Friday, January 29, 2010

Recent hikes (January 2010)

Recent Hikes (Mailbox Peak (1-19), Mount Si (1-14), a couple of hikes to Cougar Mountain

The combination of Mailbox Peak, a post-hike cigar and Raymond Carver just about did Silverback in. You have to admit that’s quite a combination!!

After we got home from Mailbox Peak I plunked myself down on the couch while Silverback went down to the basement to smoke a cigar (there’s a lot of books down there too – hence, Raymond Carver).

I hike Mailbox Peak once a year whether I need to or not. It’s that kind of place. Long ago I resigned myself to never breaking a record in the length of time it takes me to summit. Let’s just say at best it’s respectable for someone my age.

But this was Silverback’s first visit to this hoary peak – but certainly not his last. We were denied the summit not because of age or lack of conditioning but rather conditions. By the time we reached the boulder field there was enough snow to slow us down (why didn’t I bring my ice axe?) and by that time Silverback had had enough “uphill” anyway. While I still had energy to keep going, I wouldn’t have been comfortable without an ice axe nor would I expect Silverback to wait for me while I trudged onward.

Lest you think us weaklings, consider this: Silverback has lost about 75 pounds since moving out here in April. At that time Grand Prospect via Rattlesnake Mountain was too much for him. By the way, he isn’t dying – he lost the weight on purpose. I lost some as well but not nearly as much. My 21-pound weight-loss has made going uphill a lot easier for me, too. It’s surprising what a difference weight can make when it comes to hiking.

The Mailbox Peak trail was in good condition, the main route now marked with silver, reflective diamonds. It appears there has been some slight rerouting since my last visit but that’s all to the good. I do miss the huge, mossy log that marked the beginning of the initial climb (you hauled yourself up that first pitch by pulling on branch stubs attached to the log) but I didn’t miss it enough to look for it. I also remember when the trailhead was marked by a toothbrush – now the trail is actually a designated trail with a sign warning hikers of potential hazards (not a bad idea, that).

All in all it was a great hike – our only concern a shady-looking character that had been parked at the trailhead and didn’t appear to be a hiker. We take everything with us – including car registration and any piece of paper that has our names/addresses on it just to play it doubly safe. As for items worth stealing, we don’t have anything worth stealing in the first place – though a hooligan wouldn’t know that. Anyway, despite our initial paranoia we came back to find the car unscathed.

Last week I hiked to the base of Mount Si on the regular trail. I made good time (for me) – I even passed a few hikers and only felt fatigue just below the boulders. The fatigue came on without warning, so intense I had to sit on one of the steps and pretend I was taking a photo (we writers have a reputation to live up to after all – fatigue must never be admitted!) As of last week the trail and the mountain were snow-free. That may have changed by now.

There’s not much new to say about Mount Si except I’d hate to think how we hikers will be affected if Mount Si, Little Si and other popular trails in the area are closed due to budgetary woes. I’m not much into politics but I sure hope this doesn’t happen. Where would we hike in the winter close to home or after work on a long, summer evening? Tiger Mountain is handy but it doesn’t have the “heft” of Mount Si. Other hikers have suggested a lot of this political stuff is just scare tactics and that may be the case. I sure hope “they” get whatever they need to keep these trailheads open. If it means ponying up more cash I’d be willing to pay $1 to park at the Mount Si trailhead – wouldn’t you?

Other recent hikes include a couple of visits to Cougar Mountain – these were “brown” hikes but it’s exercise and fresh air. Sometimes that has to be enough. There are a few signs of spring here and there; Indian plum leafing out, its flowers just beginning to emerge. I haven’t spotted any Coltsfoot yet but nettles are popping up “johnny-on-the-spot”.

Closer to home I spotted my first skunk cabbage last week in Discovery Park along the Wolf Tree nature trail and crocuses in bloom at Green Lake.

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