This weekend was pretty diverse as far as hikes go! As I’ve been sharing more of my hiking photos on Facebook and Instagram, many of my friends have been asking if they can go out with me. Logistically, making these outings happen as one-on-ones would be a little stressful for me, so the solution seems to be getting more group outings together. So for Sunday, I decided to test myself a little and arrange a group hike for a rather large party.
In Emergency Mangement, they teach you that the span of control is three to eight people, with five being the optimal number to supervise. As the number of people interested in a Sunday hike grew, I got a little nervous. How many were coming? Ten? Oh boy… Half of them I had never hiked with, there was still snow in the mountains, and I had no idea what level of gear or experience everyone would bring. So I picked something relatively easy: Capitol Forest outside of Olympia. After reviewing the trails, I selected Bordeaux Ghost Town and Mima Falls. The Ghost Town was right off the road, maybe 0.5 miles RT if we were lucky. That would be for sightseeing/exploring. Down the road we would do more hiking at Mima Falls, listed as a 6.5 mile RT. I sent out the plan and directed everyone to assemble at Panera’s in Olympia by 9:30AM.
The first thing I loved about this outing was that everyone got there before me. Outstanding! And a little embarrassing, but hey I came by ferry so I get a pass! The second thing was that including myself, we totaled eight. On the high edge of manageable but still within reason. Yes!
The group was a lot of people I knew through work and friends of mine or a mutual acquaintance, some I have known since my first day with the agency and others more recent introductions. From previous hikes I had Sara, Effran, and Patrik. New to my adventures were Mark, Akiko, Dom, and Jim. Everyone got along well, we laughed a ton before, during, and after the hike, and the day ended with numerous texts thanking me for organizing this and asking when the next one would be. Even though Bordeaux was a little disappointing (hardly anything left) and Mima Falls felt pretty short, it felt just right for the purpose. Everyone got along and seemed to know what they were doing, so next time I’ll plan something with more mileage and/or elevation. If only it was summer–I could blow their minds with the places I want to show them!
I got home Sunday evening, unpacked one backpack and packed up the bigger one. Working a four-ten schedule means I have most Mondays off, so the weekend wasn’t over yet!
Monday morning I was up bright and early to meet Taylor G. and his friend Kyle for a more strenuous outing. Admittedly I packed the weekend a little too full and was pretty tired as I barely made the 5:30AM ferry, but I hadn’t hiked with Taylor since our Vesper attempt back in November and was eager to get back into the mountains with the MG!
In my opinion, the challenges of winter hiking revolve largely around avoiding snow dangers such as avalanches. Of course weather, temperature, and route finding can be tricky, but it’s the slabs and cornices and whole death by several metric tons of snow thing that worries me the most. Tons of messaging between the three of us as we scanned NWAC forecasts, trip reports, weather conditions, and drove each other crazy with indecision and me threatening to spend half the day digging snow pits to test the slopes finally resulted in agreement on Mount Teneriffe near Northbend. A challenging hike but close enough to treeline that it felt like a good option, plus reports showed that several people had successfully done it over the last few days, including a woman who I share a mutual friend with and had posted a summit photo from the day before. Good weather and solid beta? Sold!
After parking by a sign that informed us that the TH is also a school bus turnaround and our vehicle would be towed after 5PM (no pressure!), we set off at a fast pace up the dirt road, start time logged at 8:06AM. The trail became challenging quickly as there was ice on the path and the rocks were frost covered so travel became a mix of ice skating, rock edging, and lots of cursing and praying. After about an hour, we made it to Teneriffe Falls, also called Kamikaze Falls.
From there, we seem to have found the older, more challenging trail to the top. I say this because I later re-read the WTA description and we definitely didn’t follow the landmarks/signs it described for the full 14 mile RT. My phone later recorded 11 miles for the day, and that trail was way too much uphill to be the route I was reading about. Still, it was beautiful and quite a workout!
Once again Taylor lived up to his Mountain Goat status and beat us to the top by about 20 minutes. Kyle and I practiced the “one foot in front of the other” model of climbing for most of it, Kyle having come off a tough workout the day before and me still feeling the effects of being sedentary from the flu a few weeks prior. However, with a few stops for photos of the gorgeousness around us, we kept moving, one step at a time.
We passed two men and a dog near the top who told us their Go-Pro was at the summit doing timelapse and they were surprised to see other people on the mountain. We worked around their lunch spot and continued up. As we approached, Taylor filmed our final steps and told us that the top was a little sketchy with how thin it was, but “just wait til you can see what I see right now.” He was absolutely right! It was amazing!
After a snack, photos, and gazing out at the surrounding peaks (including views of Rainier to the south and Baker to the north), it was time to go. We had made the summit (with breaks) in a little under 3.5 hours, not bad for MG and his “rooks” as he delighted in calling us. It’s hard not to look like a Rookie when you climb with Taylor though, so I like to think it’s a compliment since he keeps bringing us along. Our final task before heading down was the photobomb the Go-Pro that the others had left at the top. I’m sure they’ll appreciate our smiling faces in their time-lapse video when they get back down.
The trip down was full of slips, slides, clinging to tree trunks, and lots of laughter. With one quick break to remove our microspikes/crampons (which, incidentally, we all were idiots and failed to use on the way up… luckily we took the time to put them on for the jaunt down) and enjoy the beautiful scenery, we made it back to the car somewhere between 2-2.5 hours, making for a total time of six hours for the entire trip. We celebrated with burgers and chickenstrips at Northbend Bar & Grill then headed back to our meeting place where we parted ways to my favorite question, “where to next time?”
A very good day and the conclusion to a wonderful weekend!
To follow our trail: