The Flower Fed Buffalo
The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
In the days of long ago,
Ranged where the locomotives sing
And the prarie flowers lie low:
The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass
Is swept away by wheat,
Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by
In the spring that still is sweet.
But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
Left us long ago,
They gore no more, they bellow no more:--
With the Blackfeet lying low,
With the Pawnee lying low.
- Vachel Lindsay


Friday, 29 June 2012

Living Large in Leavenworth

It's been 26 years since we last visited this once sleepy little town and a lot has changed. For one thing, it's not so sleepy anymore! We were here around the end of July, so right about in the middle of the tourist season, and it was much, much quieter then than it is now just at the start of the school holiday period.

The town also seems a lot bigger, but it's hard to say because we only had a couple of days here last time. The Bavarian theme has also got more full-on, which is pretty kitschy but kinda cool at the same time. A bit weird though to run across this shop:



 There seems to be a lot more adventure-based tourism, which would figure with the general growth in that industry. The Wenatchee River which runs right through Leavenworth is very popular for rafting and kayaking, especially in the Tumwater Canyon section. There are a lot of climbers in town, and where we are camping has gradually filled up: there were ten cars there last night and my bet is that there will be some more over the weekend. It's a lovely spot and a mule deer sidled through the campsite yesterday evening, it's ears twitching wildly as Di played the tin whistle. I did manage to get one snap, but it wasn't great:



We are having a quiet day. The Boss is a little fatigued after a fairly energetic three days: one day to check out the approach to Snow Creek Wall, where we intended a climb the next day; back up to Snow Creek Wall to climb Orbit; followed by a 17 km return hike to Stuart Lake yesterday.

There have been a couple of big fires since we were last here, which affected the Snow Creek drainage fairly significantly so we wanted to see what it was like crossing the creek and accessing the wall. No problems but it is an 8 km round trip with a 500 foot elevation gain, and it took a little while to find the best way across the creek and through the fallen timber to the track leading up to the crag. Di got a couple of nice snaps of flowers, especially this one of a wild rose:



Conditions weren't that great for getting photos of the wall itself, but this gives some idea of the architecture:



Our intended route follows pretty much right on the left hand skyline.

Orbit

The forecast for the next day was really good, so we packed our gear when we got back to camp and prepared for an early start. We took a nice steady pace up the track, crossed the creek without falling in and made our way to the start of the route. Here's a picture of Di at the first belay station ...


A chipmunk dropped by for a visit while I was belaying Di at the top of pitch 1:




Di led pitch 2:



... and here she is nearing the belay on pitch 3 ...



Things were going really smoothly at this stage, and Di shot up the last pitch pretty smartly. Unfortunately we - well, mostly I can take the (dis)credit for this - didn't read the exit off the climb very well. The guide just says "scramble off". The left looked more than just a scramble, the right looked a bit "scrambly" and I reasoned that it could only get better as you got higher. Well, it didn't. Downclimbing and an abseil (off gear we were later able to retrieve) eventually brought me back to the end of pitch  4 and we ascended the correct way. It made the day a fair bit longer than it would have been otherwise. However, we had the great pleasure of seeing a mountain goat really close up for the first time in all of our visits to this part of the world. I got this picture just near the top of the "scrambling" ...


... and Di took this one of me with the goat right on top of the crag just prior to descending:


If you want to see more photos from this great day out,  especially of the beautiful flowers and the amazing goat, you can go to the SmugMug gallery we've created for this ascent.

Stuart Lake

Yesterday, we thought we should have a bit of an "active rest day" to make sure all our tired muscles didn't seize up. Di was keen to revisit some hiking territory that we enjoyed way back in 1986, so we headed off on the Stuart Lake trail.

What a great pleasure! No heavy climbing pack, and a nice easy gradient through pristine old-growth forest. If you look closely enough you can see five different types of trees amongst these healthy saplings:



We saw beautiful flowers along the trail, including Columbine ...



...  Early Blue Violets ...



... Tall Lungwort ...


... and Wild Heliotrope:


We just loved walking through the forest alongside the gorgeous stream and took a number of photos. Here's an example:



I couldn't resist shooting and uploading a short video of the creek ...


video


... which we had to cross on this impressive log bridge:


As in most deep and dank forests we've visited there was the occasional fungi hanging around ...


We came out in the open briefly for a great view of the mountains at the head of the drainage:



A little way before the lake there was still some snow on the trail:


And finally we reached our destination:


(You can see a few more photos at our Stuart Lake SmugMug gallery.) The trip back to the car was achieved at a leisurely pace, as we'd worked all the kinks out of our legs on the way up!

It looks like there's too much snow up on the Enchantments Plateau for us to be able to walk up there, and most of the flowers aren't out yet, but it's still very beautiful here in the Cascades.

Anyway, the laundry is done, The Boss has caught up on her ZZZZZ's while I've been organising this post and she's feeling frisky again. It's about time we headed back up to camp. Maybe the deer will visit us again. In the meantime, it's "Cheers" for now.