Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Walk in the Woods

A friend and I hiked the Petes Creek-Colonel Bob trail yesterday.  With some snow still on the higher reaches we weren't sure if the entire route was passable all the way to the peak but we knew we'd get some good walking into a small wilderness area adjacent to Olympic National Park.  We began what was a steady climb, leaving the Petes Creek trail head around 10:30.  The trail was good but overgrown in places.  We had to scramble around and over a few blow downs along the way but nothing I wasn't able to manage even with my arthritic hip.

The trail passes through rainforest as it climbs.  We see lots of green, brown, rust and all the colors of life and decay that make up a living forest.  Looking up, massive trees seem to holding up the sky.  Ground level is a jumble of vertical and horizontal surfaces mixed with endless odd shapes--roots, rock and earth--covered in moss, fungi and detrius, all bound together in an organic whole.

Early on the trail has an easy ambiance as our legs acclimated to walking.  The ambiance remains but the steepening climb requires ever more work and effort as we ascend.  A long climb up the Petes Creek drainage ends at a set of even steeper switchbacks reminiscent of marginal Grand Canyon trails.  The switchbacks cross a rock slide area and three ice fields above tree line.  We reach the saddle at 3600 feet where the trail descends toward Moonshine Flats before continuing up to the Colonel Bob Peak.  We know that we will not make the peak and see no sense in dropping 200 feet so that we can turn around and climb back up.  If we are going to descend, we will descend toward home. 

The hike down goes a bit faster.  Now I'm tired and the relentless downhill makes for slow and very deliberate walking.  I land on my ass a few times after slipping on loose scrabble.  Nothing serious but for the first time I am thinking that trekking poles might me a good idea for me from now on.  My single walking stick seems inadequate given my increasing instability.  My hip has done well on this trip but I can feel the impact of the day's effort in my legs and my feet.

We make it back to the trail head around 4:45, both of us very tired.  Within the hour we are in Aberdeen polishing off plates of huevos rancheros which give us enough energy for the drive back to Olympia.

Walking in

Much green

Banana slug-our only wildlife sighting

Petes Creek


Looking back

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