Pass the Twisp, Please

24 07 2011

Delicious breakfast in my belly, I am ready for my next big trip into the Pasayten.  Here’s the really exciting part: after looking FOREVER, I have finally found new boots that just might be The Ones.  Today is the big test – will they SURVIVE??  The chosen trail should provide all sorts of delightfully adverse conditions to determine if these boots have the Right Stuff.  Today’s destination:  Twisp Pass.  (Cue exciting music!)

The Twisp River drainage is fantastically, heavily forested.  I gave my new Ahnu boots a pep talk as I laced them up.  Legs stretched, pack on, off we go!   I breathed a deep, full breath, inhaling the delightful forest aroma, humming to myself.  What a gorgeous day!  This was going to be GREAT hike!  With a bounce in my step, I fell in behind my fearless leader.

The trail has a nice grade to it and my boots hug my heels and ankles like little pillows of heaven.  Woo!  See that stream up ahead, boots?  Heck no, we won’t hop from nicely-placed stone to nicely-placed stone!  We’re sloshing right through the middle!  Hm, these may not be Gortex, but their own brand of waterproofing is working quite nicely.  My feet are staying dry, from the outside, at least.

Creek across Twisp Pass Trail

Farther up, the trail turns to stream as the snowmelt overflows its normal banks and takes the path of least resistance – the same one we’re following.  I slosh first, then rock hop.  I’m digging the nice traction on these soles!!   Slosh, hop, slosh, hop!  No problem!  Imagining myself in the next Ahnu commercial, I smile happily and show off the rapidly drying boots with my best thumbs up.  I remember there are no cameras and the trees don’t give two shakes about my boots, and hurry to catch up.

Soaking up the forest scenery, I chatter away like a monkey in a tree.  I know how much Justin just LOVES my insightful observations and thought-provoking conversations….. Look at all these great new flowers!  I haven’t seen these before!  Oh how cute, a little squirrel!  Man, listen to that river raging!  Too bad we can’t see it…can we go see it?  Is bush-whacking allowed?  Aw, did you see the little bitty deer tracks on the trail?  Haha I bet they think we built this trail just for them, silly deer!!

Soon, the roaring rage of the river gets louder.  And what is this?!  A lovely set of steep, narrow rapids which I’m going to call waterfalls?  My favorite!  AND a fork in the trail??  Boy oh boy, decisions, decisions!!  Should we go on to Twisp Pass, or change course and head to Copper Pass instead???  Fortunately for me, the decision is already made and I get to scurry across the downed log serving as a bridge.  I get a little sketched out about half way across as the swirling water beneath me throws my equilibrium a bit off kilter.  Not to worry, I just keep going, and make it to the other side safe and sound.  Whew!

The Junction bridge

The climb starts increasing a bit after the junction, but I don’t even notice.  I’m busy assessing the trail-blocking tree I see up ahead.  Not bad, not bad.  I can take it – I GOT THIS!  I show Justin an open palm:  Saw, please.  Foot propped on the horizontal trunk, I give it all I got.  Back! Forth! Back! Forth!  Time to switch and come up from the under-side.  Back! Forth! Back! Forth!  Wham, bam, thank you ma’am, the trail is once again free and clear.  What would this world do without me?!

Conquering downed trees on Twisp Pass Trail

We press on, when suddenly KA-BAM!!  I jump out of my skin and squeak like a frightened mouse.  (Did that sound seriously just come from me?!?)  The droplets hitting my bare skin confirm the source: that was thunder.  Crikey, we might get stuck in a massive thunderstorm while perched on the side of a mountain!!  I let Justin get a little further ahead, since lightning is most like to strike him and his pack full of metal instruments.  Safety first!

Fortunately, the storm blows over before really doing anything.  And we’ve arrived at the first of many AMAZING look-out points.  I’m not talking “Ooo cool, look, a good view” and continue on.  I mean the kind of vista that stops you in your tracks and makes you pick your jaw up from the rock at your feet.  The valley spread deep in both directions.  Craggy peaks pierced the sky in a full 180 degree view.  The opposing slopes were close enough to see the details of last winter’s avalanches and waterfalls splashing down from the remaining snow fields.  Oh DANG.  Justin had to snap me back to reality and nudge me onward.

Overlooking Abernathy Ridge

Abernathy Ridge!

Soon we are traversing the rock faces.  This trail had been very well build across rock slides and through sheer rock outcroppings.  Yet the steep slopes below us are dramatically bursting with color.  So bright!!  I want to run down and pick some of the intoxicating blossoms!  But that would be death so I don’t.  Hey boots!  Here’s another good test!  I’ll kick a bunch of rocks to see how much abuse your rubber toe guard can take!

Ok, so I was actually staring open-mouthed at the ridge and peak closest to us and kept kicking rocks in the path instead of stepping over them.  Finally, I trip and realize the awesome precipice I’m on and pay more attention.  Leave it to me to accidentally hurl myself off a cliff while trying to see a waterfall on the other side of the valley!  I start watching the ground more closely and find another great surprise: fantastically colored ROCKS!

Rocky Ridge

You may not be aware, but I love rocks.  And these rocks are all sorts of shades of pink and green and sparkly and red and orange.  The exposed rock beneath me and to the right of me have wonderful quartz veins running all over the place.  Did I really fall off the cliff, ’cause I’m in heaven!  Unfortunately, I am falling behind (again) and rush to catch up.  This is no time to be oogling over rocks.

Oh dear merciful God, is that what I think it is???  White, cold, melting…yes, yes, it must be: snow.   Ugh!  I can handle looking at it over on the other peaks but I don’t want to have to hike OVER it!  Justin is already up and over while I’m still contemplating.  The melting water has run down along the trail, under the patch of snow.  I carefully climb up on the very edge and shimmy across to the other side, without falling through.  Well that wasn’t so bad.

Sketchy Snow

Soon, we repeat this performance.  Eh, no big deal.  My boots are doing well on the snow – a fact I’m very grateful for.  The next obstacle, however, makes my breath catch in my throat.  This is an avalanche shoot, and an avalanche came thundering down in the recent past.  We now have to cross over the snow left behind.  I. am. not. excited.

First of all, you can SEE and HEAR the water running under the snow, though you can’t always tell where it is.  How do I know where to go so I don’t crash right through??  Secondly, its an AVALANCHE SHOOT.   One slip and I’m skidding down on my backside to the very bottom!!  That’s a looooong climb back up.   I hear a whimper escape as I see Justin waiting on the other side.  Aw hell….

I jump up on top of the snow and carefully place each foot in the tracks he left behind.  If he managed to go this way without plunging to his death or at least breaking every bone in his body, surely I can make it, too.  Half way across I slip.  Bracing my weight on my other foot, I teeter as I regain my footing.  I take the last few steps quickly and leap across to solid, unfrozen ground.  Sweet mother of all that is good, I hope to not do that again any time soon!!  Wait, this trail isn’t a loop….

I’m no longer looking at the stunning vistas.  My eyes are glued to the ground as we cross snow patch after snow patch.  Its JULY for crying out loud!  Soon the path is gone.  All I see ahead is snow.  Justin seems to know where he’s going, so I once again follow his tracks.  The snow is at least 4-6 feet deep here.  Awesome.  At least if I fall I don’t end up a thousand feet below my starting point.  And why is all this snow streaked with red and orange???  Yellow snow I get, but red??  Algae, Justin says.  Yeah, whatever.

Red Snow on Twisp Pass

We sure as hell better be getting close.  Our quick snack earlier was burned off LONG ago and I’m now struggling, my growling stomach irritating me as much as the crumbling snow.  Justin pulls a leaf from a pretty yellow flower and hands it to me, munching on one of his own.  Are you kidding me??  Taking a bite despite myself, its actually quite yummy.  Glacier lily, he says.  Well, it might be tasty but it sure as hell better not be lunch.

The trees have thinned out, the wind has picked up – we MUST be approaching the pass.  If we aren’t, I’m going home.  I know I’m dragging, and that just pisses me off even more.  I hate being a pansy.  And with all the twists in the trail, I haven’t seen Justin in quite a while…

I come over a small rise and see new peaks.  In fact, I’m surrounded by peaks.  And there’s Justin.  I have reached the top of Twisp Pass.  I want to jump with joy but don’t have the energy.  Its mid-afternoon and I need food and I need it right NOW.  I slouch out of my pack and dive head-first into the lunch Justin packed.  Power bar devoured, nectarine inhaled, cookies long gone, I look for more.  A few cherries are left.  I munch on them while I finally examine the full glory of the scenery around me.

View from the top of Twisp Pass

View from the TOP!

Ok, I have to admit, the views make the awful climb over the snow totally worth it.  Spiky peaks, jagged ridges, high lakes, in full 360 degree panaramas.  I almost tumble off my rocky perch as I continuously, slowly spin, trying to take it all in.  A cool breeze drives me back into my sweaty long-sleeve shirt from earlier.  Ew.

I bend to examine my boots.  They are taking this trip pretty well.  Rocks, water, snow, uphill, and soon, downhill conditions.  My only issues are the old blister’s from last weekend’s trip to Black Lake.  Other than that, all’s peachy!  High-five, boots!!  Now, time for our descent!

Unfortunately, I don’t descend well.  My ankles and knees are big ole babies about it, and by this point, my feet aren’t feeling well either.  Dang, I have got to get out and about more often!  I stop too frequently to stretch out my cramping muscles.  We make it back to trees without Justin throwing me off the cliff to be done with me, which I take as a good sign.

Back at the log bridge by the creek, Justin realizes we’re way behind schedule and picks up the pace.  Why can’t my stupid feet just cooperate?!  Why do my ankles have to be the worst ankles on the whole entire PLANET?!  We’re at least out of the rock so I don’t stumble quite as badly.  But I am absolutely SEETHING with every step.  I like to flit through this world thinking I can do anything I want to, and this trail is trying to prove otherwise.

My inner dialogue is getting pretty colorful.  Instead of humming, I’m now cussing.  I can’t believe my legs won’t keep up – THIS CAN’T HAPPEN.  Every time the trail flattens out a bit, I jog to catch up.  I lengthen my stride and scream internally at my entire muscular system.  At long last, the trees break and we’re back in the parking lot.  Oh hey, there’s Justin, glad he made it, too.  I flop to the ground, spent.  My legs are cussing back at me, threatening to go on strike, and display their anger in bursts of spasms.  My feet just whimper quietly, past the point of anger.

I just don’t get it.  Last weekend we did 10 miles, round trip and I wasn’t nearly this broken down.  Today’s hike was only about 8.5 to 9 miles round trip.  I know there was a lot more climb this time, but come one!  What a wuss!  I am so angry at my own lack of athletic ability that I sit and pout like a 5 year old who just had their candy yanked away.  I don’t care that this is the 2nd longest hike I’ve ever done, or that I spend my life behind a desk, I just can’t believe I’m so out of shape.

Justin must sense my discouragement and buys me dinner on the way home.  I can barely walk into the restaurant, my legs as cooperative as a limp noodle.  I can’t even sleep that night and it takes the whole next day to recover.  My resolve has just deepened.  I will conquer my inability to keep up.  I will destroy my inner pansy.  I will not be the weakest link!!

Oh, and yeah, my boots did great….

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