To Hike or Not To Hike


It’s been a busy week. Two hikes at Mount St Helen’s, the usual tedium of work and all the driving. Yeah, all the driving. Seemed like I might take a break this weekend. But when my niece told me she’d like to do a sunrise hike at Rattlesnake before returning to Portland for the summer, how could I resist ? We made a plan and set our alarms for EARLY.

It is a holiday weekend so we knew we wouldn’t be alone. We met at the small park n ride that sits between us on the map, at 3:50 this morning. We drove the forty-some-odd minutes to the trailhead, parked, grabbed our flashlights and headed up.


It was her first sunrise hike but you’d never know. We kept a swift pace up into the woods with just the light of our two beams. It’s a different trail at this hour. You pay close attention to what lies directly in front of your feet. It’s a good discipline in focus. It feels like a beautiful lesson: occupy the space you occupy.

In only a quarter mile the sky begins to warm with a golden glow. This is civil twilight, my favorite time of day.


The birds were waking up too. She reminded me of our New Years Eve viewing of Planet Earth 2. There was a segment that described how birds stay at a specific altitude. It seemed to explain why the songs in the first mile were different than those in the last mile. Different birds, different heights, different songs.


Rattlesnake is a short trail but not an easy one. It is a 4 mile round trip with 1160 feet of elevation gain. It’s a good workout for sure.

With less than a mile to go, I spied the old trail off of the switchback we were on. I mused that it was steep, but it would save us from the last long switchbacks. I’ve never taken this way up but we agreed to be adventurous. This ” old trail” is unmaintained but still well enough defined that you can follow it even in the dim light. It was longer and steeper than we imagined. Whereas the switchbacks were long and tedious, this trail required both hands grabbing for branches and a steely determination moving forward. We pulled and clawed our way up through the brush to join the trail just shy of the first ledge.


Whew. Not sure that the saved five minutes was worth it but I always love learning new things so there’s that. We pushed on to the second ledge, arriving at the cropping of boulders just as the sun was about to burst out over the horizon.


There was a young man there with his dog but they seemed happy to share this moment. Natalie made a friend of that dog and until they left, it sat quietly staring up at us longing for more of a visit.


My Z Seat was perfect. At a mere 2 oz it is the best new addition to my daypack. I also brought a large Hydroflask of hot chocolate for our “sunrise cups of love”. Perfect.



Beautiful sunrise this morning and sweeping views. A well earned treat. We ventured up to the third ledge before heading back down to the car.




The light hitting the trees gives me a kind of comfort I have no words for. It is shadow and light, breaking of day, a flood of warm. I feel safer here than anywhere on earth.



Thanks to my niece for making the answer to the question of whether to hike or not such an easy one ♡


A young man lost his life earlier this year on the often busy first ledge. This is a lovely place but safety is always the first consideration. Bless this young man.


Stay safe everyone ♡

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