Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Balfour-Klickitat and Lower Klickitat Trails – 04/02/2022

We have spent much of our hiking “off-season” addressing long overdue house projects including replacing siding, windows, floors, and now countertops. Hopefully the projects will be done shortly after our official hiking season starts. In the meantime we welcomed the start of a new month with an outing to Lyle, WA for hikes on a pair of trails along the Klickitat River. Our first stop, on the west side of the river, was at the Balfour-Klickitat Trail. The site of a former ranch this day-use area includes a short interpretive loop, picnic tables, and a wildlife viewing path.
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IMG_8374Rowena Plateau and Tom McCall Point (post) on the Oregon side of the Columbia River

We headed counter-clockwise on the loop which provided views of the Columbia River and across the Klickitat to Lyle.
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The trail then turned inland along the Klickitat where a noisy group of domestic geese drew our attention to a pair of common mergansers and great blue heron.
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IMG_8405A blurry heron along the river.

We spotted a number of smaller birds in the bushes and trees as we made our way around the loop. We also took a quick detour downhill to a picnic table overlooking the river.
IMG_8407Acorn woodpecker

IMG_8417Scrub jay

IMG_8418View from the picnic table.

A short time after returning to the loop we came to a sign for the Wildlife Viewing Area near a bench where we made another short detour.
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IMG_8425This trail was not paved.

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IMG_8434View from a bench at the end of the trail.

IMG_8435Mallards on the water below.

After checking out the wildlife viewing area we completed the 0.75 mile loop which brought our stop here to a total of 1.3 miles. We hopped in our car and drove across the river on Hwy 14 to the Lyle Trailhead. Here the 31-mile long Klickitat Trail begins. This Washington State Park trail follows the historic rail bed of the Spokane, Portland, Seattle Railway (SP&S). A 3 mile section of the trail north of Klickitat, WA is currently unhikeable due to a missing bridge over the Klickitat River effectively splitting the trail southern and northern sections of 13 and 15 miles respectively. We hiked 3.8 miles along the end of the northern section from Harms Road in 2014 (post).
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IMG_8449Starting at mile 0.

The trail starts by passing some private homes in Lyle but soon provides views down to the Klickitat River. Across the river we spotted a number of deer working their across the hillside and a bald eagle surveying the river below.
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IMG_8458Keep your eyes out for poison oak which was prevalent along the trail. Luckily the trail is nice and wide so avoiding it was easy enough.

IMG_8469Heather spotted these three deer across the river.

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IMG_8474Another group of deer.

IMG_8487Bald eagle

We had chosen this hike based on Matt Reeder’s entry in his “PDX Hiking 365” guidebook where he recommends a late March visit for wildflowers. We kept our eyes out for flowers as we went and were not disappointed.
20220402_080542Larkspur and woodland-stars

IMG_8491Buttercups

IMG_8493Pacific hound’s tongue

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IMG_8496Saxifrage

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At the 1.7 mile mark we crossed the river on a Fisher Hill Bridge. The view was great and included a series of small cascades on Silvas Creek.
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IMG_8504Silvas Creek

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We continued north on the trail passing some nice views of the river which were briefly ruined by the smell of rotting flesh (fish?) which brought back memories of the decomposing whale we passed several years ago on our Floras Lake Hike (post).
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20220402_083857Blue-eyed Mary

At mile two we passed the Lyle Falls Facility which is a fish monitoring station.
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Beyond the fish facility the gap between the trail and the river closed and the views become even prettier.
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IMG_8526Seasonal pool along the trail.

The only mountain view of the day was along this stretch with Mt. Hood making an appearance to the south.
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IMG_8536Common mergansers

A short distance upstream we passed a screw trap, an instrument used to trap and count young fish.
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We continued upriver until we reached milepost 6 where we called it good and turned around. I had gotten myself confused by misreading Reeder’s hike description and thought that there was another bridge around the 5 mile mark and had originally planned to turn around at that but since it didn’t exist (and we didn’t realize that until after passing MP 5) we made MP 6 the turnaround marker.
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IMG_8542Popcorn flower

IMG_8544Columbia desert parsley

IMG_8546Lupine

IMG_8549Balsamroot

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IMG_8561Waterleaf

IMG_8567A balsamroot amid pungent desert parsley

IMG_8564Big-leaf maple trees lining the trail.

20220402_091018Big-leaf maple blossoms

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IMG_8583Larkspur, poison oak, and buttercups

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IMG_8589Spotted towhee

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20220402_101749Red-stem storksbill

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After turning around we took a brief break on a rocky beach near MP6.
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On our way back it had warmed enough for the butterflies (and moths) to come out and we watched for them along with anything we’d missed on our first pass.
IMG_8633Couldn’t get a good look at this small moth but it was pretty.

IMG_8643Anise swallowtail

IMG_8644Sara’s orangetip

IMG_8654Grass widow

20220402_112438Slender phlox

IMG_8672Heading back.

IMG_8685Immature bald eagle

IMG_8688Propertius duskywing – Erynnis propertius

IMG_8690The mergansers had moved to the near bank.

IMG_8698Hood behind some clouds.

IMG_8700Ground squirrel

IMG_8708Mourning cloak

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View from the Fisher Hill Bridge in the afternoon.

IMG_8741Arriving back at the Lyle Trailhead.

Some backtracking and detours brought our hike to a little over 12.5 miles here giving us close to 14 miles on the day with only a couple of hundred feet of elevation gain.

Rattlesnakes and ticks are present in the area but we encountered neither on this day. It was a nice break from the projects at home and a good way to end our off-season. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Blafour-Klickitat and Lower Klickitat Trails

Categories
Hiking Mt. Adams Washington

Grayback Mountain, WA – 05/01/2021

UPDATE: AS OF MARCH 2022 ACCESS TO GRAYBACK MOUNTAIN HAS BEEN CLOSED BY THE PRIVATE LANDOWNERS. PLEASE RESPECT THEIR DESCION.

We kicked off our official 2021 hiking season with a bit of an obscure hike from Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” (2nd edition) guidebook. The hike to the summit of Grayback Mountain is a gated dirt road walk through mostly private lands to a view of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks. Because the road to the summit passes through private land it is important to respect the landowners rights, Leave No Trace and be aware that access could be closed at anytime. The hike starts on Washington Department of Natural Resources Land (A Discover Pass is required to park) at a parking area at a gate.
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To reach the trailhead we took Washington Highway 142 north from Lyle, WA 23.3 miles to a junction with the Glenwood-Goldendale Road where we turned left for an additional 5.6 miles to an unmarked junction with Grayback Road on the right. (The road crests just beyond this junction and begins to descend into the Klickitat River Canyon.) We followed Grayback Road for 0.6 miles to the parking area at the end of a meadow.
IMG_3124Looking back toward the meadow.

After checking out the various wildflowers around the trailhead we set off past the gate on Grayback Road.
IMG_3125Western white groundsel

IMG_3134Showy phlox

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20210501_074234Mahala Mat (Prostrate ceanothus)

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We then just followed this road for 5.6 miles to a radio tower atop Grayback Mountain. There were several junctions with other roads along the way but by keeping more or less straight and uphill it was easy enough to follow the correct road.

Ranging in elevation from just over 2000′ to approximately 3700′ the scenery varied from oak and ponderosa pines interspersed with meadows to mixed conifers and then to open hillsides filled with wildflowers (mostly parsleys). The views were spectacular and we were fortunate to not only have relatively clear skies but little wind making our time at the summit quite pleasant. We saw no other people during the hike and I don’t think a minute went by that we didn’t hear at least one bird signing. Butterflies came out later in the morning and I spent much of the return hike trying to catch them at rest for pictures.
IMG_3148Showy phlox among the oaks.

IMG_3146Serviceberry

IMG_3151Sparrow

IMG_3153Oregon grape

IMG_3156Strawberry

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IMG_3165Grayback Mountain from Grayback Road. The first 2.5 miles of the hike only gained 400′ while the next 3.1 gained 1400′.

IMG_3171Large head clover

IMG_3176Camas, much of which had yet to bloom.

IMG_3179Ponderosa pines along the road.

IMG_3180Western buttercups

Small flower woodland star and slender phloxWoodland star and slender phlox

IMG_3184Pussytoes and camas

IMG_3193A cryptantha

IMG_3196Oaks and ponderosas

<img src=”https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51153012403_83d088dc07_c.jpg&#8221; width=”800″ height=”600″ alt=”IMG_3197″>Death camas and parsley

IMG_3201Lupine

IMG_3214Robin

IMG_3217Dark eyed junco

IMG_3218Bumble bee

IMG_3220A more forested section of the road.

IMG_3223Ball-head waterleaf

IMG_3224Largeleaf sandwort

20210501_085644American vetch

IMG_3233Dandelions in Mahala Mat

IMG_3235Bitter cherry

IMG_3237The real climb started at about the 4 mile mark at a junction below Grayback Mountain.

IMG_3241Sagebrush false dandelion

IMG_3246Climbing up Grayback Mountain

IMG_3258Red breasted nuthatch

IMG_3265First view of Mt. Hood since the trailhead.

IMG_3267Mt. Hood

IMG_3281Buckwheat

IMG_3289Mt. Hood beyond the Klickitat River Canyon

IMG_3294Turkey vulture

IMG_3292Entering the meadows on Grayback Mountain.

IMG_3301Approaching the first view of Mt. Adams.

IMG_3304Mt. Adams

IMG_3306Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks

IMG_3307Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks

IMG_3313In the meadows.

IMG_3314A balsamroot surrounded by parsley.

IMG_3321Indra swallowtail

IMG_3326Western meadowlark in a patch of Columbia desert parsley.

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IMG_3367Radio equipment atop Grayback Mountain with Mt. Adams beyond.

IMG_3360Mt. Hood (we could just barely make out the top of Mt. Jefferson too.) from the summit.

IMG_3361The Klickitat River

IMG_3351Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks

IMG_3353Mt. Adams

IMG_3355Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks (the Klickitat River originates from Goat Rocks.)

IMG_3369Daggerpod

IMG_3371Obligatory survey marker photo.

IMG_3366Looking east across the summit to the long ridge of Indian Rock. The boundary of the Yakima Indian Reservation is just on the north side of the summit.

IMG_3376A few gold stars still had petals.

IMG_3394A hairstreak but I’m not sure which type.

IMG_3400At least 4 ants on a large head clover.

IMG_3404Looking back south down Grayback Mountain.

IMG_3429There was a lot of white-stemmed frasera in the area but this was the closest one to blooming (and it’s a ways off).

Possibly a Brown elfin - Callophrys augustinus?Maybe a brown elfin. I couldn’t get a clear picture of this one.

IMG_3453Erynnis propertius – Propertius Duskywing (aka Western Oak Dustywing). There were lots of these duskywings flying about, it turns out that oaks are their host plants.

IMG_3494Another Erynnis propertius

Juba skipper - Hesperia jubaJuba skippers caught in the act.

Anise SwallowtailAnise swallowtail coming in for a landing on showy phlox.

IMG_3493Alligator lizard on a log.

IMG_3497Western fence lizard

Mylitta crescents - Phyciodes mylitta?I believe these to be Mylitta crescents.

After our relatively crowded previous outing at Columbia Hills State Park (post) the hike to Grayback Mountain was a welcome dose of solitude. While the flower display wasn’t as plentiful here it was still nice and there appeared to be plenty more to come. The view from the summit was worth the visit on its own and the near constant bird song made for a perfect soundtrack for the day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Grayback Mountain

Categories
Goat Rocks Hiking Trip report Washington Washington Cascades

Goat Rocks Wilderness

We just returned from our longest backpacking trip to date, a three night, four day stay in the Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington. What an amazing place. Located between Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier the Goat Rocks Wilderness sports spectacular views, vast meadows of wildflowers, and plenty of wildlife. A number of trails including the Pacific Crest Trail provide 120 miles of hiking opportunities to explore this special place. Our plan was to establish a base camp at Alpine and then explore in all directions from there.

We started our trip at the popular Snowgrass Trailhead and quickly entered the wilderness.

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A little over 1.5 miles we crossed Goat Creek on a footbridge.

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In another 2 miles we came to a trail junction where Bypass Trail 97 split off on its way up to the Pacific Crest Trail. Staying left on the Snowgrass Trail we climbed .7 miles to a trail junction.

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The Lily Basin Trail meets the Snowgrass Trail at this junction amid a wildflower meadow. Just a short distance away was Alpine where we began searching for a tent site. The views and wildflowers at Alpine were simply amazing. We ended up deciding on a small site with a view of Old Snowy Mountain.

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After setting up camp we loaded up our daypacks and headed back to the Snowgrass Trail and climbed to the Pacific Crest Trail. The scenery just kept getting better as we approached the PCT. Mt. Adams was standing tall to the SE, Mt. St. Helens sat in the distance to the SW and Old Snowy Mountain & Ives Peak lay dead ahead.

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We turned right (south) on the PCT and headed toward the Cispus Basin planning to go as far as Cispus Pass before turning around. After a mile the Bypass Trail 97 joined the PCT which we would take on the way back. After crossing a large rock slide we got our first view across the Cispus Basin to Mt. Adams peaking over the far ridge.

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The Cispus River begins at the top of the basin underneath more jagged peaks of the Goat Rocks.

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There had been wildflowers all along the trail but as we entered the basin they increased. Adding to the scenery was a waterfall that the PCT passed below.

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The trail continued around the basin crossing the Cispus River and then heading up the eastern side of the basin.

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At the top of the ridge was Cispus Pass and the border of the Yakima Indian Reservation. The Klickitat River flowed below and Mt. Adams was again visible to the SE.

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We returned to Alpine via the Bypass Trail 97 and took a short rest before heading back out to catch the sunset. We decided to try heading further out on the Lily Basin Trail since the Sun would be setting over the ridges in that direction. We passed a small pond with a big reflection before finding an unoccupied camp site where we settled in.

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Clouds started to move in and cover some of the higher points though so we headed back toward Alpine to check on Mt. Adams. The Moon had risen over the ridges to the North of Mt. Adams making for a perfect ending to our first day.

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I was up early on day 2 and was able to catch the sunrise which lit up the clouds over Ives Peak and Mt. Adams.

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Several elk were passing through the trees on the far side of Alpine but the low amount of light left me with a single picture worthy of a bigfoot sighting. 🙂

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We set off early on the Lily Basin Trail planning on passing Goat Lake then continuing on the trail to Heart Lake with a possible side trip up Hawkeye Point. As we headed in that direction the view of Hawkeye Point and Goat Creek falling from the rocky ledge below Goat Lake was another stunner.

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The trail passed through some large wildflower meadows where marmots could be seen scurrying about in the lupine.

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We also passed several waterfalls. The first just disappeared into a rock slide while the second slid down the rocks.

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Everything was so impressive but most of all were the wildflowers. The variety and amounts of them were unbelievable. Entire hillsides were covered in colors.

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And to top it off Mt. Adams loomed behind us.

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When we arrived at Goat Lake it was mostly frozen as we had expected. The lake rarely ever thaws out completely sitting in a bowl beneath Hawkeyepoint.

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From the lake the trail climbed to a ridge crest junction with the Goat Ridge Trail. Again the wildflowers were profuse.

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When we reached the junction Mt. St. Helens came into view beyond the Jordan Basin.

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We left the Lily Basin Trail to attempt to climb Hawkeye Point. As we climbed the tip of Mt. Hood could be seen over the shoulder of Mt. Adams.

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Then came Mt. Rainier beyond Johnson Peak.

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We followed a clear path to a rocky knob where we discovered a large snowfield lying between us and the visible trail up to the summit of Hawkeye Point.

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There was a steep drop part way out on the snowfield and no visible tracks so we decided to declare victory where we were and see if there was a different route to the trail we could see on the far side so we climbed back down to the Lily Basin Trail and started to head toward Heart Lake. We didn’t get far though before we were stymied by another snowfield.

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We decided to take a short break before heading back to search for a different route to Hawkeye Point. While we were resting Heather spotted the one thing I was really hoping to see on the trip – Mountain Goats! There was a pair of them near the top of the ridge across the basin.

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Mountain Goats were on top of my list of animals we hadn’t seen yet while hiking so even though they were a long way away it was exciting.

After they disappeared over the ridge we started our search for a path around the snowfield to Hawkeye Point. We managed to find what turned out to be a goat path that got us around the snowfield, but we were too far down a steep hill with no visible route up to reach the continuation of the real trail. Instead we followed the goat trail passing some beds complete with goat fur to a view of Goat Lake below.

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Satisfied with the view we began our return trip to camp. It was such a pretty trail that was just as spectacular the second time through.

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When we got back to camp we noticed that the family who had been camped further back in the same area as us had left. We took the opportunity to switch sites and moved to a spot with a view of Mt. Adams.

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After getting our new site set up we decided to go up to the PCT junction to catch the sunset. When we reached the junction with the Snowgrass Trail in Snowgrass Flat Heather noticed a large animal emerging from the trees on our right. We could see dark brown and my first thought was Elk but then it stepped out into the sunlight on the trial.

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It was a llama and it looked mighty proud of itself.

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We didn’t see anyone around but someone must have been using it as a pack animal. It rolled in the dirt for a moment then got up and then disappeared into another camp site. It was so unexpected all we could do was laugh all the way up to the PCT.

Meanwhile the setting Sun was bringing out the best in the wildflowers on the PCT.

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We found an open site and watched the Sun disappear behind a bank of clouds that was hanging over Goat Ridge before returning to our tent and putting day 2 to bed.

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Goat Rocks - Mt. Adams sunset

The third day started much like the previous day with a pretty Mt. Adams sunrise.

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The animals were up early too.

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After a yummy breakfast of Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy we headed up to the PCT once again but this time headed left (North) toward Old Snowy Mountain. As we approached the mountain we left the meadows behind for more rocky terrain dotted with lingering snowfields. The flowers were not completely left behind though.

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We spotted a ground squirrel that appeared to be sitting on a ledge enjoying the view along with its breakfast. The ledge it was on looked out over Goat Lake to Hawkeye Point with Mt. Rainier towering behind.

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The trail crossed several snowfields but unlike those we encountered the day before the trail was easy to follow and none were too steep.

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The views were great in every direction and we were able to spot a new mountain to the North – Mt. Stuart.

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The PCT eventually splits with a hiker bypass climbing up higher on the side of Old Snowy to avoid lingering snowfields on a steep, exposed hillside. We took the bypass having seen the snow fields from our exploration of Hawkeye Point the day before, plus we had considered climbing Old Snowy Mountain and the bypass would lead past that trail. When we reached the junction for the summit of Old Snowy we could only make out the lower portion of trail. After the previous days exploits we decided against trying to climb it then and figured we could always try it on the way back past.

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We found out later that the crest of the bypass trail is the highest point of the Pacific Crest Trail in the state of Washington at 7230′.

From the crest the PCT descends to “The Knife” before reaching Elk Pass where we had planned to turn around. As we began to descend though we got a good look at the trail ahead.

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It was the freakiest looking trail we had encountered and for the first time I wasn’t sure I could do it, but after having a couple of thru-hikers pass by and survive we decided to go for it.

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It was nerve racking at first but the trail was good and the views better. We spotted flowers and wildlife all around including a large group of mountain goats in the valley to our right.

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Soon we could see Packwood Lake in the valley to our left.

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Also in that valley was another herd of goats.

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We decided to turn around prior to reaching Elk Pass when we reached a crest and realized that we’d have to climb back up several hundred feet if we continued on and we already had a good climb ahead of us to get back up to the PCT high point.

PCT down to Elk Pass

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PCT up to the crest

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As we were returning the first group of goats we had seen suddenly started to dash across the snow. A second group came racing down from a higher meadow joining the first group.

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We don’t know what spooked them but it was fun to watch them run.

When we finally got back up to the crest the trail up Old Snowy was easy to see. There was a line of people hiking up and down. Between the crowds and our tired legs we decided we’d done enough climbing for the day and headed back to Alpine. Things had gotten crowded in the wilderness as it was the weekend and a lot of people had shown up. Most of the camp sites were now taken so we stuck close to ours until we turned in for the night after the Moon had risen.

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We set our phones to wake us at 5am on our last day so we could get a nice early start. Another amazing sunrise greeted us as we packed up our gear.

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We took the Lily Basin Trail toward Goat Lake and were greeted by a friendly little Pika near Slide Falls.

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The marmots were also out to send us off.

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We stopped at the lake to get some water out of Goat Creek and were paid a visit by a pair of Ouzels.

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Goat Lake had refrozen a little overnight.

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At the junction with the Goat Ridge Trail we took it and dropped down into the Jordan Basin. The best views we’d had of Mt. St. Helens were had as we descended into the basin.

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Of course there were wildflowers.

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And a lot of crickets or grasshoppers.

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There were flowers in this basin that we hadn’t seen at all in the other parts of Goat Rocks.

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Soon we were far enough down to no longer be able to see the mountains. It was a bittersweet hike as we hated to leave this beautiful place but after four days a shower was sounding real nice. We got one last glimpse of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Goat Rocks before entering the trees for good.

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The Goat Ridge Trail would take us to the Berrypatch Trailhead and from there a .6 mile connector trail would bring us back to the Snowgrass Trail just .1 miles from our car. We were moving quickly along the connector trail when the wilderness gave us one last surprise. A small tree frog sitting on a huckleberry bush next to the trail.

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Our time was up but we were already thinking of our next visit. We can’t wait to go back and explore more of the wilderness. The only negative to the entire trip was witnessing the disregard for the area that some of the people showed. There were people traipsing through the meadows and setting up tents on the vegetation. Such a beautiful place to visit will only stay that way if people take care of it so please go and visit but stay on the trails and camp on the brown ground not the green. Happy Trails.

UPDATE on the llama.  The llama had indeed either been left or escaped and was seen multiple times throughout the summer.  She was finally rescued this fall and is safe and doing well according to this report: http://www.rattlesnakeridgeranch.com/documents/Rescue_in_the_Goat_Rocks_Wilderness.pdf

 

Flickr albums: Day 1-https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157646295294436/

Day 2-https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157646295758026/

Day 3-https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157645936565989/

Day 4-https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157645937647578/