By Chris Scott
[Editor's Note: Most links show relevant photos in pop-up windows. To see all of Chris's photos in their full glory, go to the VHTRC Flickr site.]
The week before Memorial Day weekend, I was working (see Note 2) near Seattle, which gave oppor’y to get in some PNW miles. One day, I ran with (Note 2) C4P’ers Krissy Sybrowsky and Josh Angle (right) around Tiger Mtn, a few hills east of the city. For W$ Warmup, they were doing the full 6 peak version, but because I was tapering (Note 2) for Big Horn, I opted to run shorter (Note 3) but faster (Note 1).
There are 2 kinds of trails up and down the Tigers: those unlittered with switchbacks, and those whose switchbacks only serve as short stretches between carom poles for the human pinball. Regardless the choice, one is at least always assured of a pine needle cushion for the feet, and only the occasional (Note 3) root system anxious to cause a face plant.
Krissy and Josh plopped globs of flour on the trail so I wouldn’t get lost, until that supply withered and they used more traditional C4P markings. Happily, I logged another mile or so (Note 2) more than I expected to gain from the day. Up, down, up, down, sorta flat, up, down, pretty much the whole dang morning. From one peak, even spied Seattle’s signature landmark, the white chocolate Hershey kiss Rainier.
Also came across the famed yeti slug beast, the almost prehistoric forebear of the region’s smaller garden scourge. This behemoth – nearly 3 feet long (Note 2) – thrives symbiotically with the barbed elephant ear plant, the two working in concert to bring down unwary prey. When this pair finishes their work, all that remains is a slimy grunge hanging on mossy branches. Just ask Gary, he knows their wiles.
The density of pine and under foliage makes the forest feel primeval. I kept expecting a dopelopterator to come bounding out of the brush to tackle me. Luckily, I found one (Note 2) by the roadside gorging on another carcass, so I quickly got a shot before hightailing it out of there. On my way back down the mountain, I thought I’d found a switchback, but it turned out to be only a trail junction. By the time I found my car, the sun had come out in full force (Note 3), and in that fleeting moment, I got my Seattle tan (Note 3). Krissy and Josh finished in the rain not too long after.
My other trail days were in the Olympics, one a short jaunt along the north fork of the Skokomish (which means, literally, “where bear pees under gibbous moon”). A spur trail led to a 14’ diameter fallen cedar, hinting at the forest’s more regal days before the lumber industry began whacking indiscriminately. This same trail also suffered from an overzealous pedestrian focus – yup, that’s a lamp to help with night navigation.
Climbing up Mt Townsend proved the pinnacle of my trail days in the PNW. With a tread varying not much outside 4-6% grade (a close reminder of the Ray Miller trail), and then for only short sections, the switchbacked (Note 3) trail climbed out of the dense forest (right), into shrubby lodgepoles scattered across a cinquefoil and harebell covered meadow (clearly, I’m quoting from the book – I didn’t see one rabbit, much less any with clangers around their itty bitty necks). Over 3K elev and four miles bottom to top – for me, a fast hike up, a sweet floating run down. But the real thrill was on top.
Mt Townsend’s peak (a mere 6250’) is a tiny rock outcrop along a fairly flat ridge, but on this day (quoted one hiker, the clearest they’d seen in years (Note 3)), the view in all directions was breathtaking. To the south, Mts Rainier and Adams poked dramatically into blue sky, eastward Mt Baker and Glacier Peak stole the horizon, westward the snowcapped crags of the Olympics were almost within arm’s reach, and Puget Sound’s shimmering glaze stretched across a third of my 360 degree view. Even found another dopelopterator up there, too!! Though I wanted to linger, the sun was sinking quickly in the west, so I let gravity carry me off the mountain. Sure wish I could’ve stayed a few more days to explore more trails…
Before taking the redeye out on Thursday, I roamed Pike Place Market, Seattle’s version of the tourist mixing bowl. As it was yet another perfectly clear day (Note 3), I soaked up some sun and topped the afternoon off with a casual dinner at Vivande, sipping wine, a delicate funghi ravioli dissolving on my tongue, with the sun glistening off Puget Sound in clear view from the large window by my table. Sigh… If you believe climate patterns are changing – I do, confirmed by a recent article on point in the New Yorker – then Seattle will be the next Mediterranean paradise. That, plus those delicious mountains, all that water, and still not too many people (Note 2). Can’t wait to go back…
Note 1: An unadulterated flat out fabrication
Note 2: Depends on one’s interpretation
Note 3: The absolute fershur no s*** truth
(Use your BACK button to get back to the text. You will get sick of coming down here soon!)