No Soda on Soda Peaks….

10 07 2013

I’m still trying to get past the fact that it’s already July, but even worse is the realization of how little hiking I’ve done so far this summer. Almost none! We did a couple spring hikes, then I started gally-vanting all over the country and haven’t stayed home long enough to squeeze in any hikes. Shame on me, with all this new territory to explore!!

Well, I guess you know where this is going….I went hiking last weekend! And let me tell you, it did NOT go as planned! (Shocking, I know…)

After much whining and lamenting and pouting around the house, J asked if I wanted to go with him on Saturday. Oh, why yes, that would be lovely, how did you know?

So bright and early Saturday morning, I packed my little day pack, laced up my boots, and said a sad farewell to Simba. He knew I was going somewhere fun without him, and I felt bad. Next time, little buddy! I was volunteering for J, and it was not Take-Your-Dog-To-Work-Day. 😦

Off we drove, surprising me yet again that we were going south to go northwest. Those silly mountains in the way! We drove and drove and DROVE! Thankfully this is gorgeous country, so I can’t really complain. We went down and around to the little town of Carson, Washington. The day was shaping up to be beautiful, made a little sweeter by the Junior Mints J picked up when we stopped for gas. I love chocolate for a hike!

The road was a winding, curvy beast, narrow but at least paved. Breaks in the trees revealed stunning views of Mount Rainier and St. Helens. I love the blasted-off section of Helens. It takes me surprise every time I see how close it is!

Cascade Mountains, Soda Peaks WA

Hi-ho, hi-ho, to the mountains we go!

Finally at the trail head, I did some intense and very professional lolly-gagging around while J took care of the official stuff before we could get going. Let’s see…I could tighten this strap, my pack would be a little lighter if I drink some water, this shoe lace should definitely be re-tied!

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, I started feeling the pin-prick bites and immediate itching of a swarm of mosquitoes hosting a block party on my exposed arms, face and neck. With an amazing leap, spin, karate-jump, I began a spastic war dance with flailing arms of swatting fury and shaking get-the-hell-off me leg kicks in a desperate effort to escape the cruel little blood suckers. I successfully dug through my pack and found my last bug-repellent wipe, though how I pulled that off in the midst of my dance, we’ll never know.

J finally came back and we took off at a brisk pace, trying to out-walk the swarms of partying ‘squeeters. The trail had a great incline and the forest was fantastic – a pretty old forest that has the almost park-like appearance it should have. Love it! A new wave of flowers is blooming, too, so I had all sorts of good stuff to gawk at.

Soda Peaks Trail, Cascades, WA

Classic selfie….just me and the trees

Today was not a day for milage – the hike was a measly 3 miles or so. Up 1000 ft, down 1000 ft, and we would arrive at the lake. Cake.

Yeah right. Cruising up the steep trail, I felt a familiar tension in my right calf. That morning I woke up with a weird cramp of sorts, close to a charlie-horse, knotting the top of my right calf. I tried stretching it out when I walked Simba, and stretched it during the whole car ride. I thought I ran it off, shooed it right back to wherever leg cramps come from. But noooooo-ooooooo. With an un-lady-like curse word or two, I stopped on the trail to stretch the muscle against a tree.

This couldn’t be happening. There was NO REASON for my leg to be cramped and knotted like this. It felt not like a cramp but like an injury, yet I had done big fat nothing to sustain an injury. NOTHING. I hadn’t even ran in 5 days!!!

I tried to keep my “injury” to myself and did some pretty amazingly cute attempts to stretch the calf while walking. I mean super cute. It didn’t really help. I had to stop more frequently and J took notice. He asked if I was alright. I muttered more expletives under my breath and kept going. It got worse. My frustration built.  Why can’t I be normal and just go for a simple, pleasant hike in the woods?!

I would like to just include one small detail here: at this point I thought our hike was something like 7 or 8 miles, not 3. And we were barely half a mile in. I was dying, my right leg couldn’t straighten without sending me to the ground howling in pain, and I couldn’t even try to pretend otherwise.

Finally, trying my best not to sound like a 5-year-old drama queen and failing miserably, I flopped to the ground and told J to go on without me. “I’ll be fine, you go. Just come back this way and get me. I’ll just rest here a minute, with the squirrels and birds…and bears….and Big Foot…..” *sniff*

I fully expected J to shrug and say ok.

He did no such thing.

Offering me his hand, he pulled me back to my feet. “We’re almost to the saddle of this little climb. You can rest there while I run down to the lake.”  This is when he told me he changed our route and it was a short day.

The momentary rest had helped and I resolved to push on. And he was right (of course) – the saddle was not far. But I collapsed in tears, struggling to hold it together. I was angry, frustrated, embarrassed, in pain – mostly angry. J pulled out his jacket, checked to make sure I had my pocket knife (you know, in case of Big Foot), and gave me a hug. I could see the lake from my rock seat – he was going to run down, check the campsites and clean up a bit, then be right back. An hour tops. Ok.

Do you have any idea how long an hour is, when you have nothing to do but sit? I wrapped up in J’s jacket – yes, in the shade, at that elevation, a light jacket was welcome – and sat, stretching as best as I could. The view was awesome. So I took pictures. I took pictures of everything in sight, until my phone had enough and turned off.

Mt Rainier from Soda Peaks, WA

Hey Rainier! You’re looking mighty and tall today! Oh, you’re tallest of all? Well aren’t you special….

Rainier through the trees, Soda Peaks WA

Geez Rainier, there you are again…two bad those silly trees are kind of in the way. Your foothills are looking nice, though!

Trapper Creek Wilderness, Cascades WA

Oh boy, we’re in the WILDERNESS now! Weird that I get cell reception…. Oh well, the bearded trees make up for it.

Mt St Helens from Soda Peaks WA

St Helens, is that you?! Oh hey girl hey! (You might have to squint a bit to see her off in the distance….)

I studied every inch of the lake, until I finally saw some movement and watched a couple people messing around by the water. I could hear the voices of conversation, the laughter of fun times. I glowered at my calf, detesting its weakness. I wanted to be down there so bad!

Soda Peaks Lake, Cascade Mountains, WA

Look real hard, right there in the middle – see the lake? I never made it.

I munched on my lunch and drew in the dirt with a stick. I leaned against a tree and watched a pair of birds playing in another tree. I pondered the mysteries of life and sang my ABCs. I was just about to start counting the needles on the closest tree branch when I heard voices. And these were not from the lake.

A couple walked up, the dude shirtless, the girl in the most amazing galaxy-print tights I’ve ever seen. I sat and had a lovely conversation with them while the guy chain-smoked. He was from the area and had all sorts of great info to fill my ears. For instance, I had better get to exploring, as the Cascade Wilderness stretched all the way to Canada and included all the mountains in Washington!! (So not true. Any of it) And that I should work to get in shape so I could do some of the awesome trails from the other side that where crazy long – almost SEVEN miles! (I can run that before this tool even gets up in the morning.) And that you have to be careful of the dangerous wildlife but the fishing is great, and he could show me how to fish by hand if I wanted! (He also told J about the flint and snares he carries for survival. Just in case.)

Power to ya, dude, but you wouldn’t last 14 seconds in the Pasayten Wilderness. Now put out your cancer sticks, don’t litter, and move along. I have Silver Fir needles to count.

Another group wandered up not long after, 3 dudes, 1 older, 2 younger. They were newbies to the woods, I could tell, but they were nice. I have to give them credit for getting out and trekking out side of their comfort zones. They were worried about how much farther they had to go and I pointed to the lake below. “Whoa! That’s far! We better get going so we can make it before dark!” It was probably about 1pm, maybe 2 at the latest. And they only had about 3/4 of a mile to go.

But different people have different perspectives, and skill levels, and knowledge. I hang out with a dude who enjoys dragging me taking me on 3-day excursions through 30 miles of unmaintained trails up down ridiculous peaks. But these folks are probably all from Portland, and a visit to the woods typically means car camping. To each his own. I haven’t always been able to do this, either.

After chastising myself for scoffing at these strangers and mentally making fun of them, I humbled my arrogant self by looking down at my traitorous calf and reminding myself that they were all covering more ground than I was, they were all hiking just fine and I was the injured one. Meekly getting to feet, I put my pack back on. I stretched for the bazillionth time and turned back to the trail. Chanting “I’m not a pansy, I’m not a pansy, I’m not a pansy…” all the way, I began a slow hobble. Down the trail I went, slowly, carefully, deliberately.

I made it down about 50 feet when I saw a familiar green shirt: J, hustling up the trail in his usual fast, mountain-goat uphill charge. He looked a bit startled to see me and asked how I was. I turned around, defeated. No lake for me. Probably for the better, as going down hill means you have to go back uphill, and I wasn’t doing well with uphill today.

The short walk back to the truck was easier, less painful, a little faster. We chatted about the people we had met, and how this area attracts a different crowd, being more accessible and so close to Portland. I admire people who get out and do things they don’t normally do, but I get irritated and highly offended when people don’t pay attention and do stupid stuff, like leaving hot campfires and littering. (Why can’t people understand that toilet paper is litter? It is NOT biodegradable to the extent you think it is, and doesn’t dissolve with the first rain. It sits there on the ground, ugly and disgusting, until some poor Ranger picks it up. Pack it IN, pack it OUT! Ok, rant over.)

Back at the truck, I sadly settled in for the ride back. I got to see Soda Peaks, yes, but not the lake. And my Great Wonderful Summer Hiking turned out to be no more than a pansy rest on the saddle of one of the Soda Peaks, while my pathetic calf muscle seized and cramped. Amateur hour.

And as we pulled out of the parking lot and I scratched my many bites, I realized with a jolt: I didn’t even get any SODA on SODA Peaks!!!

And it was definitely a Dr Pepper kind of day….






2 responses

17 07 2013
jee scapes

Ya, that’s a tough hike to start and finish. You should tell J to rebuild that trail and make it more friendly!

18 07 2013

Oh I told him alright! 🙂 Obviously his fault I didn’t make it, right??

Give it to me straight -

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