Just a Taiwanese-American blogging about his travels outdoors and occasionally about his thoughts on life.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Bavarian town Leavenworth in Washington

About two hours east of Seattle is the small town of Leavenworth. Partially inspired by Solvang in California, the town reinvented itself in the early 60's to take on a heavy Bavarian influence. Now, Leavenworth serves as a popular weekend getaway for both tourist and locals alike all throughout the year.

Home to the famous Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum, Leavenworth is a great place to visit because it's not too far from Seattle, there's tons of beautiful hikes to explore on the way there, and ample hiking and climbing opportunities once you're actually in town.

To get there, you can either take highway 90 or 2. Either option seems to take about the same amount of time.

Leavenworth truly is a small town. According to a 2016 census, the town has a population of just slightly under 2,000 people (1,994 inhabitants).

Originally established as a small timber community, Leavenworth headquartered the Great North Railroad in the early 1900. However, after the railroad relocated to the nearby town of Wenatchee, Leavenworth's economy collapsed. To save their economy, Leavenworth thus became a themed town to attract tourist.

Using the Danish-themed town Solvang in California as a guide, business men Ted Price and Bob Rodgers had to work to convince the Project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement For Everyone) Committee that becoming a themed town was the best path forward towards saving Leavenworth's economy. As outsiders, their efforts often faced a lot of headwind from the locals. According to Pauline Watson:

“Small town merchants don’t want to be told what to do, and they don’t want to be told by somebody from out of town. ... You folks lived in Seattle before ... and now you are trying to tell us what we should do. It was going over like a bomb! Not that it wasn’t a good idea, it was simply coming from the outside” (Price, 40).

In time however, the town warmed up to Price and Rodger's ideas, embraced the Bavarian theme, and Leavenworth became the tourist attraction it is today.

If you're ever in Leavenworth, be sure to stop by the Icicle Brewing Company for great beer and pretzels. And if you're looking for late night activity, The Loft opens late.

For more information on Leavenworth:

1) http://leavenworth.org/
2) http://www.historylink.org/File/9475
3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leavenworth,_Washington
4) https://iciclebrewing.com/
5) https://www.yelp.com/biz/icicle-brewing-leavenworth
6) https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-loft-leavenworth-2?osq=bar

Monday, August 21, 2017

Hiking Franklin Falls, King County, Washington

Taken from WTA's site because I felt it summed up the hike perfectly: "At just 2 miles roundtrip with 400 feet in elevation gain, Franklin Falls is the perfect destination for any hiker looking for something easy and beautiful."

Trail Description
Length: 2 miles round trip
Elevation Change: 400 feet
Difficulty Assessment: Easy
Trail Type: Out and Back
Dog Friendly - Must be leashed

Northwest Forest Pass required to park
Official Site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r6/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=fsbdev2_027010
You can buy it at various vendors. Annual is around $30, day pass is $5 and can be purchased at the lot. Have exact change if possible


From Seattle, E on I-90 to exit 47. Left off the freeway. Right at T in road for .4 miles. Left on FSR 58 for 2.5 miles to FSR 5830. Turn left and park before bridge, trailhead is just before bridge on the right -- Taken from AllTrails.

The Hike

I didn't look around too much when I was here, but my impression of the area is that it's a great place to camp for the weekend with family.

Although Franklin Falls is located right underneath the I-90W highway, it doesn't really take away too much from the area. It's still a neat little fall and perfect to have lunch at and let kids play in the water.

The hike from the parking lot to the falls is not difficult at all. It's a mostly flat 1-mile hike  straddled by the river and the road. As such, it's not uncommon to see people park their cars alongside the road rather than in the paid lot to avoid paying $5.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Hiking Snoqualmie Falls Trail, Washington

A wee bit past Issaquah and just outside of North Bend, lies Snoqualmie Falls. Easy to access off the 90-E, Snoqualmie Falls is a great place to visit, especially if you want to take a dip in the river.

Trail Description Length:
1.4 miles round trip
Elevation Change: 250 feet
Difficulty Assessment: Easy
Trail Type: Out and Back

Dog Friendly - Must be leashed

Snoqualmie Falls is such a popular location that any map app should be able to locate this attraction. Just drive along the 90-east until you reach Northbend.

There are a few places to park: the main lot, the upper lot, and the lower lot. The main parking lot is a fee lot, while the upper and lower lot are free. I personally prefer parking at the lower lot. I start by looking at the falls from below, hike to the top for an alternative view, and then return down to the lot and hang out by the river for a bit.

The Hike

The walk to the bottom of the falls is not difficult at all and suitable for all ages and sizes. It's a flat walk towards some stairs that eventually lead to a walkway along the river.

And the end of the walkway, there is an area for people to take pictures. It's small however so be prepared to wait if you want a picture without other visitors in it.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hiking Wallace Falls, Snohomish County, Washington

Close to the city, easy on the knees; Wallace Falls is a great day hike if hanging out near the river and looking at waterfalls is your thing!

Trail Description
Length: 5.6 miles round trip
Elevation Change: 1300 feet
Difficulty Assessment: Easy
Trail Type: Out and Back
Dog Friendly - Must be leashed

Discover Pass required to park
Official Site: http://discoverpass.wa.gov/
You can buy it at various vendors. Annual is around $30, day pass is I think $10.


From the city, make your way towards Highway 2 east. Drive through the cities of Sultan, Startup, until you reach Gold Bar. There, make a left on 1st, a right onto 1st Ave/May Creek, and drive until May Creek becomes Ley Rd. Continue on Ley Rd, over the Wallace River, and follow it as it curves to your left. From here, follow the signs to the Wallace Falls parking lot.

The lot isn't small, but it isn't large either. Definitely try and get here early.


Climbing at Exit 32: Blackstone, Washington

Left around 11am for Exit 32, a.k.a., Little Si. Not surprising, both lots were completely full when we got there.

We parked at Tanner Tanding Park, another lot right before the bridge over the Snoqualmie River. Parking at Tanner Park adds roughly another mile to your approach which consist of walking along the street to the Little Si parking lots. It's a good option for climbers and hikers who can't find parking or for those who don't want to pay for the discovery pass.

For directions to the parking lot alternative, see below:

Because we had never climbed with each other before, me and Stefane decided to take things easy and just climb at Blackstone. Blackstone is but one of many attractions at Little Si for climbers. In addition to Blackstone, you have the ever popular World Wall I & II, The British Isle, and AWOL, to name a few.

Getting to Blackstone is incredibly easy. Just get onto the Little Si trailhead and hike until you see the giant wall to your left. It's perhaps about 1-2 miles in and you have to walk a bit past the wall to access the path to the wall. Once you see the black wall on your left, just keep wlaking and look for any well worn path off the Little Si trail. It should all be very obvious.

Blackstone only has 8 routes, almost all below 5.10. For more information on those particular routes, check MP: https://www.mountainproject.com/v/blackstone/105827415

That day, we led a few 5.9s and I led a 5.10c. All in all, not too challenging, but a safe way of measuring each other's belaying abilities.

I met a lot of other local climbers that day and exchanged numbers.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Hiking Big Si, North Bend, Washington

Mt. Si is probably the most popular hike to do near Seattle, Washington. Akin to Phoenix's Camelback Mountain, it's popularity stems from it's proximity to the city, the difficulty, and the time required to complete it. Parking is a bit tough on the weekends, but if you make it up the mountain, you'll be rewarded with beautiful views of the valley. That is, if the clouds let up.

Trail Description
Length: 7.5-8.0 miles round trip
Elevation Change: 3277 feet
Difficulty Assessment: Moderate
Trail Type: Out and Back
Dog Friendly - Must be leashed

Discover Pass required to park
Official Site: http://discoverpass.wa.gov/
You can buy it at various vendors. Annual is around $30, day pass is I think $10.


From I-90E, take exit 32 and head north on 436th Ave SE. When you hit SE North Bend Way, make a left and turn right onto SE Mt. Si Rd. After crossing the metal bridge, you'll pass by two parking lots. Those are the lots for Small Si. Ignore those. Drive for a few more miles down the street and eventually you'll come to the large parking lot. There are so many signs that you shouldn't miss it. The entrance to the lot should be between 464th Ave SE and 461th. Alternatively, you can just Google "Mt Si Hike" and you'll find it.

Parking is not as difficult as it is at Little Si. Mostly because the lot is much larger.


Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Climbing Multi-Pitch at Exit 38: Far Side, Neverland Area, Lost Boys

On July 3rd, I did my first multi pitch route at Neverland. Having never gotten around to doing multi pitch, I figured my temporary stay in Washington would be a good opportunity to change that.


Finding the Lost Boys in the Neverland area can be tough, especially if you've never been there before. It's not impossible, but it's definitely tricky. Here are some pictures to help you navigate your way there!

From I-90E, take exit 38 and continue East on Homestead Valley Rd. You will pass the South Fork Picnic area and Ollalie State Park on your left. About a mile after the picnic area, take a left and drive under the I-90 highway, there you'll immediately find Exit 38 Far Side parking lot.

You'll need a Discovery Pass to park there. The fine for not having one is $99.00. The cost of a day pass is I think $5-10. The cost for an annual pass is $30. You do the math.

From the lot, walk north along the road across the bridge, over the Snowqualmie River.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hiking Little Si, North Bend, Washington

Trail Description 

Length: 4.7 miles round trip
Elevation Change: 1300 feet
Difficulty Assessment: Easy
Trail Type: Out and Back


About an hour east of Seattle, in the North Bend area, is Mt. Si.

Mt. Si is a popular hiking destinations for visitors and locals alike and is moderately trafficked out and back. There are two popular ways to hike Mt. Si: one is to hike up Little Si, the other is to hike up Mt. Si proper. Dogs are able to use this trail but must be kept on leash. Bathrooms are at the start of the trail.

If you get there too late, parking may be tough. The car lot isn't very big.

Little Si is a good start for anyone interested in hiking Mt. Si but is unsure whether they can handle the mountain. It's a much shorter hike and can be used to gauge your fitness level.

Near the beginning of the trail (0.3 miles, 0.5 miles), there is an opportunity to get on the Boulder Garden Loop and merge with the more challenging Mount Si trail.

Climbing Chalk Review: One Good, One Bad

Inspired by how terrible my new chalk is, I decided to write a short entry on climbing chalk.

The BAD: A week ago, I finally ran out of climbing chalk. Out of convenience, I decided to buy a bag of Metolius Super Chalk from the gym rather than order from online.

After a week of use, I can confidently say that Metolius Super Chalk is terrible chalk. It fails to keep your hand dry enough and disappears almost immediately when you start to perspire. With Metolius Super Chalk, the only time your hands stay dry is when you're tying in to the rope or when you're switching hands to chalk them up. After you commit to your first tricky move, the chalk is gone. For at about $4.50, it's still a waste of your money and I plan on dumping out my entire bag when I eventually return home to Arizona.

The Good: In general, I've had good experience with chalk blocks, but the brand I'm going to suggest to you all today is Chalkness Monster.

I discovered Chalkness Monster a few months back when I was browsing Amazon for a refill. At $12.95, I decided to buy a pound of chalk from Chalkness Monster. The order came in as 8, 2oz Blocks and each block tends to last me a few months before I have to unwrap another block and break it down into my climbing bag. Most satisfying, the chalk dries my hands and keeps them dry for what I'm trying to climb past. I'm not constant diving into my chalk bag every tough hold like I am with Metolius' brand.

If you're in the market for chalk to refill your bag with, go with Chalkness Monster. I highly recommend it and so do many others on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Hiking Devil's Bridge Trail, Sedona, AZ.

Trail Description

Length: 4-5 miles round trip
Elevation Change: 629 feet
Difficulty Assessment: Very Easy - Easy
Trail Type: Out and Back

Half an hour northwest from the quiet center of Sedona, Arizona, lies the iconic Devil's Bridge, the largest natural sandstone arch in the Sedona area. Because of how easy it is to get to and do the hike (0.8 mile one way), Devil's Bridge is normally crowded with visitors all throughout the week (think: Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley).

To get to Devil's Bridge trailhead, you have a few options:
  1. Park in the parking lot immediately off of Dry Creek Road and FR152 (Vultee Arch) and hike along the unpaved FR152 for an additional mile to Devil's Bridge trailhead (3-4 mile roundtrip hike).
  2. Park in the parking lot immediately off of Dry Creek Road and FR152 (Vultee Arch) and hike on the Chuckwagon trail to the Devil's Bridge trailhead (5-6 mile roundtrip).
  3. Drive past the Dry Creek Road parking lot and onto the unpaved portion of FR 152 directly to the Devil's Bridge trailhead (1.6 mile roundtrip). FR 152 is a very rough dirt road so if you do decide to drive directly to the trailhead, it's recommended that you have a high clearance vehicle.
  4. Or, continue driving past FR152 for a minute or two to the next street, Long Canyon Road, and park at the Mescal trailhead. The Mescal to Chuckwagon to Devil's Bridge is a 4-5 mile roundtrip hike.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Hiking Camelback Mountain, Paradise Valley, AZ

Caution: hiking Camelback Mountain during the summer is not a joke. Bring an abundance of water. Do not underestimate this hike.

Trail Description

Length: 2.6 miles round trip
Trailhead Elevation:  -- ft.
End Elevation: -- ft.
Elevation Change: 1253 feet
Difficulty Assessment: Medium
Trail Type: Out and Back

Camelback Mountain is one of the most iconic hikes in Phoenix. Located in the city of Paradise Valley, Camelback's popularity seems to stem from its centralized location in the valley, its balance between difficulty and time required to complete the hike, and of course, the view.

All throughout the week, the trail can be seen teeming with hikers of all shapes, age, and sizes.

There are two ways to approach the hike: the Cholla Trail and the Echo Canyon Trail. Which one is tougher seems to depend on who you ask. For this particular post, I will be talking about the Cholla Trail.

During the summer, the best time to hike is either in the early morning (6-8am at trailhead) or in the evening (after 5pm). But even then, you have to be careful. People underestimate how difficult Camelback is due to its trail length; but it's not the length you need to be wary about, it's the extreme heat, the lack of shade, and crowds that make this a difficult hike. Be diligent in your preparation and mindful of how much water to bring.

In the winter however, any time is fine. Remember to still bring water though. Cooler temperatures can trick you into thinking you're not as thirsty as you should be.

The Hike

To get to the Cholla Trail trailhead, you need to park on North Invergordon/N. 64th Rd (they are the same road, depending on which direction you are coming from).

Park anywhere between East Jackrabbit Rd and Camelback Rd. Pay attention to the signs.


Saturday, February 04, 2017

Bouldering at South Mountain, AZ

A few weekends past, Liz took me and Brandon to South Mountain for some bouldering. To get there, park at Pima Canyon trailhead, Maricopa Trail, Phoenix, AZ. There is a developed lot with bathrooms and picnic area. Be mindful of the time as the park gate closes between  certain hours (typically near sunset).

To get to Pima Canyon Trailhead, park at the following address:

From the parking lot, get on the National Trail. Walk along the National Trail for a mile or so until you pass the old stone Ramada. At this point, walk off the path and follow the dried river bed for another half mile towards Pima Canyon (the coordinates where you should start looking for the dried river bed: 33.360756, -112.004855). It might be best to go with someone who has been there to find the river bed path. But here's a snapshot of where I got off from the Ramada.


Why I Climb

I enjoy climbing for many reasons. And although I believe some of those reasons are subconscious, I'll try to the best of my ability to speak on the things that I can think of.

To sum it up, I love climbing because it speaks to my love for the outdoors, competition, and community.

Ever since I was young, it was a tradition of sorts for my family to go hiking on the weekends. At the time, I hated it. I hated waking up early for anything that wasn't cartoons and I especially didn't like spending my weekends hiking. Whether it was a cultural thing or simply something my parents enjoyed, it wasn't until years later that I organically took to being outdoors.

Climbing reinforces that love for the outdoors. Aside from the gym and metro locations, climbing typically takes place in the desert, forests, beaches, or mountains. Whether its sport leading, trad-climbing, top-roping, or bouldering, they all can take you off the beaten path to areas seldom explored. The journey to the start of the climb can vary. A climb can be as easy as parking and walking for 5-10 minutes, or it can involve scrambling, hiking, and even some "creative" exploring for an hour or more. It's this latter element of adventure that I enjoy.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Climbing at Echo Cliffs, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

On Friday, we all packed ourselves into one car and made our way towards the Santa Monica Mountains. Our destination: Echo Cliffs. To get to Echo Cliffs, you park at the Backbone Trailhead. The address is:

Backbone Trail
Malibu, CA 90265
Coordinates: 34.114173, -118.918171

Mountain Project Link: Echo Cliffs

Park at any of the two gravel parking lots and begin on the trail head. For about 2 miles, hike on the Backbone Trail until you can see Echo Cliffs. Then, you take the river shortcut down to the base of the cliffs. I can't really describe the river shortcut, and you may need someone whose been there to point it out, but you can try to get an idea from my pictures.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Climbing at Mystery Science Theater, Conejo Mountains, CA

We got to Thousand Oaks, CA a bit early and our AirBnB was still not ready, so we decided to look for some climbing nearby. We chose Conejo Mountain.

Conejo Mountain is tucked behind some residential homes and the 101 highway. Instructions on how to get Mystery Science Theater is a bit unclear. There seems to be certain areas that are off-limit to the public.

For information on the routes available or problems, consult Mountain Project.

How we got to this climb, and it seems to coincide with the vague details on Mountain Project, was we parked at:

3860 Calle Alta Vista
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320

Coordinates: 34.187691, -118.958246

There should be a public sign. Walk past the sign and make a right and follow the path until you reach Mystery Science Theater. The walk should take you 15-20 minutes.

With the time that we had, we played around on: Comet X (5.9)The Beginning of the End (5.10 c/d), and Pamela (5.6).

In all, Mystery Science Theater seems like a convenient place for beginners to experience both rope climbs and bouldering. Although the proximity of the cacti to the boulders makes me nervous. Don't fall. Don't fall. Don't fall.

Point Mugu State Park, California (Day 2)

Trail Description

Length: 24-27 miles round trip
Trailhead Elevation:  800 ft.
End Elevation: ~ 2800 ft.
Difficulty Assessment: Difficult
Trail Type: Out and Back

The Hike

The following morning, we took our time getting ready. By the time we had finished our breakfast, prepped our snacks, packed our lunches, and cleaned ourselves, it was close to 9am. With everything stuffed in our daypacks, we headed out.


From the La Jolla Campgrounds to Tri Peak, the hike was 9-10 miles one-way, with an elevation change of 2000 ft. I felt overall, the hike was pretty forgiving. The most difficult part is the distance and the incline is mostly gradual.

Once you get to the top however, the views are worth it. So take the time to enjoy a nice meal and reflect on what you've just accomplished.


Point Mugu State Park, California (Day 1)

On Wednesday, I drove from Phoenix, Arizona and met up with my friends Spencer, Theo, and Darren at Point Mugu State Park. The plan for the next three days: hiking in, camp, hike out.

Official State Park Site: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=630

Trail Description

Length: 24 miles round trip
Trailhead Elevation:  800 ft.
End Elevation: ~ 2800 ft.
Difficulty Assessment: Difficult
Trail Type: Out and Back

The Hike

Upon arrival, we discovered that the trail to the campsite (La Jolla Canyon Trail) was washed out. For how long? Who knows. But we were using an older trail book so that could explain the discrepancy. The trail seemed to have been closed for 2 years already. So what originally was a 2 mile hike to the campground, became a 4-5 mile hike.

Instead of the La Jolla Canyon Trail, we were forced to take the Backbone Trail --> Overlook Trail --> Loop Trail.

By the time we reached the campsite, the sun was already gone. We set up camp, made our dinners, hung out a bit playing cards, and then called it a night.
© Willy's Outdoor Adventures

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