It's out there. Right at the end of this week. August.
Ever since I started participating in WTA's Hike-A-Thon my perspective on this month has changed. It's no longer 31 days, but 744 hours of hikable time. Taking part in the Hike-a-Thon means that I am collecting pledges for each mile I can hike in August. (So far, I'm up to $2.25/mile and still looking for sponsors). The more I hike, the more I'll earn for WTA and as a "seasoned" participant, I've learned that Hike-a-Thon takes both dedication and strategy.
As someone with a penchant for peaks, I have to revise my typical hiking agenda for Hike-a-Thon success. For instance, I spent this past weekend climbing Mt. Shuksan. It's the tenth highest peak in Washington, but, in the scheme of things, it's really not that many miles. Never mind that on Saturday, tent to tent, I spent a full 16 hours moving over rugged terrain from Lake Ann to the top of Mt. Shuksan. My teammates and I scrambled up the gullies known as the Fisher Chimneys, traversed the Upper Curtis Glacier, crossed Hell's Highway, plodded across the top of the Sulphide Glacier and, finally, climbed the summit pyramid. It was a lot of elevation gain, but, remember, my pledges are PER MILE. This won't do at all.
Clearly, my hiking style has to take a 180 degree turn starting Saturday. (And, really, the timing couldn't be better for a change of scene. I'm ready to move out of the monotone snowfields and talus slopes and into abundantly colorful wildflower meadows!) If I am going to reach my personal goal of covering 101 miles in a single month, I need to stay away from climbs and scrambles. I'll need some trails where I can really pack in the mileage. For maximum efficiency, they shouldn't be too steep, but, then again, August is such a great month to be up in alpine terrain. Looks like they've got to gain some elevation, after all.
So, how to choose? I put WTA's online Hiking Guide to the test. If you have an inkling to hike, but no particular place in mind, this is a great place to get ideas. And, in the "advanced search options," you can put all sorts of parameters on your search. For Elevation Gain, I selected "Moderate 1,500' - 3,000'" and for Mileage Range, "Over 12 miles."
And, voila, I now have 11 great hikes that meet my criteria. According to WTA's hiking guide, here are a few places I should check out next month:
Larch Lakes: "These little-visited gems of the Entiat are a lake-lover’s dream. Tucked away cliff side, they are surrounded by subalpine meadows, and the path to them affords great views of the Entiat Range." That's 18 miles that doesn't sound too shabby! It was also featured in WTA's 2007 Endangered Trails, so it would provide a good chance to see how the trail has fared since the Tinpan Fire.
Royal Basin: I have been here before, so I know this stretch of the Olympics is gorgeous country and a WTA Backcountry Response Team worked here last summer, so I am sure that the tread will be in good shape. I might just have enough energy to tack on another quick hike in the area while I am there.
Lyman Lakes: WTA volunteer crews have spent happy weeks maintaining this 20 mile trail that takes hikers from valley floor, past waterfalls, and eventually up to the emerald green lakes. Might just be time to check it out!
This is a good start, but I am still open to suggestions. Please, post them in the comments! And, if you think of a great high mileage hike that's not yet in our hiking guide, please write it up.
There's just one thing I am worried about now and that is berries. I can be cruising along at a good steady pace, but if a slope full of berries materializes...well, I might just be there until twilight. I am hoping to use this berry addiction to my advantage though. I recently spotted a sweet patch of red huckleberries on Squak Mountain and that's just a short drive from the city.
Let's pencil that in for an after-work hike.