As some of you may know, Lt. Dan and I attempted this hike in 2017. Here, let me refresh your memory. If you’re lazy, the TL;DR is that we didn’t make it, we blamed it on a time crunch, and it was hard. Really hard.
But it’s two years later now, and I felt ready to try and tackle this mysterious mountain. I asked Louboutini and my friend Same-O to join, and off we went. Protip #1: Get an EARLY start.
We arrived at the trailhead around 12:30, which was roughly 2 hours later than I had intended, but what are you going to do? That’s right. Nothing. Off we went, and just as I remembered, it was pretty tough right off the bat. A mile of elevation gain in a 4.5 mile hike is not for the faint of heart, and you do need to take it slowly. It’s so steep that our pace was closer to 1mph, rather than our normal 3-ish.
The real challenge, however, was not what you’d expect. The switchbacks are so intense, and so…UPWARDS that you might miss where the trail goes. And given that the trail is (at its widest) only 2 feet across, you might just keep going straight. Obviously I had a brain fart on the key lesson of autocross (and life): LOOK AHEAD, WHICH IS SOMETIMES BEHIND YOU. So the three of us trekked on what (arguably, and in our defense) looked like a trail, until it didn’t.
Using Google Maps, we sent Louboutini and his long legs to scout out where the trail might be. He managed to figure out that we’d been traversing parallel to it for some time, and realized the trail was up the hill. The hill of fallen trees, bramble, and just a hair away from a landslide. So up we went. Vertically. Same-O isn’t tall, but he’s certainly taller than I am, so this wasn’t as difficult for him as it was for me. I have the cuts on my legs to prove it.
Sigh. At least we were on the trail, but alas, the treacherous journey was just beginning. Fall #1 occurred when I was trying to give some GenZ “hikers” space to pass, and my legs had just about had it. While I ended up more embarrassed than hurt, we were all pretty relived I stopped falling when I did, or else it would have been a long, LONG way down. Pro tip #2: Make sure your friends are ok before you laugh.
And the trail was steep. Really steep. Like, if I were in the first Indiana Jones movie, there’d be no way to outrun the big rolling ball steep. Every time you thought it might flatten out for a bit, you were wrong. You’d be so wrong, it’s laughable. I’m imagining you thinking you’ll have a bit of a breather, and I’m laughing at you. But really I’m crying, because this was leg day on steroids. The illegal ones.
While I could complain for hours about how HARD this hike was, and how TIRED we all were, and how much OUR LEGS HURT, and blah blah blah (no really, I totally can complain for hours about anything, so this would be no problem), we were definitely treated to some astounding views along the way. Had we not had the snow-capped mountains, green water, and the majestic trees to soothe our souls, I don’t know that we’d have made it as far as we did.
After what felt like MILES (okay, it was like 2), we came to a creek crossing. It was nice to sit and relax, and run my swelling hands in the cold water. Some hikers were returning, and they said there was about “another mile to the look out, but it feels like a mile and a half.” Well, that settled it for me. We were turning back, and we were going to have to get a move on. I was cranky, bleeding, and tired, and there was beer to be held on the way home.
Given that the hike was six hours long (and I failed to reach the top yet again), obviously I’d have to pee at some point. Fall #2 happened while trying to get far enough down the very steep trail to be out of eyesight. Protip #3: DO NOT LEAVE THE TRAIL IF YOU DO NOT HAVE TO. At least when I screamed, the guys asked if I was ok, but didn’t run down and therefore didn’t see me – because no one wants to see my bare ass covered in dirt.
After two falls, I was pretty frustrated. My knees had taken a beating, I was muddy (GROSS), dusty, sweaty, and tired. Sure, I was defeated, but at least I was alive. We made it back to the car, changed shoes, and toweled off. Protip #4: Carry cleansing towelettes with you (mine are from Costco <3). They’re great for wiping off dirt, sweat, bug spray, sunscreen, and blood. Or in case a bear needs to you-know-what in the woods.
Once we were feeling a little more refreshed, we sadly left the trailhead parking lot. Ok, maybe not sadly. Maybe I was SO happy it was over and was THRILLED to be going to get a beer. I was disappointed that we didn’t make it to the top, and had we started earlier/not gotten lost, we likely would have, but c’est la vie. Same-O mentioned there were a few times he though he was going to pass out, but refused to be the reason we turned back. Gee, thanks – now I’m the bad guy >.< I don’t even care. The beer was delicious and hard-earned, and my legs have never been so sore. Eat your heart out, Stairmaster.
So yes, another epic fail trying to conquer Sourdough Mountain. This is the hardest hike I’ve ever done. Harder than Heliotrope. Harder than the ones in Arches National Park. Two tries, and I still haven’t completed it. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to try again, though. This is my white whale, and I am Ahab sailing along (or limping, same thing) till I catch him. Third time’s the charm, they say. Someday, I tell you. Someday, I will get to the top.
And then I will have someone carry me back down.