A Hiking Adventure- Winter Edition: Lake Valhalla

Here in Seattle, winter can be well…wet and grey. I try my hardest to not let it affect me much, even though it’s completely opposite from Arizona winters. The wet and grey never really stop me from doing anything outside because it is just rain. Last year, I trained for running races and did a few non-snow hikes in the rain and cold. This year, however, I decided it was time to venture out into the mountains and to the snow.

Every since leaving college in Cedar Falls, IA and Flagstaff, AZ, snow hasn’t really been something I seek out for fun and enjoyment. It’s cold. It’s wet. Did I mention it’s cold. I didn’t really enjoy it much in Iowa, though I had more sleet and ice storms than snow storms, and I only did 1 day worth of snowboarding during my 2-years in Flagstaff. To be honest, I only remember a few (<5) times where my family ventured into the snow; skiing in Utah and sledding in Prescott to name a couple. I mean, after all my parents did move AWAY from the snow and cold when I was only 6 months old.

So why did things change this year and my new found love for the snow? Well, first off, Seattle is only 45 minutes from the western boarder of the Cascades Mountain Range, and the beginning of winter included MANY feet of fresh powder, which was something we didn’t get the past couple of years.  Several of my friends started posting pictures of their snowshoeing and snowboarding adventures with beautiful white snow capped mountains. The more they posted, the more I became intrigued and eager to explore.

After talking with my friend Chris, we set a date to head eastbound and have a little snowshoeing exploration of an area just east of Stevens Pass, a popular snowboarding/skiing destination (Chris did the destination planning). I was able to obtain an inexpensive but sturdy pair of snowshoes prior to this adventure, which was a great decision to purchase instead of renting. Renting snowshoes from REI can cost around $40 and I was able to snag mine for $70 at Costco. I didn’t feel like spending more as I wasn’t sure if I’d like snowshoeing or not, but I also didn’t feel that the $30 difference was worth not purchasing.

It was finally time to head off towards the mountains and the sun was shining though the weather was FREEZING. When we arrived at the trailhead (or roadside), Chris’s car temp gauge read 2 degrees. I cannot tell you the last time I was in 2 degree weather, let alone 2 degree weather starting a HIKE.

Chris choose a trail to a place called Lake Valhalla, a known nordic location for cross-country/downhill skiers. Before we got started, Chris spent sometime getting me up to speed on my snowshoes and it took a few steps before I was feeling comfortable (though my poor hands were freezing).

For the next couple hours, we shoe’d our way upwards, stopping occasionally for some pictures and eventually found ourselves at a flat surface, but no lake was located. We continued snowshoeing downwards before turning back towards the flat. It was at this point that we discovered the lake was off to the side of the flat surface but completely covered in snow.  I guess we should have known it’d be cover as the mountains got about 4 feet of snow. After we learned this, we stopped for a short snack break completed with tea and coffee!

These hours spent in the mountains, consistently took my breath away. With the amount of snowfall covering the mountain peaks and treetops, the overwhelming white was beyond perfection. My heart and soul were filled with happiness, peace, and love for the snow. It was this trip that I could truly say, I love the winter and I love the snow. The pictures don’t even do this trip justice.

Family Travel: Little Brother Visits Seattle

It’s been nearly two months since I turned 28 years old and that means it’s been two months since my little brother, Joel, came to visit me from his summer in Chicago. My brother, who was interning with his company at their head quarters in Chicago, was given the opportunity to fly out for an extended weekend. It would be his first time in the PNW and only my second family visitor since moving to WA in 2012. We have been discussing this trip pretty much since the moment I found out his company provided each intern with a free flight. In all reality, it was pretty much me telling him “You’re coming to Seattle”. My parents were also onboard with this plan to use the flight to visit his big sister, because we all knew he’d never come otherwise. I know I shouldn’t say never, but it’s hard for ue Lang siblings to travel to visit each other. So I was so excited when he actually booked the ticket. Plus, it was my birthday weekend too!

He landed pretty late Thursday night and I knew Friday was going to be an early morning so we didn’t do much once he landed. I love playing tour guide so I packed our weekend full of “typical” WA adventure starting off with a beautiful drive and hike in the mountains.

I’ve mentioned this before that the Cascade Mountain Range takes anywhere from a 45 minutes to 2 hour drive northeast/east/southeast from Seattle. For our hike, I selected one that I have been wanting to go on for sometime but haven’t been able to go. This summer has been all about alpine lakes and what better “Welcome to Washington” gift to my brother then to take him 4.1 miles up a mountain and make him jump/swim in one. This particular hike, called Lake Serene, is quite popular to many Seattlites and Washingtonians.

It’s a 8.2 mile round trip hike that climbs 2000ft, reaching the alpine lake at 2521ft. We started off on an old logging road before starting the climb up through  overgrowth forest, crossing over waterways and ascending upwards with the use stairs (yes, physical stairs built along the trail) until we finally arrived at the lake. We took a short break to refuel and then took a dip into the lake. The dip started off freezing, as the sun was beyond the mountain ridge and left us in full shade, but after several minutes became refreshing and much needed.

After the decent, we ventured to a local brewery in Everett, called Scuttlebutt, for some burgers and beers. It didn’t take us long after our arrival home before we crashed, as we knew another long day was waiting for us upon waking.

Saturday came quickly and before I knew it, my brother, my roommate and myself were heading down to CenturyLink Field for some pre-gaming at Pyramid Alehouse, where we met up with several other friends. This was my “birthday celebration” and what better way then to celebrate watching my beloved Seattle Sounders FC. The whole concept of our weekend together was to show my brother what it’s like to live here, and Seattle sports are a huge part of that. I don’t attend the Seahawks games ($$$) and rarely attend the Mariners, but the Sounders are a whole other story. My brother has never been to a professional soccer match and I loved being able experience it with him. The game was against Tottenham Hotspurs, a member of the English Premier League. Not only was this his first MLS game, it was both of ours first European match. It was a high scoring game of 3-3, but did end in a tie. I guess a tie is better than a loss.

After the game, the group ventured to a local pub for some grub. We didn’t last long before exhaustion set in, so we headed home for some RnR. The night was still young and as we were celebrating my birthday, we got ready and hit up the local bar scene in my favorite neighborhood, Ballard.

Ballard is a fairly popular night life spot that is only 10 minutes away from my home. It has one fun bar/dance club that my roommates and I are fond of, so after grabbing beers at King’s, another bar, we decided it was time to dance and DANCE we did, all night long.

You could imagine what Sunday consisted of after dancing all night long. If you’re thinking eating and lounging then you’d be correct. Joel and I left for brunch at popular joint called Portage Bay Cafe, per recommendation from one of my roommates. We weren’t disappointed and came home stuffed to the max. My original plan for Sunday was a microbrew tour throughout Seattle but being completely hungover (not going to sugar coat that fact) we didn’t make it very far from the couch. We did move later the evening and drove down to Tacoma to enjoy a delicious dinner at one of the local breweries and met up with our brother-in-law’s little brother, Joe, who is currently stationed at Fort Lewis. This particular day, we were blessed with meeting his new wife and her daughter. I have spoken with his wife on the phone very briefly but I loved being able to finally met her and we enjoy each other’s conversation. After dinner, we decided that we wanted to relax but still do a little brew tour. Luckily, many of the local brews bottle their beers, so we did a “stay-at-home” brew tour with 6 local brews and watched movies.

Monday, his last day, was our “tourist” day. We drove past the Fremont Troll, wandered around Pike Place Market, stuck gum onto the Gum Wall, visited the Space Needle via the monorail, and walked along the boardwalk. Before his final departure, we ate lunch at The Pike Brewing Company, located in Pike Place Market and brewing since 1943. I “made” him get the beer sampler as one last good-bye from the Emerald City.

It was a hard, sad good-bye at the airport, but I couldn’t have asked for a better packed-filled weekend with my brother, Joel. We hiked, watched sports, drank local craft beer, and saw the sights. Hopefully, someone else will want to come visit me next summer so I can show them the Seattle Experience. I love my city! Until next adventure…

A Hiking Adventure: Wallace Falls

It’s quite amazing how one day on a mountain can turn into amazing friendships and more adventures. The following weekend after Bandera, included just that. Myself, along with four other girls (one who I met on Bandera) adventured out into the Central Region of the Cascades to a hike called Wallace Falls. Wallace Falls is a 5.5 mile, 1,200 ft elevation gain trail that consists of a unique series of approximately 9 waterfalls, with one as tall as 265 feet.  While on this trial, the girls and I decided we would where we explored both on and off the path. Yes, Krista, Isabella and I enjoyed the “other side of the fence”. Let me try to explain this “other side of the fence” statement.

When we would come to a lookout point along the trial, there are usually fences blocking off the rugged back country areas. Instead of just standing outside them overlooking the waterfalls, we would find our own way to get as close as we can to the waterfalls. We managed to get quite close and at one point I was leaning over the edge of a cliff all to capture a picture (surprise surprise right?!?!). You could say we had way too much fun on this trial, and well you’d be right.

Another amazing part to this day was that it wasn’t over just because the hike ended. We actually planned earlier that we would head to the beautiful, bavarian town of Leavenworth for the remainder of the day. You might remember my first trip to Leavenworth for Oktoberfest where I talked about the unique atmosphere of the mountain town. This time was a bit different. We decided to do the wine tasting side to the town vs. beer and boy, was it amazing. Many of you know that WA is the second largest wine production region in America and Leavenworth is home to approximately 9 tasting rooms. We visited 3 that day and 1 included my friend Krista and I ‘sneaking away’ from the other girls to taste some delicious Red varietals.

Like all days, this one came to an end with a sunset but was just the beginning of wonderful friendships. I can’t wait to experience more of Washington with my new friends here in the city. Check out the photos here