June 23, 2020
Summer heat has arrived to the PNW, which means mid-80s at mid-day, some days, dropping to the 50s at night. Having lived for 36 years in the southeast, I know no one there is crying crocodile tears for me. Anyway, yesterday was forecast to be very warm for hiking, and I had chosen a steep, exposed trail to a lookout. There is no point in a lookout destination on a cloudy day, so there’s that.
It’s a long drive to the Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest on the far side of Mt. Rainier; I was at the espresso kiosk shortly after 5am. (And yes, that’s the route through small towns with many turns I always get lost on. I made one wrong turn, but I knew where I was and didn’t have to stop or backtrack. Improvement!
I wasted more time in Enumclaw looking for a bathroom. Covid-19…bleh…nothing open. Then there are the 14.9 miles of forest road. Washboard. Ruts. Potholes. Forks in the road. And this, which I had read about and decided Flutterby and I could do. And we did! We are an intrepid duo. Since it’s an active lookout, and on the national historic register, I suppose it will be repaired before it completely washes away.
I wasn’t on the trail until 8:30. I read that it was steep—but it’s only a little over a mile and a half to the top. Holy moly, it was not just steep, but a climb, as in hands on the ground a couple of times. And it was already hot. But there was Herself, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of her! Cool rock formations. Wildflowers. Bone yard.
I missed a switchback at one point, as the trail went on to a rock outcropping. That was a little dicey, I couldn’t find a clear trail until I got up a little and, looking down, saw that I had missed the narrow hairpin turn and had to retrace my steps on the not-a-trail. Finally, just when I thought my lungs would burst, a bit of shade with flat rock in the middle of the trail. And after that into the alpine scented woods, which makes any hike worthy.
A lookout by definition has a stellar 360º view on a clear day. And so it was. Stellar. Clear. I had it to myself for 15 minutes, which wasn’t long enough, but it seemed right to let the newcomer—the first person I’d seen—have it to herself, so I headed back down. I arrived at the parking area just ahead of her. No one else will be there alone.
I met 14 women, 4 dogs, 2 papoose babies (both girls, one sleeping, one crying). And just before trail’s end, one man. (Need I mention that none were wearing masks and it was mostly impossible to give six inches of space, let alone 6 feet? One did cover her nose and mouth with her hand; awareness at least.) I immediately met two cars as I left and had to return backward to the full parking area for the first one and squeeze by the second one on drop off side. More women and dogs. The tower was about to be a very peopley place. What kind of personality makes for a good look out? It is very isolated, except on a beautiful day when dozens of people are tramping on your deck right outside your glass walls; with whom you probably have to make nice.
I stopped just before the washout for lunch by the river. Once back to pavement, the road is lined by lupine and cow parsnip. So beautiful.
No metaphorical words found their way in on this hike. It was hard, and kind of stressful. And maybe that for these times is metaphor enough. I’m happy to check it off my list, but I won’t pass this way again.