Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sourdough Mountain Loop

Gorgeous Saturday. Everyone I talked to was doing summer things. Winter, Spring, whatever it’s been—it’s been too long.

I grabbed a trekking pole and took on the Sourdough Mountain loop, which is in the North Cascades National Park. I’ve wanted to do the full loop in the past, but have been foiled. I sort of succeeded today, making it up and over, but the Diablo Trail was shut down, and so I had to walk Highway 20. Fortunately, some good folks saw my thumb, and chose to pick up a guy with dirty legs.

I wasn’t really able to run—the back, it hurts still. But I was happy with my hiking clip, and more importantly, I was happy to be out. I made the Diablo trailhead by about 7 AM, and happened to meet Matt, a former ultrarunner, and we had a great climb together to the fire lookout. It’s steep going up, especially in the first mile.

The wildflowers are just starting to come out—I think I’ll go up somewhere next weekend, because we’re at the front end of the curve. Amazing views on the way up and at the top—the Picketts, Thunder Creek/Park Butte, Hozomeen and Desolation, Jack Mountain, Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, the Skagit River—just a ring of peaks all around, emerald waterbodies below. Truly incredible.

The coolest part of today was navigating the snow fields at the top. Lots of snow, but nothing particularly sketchy. Except figuring the way down the Ross Lake Side. The trail was buried up high, and so I had to go from one cairn to the next, eyeing them one at a time. Pretty fun. Last time I wasn’t able to figure it out, and had to turn around. This time, success.

I saw a WTA trip report from two weeks ago that said a well equipped group decided to turnaround. The pictures are totally different--the snow is melting real fast. Two weeks ago, Sourdough Creek was covered by a snowfield--it's completely open now.

The fire lookout is closed. It is a famous lookout--there's plenty written about it, from being one of the oldest around, to hosting Gary Snyder, a poet for a couple summers in the 50s, to just being cool. Maybe because it's the same color as my house.

I think I went about 15 miles in total. It was a slow 15, a reasonably hard 15, with lots of stops and pictures. For more pictures, click here. The full loop is somewhere between 20 and 24 I think. The trekking pole was a very very good idea. I felt the pain in my back, but the pole helped a lot. I can't seem to get leg turnover for real running, but I can climb and hike.

Afterwards, I watched The Road. Really liked it. Scary, sad, and something.

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