This weekend was a blast! My friend Dave and I made plans in advance to go on a backpacking trip last weekend. Since both of us had Labor Day off work we would make it a 3-day trip. Even though we made the arrangement in advance, "preparations" is not a good word to use since we did everything at the last possible second. Everything was pretty much ready at about 2:00 am Saturday morning after running around to buy needed items and packing our bags. Oh, and in the end, our 3-day trip ended up only being 2 days... contradicting myself is one of my hobbies (or hobbits).
Dave's and my original intent was to leave Saturday morning around 6:00 am, but we didn't leave Portland until about 9:30 because of our preposterously procrastinated preparations. Dave bought some great hiking books from REI last week that covered most of hikeable Washington, and he chose an enticing trail that would avail some awesome views of both Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier as well as lakes and streams.
Dave and I drove down Highway 12 towards Randle and Packwood where the forest roads split off to our trailhead. As we neared the towns we noticed something very strange: every single house, almost no fail, had a sign for a garage/yard sale. Sure enough, there were the yards full of wares of a quantity and scale I have never seen before. It was incredible! Following the innumerable yard sales was an enormous flea market. It actually looked like a pretty charming atmosphere. It was amazing to see the number of booths and people this flea market attracted. There were hundreds of booths and literally thousands of people crowding both sides of the street and crossing back and forth. Needless to say, traffic was a bear.
An unfortunate event caused an almost devastating change of plans. While driving down the forest road to the trailhead, we encountered a very small segment that was completely impassible with Dave's Hyundai. We tried everything to get up the patch of loose dirt and rock but were forced to turn around and give up on the hike we traveled so far to start. It's amazing how a 25-foot stretch of loose dirt can ruin a week's worth of plans.
Rather than going home in defeat, Dave and I decided to look for another hike close by. We found a suitable trail that would take us remarkably close to Mt. Adams and embarked on the journey as soon as we could. Due to our exhaustive list of delays, we didn't end up getting on the trail until about 4:45 pm, a ridiculously late hour considering that we had more than a 2-hour hike ahead of us before reaching our destination. So we pressed on.
The Killen Creek Trail #113 starts out at a very slight incline. For the first four miles, the path is composed of sand that seems volcanic ash. When you firmly plant your feet, a cloud shoots out in all directions like tan chalkdust. The vegetation is quite simple, composed of fir trees with very low, green underbrush. This first leg of the hike - longest in distance - covers the outer foothills of Mt. Adams, alternating between gradual inclines and steeper climbs where log stairs are maintained. About halfway through this section the trees are pushed back by golden grassy fields interrupted by patches of dusty sand. It is at the beginning of this span where the small creek briefly parallels the path.
After four miles the Killen Creek trail ends at a junction and an open expanse: half grass, half sand. To the left is an entrance to the Pacific Crest Trail, to the right, Trail #112, which we later found out crosses a more significant stream of grey glacier water. It was at this intersection where we talked a great deal with a very nice family or group of friends who offered some very useful information. They told us that the small stream we encountered earlier was the only water on the trail, due to unordinary seasonal dryness. We also learned that the final destination, High Camp was about a one mile climb up a steep, rocky butte.
While we could have easily stayed at the junction and made our camp there, Dave and I decided to press on toward the high calling. The sun had all but gone down as we started up the trail now become rock. The path was very rocky and winding. Fortunately for us, the Israelites left us ebenezers (rock piles) to guide our way up the steep precipice. We passed a very spacious cove in the side of the slope where a nice lady and her son were nested. We stopped long enough to say hello, share stories and information and continued on. Near the end of the ascent we walked along a two foot wide path with unsure rocks below and a glacial mass to our left and far beneath a treacherous fall just begging for a misstep with heavy bag to plummit. Just keep your eyes on the path, I kept telling myself. We surmised later that a horizontal path just above the cove probably connected with the bottom of the ice, where significant water was being released.
The moment we reached High Camp, a couple guys shouted out that if we wanted water, we would have to get it now. Apparently the water level is abnormally low this year, and it only flows late in the day. High Camp, to our surprise, was virtually empty. Dave's guidebook said to expect crowded conditions. We found High Camp to be an open field with very few designated camp sites. Mt. Adams juts out above traversible rocky piles, with astounding proximity to our site. We found one of the several open spots, and Dave set up the tent in the dark while I sought out our last chance at water. I tried once and failed to find the stream but set out again and found it easily. It helps not to panic!
Dave was nice enough to prepare our curry dinner while I froze my nose off in the tent with open door. We really didn't prepare for cold conditions, and I didn't even have long pants! My sleeping bag became my pants, and a towel my stocking cap. The wind buffeted the tent all night long, and I had a rare moment of sleep through worried moments of our imagined death :)
After a half night's sleep, Dave and I woke to a nice sunny day. It was still pretty cold when the wind blew, but the bright sun made up for it. I took a beautiful walk around one of the upper glacial masses while Dave relaxed at our campsite. This walk was definitely the visual highlight of the trip for me, and I have the pictures to prove it! Soon thereafter we decided it would be wise not to attempt to rough another night on the plain atop the tor, for risk of rain that, who knows, might just freeze at 7000 feet.
We broke camp at about noon and headed back down the esker's [the grouch] shoulder, stopping to take pictures along the way. After a short powwow, Dave and I decided we would not stay the extra day. We were a little bit worried about a forecast of rain and decided to head back. We retraced our path which now became a friendly descent (friendly to the lungs, heart, and sweat glands; not so friendly to the knees and feet). A large boulder near the stream became our lunchtime repast (actually, we ate some extremely delicious Pad Thai at the rock we had already passed, thus repast). After a delicious meal and tedious cleanup, we made our way down the rest of the Killen Creek Trail, full of memories, photos, and a few aches and pains.
Note: I'm currently working on a slideshow feature inspired by the photographic results of this trip. I want to be able to have groups of pictures viewable outside the context of my art galleries. When I finish this feature, I will add some of the better pictures from this hike as the first featured show.
Okay, I'm more-or-less finished! Well, at least the album feature is in a presentable form, and the hike is ready to be viewed, along with captions for each photo.