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Hiking Mt. Pilchuck August 5, 2008

Posted by saltcastings in All-purpose.
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Scott Odle rang me about a month ago and said we should plan a hike again this summer.  After all, it had only been seven years since the last time we laced up the boots.  Our last hike ended in a white out about 200 feet from the summit of St. Helens.  He summitted, but I dropped back to find two other guys who were having a rough go of it.  Earlier that year was Mt. Adams, and one of the longest days of my life.  Needless to say, it was time, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the first day of 37.

Pilchuck was Scott’s choice but it turned out to be a great start.  We left the car at 7am and made good time up the trail, which was in pretty good shape.  Starting elevation is 3100 feet.  We found snow about a third of the way up, and bumped into only one climber on the ascent — a tripper with a full pack and a pocket radio blaring, which we heard long before we saw him.  We learned later that he’d reached the lookout at 6am, which given the load he was carrying, meant he probably left the lot around 4.  Too early for this guy. 

We climbed the ladder into the lookout [elev. 5324] at about 8:50 and met the guy who was coordinating some repairs to the building and had spent the previous night.  He had an assortment of tools, lumber, and more information about what had been done and still needed to get done than one guy could bear to listen to.  The short story is that the lookout had sustained quite a bit of damage from the heavy snowfall this year.  One of the corner supports had blown out and was repaired the day before.  The rest of the damage was to the joists that supported the shutters when they were open.  Many of these 2x4s were split or bowed, and were in the process of being replaced or reinforced.  It also looked like he was about to give the place a fresh coat of paint at some point soon.  Overall, the place was in pretty darn good shape, especially considering the fact it was built in 1918.

About a half hour after we arrived, a couple and their two dogs started up over the last pitch of boulders toward the lookout.  As soon as they were within earshot, we could tell she was crying.  Her boyfriend was oblivious.  He reached the ladder first and tried to guide one of the dogs up in front of him, which would have worked well had he spent the extra $200 during obedience training on the ladder climbing module.  The poor thing slipped on the top rung and would have taken them both down if Scott hadn’t reached down and hauled it up by the collar.  Same thing happened with dog number two.  It wasn’t until the guy was on the walkway that he turned around to see how his girlfriend was doing.  She was a wreck, freaked out by the ladder and the fact that the lookout was pretty much being held onto the mountain by a couple of cables.  She eventually made it in, but never stopped crying.  Poor thing.  Scott and I decided to get the hell out of there before the yelling started.

We offered to take materials back down with us and were handed a single 18-inch 2×4, which served as funny conversation fodder during the descent.  We passed about 30-40 people on our way out, many of whom commented on the fact that we were “carrying wood down from the top.”  Yes, and we had this 2×4, too.  Others remarked on the fact that we were wearing trail runners instead of boots.  Why this was a big deal, I don’t know.  I can’t print some of the things we said about those people, but dang, they were funny.

Of course no hike would be complete without adequate caloric replentishment.  We saddled up to the Timberline Cafe in Granite Falls [you can read my review here] for a couple of burgers and beers.  Really hit the spot.

But the best part of the day was reconnecting with an old friend and an old pasttime, which I’d long ago forgotten how much I enjoyed.  From the lookout Scott and I got a good look at Three Fingers and are already hatching a plan to scale it in late September/early October.  I can almost taste the burger now.

More pictures here.

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