jacks Trail/River Run-
This is a trail that we frequently run because it has stunning views of the mountains around Mazama.  This time of year, it is accessible right from the Basecamp's front door since the Methow River has slowed down and lowered so it can be crossed without getting your feet wet.  There are about 10 miles of trail that remains relatively flat along the valley floor that opens up to a grassy meadow at one end giving great views of Goat Wall, Driveway Butte, Sandy Butte

 Monument Creek-
 A nice hike that's a five mile drive from the Basecamp.  The trail gradually follows Lost River upstream to the Eureka Creek crossing (3 miles), and continues for up to 20 miles.  It is a great out and back hike for any distance.  Beautiful riparian habitat and mountain views.

Pipestone Canyon-
A short distance outside Winthrop with beautiful rock formations and a conifer forest in the base of the canyon.  It opens up to a grassy valley and there is also a loop that takes you along one rim of the canyon.  This area burned in the summer wildfires; conditions have certainly changed!

Big Valley-
Halfway between Mazama and Winthrop this trail is on flat terrain and offers amazing views of the mountains surrounding the valley floor.  Walking/running the entire figure eight course results in about a 5 mile outing.

Rubber Boa near the trail on Big Valley, easily identifiable because of its blunted tail.

Robinson Creek-
Another beautiful creek trail that extends from Mazama all the way up to Harts Pass.  This makes a great out and back hike of any distance.  You will be traveling near the creek through interesting riparian areas of deciduous and cedar trees while revealing the stunning mountains of the Pasayten Wilderness.

Dagger Lake/Twisp Pass-
The hike begins at the end of Twisp River Road and is a gradual incline for about 4 miles up to the top of Twisp Pass.  Dagger Lake is just over Twisp Pass another mile along the PCT.

Blue Lake-
This is a classic hike along the Highway 20 corridor.  It is a gradual climb up to a beautiful mountain lake that is surrounded by dramatic rocky mountain peaks.  A four mile round trip distance makes this hike accessible for many visitors.  Keep an eye out for mountain goats as they are often seen around the lake!

Cutthroat Pass/Snowy Lakes-
Cutthroat pass is a ten mile out and back round trip hike that boasts beautiful views of the peaks along the North Cascades Scenic Highway.  Cutthroat Pass can be reached from the Rainy Pass trail head as well as the Cutthroat Lake trail head.  If you continue along the PCT from the top of Cutthroat Pass you will reach Snowy Lakes in about five miles.  Snowy Lakes is a popular backpacking destination that has two pristine lakes surrounded by mountain peaks.

 Cutthroat Lake-
 This is a short four mile round trip hike that is relatively flat.  It reaches a beautiful alpine lake and surrounded by ridge lines and peaks.  The trail splits off and goes up to Cutthroat pass as well.

Cedar Creek-
This is the closest hike to Mazama on Highway 20 and is a beautiful short four mile round trip up to a series of waterfalls.  You are surrounded by wonderful cedar forests and cool leafy vegetation.

Maple Pass/Lake Ann-
Maple Pass loop is often said to be one of the best hikes in the area.  The trail brings you along a ridge line surrounding Lake Ann.  All along the ridge there are amazing vantage points for all the surrounding mountains.  The deciduous trees in the area will make this a stunning and colorful autumn hike.

Goat Peak-
Goat Peak is a trail in Mazama that takes you to the top of a peak over 7000' tall.  Luckily you are able to drive to about 5000' up so the hike is only about a four mile round trip.  At the top you will find the fire lookout tower that has been manned by a cheerful character named "Lightning" Bill for 20 years, if you get the chance to meet him will we gladly share his poetry and artwork with you.  This hike gives you a great view of the valley and the area around Mazama.

Windy Pass/Holmans Pass-
 These trails are accessible from the top of Harts Pass and follow the PCT towards Canada.  We encountered some late summer snow on the hike which made for some wet hiking but made the scenery even more beautiful.  This trail takes you into the Pasayten Wilderness which is pristine and some of the most gorgeous terrain we encountered this summer.

Monday, September 15, 2014

5th Annual Raptor Migration Festival

Raptor viewing in the Methow Valley spanned from Pateros to Mazama this weekend, during the 5th Annual Raptor Migration Festival.  Pateros to Chelan Ridge field day was hosted on Saturday Sept 14th by the Audubon Society of Northcentral Washington, and Harts Pass field day was hosted on Sunday, Sept 14th by the North Cascades Basecamp.  

It was an amazing day of sunshine, south winds, incredible viewscapes and great group of 30 enthusiastic birders.  Birders were welcomed at the Basecamp for a pancake birding breakfast, and then carpooled up to Harts Pass with Kent Woodruff as our birding guide.  The group casually observed 60 raptors throughout the day, including 22 sharp-shinned hawks,  7 merlins (one who caught and consumed a dragonfly on the wing), 4 goshawks, 4 prairie falcons, 3 golden eagles, 2 swainson's hawks, 1 broadwing hawk, 1 peregrine and many others...  The group also observed horned larks, American pipits, ravens and clarks nutcrackers.  
Kent helped beginner birders by discussing "shape and behavior" as the key components for raptor identification.  For our two similar sized and shaped accipiters, the shrug-shouldered and sharp square tail helped remember the sharp-shinned hawk, while the C-shaped curve in a Coopers hawk tail helps distinguish it from its smaller but overlapping sized cousin.
The warm summer -like weather, a steady wind, and full visability with no clouds on any horizon, was an ideal landscape for a day of birding.  The best advice given for the day, do not identify your bird til it is far in the distance; then your birdwatching friends can't disagree with your field ID when its gone.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kids Art and Nature Camp- Garden Camp

Campers holding up their garden inspired banners
Chickens, snap peas and bunnies, oh my! We finished the last art and nature camp this past week at the North Cascades Basecamp, entitled Garden Camp. We had 13 kids join instructors Deirdre Cassidy, Kim Romain-Bondi and Raechel Youngberg. Our week kicked off with in-depth exploration of vegetable plants in the beautiful Basecamp garden. 

Amelia works on her carrot banner
Each kid completed a series of sketches in the garden focused on the garden plants and pollinators. The kids then drew a picture inspired by the garden, which they transformed into brightly colored garden banners. 
The wonderful intersection of art and nature did not end there. The kids used big luscious cabbage leaves gathered from the garden as a template for creating concrete birdbaths. The cabbage leaves left beautiful and intricate impressions onto the concrete. These birdbaths will be a wonderful addition to all the kids' home gardens or yards.
An unpainted birdbath
Later campers furthered their knowledge of garden plants while we practiced saving seeds. We smelled the calendula flowers while learning that it can be made into a salve to help treat rashes, as well as cuts and scrapes. We tasted spicy mizuna, a Japanese mustard green, that is a great addition to any salad. We crushed coriander pods in-between our fingers while inhaling its pungent aroma. The last seed we collected was swiss chard, a bright dark leafy green that can be transformed into a variety of dishes. 
Campers saving seeds
We also had the chance to hold baby chicks that have hatched in the garden within the last couple of weeks. It was a great opportunity for both human and feathered friends to become socialized with each other. We all enjoyed assisting the chicks with their perching practice by placing them on our shoulders and sometimes heads!
Emmet with his favorite chick, Pineapple.

Nichola with a perching chick

Lily familiarizing with chicks and their little sharp nails
We finished the week creating colorful designs with rocks, twigs, weeds, and other natural materials down near the river. Our designs were inspired by Andy Goldberg, an artist famous for transforming natural materials into awe-inspiring works of art. 
Evan showing off his mullenweed design 
Lilliana working on her concentric rock design
All in all we had a wonderful week here at the Basecamp exploring the garden, river, artistic endeavors, and friendships.   

Friday, August 15, 2014

Kids Nature and Art Camp- Flowers, Plants, Leaves and Trees

Campers with their finished mosaics
We had a beautiful botanical adventure-filled week at the North Cascades Basecamp with Native Flowers, Plants, Leaves and Trees Camp led by Deirdre Cassidy, Kim Romain-Bondi and Raechel Youngberg. The rain may have filled the sky for the better part of the week but we didn’t let it dampen our spirits!  We warmed up our creative juices with fun drawing classes led by Deirdre and Kim, and practiced our blind contour drawing with flowers and then faces to hilarious results.
Jessie with her blind contour drawing of her sister

We ventured outside for some fun in the Native Plant Restoration Garden where we completed a scavenger hunt to identify each plant and their medicinal/ethnobotany facts.  We also examined and sketched native flowers and leaves. 
Examining flowers for botanical illustrations
These flowers and leaves then became inspiration for individual mosaics,
Freya adds grout
which were the perfect art project for this week as they allowed us to stay dry inside the classroom, but with the barn doors opened up for fresh summer air.  The kids worked from designing their mosaic, to applying glass, grout, and finally wiping the whole thing clean for beautiful and colorful trivets to take home with them! 

Campers cleaning up their mosaic creations
The soggy weather didn’t stop us from playing camp games, climbing the play structure, or taking a stroll down to the river to look at rocks in the calm river bed.   What a fantastic group of campers and a great week of art and nature!
Freetime on the Basecamp play-structure
Happy campers outside during a sunburst