Trail Mix
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Jess
September 9, 2016

FreeSteps6

The FreeSteps6® are not just for use on ice and snow. These versatile crampons can be used for extra traction on slimy river beds and slippery stream banks. The 21 stainless steel spikes grip onto uneven terrain to ensure anglers stay upright on their next fishing trip. For more information, check out the FreeSteps6® product page.

Jess
September 2, 2016

Trail Running 101

From Asphalt to Dirt: Tips for the Beginner Trail Runner

In 2015, nearly 8.14 million Americans went trail running. Amazing views, empty tracks and the enjoyment of escaping into wilderness are luring more runners from their regular asphalt routes to dirt tracks.

With limited barriers to entry, it’s easy to see why this once niche sport is becoming increasingly popular. Nearly everyone lives near a park or reserve with trails suitable for running. The only required gear is a good pair of running shoes- although there has been an explosion of tracking devices, hydration packs, compression apparel and other gear in the last decade that many runners utilize. It’s possible to run year-round (sometimes with the help of some added traction during winter). And there is an incredibly supportive network of trail enthusiasts that turn the sport into a great social activity.

Pat Malaviarachchi Hillsound Brand Ambassador

If you’ve been considering trying trail running, here’s some tips for starting out:

  1. Start on flat, easy terrain. Keep the gnarly uphill routes with hefty elevation gain for after you’ve practiced jumping over rocks and tree roots on the flat.
  2. Choose a trail you’re familiar with. Is there a park nearby with trails you’ve hiked before? Start here and increase your pace. It’s also good to start out using time instead of distance as your measure. 5 miles on the road is different to 5 miles of muddy single-track.
  3. Speaking of pace, the fun thing about trail running is that it varies according to the terrain. No monotonous flat road here. It’s all fast descents, jumping over rocks, slowing down over slippery parts, walking on the incline and racing on the gravel. Don’t worry if you need to walk the hills and don’t expect to meet your usual road pace. Trail running is exhausting. Take short strides and start slow until you improve your technical skills.
  4. Bring plenty of water. A hydration pack or hip pack with water bottles can be a great piece of gear to invest in. You can also store your keys and phone in here, meaning you can focus on running and not juggling.
  5. Go running with a buddy. Friends can make running more enjoyable (and safer!). This tip is from Hillsound brand ambassador, Pat Malaviarachchi: “Joining a group of other trail runners is a great way to get into the sport. It’s always safer running the trails with others than solo and it’s easier to discover new areas to run. Also, signing up for your first trail race is a great way to stay motivated and ensure you get out there.”
  6. It’s fine when you’re just starting out to wear your regular runners. Just don’t expect them to be clean when you get back. Trail running can be VERY dirty. As you progress it can be wise to invest in trail running-specific shoes, as they can help avoid injury and the lower profile gives a closer-ground feel.
  7. Stay safe. Make sure you’re constantly watching the trail ahead and preparing for your next awesome leap over roots or rocks. When you progress past familiar trails (see tip number 2), it’s important to bring a map and phone with you and let someone know your intended route.
  8. Be polite. Yes, there are rules on trails, and we’d recommend adhering to them if you want to avoid being one of ‘those people’. In general, if you are running uphill you should yield to those coming down. Take out anything you bring in- don’t discard used energy gel packets on the ground, for example. And stay on the track. Thousands of people skirting puddles and mud can lead to destruction of the surrounding environment.
  9. Have fun!

Do you have any other tips for beginner runners? Leave them in the comments below!

Jess
August 23, 2016

5 of the Best Day Hikes for Amazing Scenery in the North Cascades

1. Chain Lakes Loop

Return distance: 7 miles

All of the hikes leaving from the Artist Point area offer spectacular alpine views, but the added beauty of the crystal clear lakes dotted along this route make the Chain Lakes Loop one of our favorites. The great thing about hiking here is that most of the elevation gain has already been achieved by your vehicle. Highway 542 brings you all the way to a lofty 4,300ft at the Mt. Baker Ski Resort. Artist Point sits just beyond this, with a large parking lot and lookout. Be warned, though-this is a popular location on weekends so arrive early to ensure a car park. A parking pass is required and can be purchased from the Heather Meadows Visitor Centre or the ranger station in the nearby town of Glacier.

The Chain Lakes Loop can be hiked in either direction. If you decide to start from the top car park, bear in mind that you’ll have a hard incline at the end of your hike. Note that this is an exposed hike so bring plenty of water and sun protection.Walking in a clockwise direction, the trail traverses Table Mountain (another great hike in itself) towards a ridge. Mt Baker looms in the west and several moraines and valleys spread out before you. Rounding the ridge and past the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail junction, the trail swings towards the north and crosses several talus slopes. Mazama Lake appears, nestled in a small valley where several camping sites are available. Continuing on, Hayes Lake is passed before reaching the largest lake in the area: Iceberg Lake. The water is exceedingly cold and pristine. After a quick stop, follow the trail up to the saddle of Mt. Herman, where you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Mt. Shuksan and other peaks in the Cascade Range. Descending into a valley across another talus slope, the trail ends in the Bagley Lakes area. Follow the Galloping Goose Trail back to the top parking lot.

 

Chain Lakes Loop Hike

2. Mt. Winchester

Return distance: 3.3 miles

4WD and high clearance is required to reach the trail head for Mt. Winchester, but if you do make the rough journey you’re in for a treat. While the trail is only 3.3 miles in length, it ascends 1,300 ft, making this a short but strenuous hike. Starting from Twin Lakes, the trail switchbacks up through blueberry bushes and fire weed before traversing a talus slope that has slightly intimidating exposure in parts. Take extra caution if snow is present. After this, the trail climbs westward over a small mountain pass. The last scramble to the summit is quite easy.

An old fire lookout built in 1935 sits at the top of the mountain and a large American flag flaps in the wind. There are fantastic views over Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan and the surrounding North Cascades peaks. Cool and clear Twin Lakes sit in the basin at the base of the mountain and offer a great spot to cool off on a hot day. There is camping platforms and rudimentary facilities available.

Mt Winchester Hike

3. Hidden Lake

Return distance: 8 miles.

Nestled high in the Cascades, the lake at the end of this hike is indeed well hidden. The trail head starts from the end of a forestry road near Marblemount. Switchbacks start immediately, leading the hiker up through a forested slope, across a creek and into a large basin filled with blueberry bushes.

A long traverse brings you through open alpine terrain defined by heather and rocky outcrops. If the weather is clear, surrounding peaks are visible and Mt. Baker can be seen in the distance. This is an exposed route and the weather can turn quickly even in the summer, so make sure to bring extra layers.

The trail can be easily lost near the rocky saddle. Small cairns are scattered around so keep a keen eye out for these. At the top of the summit, Hidden Lake finally comes into the view. Sitting in a basin on the other side of the saddle, it is possible to hike and slide down the talus slope to the water’s edge. A lookout cabin is located another half mile above the saddle, but exercise extreme caution if the trail is covered in snow. It is possible to stay the night in the cabin but be aware there are no facilities.

Hidden Lake Hike

4. Heliotrope Ridge

Return distance: 4.4 miles

This hike gives you the opportunity to get right up close and personal with a glacier. Starting in lush forest, the hike winds its way up to a creek crossing that can be quite treacherous during the early spring run-off. Past the creek crossing, the trail switchbacks up a ridge through the forest. The former site of the Kulshan Cabin has rudimentary toilets and is a good spot to rest. Shortly after, the Coleman-Deming climbers route branches off to the right, with the day hike trail continuing to the left. Another water crossing is required at Heliotrope Creek. Again, exercise caution. Cross an alpine meadow before gaining Heliotrope Ridge, where there are great views of the seracs and crumbling beauty of the Coleman glacier. Another option is to follow the climbers route. This climbs steeply to Hogsback Ridge and affords superb views of Mt. Baker. Snow remains at the higher elevations of this trail well into the summer months. We used the Trail Crampon Ultra for added traction on the slippery slopes.

DSC00008

 

5. Skyline Divide

Return Distance: 9 miles

Popular with backcountry skiers in the winter, this trail also makes for a great day hike during the warmer months. The trail head is well-signed and easy to access, located on FR 37 near Glacier, WA. After climbing steadily through shady forest, the trail emerges into the alpine onto a beautiful ridge reminiscent of scenes from the Sound of Music. Wildflowers dot the rolling green slopes, interspersed with pockets of snow. Most of this hike is spent on an alpine ridge, so make sure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen. After taking in the beauty of the open landscape before you, follow the trail along the ridgeline to the south. There are many ups and downs as you traverse the knolls on the ridge, but it all remains easy hiking. Enjoy panoramic views of Mt Baker, Mt. Shuksan and many other surrounding peaks. For the return journey, simply retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

Other resources:

The Washington Trails Association has detailed trail information and recommendations.

National Park Service- North Cascades National Park