Monday, June 23, 2008

Rattlesnake Mountain

The plan for the weekend was to head over to the Olympic Mountains, but the weather outlook wasn't so great so we decided to stay on the eastside and try an extension of a hike we did when I visited at Christmas.

The first time we did this hike was in December
and it was very snowy at the top. The hike is two miles up a switch back that winds through forests filled with large bolders, ferns and wild flowers. When we finally reached the ridge it was completely covered in snow and I was just exhausted. The weather was sketchy and I couldn't really see over the edge, all I knew is it was a long way down. We made the trek back down in the dark (of course, in true Del and Stacy style) and thus began my passion for hiking.

This time around we were seasoned hikers so we decided to go past the ridge and follow the trai
l until we hit around 5 miles and then trek back, making it around 10 miles round trip. The day turned out to be lovely; high clouds, no rain and a slightly humid 72 degrees. The trail head parking lot was very full when we pulled in so we knew that the trail was going to be packed, however the nice thing is that most people only go up to the ridge, then come back down. I figured the rest of the trail would be pretty deserted as only serious hikers would take the rest of the trail.

Getting up to the ridge was super duper easy and I was more than pleasantly surprised. We even stopped for 20 minutes or so at a waterfall we had to climb down to off the main trail to find. It was here I realized two things: first, I had started a bit of a mini-internship of sorts with Del as he has started to teach me about photography; and second, all this hiking was doing me a world of good as I could make it up these hills no problem.

We hiked back up out of the area where the waterfall was and headed up to the ridge. There were so many people out there that we didn't even bother to walk out to the ledge. Instead we opted to take a couple pictures just before you get to the ridge and then proceeded to walk up to the next look outs which were a lot less crowded.

There are two additional look outs just a couple miles up from the ridge. From there you can get a really great picture of the ledge and the mountains and lakes in the distance. However, the best part was looking to the north to see Mt. Si. It's still amazing to me that we climbed that mountain and you can see the entire thing from Rattlesnake Mountain. In fact, I remember being on top of Si and looking down on Rattlesnake Ridge and thinking "I was exhausted getting to the top of that, and now look where I am!".

The trail continues for another 9 miles or so and we just kept trucking. Del had me take a picture of the map on the way up just in case we lost our way and it did come in an extent. We were trying to get up to Grand Prospect, which was supposedly 8 miles in from the trail head. There were a couple lovely look outs, but no signs stating what any of them were. We came to a clearing and enjoyed the last of one jug of water and some trail mix. I can't even stress enough the importance of three things: water, snacks and good shoes. Those three together made for a
much more pleasant climb than our previous ones with old worn out hiking shoes, only 2 bottles of water and 2 pb&j sandwiches.

About 7 miles in we hit a snow pack. Sticks were found and we continued forward for a bit where we came across a couple forestry service roads. Now that we are off the mountain and I've been able to research it a bit, I'm pretty sure one of those roads lead to Grand Prospect, but when you are on the trail it's not the smartest thing to start exploring 8 miles in unless you have camping gear. Since we were not coming to any look outs and it was around 4 in the afternoon, we figured it be best to turn around and head back down the mountain.

We came to the same clearing we finished the first jug of water at and stopped for lunch and to take a few shots. We could still see Mt. Si through the trees and could look down on North Bend. Beyond that to the north you could see the snow covered hilltops leading up to Mt. Baker. It was a great place to stop for lunch and rest up a bit.

I have to say, I was pretty impressed with myself. I know it sounds vain, but I can't believe that just a few short months ago I could hardly make it up a 2 mile climb and now I was looking around at the hillsides and thinking "I've climbed that, I could climb that." I was sweaty and smelly and tired, but I could easily go another 8 miles...and that's exactly what we did!

The way down was nice and when we got down to the ridge again there were only a few people up there so we ventured out to take a few shots. I had my camera put away, so I didn't get anything but I did have a nice chat with a photographer who was scouting for a photo shoot with a local hiker who has cancer. He had never hiked before and when I told him how far we had hiked that day he looked at us with awe. It was a nice feeling :)

I didn't start to get really tired until the last mile of the journey. My knees were hurting and I had been bitten by three large ants and the bites itched like crazy! We made it down and stopped to look at the Rattlesnake Lake, which was so full it had crested the shore and covered some of the grass on the shoreline. Again, no pictures...but I highly recommend seeking this lake out (you can drive to it) and sit on the shore. It's surrounded by mountains and is so lush and green this time of year it's amazing to think it's only 30 minutes out of the city.

We came home and had a celebratory pizza and our weekend ritual of rum and diet Pepsi. Although I was not as tired as some of our other hikes, I probably should have had caution with the alcohol because when I woke the next morning my emotions were all over the place. We headed out to breakfast and when I got back to his house I just burst into tears. It was the strangest thing. I had to go home where I had a good cry, took a long shower and a nap. I felt bad for Del as I couldn't really articulate what was going on with me but I'm glad I headed home to work through it.

I've always thought that women's emotions were such a strange thing and as of late after conversations with some of my friends I've discovered that alcohol just compounds it and takes it to a whole new level if not kept in check. If there is one thing I can recommend to my girlfriends out there (and you know who you are!!) is if you feel the emotions coming up, just walk away. Go home if you are with someone or don't pick up that phone and call the guy who you think you can take it out on. Work through it, have a good cry, call me (or another girlfriend) to vent and I promise you will feel better in the morning!

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