Saturday, August 6, 2011

And I Shall Call It... Mini-Cone

Did you read part I yet?

Forty-two hours of driving after leaving the house on Tuesday, I arrived at the Johnston Ridge Observatory just minutes ahead of the 10AM time that my autocrossing friend Andy Howe had given me. It was a little chilly in the mountains, and I was nervous that I hadn't exactly brought appropriate clothing for the hike, much less the weekend.

The temperature as I was driving through White's Pass; compare that to the heat index of almost 120F on the East Coast at the time
A blasted "spider" sensor that did not survive the 2005 eruption

We stopped up at the visitor center to get our wristbands for the day and then prepared for the journey around the Boundary Trail by making sure we had water and snacks (I'd hit up Bass Pro Shops on my way out of Harmans for a new Camelbak and hiking shoes), and then Andy asks me an interesting question.

"You're not afraid of heights, are you?"

I considered the question for a moment, thinking of the CN Tower's "glass floor" and the drop on Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster. "Nope, not at all," I told him.

And off we went.

Looking down at the entrance road from the Boundary Trail.

Many of the clouds have dissipated only 30-40 minutes into the hike. The mini-cone is clearly visible.
Andy told me this was an "Indian Paintbrush" and very common on the mountains.
Another small flowering plant taking root amidst the ashes.

Maybe a third of the way into the hike, we came to a sort of stopping point around a bit of a crevice. There was a sign posted, warning that the next section was not appropriate for inexperienced hikers, and when I looked, I see a path maybe two feet wide, with a pretty steep drop on the righthand side. Andy says, "Oh, it's only 800 or so feet to the bottom." I'm a little apprehensive, but everyone else seems unfazed by this section, so I'm not going to wimp out. The first part isn't so bad, but then about halfway through it, I start thinking about how I'm not used to being at altitude, and what if I pass out, and then I freak myself out and have to stop for a moment. The rest of the way through this part, my heart is hammering in my chest, and I am just focusing on putting one foot ahead of the other, carefully, and trying not to think about the fact that I have to come back through on the return.
Looking at down (~800ft) at the valley filled with ashes. The trail continues to the left.
Looking back at the scariest part of the hike.
Sort of the halfway point, where the trail branches. We went up Harry's Ridge.

These little star-shaped flowers were all over the lower part of the trail. It looked and felt like spring.
As we got closer to Harry's Ridge, we started to see more and more snow.
All that remains of trees that were shattered in the blast from 31 years ago.

Mt. Adams stands watch over Spirit Lake. The remnants of the blasted trees make an eerie log jam against the eastern coast line of the lake due to the winds that were blowing in from the west that day.
Remains of cornices.
The end of the trail.
Looking back down the path we'd just taken.
Looking to our left, over Spirit Lake and a ridge of snow.

After chilling -- literally, it was maybe 30F with the wind chill -- at the end of the trail for 15-20 minutes, we started heading back. One of the other guys in our group also had problems on the narrow ledge portion of the trail, and told me that his "blinders" had worked wonders. He'd taken painters' tape and basically blocked off his peripheral vision. It made sense; and once we'd returned to the dreaded area, I just used my hand to block off my left side vision whenever it became overwhelming, which was pretty much just the center section, where the trail was the narrowest, and there were no shrubs or flowers to block the view down into the crevice.
Andy forges ahead, while I use "taking a picture" as an excuse to steel my nerves.

During the return through here, some impatient "hikers" behind us almost caused a disaster when I paused at an area to let some people coming the other way come through. They decided to rush past our group, and one of them ran headlong into one of those coming the other way. For a long moment, it seemed that someone might lose their balance, but fortunately, everyone was fine.
The view was incredible on our way back.

We made it back to the parking lot just around 2:30PM, and chilled for a little bit before Andy and I headed off to Packwood and the rest back home to Oregon. It would take just about two hours to get to the Hampton Mills lot and I was in for quite a surprise when we got there.

Indoor paddock. Covered impound. And a nice sized asphalt lot nestled behind in between those buildings, with a gorgeous view of the mountains, including Mt. Rainier.
There were motor homes in here too!

Very laid back atmosphere, easy registration and tech, saying "hi" to my west coast friends... at some point, I walked each course once, then we decided it was time to check into the hotel and hang out at Friday night karaoke at the Blue Spruce Saloon. Kyra Jenkins and George Hudetz were the karaoke stars until Ron Bauer and Karl Coleman showed up, but by that time, I was ready to sleep. My legs were killing me after the hike, and I was antsy for Saturday morning and competition, even if I was the only ESP car there and so in bump class 2 against the likes of Tom Kotzian and Ryan Otis.

To Be Continued!

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