Dickerman–a lesson in humility and friendship
Posted by joeabbott on August 9, 2012
A few weeks back, out of the blue, my old friend Jeremy asked me for some information about a moderate hike out on the Mount Loop Highway up Mt. Dickerman. Now Dickerman is known less for providing a challenge or requiring exceptional effort than for just bestowing wonderful views for moderate exertion. Snuggled into the SE corner of the Mt. Loop Hwy, the panoramas from its summit are outstanding: Big Four and it’s brethren to the immediate south, Rainier in the distant south; Sloan to the near east, Glacier Peak dominating the ENE skyline; NW you have Three Fingers and White Horse, with mighty Mount Baker anchoring the north. It’s a dazzling display of toothy peaks.
He wasn’t able to go out that weekend and, late last week, he asked if I was free to join him this past weekend. I was and so we left Seattle around 8:30AM Sunday morning for the drive up north to Mt. Dickerman.
You will only be able to take Hwy 2 east, so do it!
Travel roughly 2.5 miles to Highway 204 and take the exit north to Lake Stevens.
On Hwy 204, you travel approximately 2.2 miles to an intersection at Highway 9; turn left (north).
Going north, in less than 2 miles you’ll turn right on Highway 92 (Granite Falls Hwy) to Granite Falls.
Continue on Hwy 92 until you pass through the small town of Granite Falls, roughly 8.5 miles.
At this point, you’ll be at a stop sign and, turning left puts you on the Mountain Loop Highway.
Traveling along the Mountain Loop Hwy, you’ll come across the Verlot Ranger Station – Public Service Center on the left at about mile 11.
Here you can get trail and road information, pick up parking passes, and avail yourself to the facilities.
From the Ranger Station, travel another 16 miles down the Mountain Loop Hwy (past the Ranger Station) and you’ll come across the combined Perry Creek – Mt. Dickerman trailhead.
Park your car, tighten your boot, and get ready for your hike.
It was enjoyable to reestablish an old friendship; Jeremy and I once worked together but it’s been literally years since I saw him last. As so often happens with true friends, we easily fell into animated conversation as he caught up on my doings, and I his. By the time we hit the trailhead, we were reasonably connected again and it was good to get up and walk a bit.
The character of the trail is reasonably simple to describe:
- the initial ascent is up a rocky but well-defined trail with an unrelenting grade and many tedious switchback
- toward the upper ridge you’re rewarded with a few peek-a-boo views of the surroundings and the trail straightens out
- and finally, up the summit block, the slope softens, a few minor switchbacks present themselves, and the top clearly calls out
At the summit, to the direct east, a minor twin bump awaits. While a dozen feet or so lower than the true/west summit, it is treeless and affords less obstructed views, the better for snapping a panorama shot … like the one that starts this post out.
While the character of Dickerman’s trail was easy to report, my performance on it requires a bit more nuanced description.
On a time, I could have summited Dickerman in little more than an hour; this time our round trip took seven hours. While I could wave my hands an cite and extended stay on top and several other stops along the way, my conditioning was 100% responsible for the “leisurely” pace. In short, I was sucking wind.
My legs didn’t fail me, my ankles and other joints performed admirably, however, even after just a few steps, my pulse would climb and my breathing would labor. Early on Jeremy slacked his pace and allowed me my struggles with some dignity, neither asking about my condition nor urge me to “man up”. He’d converse, pause, and take water when I had to stop. He was a great companion. At one point we did comment on a turn-around time and he did allow me the right to call it a day when I wanted. To this I responded that it was probably important that I get to the top.
The easy choice would have been to admit my lack of conditioning, recognize tomorrow would be another day, and head home to spare myself the travail of continuing on. And yet, continuing on is what I needed. Could my spirit better my body? It could. It did.
At one point, in the final stretch up the last 500’, a minor snowfield barred the way. It had been walked through and wasn’t particularly steep or slick, but I chose not to stop. Up its 75 or so vertical feet I continued to trudge; no stopping, no slacking of pace. Step – step – step. And, as I passed beyond it and to a small outcropping of rocks above, I had to stop. Not only stop, I had to sit. And, when I’d sat, my body told me that I’d best lie down. Now.
My heart thrummed in my chest, the blood in my veins surged, and my lungs heaved to draw in oxygen to reward my body’s effort with what it needed to survive. I was spent. Not for the rest of the trip, but for a while.
I slowly recovered and managed to eat a nut bar of some sort. It was dry in my mouth and I started to ration my water, unsure of how much remained in my unseen hydration pack. Jeremy had moved beyond and found another outcrop to pass some time with a sandwich and, after a long rest, we returned to our toil and marched the final distance up the slope to the summit.
Up top, it was beautiful. The weather was in the 90s, my feet were sore, and I did have plenty of water. All contributing to a recipe that had us enjoying rather a lengthy stay (about a half hour) up top before walking the long walk back to the car. Here’s the profile of the journey:
As a reward for surviving the ordeal, and to thank him for his patience, I treated at a small Mexican restaurant in “downtown” Granite Falls. Again, old friendships made for an enjoyable meal as we continued to catch up on work and home life. The fact that I wasn’t gasping for breath allowed me to contribute a bit to the conversation, too.
After dinner we hopped into his car and drove the long drive back to Seattle. We returned home before sunset and I made my way casually to the Interstate to take me home, to a shower, to a bed, to a well-deserved rest.
I learned a lot this trip. I learned that past glories (and conditioning) are lost to time when not maintained. I learned that while I’ve gotten a bit soft physically, I can still put my head down and find the strength to push myself up a hill. I’ve learned that gutting through a tough stint can be made the easier with a friend by your side. And while old friends, and especially good old friends will allow you to pick up where you once left off, not leaving off is a pretty good idea, too.
I plan to climb more mountains. I plan to ask myself to do tough things. And I plan to visit enough old friends that I remember just how good they are.
Thanks for reading; I hope you find your own mountains beneath your boots.