Another outing with Pete: Mt. Adams
Posted by joeabbott on August 10, 2014
We don’t pal around but he and his wife have done a few things with Suzy and I (mostly enjoy Cirque du Soleil shows when they’re in town); we work relatively close to each other at work, but we don’t “do lunch”; we have common friends and yet, we don’t bump into each other often at gatherings.
So, it’s either a little odd or perfectly natural that at our annual outings, things just go smoothly and we share a harmonious time together in the great outdoors. I look forward to getting out with Pete every year.
2014 marked our eighth annual outing. I was surprised because it seemed like we’d done this a bit, but I wasn’t ready to hear eight … that’s a biggish number. Our past trips have taken us to:
- 2007 – Barclay Lake, Mount Alta
- 2008 – Eagle Lake
- 2009 – Thirty Mile
- 2010 – Buck Creek (2007-2010 summarized here)
- 2011 – Ingall’s Creek
- 2012 – Necklace Valley
- 2013 – Mystic Lake, Mount Rainier
Last year was a bit of a death march; in part for the rain, in part of the elevation gain, but mostly because our desk jobs aren’t letting us get the workout we need to be in shape for lugging a bunch of weight up the hill! So, for this year, we wanted an easier hike so I chose Mt. Adams as our destination.
I remembered this area from years ago: as other friends and I were out, we had found a wonderful campsite on a small knoll in the middle of an open field. The site was sheltered by a tree and a happy nearby creek provided clean water. I wanted to find that spot and the relatively flat trails to it for my outing with Pete.
Unfortunately, I was last there in 2001 or something like that and couldn’t remember exactly how to get there. So, in our planning, Pete and I picked a trail and figured we’d find somewhere to flop when we got there.
Pete got to my house sometime after 8:30AM, we had a big breakfast, and then hit the road. The time to trailhead was about 3+ hours, but we suffered from “navigation failure” and it took almost 4 hours. By the time we left the trailhead it was past 2PM but with only 5-ish miles to where we would start looking for a campsite, I wasn’t worried.
The trip in was pretty normal for us: we’d head down the trail, sometimes talking, sometimes taking solace alone in a sweaty, slow grind up the hill. The temps were supposed to be moderate, in the 60s, but it felt much hotter; the bugs were merciless. They’d leave you alone for the most part when you walked but, upon stopping, they’d descend in a cloud. It made the weekend tough but you could always flop in your tent or keep walking to avoid them.
Sometime around 3 miles the mountain opens up and you’re walking literally on the north flank of Mt. Adams. Absolutely glorious and, looking to the north, you’d get peekaboo views of Mt. Rainier. It’s just a phenomenal place to put in a few miles.
While alone on the trail for the most part, at about 4 miles or so we bumped into a guy who noted a marvelous campsite was just a half mile or so up the trail. While his sense of distance was a bit shaky (we’d only gone a couple hundred yards when we spotted it), he was spot-on with his assessment. This would be “home” for the next few days.
The trail crosses a fast-running creek at one point and then descends into a small flat in a wide circuit; the creek takes a shorter route, rushing over a 20’ waterfall where it circles a spot of land, nearly creating a moat around it. At the center of the small island-like spot is a campsite complete with leaning trees for easy food-hanging, access to the creek for water-pumping, and generous flat spots for your tent. We certainly weren’t the first ones to spot this place as a rather established campfire ring and log benches noted this to be a popular campsite, but for the next few days it was ours.
As we’d started from the trailhead late, we wouldn’t get in much of an evening hike. We setup camp, pumped water, and then escaped the heat and bugs by heading into the tent. I took a bit of a snooze before waking and asking what time it was … about 8PM! Guess the hike in took more out of me than I thought!
We made dinner and then took a quarter-mile stroll to a nearby lake that had some nice views of Mt. Rainier and the setting sun. And, with that, we noted it had clouded up so we headed to the tent, read a bit, and then I drifted off to the sound of the crashing falls and gentle hiss of the quick running stream.
I awoke a couple times that night to address the fact that I’d rehydrated a bit aggressively, and marveled at the night sky; the clouds had cleared and the bajillion stars of a remote sky outlined mountains, displayed the Milky Way, and generally bedazzled my senses. I found the loud waterfall to be a bit unnerving as the usual silent outings I enjoy when camping were replaced with lots of noise. I’m not sure why I was uneasy, but I was, and before I tired of seeing that sky, I headed back into the tent for the rest of the night’s sleep.
The next morning I got out before Pete and headed “uphill” to take a look at the surroundings. I didn’t get far but liked what I saw: a high ridgeline of volcanic detritus that led to what I imagined would be amazing views. But, upon getting back to camp and talking over our options, staying on the flat northern trails seemed more to our mutual liking, so we ate breakfast and then headed around to Foggy Flats and the lava fields on Mt. Adams’ NE flank.
While the SPOT map doesn’t show a trail where we walked, there assuredly was one. Marker #2 was my early morning survey and the markers around #13 and #14 were where we lunched out at the lava fields. In all, we probably hiked four miles out to the fields and that amount back, leaving camp sometime after 8AM and hitting our lunch spot sometime around 11AM.
But, the location was wonderful, the skies a peerless blue, and we found some shade adjacent to a few scrappy trees and friable boulders, where we took lunch and looked over Mt. Adams, the flowing lava fields, and nearby Red Butte (a small dome left by an eruption in the distant past).
After our quick meal, we took our pics and then headed back. I picking a careful route down the loose and dirty slopes we’d ascended until we met up again with the trail. The miles back to camp went quickly but the uneven footing of the trail left us with sore feet and the bugs and heat were reaching the daily crescendo … and so we escaped to the security of the inner tent.
I dozed on and off a bit fitful in my sweat, while it seemed Pete read for most of the afternoon. At about 5PM I arose for another short hike. Pete declined to join me but my early morning jaunt to look “uphill” left me wanting more, and so I grabbed my gear and headed to the crest that stood between our campsite and Mt. Adams.
The way was mostly easy: from the trail just before the bridge over the creek that ran by our campsite, you wander across a flat meadow to a horse camp sheltered by a stand of young poplar trees. Cut through that to yet another waterfall and ascend the climbers’ trail on the north side. From there, you negotiate the gentle slopes of scree and hard snow to the slabby tops of pyroclastic debris. After that, enjoy the views.
I stopped around 6PM, using time over distance or destination for telling me when to turn around. But, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot. And the “it” here is the being in the mountains, being solo in a great expanse, having worked hard and feeling the strain of travels but still being able to look up and enjoy the day. It was good in a way that’s both deep and personal. I have missed hiking alone in the mountains.
But, the bugs were getting to know me even at these elevations and I hadn’t exactly given Pete my intended destination in the event something went amiss, so I chose to head back.
Around 7:30PM or so I got back in and, as the bugs were fewer now, we chose to have dinner, catch a few more views of this grand area, and then to call it a day. It was time for a long long restful sleep.
I didn’t get up that night and the morning saw us both at our usual efficiencies. Breakfast tea and eats were quickly dispensed with, the various trappings of our campsite were gathered and distributed between us, and we took turns moving our gear from the tent to our packs until there was nothing left but to put our boots to the trail and start walking.
And the way out was both quick and uneventful. It’s a mystery how the temperatures on the trail felt so intensely hot while, when we got to his truck, the inside was air conditioning-cold! But it was … and so I put on chilled but clean cotton clothing and prepared for the ride home.
We unfortunately followed his GPS that put us on a very rutted mountain road. It was long and dirty and full of objective hazards. I had the better time of it, as a passenger, but even at that I was tossed about and very much looking for the end to this unkempt thoroughfare. Other than that, the trip was a bit long but held no real challenges.
Upon arriving at my house, my gear was disgorged from his truck, I tossed it into the garage for later cleaning, and Pete and I parted with a handshake as we do after all hikes. Another good year with a good partner at a great location. The bugs and heat were a bit much, but I’d go back to that spot in an instant. And yet, for next year, I’m already thinking, “we haven’t hiked out on the peninsula yet, have we?”
Thanks for dropping in!