In these troubled times, it pays to have a guidebook.
For example, when choosing a hike for an afternoon outing, it might be helpful to read these words, describing a trail I chose, somewhat at random:
Goat Peak #958C — 2.8 miles
A very steep, long climb with no water, this trail is for the endurance hiker. At the summit of Goat Peak there are views from Glacier Peak to Mt. Adams and everything in between. Slippery when wet, with an elevation gain of 2600 feet, the trail is closed to horses. The trailhead is at Hells Crossing.
I’ve been called a number of things, but ‘endurance hiker’ is not one of them.
We stopped for a quick picture at Chinook Pass, on our way to the east side of Mt. Rainier.
The boys and I attended the our church’s annual Men and Boys Campout, which I wrote about last year. This year, we brought along two other boys, and had a nice time. The weekend event is pretty unstructured (purposefully), so we camped, whittled, rode horses, built forts, played in the river, poked sticks in the fire and hiked to Goat’s Peak.
Our hatchet figured prominently in many of these activities.
I guess the trail’s origin at Hell’s Crossing should have been a clue. I sought advice from the event organizer, a semi-retired pastor who administrates at our church and heads up Men’s Ministries.
Everyone who wanted to (and even some who didn’t) got a chance to ride.
“It’s a little steep,” Dale cautioned me, “but not too bad. I used to hike up there quite often,” he assured me breezily.
I probably should have remembered that Dale used to train with runners competing for a place on the U.S. Olympic team.
No horses were injured in the filming of this blog.
As we set off up the trail, my heart sank. Leading the way, Joshua strode out as though the incline were a minor annoyance; I found myself gasping for breath after taking only 50 steps.
“Tell … ya … what,” I huffed, long pauses between each word. “How ’bout you guys take one of these whistles, and give a blast if you need help. I’ll keep one as well, and you boys wait for me from time to time.”
A relatively flat part of the trail …
David charitably kept me company, providing me an excuse for going so slow. Every 20 minutes or so, I’d catch up with the rest of the boys, who were usually lying around on rocks, chafing at the bit to be off. “What took you so long, Dad? We had time to build a lean-to and whittle a staff … “, Daniel asked, reproachfully.
“David … has … short … legs … “, I wheezed, hoping to pacify him with a true, but irrelevant fact.
“Is that the peak? Or maybe that one over there?
Eventually (after several tries) we reached what we thought was the top of Goat Peak. For a long time, the trail slithered up a ridge and across several saddles, so we were never entirely sure. We later discovered the trail was part of a larger, 27-mile path, which had duped many a hiker before us into miles of extra climbing. Based on the topographical map I checked, the vertical rise was as much as 3000 feet to where we called it a day.
I declared this the top, by the authority vested in me …
The older boys laughed and skipped down the trail to the parking lot, while I plodded downward with David. Due to a knee injury I sustained as a parachutist in the Army, I can’t really go very fast downhill, so they were snacking and guzzling root beer at the car for a good while before David and I arrived.
David didn’t seem to mind that I was so slow.
That night, knee throbbing, I hobbled from the car to the campsite, while the boys sprinted around, playing tag. “This whole ‘aging’ thing is not very well managed,” I mused, remembering my own youth. I used to squander my energy playing Ultimate Frisbee and such, never realizing how briefly that strength would be available to me.
We never were sure, even from the road, which peak we had climbed. Maybe this one?
Maybe my current ‘exercise plan’ (mostly involves moving my computer mouse) has something to do with my lack of physical prowess?
Um, that river is glacier-fed, isn’t it?
Nah, probably not.
Project 366, Day 222