I hiked along the trail, feeling optimistic. It seemed easier than the last time I hiked it. This was probably due to the fact that last time I had backpacked up to the lookout for the night, hauling up extra clothes, a sleeping bag and pad, and lots of food. But I chose to think that the rest of the day, which involved a stiff climb up a trailless peak, accompanied by a bushwhack that was described as negotiating "a ridiculous amount of downed trees," wouldn't be so bad.
We sat at the fire lookout, debating. The trail alone was 12 miles round trip; a trip report on a peakbagging website stated that it took the climbers five more hours to summit the peak and return to the lookout. But the days were long and we were already here. How bad could it be? We would try it. We set a turn around time, one that, similar to doomed Everest climbers, we would then ignore.
We set off into the woods and soon found ourselves thrashing through a steep forest of alders, dead trees, and other flourishing vegetation. Occasionally a game trail would give us hope, only to fade out or head in the wrong direction. Bears probably didn't want to walk in here either. Finally we emerged on top of a nearly 8000' foot peak.
From here, the route to the main mountain was described as "an easy ridge walk." These are not the words I would use. We downclimbed. losing elevation and then gaining it again. There were some problem cliffs to avoid. There may have been some whining on some scary scree. The wind picked up just to make it more sporty. I arrived at the summit, glanced at the USGS marker, and immediately turned to leave.
By then it had started to rain, making the downclimb less pleasant. We counted how many times we fell, tripped up by slippery beargrass and roots. Stumbling out of the woods, we found the fire lookout to be a pleasant sight.
We still had six miles to go though, and if we didn't hustle, we would be hiking out in the dark. We hurried along, at one point encountering a solo hiker we had seen on the peak. "Are you guys from here? And you bag peaks?" he asked. Yes. Yes, we do! Happily we reached the trailhead. The sun was setting. We had a two hour drive ahead of us. We were tired, but happy.
We aren't young anymore like some of the hikers we meet on our adventures. Sometimes we get nervous on terrain that at one time we might have scampered up without a second thought. We get aches and pains, and we are more cautious of our knees than we used to be. But we are still out there, doing hard things. And having adventures.