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!