If you get bored or just don't want to read my long-winded narrative I don't blame you. Skim through the photos! I usually try to have little text and a bunch of photos so I thought it would be fun to experiment with the opposite end of things. This is just me recounting my recent trip to Seattle for a friend's wedding. I packed one backpack of hiking/climbing gear, another stuffed with a sleeping bag but had no clue what I was going to use any of it for or where I was going to sleep.
Mount Angeles from Klahane ridge.
Looking towards Mt. Olympus from Hurricane Hill.
"A mixture of ignorance, and a loose, what-the-hell kind of confidence that comes when a man picks up and begins to move in a hard, straight line toward an unknown horizon."
- Hunter S. Thompson
Shortly after teaching my last class on Thursday I began frantically writing sub plans for Friday. It was quickly becoming apparent that I did not have the luxury of time. Printing my hastily formed ideas for my Friday classes, I hurriedly slapped them on my desk and jogged to my car. "Who has a wedding at 10am on a Friday?" was the top question on my brain as I sped towards DIA.
"Why is the economy lot full on a Thursday?" quickly became my next hurdle. Finally finding a spot at the furthest corner of the Pike's Peak lot, I pulled in, grabbed my backpacks, and sprinted for the shuttle. I missed it by a whopping 30 seconds but that was enough to light the bulb in my head that I probably wasn't going to make my 6:10pm flight. It was a good half hour before the next shuttle chugged up and opened its doors revealing that is was a few dozen people beyond maximum capacity. Making sure to groan audibly, I exhaled and squeezed aboard trying to leave enough room for the doors to close. I felt bad for the lone guy waiting at the next (and final) stop as the bus didn't even slow down as it drove by. Jumping ship at the first stop I flew to the outside check-in for my airline. "Sorry sir, it's too close to your departure time to check-in here. Head inside and I'm sure they'll get you on just fine." It was exactly 45 minutes before my departure time and the line inside sealed the deal. When I finally got to the counter all I was told was "No way you're getting on your flight today." Thankfully I was easily transferred to a later flight. Many beers and a sleepy flight later, I strolled up to after hours car rental counter. The first three dealers were sold out of everything under $480 for three days and unwilling to budge. About to call a cab, I went to the last counter and was surprised to be cut a deal on a racing red 2010 Mustang at their cheapest fare. Yes! Checking into a hostel in downtown Seattle at 12:30am sure wasn't ideal, but was made much better cruising in with a hot rod.
The wedding was short and beautifully informal. It was great to see some old friends and eat some tasty wedding muffins.
Me and the bride.
Not knowing what else to do, I spent a bit of the afternoon wandering around downtown Seattle. Feathered Friends was the most tempting store I've ever been in but I managed to walk out without a big dent in my wallet. Armed with no idea about the area, a bag of hiking gear and no where to stay I drove west towards Olympic National Park.
The ferry across Puget Sound was very cool and Rainier towered above Seattle.
I'll be back for you next summer, Mr. Rainier.
More mountains to the N.E.
After a rough nights sleep in an anonymous location near Port Angeles, I drove up towards the park. The top of Hurricane Ridge is home to a very cool visitor center that is reminiscent of the alpine visitor center in RMNP. Since I was up early in the morning and there was nobody else around, I had the marvelous view of the park's highpoint Mount Olympus all to myself. Wanting to stretch my legs and kill some time for the visitor center to open, I drove to the end of the road and started up the short trail to the top of Hurricane Hill (3.5ish miles round-trip and 700' gain). The point gave amazing views of the Cascades, Olympic NP and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It also lived up to its name as I leaned into the 60mph coastal wind.
Near the top of Hurricane Hill.
Back at the visitor center, I strolled in as the ranger unlocked the doors.
"Can I answer any questions?" she asked.
I strolled over to the topo map on the counter and traced an imaginary line up the mountain that looked closest from the parking lot.
"Mount An-ge-les? How often do people hike up there?"
"Have you ever been to the summit?"
"Well, I'll be sure to tell you how it is when I get back."
She clearly didn't seem to share or understand my enthusiasm to trudge up to some random rocky summit in hurricane-force wind. Not bothered and wanting to make the best of my day, I shouldered my pack and headed up "Klahane Ridge" at the far end of the parking lot. As I neared Mount Angeles I made sure to head over the ridge's highpoints to get the best views of the rocky face I was approaching.
Cool ski patrol hut at the start of the ridge.
Reminded my of the Alpine Visitor Center in RMNP.
Nice trail on Klahane Ridge.
I constantly tried to imagine a way up the rocky face as I neared the peak. Finally, the excellent trail I had been following veered off and I broke off up the slopes.
About time to leave the trail.
Feeling perfectly at home, I happily followed my bearing up the steep slope. Just as I crested out into a meadow below the summit formation I stumbled onto a faint trail and ran into a herd of small deer. Later, I found out that the deer where black-tailed deer and are specific to the northwest.
I followed the trail up into a shallow gully leading up the face. It was steep and a little loose making me glad to have my helmet. As I neared the summit I could hear the wind tearing over the top. I stopped to add a few layers for the wind and then pushed upward.
Summit in sight. Pretty steep.
Looking down. A little like the Red Gully on Crestone Peak.
As I scrambled up class 3+ terrain I met the wind head-on. It was so strong I was forced back down to the shelter the summit cap had provided lower. Determined, I fought my way up. The final moves would have been cake sans wind but I became a human fly crawling up the rock. I topped out on my stomach and literally sprawled on the summit. As the wind howled over me at 70-80mph, I soaked in the views. This was one of the most beautiful summits I have been on. I could see Canada, glaciers, the cascades, alpine tundra, beautiful forest, and the ocean all from my perch. I had also not seen another soul since the trail making this a perfect outing.
Strait of Juan de Fuca from the summit.
I didn't stay long due to the wind but it's a summit I won't soon forget. Other than literally crawling back off the summit, the trip down was uneventful and I found myself peering back over my shoulder often.
The route ascended near the left skyline.
Before long I was back in the visitor center walking up to the counter.
"Took about two and a half hours round-trip and I would guess around 6 miles with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Wind is blowing about 70-80mph up top. Probably shouldn't send the average tourist up there. Amazing views!"
The ranger looked up surprised that I was back and didn't really say anything. I'm pretty sure she didn't believe anything I had just told her but she definitely recognized me.
"Yeah...probably not..." was all she managed to get out.
I thanked her although she clearly thought I was insane and made for the car. The trip back was fun. I stood on the top deck of the ferry back across Puget Sound and planned my return for Rainier next summer. I was so glad my lack of planning put me in the Olympics. It is a remarkable area and I can't wait to return.
Looking back from Sunrise Point.
My best guesstimate of my route.