Weekly Peakly: Volume 8
Or: Drowning, but Uphill
Hello, Peakers! Yeah, I know, this edition is late again. Listen, don’t get uppity with me, younguns. I have a LOT of eggs in my basket lately and I am tired.
In any case, I did still hike the past couple of weeks, and so you’re about to get a double whammy of two updates within the next few days.
This edition is going to cover my adventure to the delightfully named Poo Poo Point, just outside Issaquah, Washington.
Now, before I can launch into the trail, I really must dedicate a bit of description toward the journey to get there. Seriously, I would be doing the world a disservice to leave it out of this tale, because this is one of those things that you just have to tell people. To preface, I should probably explain that everything that happens to me is weird. Like, take odd situations, think of just about anything you can think of, and then multiply the weirdness by ten. You’ll probably get a situation closer to the kind that I tend to experience.
On this particular day, I had put what I thought was the trailhead into my Google Maps. I mean, in my defense, it’s labeled as Poo Poo Point on the map. I didn’t realize that wasn’t really where the trail started, but I digress. The important thing to note here is that I put the wrong thing into my Google Maps.
I set out on the drive, and it was a cold, rainy day. This wasn’t like the other hikes I had been on, where a light drizzle had left me dusted. It was really coming down. I might have been a touch distracted by this fact, as I wondered how my “water resistant” clothes would hold up to water that was likely to persist.
I followed the directions my phone tolled out to me, and found myself winding up a very narrow, very poorly paved road. Now, I started to get the feeling that this wasn’t the right way about this time. The writeup on the website for the trail had made it sound like everything was clearly marked and there would be plenty of parking. This road didn’t look like it led to anything of the sort.
Worse still, there was no place to turn around. The road was too narrow to get much of that done at all. I finally found a turn-off and headed that way, hoping that I could turn around and head back to the main road (I had an inkling that the big parking lot I had passed on the way was the correct destination, so I figured I would start there and see where that led me).
The path I drove down did, in fact, lead to a place to turn around. The problem, my friends, is that the road I turned down also led me into the middle of a nudist colony tucked in the mountainside.
As I watched a man run helter-skelter through the rain to take out his trash and was stared at by a couple on their porch who did not look pleased that I had arrived, I had the realization that this was weird in only a way that I could achieve. Only I could get lost in a nudist colony while trying to find a hiking trail.
Anyways, after some furious blushing on my part and some glaring on theirs, I finally turned around and made my way back out to the main road. The big parking lot was where I had needed to be, and my adventures with rain-soaked, pinwheeling dong came to an end.
Listen, I’ve seen some shit in my day, but a naked man running in the downpour to take out a bag of trash is probably up there in the sights I will not be able to forget. Even if I might be trying, right now, as I type.
Now, onto the actual hike.
I was aiming to reach Poo Poo Point, via the Chirico trail. I don’t know what the name of the mountain was, I am assuming Poo Poo, but I could be wrong. Turns out I’m the worst at figuring this stuff out ahead of time.
The rain hadn’t let up much, so as I walked to the trailhead I was already getting wet. I had a bit of an adrenaline rush from my brush with bush, so I was at least high in energy.
This trail sought to obliterate it with an immediacy that seemed vengeful. I had an inkling that I had wronged this trail’s ancestors somewhere in a past life, and now the stone and mud and keening wind sought to make me pay.
This hike was my most ambitious yet. The site listed it as a 4-mile trail with an elevation gain of about 1700ft. My highest hike before this was only 695ft, so this doubled that.
It started like stairs.
I was surprised at how it was formed out of a narrow stack of steps, leaning up the mountain side like the crumbling pieces of some old castle. They didn’t look “built” though. It was piles of rocks that seemed to lurch out of the slopes themselves, as though the trail had been crafted by nature to invite adventurers to the peak.
The steepness was no joke, either. It sets out with a sharp turn uphill and it keeps that pace throughout the entire hike. I had to stop multiple times to catch my breath, and on more than one occasion I considered turning back and giving up. My adrenaline wore off, my blood felt like mud in my veins, and my breath came like fire between two lungs that were furious at the pressure building in my chest. This was a fucking workout.
I was really running out of spirit towards the midpoint of the hike. Then there was a moment. A moment that even a week or so later, I still struggle to find the right words to describe it.
The trail leveled out. Not for long, but for just a bit there was an even keel and the steps turned to loamy soil. Then, after all the clouds and rain that had chased me upward, out of nowhere the sun expanded across the sky. The leaves in the trees changed shades of green as the light hit them, the colors getting so bright it looked like the world had started to glow.
It was warm, and it was beautiful, and it filled me with an energy that seemed to come from places in myself I had never found before. Deep places that I used to only see in times of extreme darkness. It was like there were parts of me that spent most of their time sleeping, and they had been taught from my experiences that they would only be awoken in times of terror. I don’t think that these parts of me had ever felt me laugh, ever felt the sun as something inviting.
When you survive abuse, you learn that you have power. You learn that it takes something powerful within yourself to withstand those things. But I think that because of how you use that power, you associate it with terrible things. You feel that you can only access that power when you need it most, not when you might want to.
I picked up my feet and I kept moving forward. The sun was only with me for about 15 minutes, and after that the sky started pelting me with rain once more. I looked around, and a grand realization swept over me. I was no longer below the clouds. The tendrils of misty grey were swirling through the trees, passing over the curves of the trail. I had climbed high enough that I was inside the clouds.
I spread my arms and danced in it, laughing as though each drop that hit my cheek was a great joke. I let the power flow through me, around me, and I kept walking.
It was still exhausting, but I no longer wanted to quit. I was still burning – muscles and breath – but now I felt how powerful it was making me. The sun had come out, and it had reminded me that the mountain is not my enemy. It was a friend, and it only wanted me to visit the places within myself that I had taught should only exist in strife.
It took more effort, but I made it to the top. I crossed over the threshold of trees to be greeted with a soft hill of grass, clear of anything that would have blocked my view from the scenery below. I realized, as I looked down at the houses and trees far, far beneath me, that I had scaled the entire mountain.
It was no longer an exaggeration to say that I climbed mountains. I like to make this joke often, you see, because it makes me feel accomplished, but there was always a voice in the back of my head that would pipe up and say “Well, actually, you climb parts of mountains.” Now, though, that voice has to be quiet. I climbed the whole mountain, I made it to the top.
I climb mountains.
I sat on a small bench and looked out at the view for some time. I’m not sure how long I was there. I know that it was enough time that my jacket dried out, and the wind became frigid and unforgiving. When I started shivering, I finally relinquished my hold on the perfection that was reaching the top and turned to make my way back down.
I had promised myself more than once on the way up that if it had been that steep, then I just had to push myself to the highest part, because then it would be all downhill on my way back. Have you ever walked down 1500ft of awkwardly slanted steps? It isn’t actually much easier.
At first, it’s nice. You make better pace, even with the need to be careful and place your feet in safe positions. After about a fourth of the way back, however, my knees let me know that they did not appreciate this plan. By the time I made it to the bottom I was fairly certain my kneecaps had melted, and that the only reason I was still able to lumber forward was the tension in my thighs and calves, which were also not happy with the strain.
I did make it, though. I made it up, and I made it all the way back down.
I was pretty soggy. I took off my jacket and blasted my heater on the ride home, which was still not enough to warm me completely. I don’t think I regained my warmth until I took a shower later in the evening.
Still, though. I climb mountains, and that’s a truth I’m going to hold on to.
Mistakes and R E G R E T S:
1. Water resistant only has so much resist in it before it gives the fuck up, and when that happens you will feel like a worm someone has squished in the mud. In previous hikes, the rain never quite reached the trails because the trees were too thick and the drizzle too light. Turns out the trees won’t protect you from a genuine downpour, and a water-resistant jacket will just sort of shrug at the challenge. My backpack didn’t hold up much better, and I find myself wishing I’d taken more care to waterproof some of the things that had been in it. Everything seemed to turn out okay, but it would have been pretty bad if my electronics had bit the dust because of the moisture. I regret not taking more of those precautions as I tested the limits of water resistance.
2. Down is not necessarily easier than up, and I need to pay attention to that to avoid running out of energy in the middle of a return trip. I regret underestimating that knee strain!
Hot Takes for Hikers:
Snacks for Packs
I’ve talked about trail mix made of dried fruit before, which is okay on certain trails, but I’ve found that on the longer ones I don’t want to stop and chew. When I’m in the middle of exerting energy, I very rarely feel like I can stomach anything to eat. Drinking works a bit better, but usually all I want is water. So, I’ve done some looking around for a better way to replenish my energy in the middle of a hike.
I ended up picking up some cheap Gatorade brand “energy chews”, which are little 100 calorie gummy squares that have some nutritional energy stuff in them. I’ve gotta say, they worked way better than actual food. I popped one when I got to the top of the mountain, and it did feel like it gave me an energy boost. This could have been a placebo effect, but it worked better than a full stop to eat something and was refreshing all the same.
I’d recommend checking them out if you have trouble eating something during exercise.
Song of the Hike: Disintegrate by Def Leppard. Good song, good vibes. I don’t have much of a reason, other than this song came on and I just jived with it extra hard on this hike.
Animals Seen: 3 very good doggos and 8 worms.
Mood: Running from nudists in the rain, uphill, with eventual victory.
Trail Rank: Very murderous towards kneecaps, but the view on the top was worth the sacrifice. Would reduce my cartilage to ash again.