Snoqualmie Valley -- December 15, 2007

This trip is rated 4 boots out of 4 on the Hiking Boot-o-meter.

We knew that we needed another 9 miles to get to our 200 mile hiking goal for 2007, and wanted a quick, easy, low-risk hike that didn't involve things like long drives and medi-vac helicopters and avalanche fatalities - we were getting close enough to the Thailand trip that we wanted (at the risk of some perceived degree of sedentariness (yes it really is a word)) to make sure we didn't end up with trip-threatening injuries, or worse.  So we headed east under the leaden skies of this Saturday morning, to the increasingly sprawling metropolis of Duvall, planning our inaugural hike on the much-heralded Snoqualmie Valley Trail.  We ended up parking in the Police Department parking lot in downtown Duvall, assuming that we would thereby significantly decrease the likelihood that some pernicious suburban scofflaw scum would assault our old Honda.

We hit the trail at 10:00 and headed south - coffee in hand - planning to get at least as far as Stuart before turning around and heading back to Duvall.

The trail is shown as the dashed line running along the west side of Highway 203.  Getting to Stuart and back would give us about 9 miles; Stillwater and back would be about 12.

We were soon up to speed, looking forward to an easy stroll along a virtually level route.

After about 2 miles, we arrived at the intersection of Highway 203 and NE 124th Street and were amazed to discover that it had become a roundabout!  Apparently the guy that was in charge of putting roundabouts all over Kirkland got promoted and was now in charge of putting roundabouts all over King County.  Sue got fully into the spirit of the thing by spinning around and around till she got dizzy and somewhat nauseous.

We escaped the vortextual field that surrounded the roundabout, and with Sue still a bit unsteady, continued on our way south.

Dairy farms are scattered liberally around the Snoqualmie Valley, and we were treated to the occasional scene of pastoral bovinity like the one seen above.  Spotting wildlife has always been one of our favorite parts of hiking.

At several points, the trail went right along the Snoqualmie River, affording scenes such as the above.

By now it was pushing 11:30,and still no sign of Stewart.  We figured that we had to have been averaging close to 3 mph, so by now we should have gone around 4.5 miles, which meant we had to be close to Stuart.

Just before our turn-around point at 12 noon, we passed by the ever-scenic Stillwater Wildlife Access parking area, brought to us proudly by our friends at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  This is where people park while they run around in the bushes shooting at the riparian wildlife  One might suppose that it's call the Stillwater Wildlife Area due to the fact that all the wildlife has been killed off.

We decided to explore new art forms: Here is an exposure taken while swinging the camera around while walking briskly.

And another:  Note the subtle, yet highly artistic, blurring of the tree branches.  Yes, boredom was finally making its inevitable appearance.

Eventually, Sue succumbed to the relentless sameness of the trail, and perhaps of existence itself, striking a pose remarkably reminiscent of Edvard Munch's infamous "Scream" painting (shown inset below),

which is said by some to characterize the inescapable undercurrent of existential angst inherent in the very core of our frail humanity.  Or hell, maybe it was just a meaningless stretch and yawn?  But wouldn't that itself be indicative of the meaningless of it all, and therefore of the same inescapable undercurrent of existential angst inherent in the very core of our frail humanity.?  Whew - a lot going on here for just a simple hike.  Where is Sartre when we really need him?

We nonetheless staggered out of the depths of our despair, and got back to the trail.

Yet more pastoral bovinity.

And then suddenly, there we were, back at the roundabout at 124th.

Closing in on Duvall, Sue enjoyed quacking at these ducks for a while.

Then suddenly, there we were - at the southern doorstep of Duvall, right at 2 o'clock.  Not a moment, or mile, too soon, as it turned out.  We were both surprised at how badly we had gotten beaten up by this seemingly benign little hike.  The trail itself was packed down pretty hard, we weren't using our walking sticks (which put the whole load on our legs), and as Sue pointed out, we really didn't need our big, heavy hiking boots after all.  We were curious about how far we really had gone, and decided to drive south on Highway 203 and see exactly how far we had gotten on our hike.  We skillfully navigated the roundabout, passed our turn-around point, and soon were in Stillwater after driving 6 miles.  It turns out that there is no Stuart, and we had turned around just about 1/2 mile before we would have reached Stillwater.  So it as it turned out, we had hiked about 11 miles in 4 hours, which for us was pretty aggressive even though it was essentially a level hike.  We headed back into Duvall and got a gutfull at the Ixtapa Mexican joint - sneaking in on their luncheon menu and getting discreetly smaller portions and saving a few bucks - then headed home.

The weather forecast had been talking about Saturday being the best day of our 3 day weekend, and had been calling for breezy days on Friday and Sunday.  Friday had indeed been pretty crappy weather-wise, and when we left the house to go hiking on Saturday there was a good breeze blowing.  But on Sunday morning, we were pleasantly surprised by the tame weather, and decided to give this radio-controlled airplane business another try.  We had Airplane Version 2.0 all ready to go, and after our less than successful efforts with Airplane Version 1.0, we anxiously loaded up and headed out to MacDonald Park in Carnation.  We drove over to Snoqualmie Valley where we had been hiking just the day before, and pulled into the park, relieved to find that the field was deserted. 

We got through the mandatory radio-control range-check prior to launch - needed to make sure that the radio transmitter and receiver were talking and listening ok before launching.  Sue stayed by the plane to report on what the control surfaces were doing while the pilot, on the other side of the field, fumbled around with the knobs and buttons and stuff on the transmitter.

We held our collective breaths while the brave pilot gave it the Big Heave with full power,


It turns out that there is actually some sort of correlation between control inputs and the plane's response.

A real kick in the butt.

After a few landings (some smooth and some not so smooth) and takeoffs, it became apparent that this could easily become an addiction.

Emboldened by the rampant success experienced thus far, the pilot made a daring eye-level pass right by the photographer.  So far, it was all going remarkably well ...

... then it all went terribly wrong.  While trimming the transmitter for "deadstick straight and level", the pilot made the mistake of momentarily taking his eyes off the plane, and before anyone knew what was happening, there we were, speeding straight into the row of trees along the north edge of the field.  The neophyte pilot did a masterful job, it must be modestly said, of keeping the plane out of the trees by pulling up into a stall then falling off over the top to the left.  He later explained the theory thus: Better a broken plane on the ground than a broken plane 40 feet up in a tree.  Unfortunately, there was insufficient altitude to pull out of the dive, and as can be seen above, the blurry streak of blue and white is the plane heading pretty much straight down and into the ground, where the nose broke off.  Damn.

The co-pilot/navagator/photographer made no attempt to conceal the depths of her deep despair and bitter disappointment,

while the pilot had this reaction.

It's nothing that a little CA (Cyanoacrylate ) won't fix - it's just your basic nose job.

On the way home we again availed ourselves of the opportunity to try the new roundabout.  Here we are approaching at a breakneck speed far in excess of the suggested 15 M.P.H., ignoring the ominous sign and blazing solar-powered warning light.  

We got closer and closer,

and closer and closer,

till we were teetering right on the brink, right at the edge, then over the edge and into the roundabout itself, whirlpool-like, smartly navigating the eastern half of the circle,

after which we thankfully emerged unscathed and continued homeward.

Do we lead exciting lives or what???

On Monday evening, we magically morphed into an FAA certified airframe repair facility, and after patching up the nose,

we reattached it to the fuselage - a handsome piece of rhinoplasty if we do say so ourselves, which of course we do.

Meanwhile, Rufus the Christmas Tree Dog is seen enjoying the festive holiday season.

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