Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Huckleberry Creek

I have a friend who is recently interested in hiking, and she has asked me more than once, "Hiking is just walking, right?" Well, yes and no. Sure, it's a bipedal activity that sometimes requires no more than putting one foot in front of the other, and I love that type of hiking. But sometimes hiking requires a bit more from its participants, and today's outing was one such hike for us.

This holiday weekend was uncharacteristically clear and hot so not only posed a challenge for us to find a trail where scads of other hikers wouldn't be, it's a time of year when water, mud, and snow remain, and depending on how arduous you want your outing to be, can thwart an otherwise lovely trek. We finally chose Huckleberry Creek for our destination, recent trail reports indicating that it was accessible and passable.

TBGuide locates the trail head.

This hike can be up to 10 miles one way, culminating at Sunrise in Mount Rainier National Park. Our plan was to try for about four miles in, so a round-trip of eight. Trail conditions would be the arbiter.

 Not Huckleberry Creek, and not what I would call a "creek," either, but it is officially named Lost Creek.

The first of many, many water crossings but the only one over Lost Creek and the scariest because falling off would be very, very bad so we didn't do that. 

 An early sign that things might not be in the "just walking" category.

 A well-camouflaged critter that nearly got stomped.

Well, this is interesting...

The approach was a little tricky.

At this particular point, the trail became water, and here I am sizing up my crossing options. The preponderance of Devil's Club growing right where optimal footholds should be limited those options.

 Is this hiking?

TBG, whose legs allow him to pretty much just step across such chasms, assured me that I could make this leap.

He was right!

 However, leaping and stretching were only going to get me so far, and I finally decided to just take off my boots and wade through the rest of this section. 

At ~1.5 miles in, the trail crosses into Mount Rainier National Park. It felt naughty entering the park this way since formal entrance requires payment, but it's perfectly legal.

Just past the boundary sits an abandoned patrol cabin that used to be a place rangers greeted park-goers long before anyone reading this blog was born. That's a snow pile in front, by the way.

There are many gigantic trees in the park.

Sometimes they have fallen down. This trail is not well-maintained, and we did an awful lot of over-unders. 

Just when you think you might get a little walking in...
This was a huge deadfall, and we considered turning back at this point rather than struggling through it, but struggle we did.

We found the trail on the other side without much difficulty, navigationally speaking, and it continued to rise gently from that point. That also meant more snow patches. Fortunately they weren't deep or soft enough to post hole, but they eventually became annoying enough for us to call it a day and stop for lunch. 

Because the trail lacks much signage, it was hard to know just how far we'd gone, but knowing the distance to the boundary and gauging from there, we estimate it was at least a ~6 mile round trip.

We had a warm, quiet place to enjoy our snacks before heading back.

I tried to take pics of each water crossing, most of which occurred in the first 1.5 miles, but I can't remember the exact order of them, not that it matters. Other than the two I've already shown you, here are most of the rest in no particular order.

Why this one over nothing frightening at all had a rail when none of the others did, especially the one over the "creek," I couldn't say.

On the return trip, we simply walked through the water hazard in our boots, knowing there was less than a mile left to worry about wet feet. 

We may try this trail again later in the year, and we're considering doing it as a shuttle hike (taking two cars, leaving one at Sunrise and hiking the trail end-to-end) but there are a lot of trails to do, and I have a thing about repeats. Only having done less than half the trail means that more than half isn't a repeat, though.

One never knows what might happen...

A note about walking/hiking lest anyone think I'm being judgy. Whether you're "just" walking or not, it's all hiking, and it's all worthwhile. Do what you like, do what you can. Be careful. 
Have fun.