In an unscheduled break from the Hawaii chronicles….
As the Fourth of July weekend is typically a long one, or people tend to make it a long one, I needed to do more than just eat and drink and be merry. After hosting a party for 10 on the 4th, where neighbors set off fireworks AROUND THE CORNER FROM MY HOUSE, I figured I needed to burn off all the Americana I’d consumed: Burgers, beers, and brats.
Three friends joined me in my quest to explore and expend calories: Louboutini, Robot Chicken (RC), and RedvsBlue (RB). RC and RB are pretty active and it was their idea to go for a hike. After some deliberation, we chose Heliotrope Ridge. I was a little apprehensive since it was rated as Hard, which on AllTrails, actually means HARD. But who knows, it might not be so bad….so off we went.
It was about a 90 minute drive to the trailhead, and the last 8 miles was dirt, potholes, and a single lane. We passed what looked like the remnants of a landslide, and decided not to linger to look at it, lest the mud giveway again and sweep us off the cliff.
At last, we made it to the parking lot, and after suiting up (because it was COLD), we set off. It was pretty steadily up, and I felt it in my quads immediately, but overall it wasn’t too difficult….yet. In fact, I got this! We’re all good! We were talking, laughing, joking, and kept going….and we did ok for the first 2/3 of the uphill hike.
I didn’t know Heliotrope was actually a flower. We saw these lovely purple flowers all over the mountain, and realized they are wild all about town – we’d just never noticed. While it will probably be a few weeks before all the wildflowers are blooming in full on the mountain, the various types of flowers we saw added splashes of color to an otherwise verdant-heavy hike. (The spikey ones were my favorites, but yes, they hurt.)
About 2 miles in, we were greeted with a sign. I’ve never seen one on any hike I’ve ever done in my life. But it was pretty awesome, and thoughtful of the trails association.
Believe me. You haven’t lived till you’ve pooped in a mountain toilet.
While the hike said “hard” and the idea of hiking up far enough to see a glacier was daunting, we pressed on. But it really wasn’t too bad, all things considered. Sure, there were stream crossings (5!), and yes, there were “steps” that required me to lift my foot above the level of my hip. But they were the obstacles that, looking back, you scoff and shrug it off.
Nope. Not a bad hike at all. That was until RB said, “I have some bad news.”
We’d only climbed 850 feet, and were only about a mile from the end. “But isn’t this about 2000′ of elevation gain?” Well, yes, yes it is, and going about 1000′ in a mile is HARD. Really hard. While I had led the initial parts of the hike, I now fell back to 4th, because….well, I have little legs and it was hard. Did I mention how difficult the last mile was? Sure Miley Cyrus, it’s about the climb, until you have to climb THAT FAR. I went slower, slower, and even slower still, but I was suddenly inspired, and the hike gave rise to a song:
Slow and steady wins the race
As long as you don’t fall on your face
I can’t say I followed the song to the T. There were several times I nearly faceplanted into some Game-of-Thrones-esque slate. And yes, I was tired, sweaty, stinky, and wanted to quit. But I didn’t, and damn. Was it worth it.
After an extra 0.75 of a mile of climbing and scrambling beyond the trail end, up to another ridge, we stopped to take in the beauty. Flowers plus blue-white ice, plus all-colored, all-material rocks. Eat your heart out, Night King. I’m the king of the world.
I would be remiss if I left out the critters we saw on the way back down. There are marmots all over the mountain, and it was warm enough for some of them to come out and entertain us. They are these big fuzzy things you want to hug, but then they let out a cry and while at first I thought it was some sorry hiker that fell in the crevasse, now every time I see the attached YouTube video, I laugh like a hyena.
I would also be remiss if I were to leave out the part where I fell in the stream (pictured above) on the way back. Yes, I fell in, yes, it was cold, no, I wasn’t thrilled. It did, however, allow me to say “screw it” to trying to navigate the other streams though, so I happily splashed across since I was already wet.
I have to say, of the hikes I’ve done since I’ve lived here, this ranks close to the top. Another trip to Olympic National Park awaits later this month, but for now, it will be hard to usurp Heliotrope. After all, this is America at its finest, on its best weekend.