Yesterday (and today) I hiked up (and down) my first-ever mountain. Hell, I’d never even been on a mountain since the time we took a cable car up into the Swiss alps when I was nine or ten.
Please excuse the dearth of good pictures, as I was battling heat exhaustion/dizziness at ~4,000 feet (don’t worry; I only threw up on myself a few times), become newly-acquainted with a nascent fear of heights, and generally attempting to not die.
(I did not die.)
(I do not, however, intend to reinvent my life as an outdoorswoman now, either.)
(I am also convinced that Pacific Northwesterners are all, in fact, part mountain goat.)
So my old friend Jack — of South of the Border ridiculousness last fall –a nd his friend J. (a fellow vagabond; we were quite the trio of not knowing how to answer when asked when we were from) picked me up Thursday morning. Stocked up on some supplies at REI; made it to Snoqualmie noonish.
For those of you who don’t know, Thursday was the beginning of Washington’s second incredibly brutal heat wave of the summer. It is conceivable that taking me out out on my first mountain hike, completely unprepared with no hiking gear, in 100 degree heat index weather was not entirely well-considered.
But we started out (and ended — eventually) in good spirits.
The first forty-five minutes or so were okay — the initial ascent was a bit steeper than I expected, but Jack & J. assured me we had plenty of time to make it to camp and take it slow as needed, and the trees were plentiful. But then a little over halfway up, maybe two hours in, we hit a longish (for novice, weak-ass little me) stretch of shadeless rocky incline and brutal, brutal sun, at which point the fuuuck me I’m exhausted turned into oh shit I’m nauseated and dizzy.
So we took a break in a patch of shade; I drank some water, then some warm Gatorade, which turned the remnant saliva in my mouth into a thick, cloying syrup, which I promptly, quietly threw up.
Mostly on myself.
It was pretty attractive, if I do say so myself.
Jack and J. discussed whether it would be better to press on to our camp — more importantly, to the lake — or turn back, while I nodded indifferently and tried (mostly failed) to keep hydration down.
I’ll be honest — if I’d known how brutal the latter half was going to be, I’d’ve categorically requested we turn right the fuck back around. But I didn’t, and we didn’t, and I’m — in retrospect — glad of it. I think.
Part of the problem was that I have two very, very bad ankles and two pretty questionable knees. I was already a bit nervous starting out, because if I twisted/sprained/broke one, I’d half to be airlifted out, and I’ve fucked up my ankles on way less than a fucking mountain. Shit, the last time I was incapacitated was because I was walking in the ocean and the ocean floor was slightly uneven, and I took a step and somehow missed. Missed the ocean floor. Yeah.
Now take that and put it in the context of looking out at a long, narrow path made of extremely unstable sharp stones, then looking out at the sheer drop from 4,000-odd feet just past the edge. On top of remnant lightheadedness and shakiness from heat and nerves. So now it’s not just like oh shit this is gonna suck if I fuck up; it’s like oh shit I’m gonna die.
And of course, as I’m sitting here against the cliff wall contemplating my inevitable gruesome demise, here’s all these fucking families just out of an afternoon stroll, with their little kids and dogs and all just prancing unconcernedly along this rocky fucking death trap in the sky.
Obviously, we did in fact make it to the pass without incident, then down another 200 or 300 foot descent (over MORE ROCKY RIDICULOUSNESS but at least it was cool, and the lake was in sight), threw down our packs, and made a break for the lake.
Which, okay, was kind of worth it.
Side note: J. told a story about being in the Badlands and seeing signs posted everywhere to watch out for rattlesnakes. Curious, he asked a local how frequently people get bitten, what to watch out for, what not to do, etc. The guy just kind of looks at him, says, “Well, we’ve actually had three bites here in the last fifteen years. All males about, oh, 12 to 30 years old.” J’s just like, “ah.”
Not twenty flipping minutes later, these three college-agedish guys wander by: “Yo, dudes! You guys know if there’s a trail to any cliffs through here? We wanna jump off!”
(To the best of our knowledge, none of them died, though only one stopped by our little encampment again, saying that his friends had decided to swim all the way back.)
Anyway, we refilled all our empty bottles at the lake and dropped in the water purification tablet things. Also, basically any time I say “we did _____” I mean that Jack and J. did something useful while I sat around impotently. Just FYI. Then we slowly, inchingly got into the fucking frigid water. It felt amazing, and my lingering sunsickness was gone almost instantly, but holy fuckballs that is cold water.
We’d brought freeze-dried dinners, but unfortunately apparently did not bring the fuel for the campstove. Jack reasoned that cold water should work fine, since really the water was just to reconstitute the freeze-dried food, and the main reasoned it needed to be boiled was to purify it.
(He was either wrong or lying, but “curry rice krispies” was his own description of his soggy meal, so take that as you will.)
Finally set up camp — see again: I tried and failed to hammer some of my loaned tent’s stakes into the dirt, got one in then consistently found rock on the others, and Jack kindly set it up for me. Look, I rolled out the sleeping bag. It was an awesome site — just a short trail from the water, and perfect space for two tents and Jack’s hammock strung between one tree and an absolute hobbit tree; we’ve deemed him the tallest hobbit in the world.
I wish I could say that I took to tent sleeping like a fish to a fish fry — wait, bad analogy — but it was pretty uncomfortable. However, the weather cooled off to perfect coolness; with my tent zipped up, it was cold, but snuggle-in-sleeping-bag cold, not holy-fuck-can’t-sleep cold. No mosquitoes, thank god, since I have sugar-blood for bugs. No bears, either, so that’s a bonus.
Uh, got up earlyish and on the way by 9 or so; the trek back down was still painfully slow — at least painfully slow for Jack and J., I’m sure, and just painful for me — and still hot as balls despite the early start, but uneventful. We’ll kindly ignore the one place where it’s just like a SHEER ROCK FACE TO GET ACROSS THIS GAP, and I may have had to take off all my gear and inch across it — while everyone else patiently waiting for me to collapse on the other side before just ambling across without even breaking their conversation, fuck OFF — but we (I) made it.
And it was, of course, crazy beautiful. Terrifying, but beautiful.
Naturally, Jack and J. neglected to inform me that my profuse sweating had caused my hair dye to bleed pink down the side of my face, which I found out in the restaurant bathroom. Not that I could have done anything about it, but a classy end to a classy trip.
(Side note: while I described a lot of the sheer terror and absurdity, because it was hilarious, even when I was staring down my own death, it was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad we powered through it. Which is not to say I’m going back tomorrow.)
Back in/near Seattle, our rush hour (3pm rush hour zzz) traffic had the bonus of seeing the Blue Angels practicing for the Boeing Seafair Air Show, which was pretty fucking cool.
I probably could have written this entire entry just as well as “hey we went to the mountains and it was cool; here’s some pictures” but I get wordy when I’m tired.
I still need to write about Sacramento, but GISHWHES starts at like 6am aka the reason I now have a tattoo of Pope Francis for fourteen former strangers on the internet —
— and actively allowed this picture to exist —
So updates for the next week are probably going to be nonexistent or just plain loopy.
Stay weird, y’all.