Monday, March 22, 2010

A run at Coal Creek

On the last Sunday of winter I wanted to run the Coal Creek Trail. This trail has a very interesting history: at the turn of the 20th century it was an active coal mining area. Photos posted on an information kiosk show an area that was totally industrialized.

Today the forest has reclaimed most of the land and there are only occasional clues to the past to be seen.

My interest was not historical but was spiritual. The lower section of the trail is almost magical with moss and ferns growing from the trees and the sounds and sight of the creek add to the magical effect. I've been on this trail in the winter after a cold, foggy night and the moss-covered trees have an additional coating of frozen fog.


This was a much warmer day and I wanted to enjoy the sense of spring in the air.

In addition, I was returning to this trail for the first time since it had been reopened following flood damage repairs.

What a job the Bellevue Parks department has done. The lower section of the trail, where I started has been regravelled and the bridge that washed out has been replaced by a very sturdy structure.

The middle section of the trail is pretty much unchanged. However, the Primrose section of the trail is officially closed. This means that if you want to visit Primrose Falls you'll have to make an unofficial side trip. And there's a new side trail further along that heads off toward Lakemont. I didn't check it out but I assume that it goes to a new trailhead access point.

Much of the upper trail has been widened and barked. This really deals with all the mud that used to be here. I can never get enough of the 2 waterfalls that are just next to the trail in this section. Plus, the information kiosk is located here so that you can read about the history of Coal Creek and see the industrial pictures.

I wanted a teensy bit more mileage than the loop so I crossed the road to the Redtown access point to Cougar Mountain Park and ran a short loop before returning to my car.

This trail is just magical. I can never seem to get enough of it. The fresh forest, the creek, the use of industrial materials in the trail, the mud, the roots: it's all there.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Our January trip to Hawaii...

The weather

Clearly the reason to go to the paradise of Hawaii is the weather. It’s balmy all the time, especially for a northwesterner, with temperatures mostly in the 70s. Never much higher, never much lower. This January we went to Kuaui, the ‘Garden Island’, so named because the central mountain, Mt. Waialeale, gets more than 400 inches of annual rainfall!

Our first week was sunny and warm; the second week brought some rain. We only had heavy rainfall at night, but even the daytime rain that we encountered was warm. However, the rainy period did leave the mountain cloud-shrouded and left us looking for hikes at lower altitude.

More on this later.

The food

One of the high points for us was the food. I, especially, was looking forward to lots of tropical fruits but it turns out that January is an off season so the fruit selection is pretty lame. We just had to make do with papayas, pineapples, and bananas. One of our days we went to a farmers market and bought an UNBELIEVABLY good pineapple – the best we’d ever had.

My friend Gary told us about the Koloa Fish Market and was that ever great advice. The grilled fish was terrific, but we were introduced to poke and just fell in love. Poke is raw fish mixed up with other ingredients: maybe seaweed and sweet onion or Korean flavored. Eaten with rice and some fresh vegetables it’s a meal to die for. You can get it at just about any grocery store, even at Safeway.

Gary also told us about ‘Savage Shrimp’ a roadside vendor of grilled shrimps. This was a van, kind of like a taco wagon, whose sole fare was grilled shrimp served with rice. Turns out this was just around the corner from us so we were able to go out our back door, walk across the street, and order up. The vendor was also kind enough to sell us a 1-1/2 order, just enough for the two of us.

We also found Papaya's natural/organic food store in Kapaa so we could buy organic. On one of our trips a woman just started talking to us in the bulk foods area. She told us about lilikoi chiffon pie at the Hamura Saimin restaurant. We had to check this out and ended up buying a whole pie. It took us several days to eat and every bite was good.


Kauai has lots of hiking, from shorelines and beaches to lowland mountains to high mountain ridges. With the moderate weather of our first week on the island we were able to get up high without getting wet. Mt. Waialeale sits on the island like the hub of a wheel and numerous ridges radiate out to the coast. Many of these ridge tops have trails or roads. We chose to hike the Nu'alolo Trail. It went almost straight west and ended on an escarpment 2000 feet above the ocean. We could look down into the lush Nu'alolo Valley and see the surf pounding the Napali coast.

The downside of these ridge hikes is that you have to walk uphill to return. Our return gave back the 1500’ of elevation that we’d lost hiking out.

This trail showed the effects of heavy rainfall but even more dramatic was the Powerline Trail. As one of our guidebooks pointed out, this trail is clear evidence of why you see hunter’s pickup trucks with 4-foot lift kits. In some places the tire ruts were 3-1/2 feet deep!

On a couple of our hikes we were lucky to be able to eat ripe guavas right off the tree. We later found out that the guavas are non-native and are spread by the feral pigs.

Bookending our whole trip was a walk south from the resort strip to Maha'ulepu Beach (a real gem!). I ran part of this shore-side trail on our first day and Janet walked it on the second. It has long, sweeping beaches, dramatic surf, sedimentary (sandstone and limestone) and volcanic cliffs, sighing/breathing rocks, even a sacred Hawaiian heiau. We closed out our trip by taking our last walk in this place, as well. Got a little of that warm, tropical rain and all the drama of this shoreline.


Before leaving home I had checked MapMyRun to see if there were any runs logged for Poipu on Kauai and found only one. My big need was to be able to get in a single long run in final preparation for the Death Valley Marathon. This scarcity of MapMyRun runs left me to my own resources to figure out a route.

My first run was exploratory, heading north from our condo toward the big Poipu hotels. This is when I found the Makawehi cliffs and trail. A great find because I kept coming back to it and liking it more and more. With each excursion it revealed a little more of itself. On my first exploration I was blown away by Shipwreck Beach and the incredible meadows just before …. On later trips I saw the diving board cliffs and the porous cliffs that breathed with the surf.

Gift shopping

The folks in Janet’s office have a tradition of bringing back “gifts” to each other when a team member goes on vacation. Generally these gifts are something that you keep at your desk out of respect to the giver but they’re not something you’d typically get for yourself. She decided to try something different so we went to the Salvation Army and went through their rack of Hawaiian shirts and she got one for everyone.

They loved ‘em and even scheduled a Hawaiian lunch shortly after receiving them.


Oh, the places to see.

The mountain: Mt. Waialeale, big, rugged, green, rainy, muddy.

The beaches: some with surfers, some with fish, one with glass, one with engine blocks.

The plants: one of a handful of sites with tropical botanical gardens, well worth an afternoon