Friday, December 23, 2011

Solstice Ski

Skiing the High Country Trail is a wonderful way to celebrate the Solstice. It was 18 degrees when Don and I headed out for a ski in the bright sunshine after a blessed snowfall of 2 inches!!!  That snow was light and fluffy; it glittered like diamonds.  The high pressure over Washington this December has kept the snow dumps away, but the skies are blue and the stars shine bright every night.  The High Country Trail is the backbone of our trail system.  Guests rarely leave High Camp without skiing it either enroute to another trail or as access to the backcountry.  Roundabout, Glacier View, Powderpuff, Ridgetop, Lake Julius trails all begin with a ski up the High country Trail.

On these big, beautiful, blue sky days it is all about the mountain views.  Glacier Peak in the distance.

A great ski day from High Camp is the High Meadows, with Tamarack Point on the left and Baldy on the right.  This area is perfect for a backcountry telemark day ski.  You can see the three lake basins for Lake Donald, Loch Eileen and Lake Julius nestled in below the meadows.

We believe the mountains is the distance are the Ten Peaks.

Don and Eric dreaming of the snow that we just know is coming!

Happy Holidays! Chris

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Boundless Energy!

Douglas' Squirrel (tamiasciurus douglasii)
These little buggers are hard not to see and impossible not to hear around High Camp. Just this morning as I was laying in bed in the staff cabin I could hear their scolding calls.  It's hard for me not to think that they are chiding me for entering their territory, but in reality their call is a warning for other squirrels that there is a potential predator in the area. 

If you hear scratching inside the walls of your cabin it is probably a Douglas squirrel.  In the lodge we have a frequent visitor we call George.  Several summers ago, Jirka, a long-time host from the Czech Republic, was helping to build the Foxfire cabin when George's scolding got to his head.  There was a BB gun laying around and Jirka picked it up and hardly aimed at the squirrel that was about 40 feet away. To his surprise and dismay when he shot at it, George keeled over dead. Now when there is a squirrel in the lodge we call them George Jr.

Douglas' squirrels survive by collecting caches of conifer cones in the summer and fall that they pick the seeds out of and eat all winter long.  In the winter you can often see them in trees dropping cone bits down as they tear apart the cones to get to the seeds.   I've never seen it but I've read reports that Douglas' squirrels will collect mushrooms in the fall, dry them in the notches of twigs and then collect them later to store in their caches. I've never seen a Douglas' squirrel steal human food but I don't doubt that it happens, albeit rarely. So why are there so many of them around High Camp if they aren't after our food?

Douglas' squirrels are much less shy than their predators: pine martins, owls and hawks.  The area around High Camp, which sees lots of human activity, is a safe-haven for them.  They also like our insulation to make their nests out of and they probably enjoy the warmth of our cabins. While I think their abundance at High Camp might be slightly higher than undisturbed wilderness, they are abundant everywhere in the forests around here. They used to be abundant all over Western Washington as well but in urban areas they are out competed by the larger more aggressive Eastern Grey Squirrel native to the east coast. Douglas' squirrels often appear more abundant than they actually are because instead of hiding they actually draw attention to themselves. This is contrasted with the snowshoe hare which probably has a similar population density but are experts at staying hidden. Additionally, there are two other species similar to the Douglas' squirrel that live in large numbers around High Camp but are not seen all winter long, the golden mantled ground squirrel and the yellow pine chipmunk. Stay tuned to learn about these critters as I will be writing about them in the coming months.

As I write this from the lodge I'm watching two Douglas' squirrels play an eternal game of tag. One of them leaped off a tree trunk landing 7'3" away, an impressive jump for a little fellow. It left a perfect imprint in the snow with all it's limbs splayed out. Douglas' squirrels boundless energy and playful nature remind me to live fully and seize the day.
High Camp Over and Out

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fathers Be Good To Your Daughters

For the past seven years Tim has been part of a wonderful father/daughter group from Mercer Island.  Fathers bring their teenage daughters to High Camp.  They snowshoe the scenic trails and eat gourmet meals.  What a special memory for both father and daughter!

Many of the original daughters have graduated and these are their younger sisters.  Next year these girls will be seniors.  It will be their last visit to High Camp as a teenage father/daughter group as the girls graduate and go on to other things.

Beautiful views and beautiful weather and beautiful photography by Lottie.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saturday Night Live with Peter and the Gang!

Say "hi"  to Sam!  This is already his second visit to High Camp.  He is following in the footsteps of his dad Peter who visited Scottish Lakes for the thirteenth time this past weekend.  Peter has been bringing many friends to High Camp since 1999!

After a day of outdoor adventures, Peter, Shannon and Sam enjoy the Saturday night potluck in the lodge.

Chris with his son Charlie are also enjoying the ambiance in the lodge.

Isabelle our skiing buddy!  Look for her in the 2022 Winter Olympics. :)

Caroling and dining in the lodge!

Manny couldn't join us this year, but he sent the beer!  Choices are:  Manny's Pale Ale and Lucille's India Pale Ale. 

Besides Leg of Lamb, Craig made Butternut Squash Gingerbread for dessert.  What a meal!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Marking with the Stars

Well they are Stars to us!  Don, Ron, Craig, Bob, Frank, Tom, Earl, Kathryn, David, Rick and are High Camp Stars!  Monday and Tuesday this week we held our annual Trail Marking Work Party which is usually the first Monday and Tuesday in December.  We spend one night at Scottish Lakes skiing and marking trails both Monday and Tuesday. 

Marking Calypso!
We make sure the trails are marked well and easy to follow.

Beautiful weather and good snow made for a very successful work party!

Not to mention a great meal at the end of the day.  Good times, good people, good for body and soul!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Family Fa la la la la la la la la

One of the best holiday times for us is Family Weekend in December at High Camp.  We celebrate the simple pleasures of the season by decorating the tree with popcorn and cranberry strings.  We also serve up yummy cookies right out of the oven  (who cares that they are out of a box...its the wilderness!)

Adults celebrate their inner child!

Superman attended this year.

The kids ski, snowshoe and sled....well mostly sled.

or just enjoy the snow!

On Sunday the epic sled ride from High Camp to mid mountain...4 miles!


Friday, December 2, 2011

PistonBully Power!

Meet our beloved PistonBully Groomer.  This beautiful machine keeps the road to High Camp open for the snowmobiles.  It will blast through the deep drifts created by high winds during a blizzard.  We love our PistonBully. 

Today our PistonBully is very happy because it is getting lubed and greased.   James, our mechanic, and Rich, our Crackerjack Right Hand Man, are checking and repacking all the bearings in the 10 bogey wheels.   They are also replacing the track tensioners.  Life is good for Mr. PistonBully.

Here is the view Mr. Bully has as James  grooms our track to High Camp.  Awesome!  We need to keep our PistonBully happy...and we will!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dot on the Horizon

Whenever we go skiing or hiking with Eric he is way ahead of us, looking like a little dot on the horizon.  He has incredible energy and love for the great outdoors.  This is the first of several intermittent posts about the staff at High Camp.  It is fitting to begin with Eric since he has been coming to Scottish Lakes since he was eleven!  His family always skied up from mid mountain, so when he started to work for us he had never been on a snowmobile.  Now he is an expert driver and a veteran of the Scottish Lakes staff.

At Western, Eric is earning a double major in Environmental Science and Environmental Education with a minor in Biology.  He recently created a presentation called "Life in the Freezer".  This is not about our life at High is about how animals of the Cascades have adapted to live in the snow for six months of the year.  He focused on common animals of High Camp:  Douglas Squirrel, Yellow Pine Chipmunk, Golden Mantle Ground Squirrel, Snowshoe Hare, and Black Bear.  We will be featuring each of these animals in future blogs on High Country Cache.

Eric will be on staff over the holidays and plans to offer our guests a peak into "Life in the Freezer".  His enthusiasm for animals and the outdoors will make this opportunity very special!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Let the Games Begin!

Our good friends, Zeke and Laurie, along with their sons, Maxwell and Isaac, came up to High Camp to celebrate Don's birthday!  Well, they also helped us get ready to open this coming Wednesday.  The snow was deep,  30 inches!  We shoveled decks, ran snowmobile tracks and cleaned the lodge.  Later that night the hot tub and sauna felt great!

We are very excited to start our eighteenth season!

There is still a lot to do!

We earned a ski at the end of the day!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

So, what's it like?

When you have never been to Scottish Lakes High Camp, you wonder what your trip will be like.  Well,  Brian and Erica are friends of High Camp.  They brought  a group up last February and had a wonderful time.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Snow Rodeo...First Ski!

After the first big dump the snowmobile ride to High Camp is like riding a bucking bronco at the rodeo!  There is no base and the snow gets deeper as you work your way up the mountain.  We were mired several times, but we perservered.  It was a beautiful day with light clouds and some blue sky.  Snow began to fall hard for the trip down the mountain, but not until after we went out on our first ski of the winter season.

Don happily skis up High Country trail after fighting the snowmobile all the way up to High Camp.  As we ski, we feel the stress fall away and the peace of the quiet, snowfilled forest fills us up.

Turning off onto Roundabout we are surprised and pleased with the snow cover!  This snow has created a good base with few rocks and logs under our path.

That feeling of gliding through the new snow!  It is just plain FUN!  Only the beginning of an awesome winter season!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Early Winter at 5,000 Feet in the Cascades

Getting to experience the many moods of the changing seasons is one of the best things we like about High Camp.    Each year the excitement of the impending winter really hits us with that first significant early November snowfall.     With over a foot of snow on the ground today and another 12" or so coming with the next storm on Wednesday we are a bit crazy with anticipation for that first time out on our skis.   Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Lonesome ridge

Snow Frolic

Igloo on Mccue

I am at a meeting in Cleveland.  Fun, interesting, great friends...but it is cold and I can't stop dreaming of snow in the mountains.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Still Waiting for Snow -- A Great Hike to Dusty Lake

So what did we do on a sunny day in early November when there is still not enough snow to go sking at High Camp?    We headed for the North Central Washington desert to do a little hiking.   The six-mile round-trip to Dusty Lake, located just above the Columbia River, between Quincy and Vantage, turned out to be a wonderful day to get out the hiking boots and enjoy the great outdoors!  

We are hearing that snow is going to arrive this weekend.   Hopefully we'll get that first 10-12" we need to make our annual first ski on the High Country trail.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck?

Well, our wood is in!  All 30 cords.  Over the past two weekends we had 38 volunteers help us chainsaw, haul, split and stack the wood for High Camp.  Thank you so much!!!!