I have just become the woman who wears socks with sandals and a layer of sunscreen across my nose. I am annoyed by loud people, I have a gum injury from inadvertantly stabbing myself with my toothbrush and I wear an ID bracelet every time I leave the house. I don’t shower on hike mornings and my clothes are fitting a little wonky these days. I don’t know when it happened. I especially don’t know how. But here it is. It’s happened. 

I’m okay with all of that actually. I’m in bed by 8:30 and up by 4:30 ready to enjoy the world the younger crowd has no use for before noon. I see more birds, less people. I can shoot a landscape without a ball-capped head in the frame. I spend money on books and experiences, not clothes or nights out. And jewelry ? One white-gold band. I threw the watch out with the alarm clock (so to speak). I’ll take a tankful of gas any day. 

My trip reports or adventure notes are not for those who burn up the trails with their fit bodies and lightening fast speed. My trip reports are for the rest of us. You know, the ones who are learning about the trail and contributing in ways the younger crowd can’t. Those of us who dawdle and take photos and drink it all in, shadows and light, flora and fauna, rain or shine.

Monday, the word of the day was reconnaissance. I headed to Pinnacle Saddle at Mount Rainier to check out the snow conditions on the trail. I plan to fully explore this trail to Plummer Peak later in the summer. Full disclosure: my next birthday is the big 60 and I am 8 years into a 10 year partial knee replacement. Snow matters. 

It was quiet at Reflection Lake. Just a couple of cars and not a single person. I head up the Pinnacle trail alone. The sun had already been up more than an hour and it was pouring through trees onto the path. The mountain is behind me as I begin my walk up. It’s just 1.3 miles to the saddle but it always feels longer to me. 

There’s a few muddy spots early on, then snow. Not a lot of snow, and not difficult to cross, but it gets your attention. I put on my spikes. I grab a single trekking pole. In early July you don’t want to have a stupid fall. (Well, I never want to have a stupid fall … )

For this early in July, an historic heat wave behind us, the trail has weathered the winter well. Mountain heather is starting to bloom as well as tiny shoots of lupine. Paintbrush come up in color spots dotting the landscape and I expect it will bloom soon too. The avalanch lilies are legendary on this trail and they are with you all the way up. 

The Western Pasque flower has a visible life cycle here at the mountain. It emerges from the snow in early summer and quickly opens to creamy blooms with a pale blue underside. The bloom is brief and as the petals fall, they take on a new stage in the form of a green sea anemone. Balls of soft spiky “hairs” rise above fern-like foliage below. Here are a few cycle pictures.

But getting back to that snow…

It’s pesky. I counted twelve crossings but just a handful I would call “dicey”. As the snow melts it gets slippery and spikes are all but useless. There are snow and ice “bridges” in several spots and on the slopes it can be tricky. Maybe a week or two until it is snow free. The bugs are out too. Really annoying. My best advice, keep moving.

See that mosquito ?

The trail is snow-free the last .3 miles and the views are stunning. I won’t describe the views for you. You really need to stand in that stone gateway and see for yourself.

I’ve been listening to Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods in my car the last couple days. I try to picture myself with a 40 pound pack, trudging up these trails but I think that ship may have sailed for me. For now, I will savor my mornings alone near the mountain ( if only for a couple hours) and revel in the solitude of an alpine hike. 

Squirrels, marmots and pikas too !

I’m participating in the Washington Trails Hike-a-Thon this August. It’s such a wonderful organization and my source for all things trails. I have contributed over the years by writing trip reports of my adventures. (The report from this trip will be #81) I rely on trip reports like maps. (Well, more than maps actually).

You can find me on WTA by searching TwoGrunts.

This year I’ll commit to hiking my heart out in August. I’m hoping to hike between 40 and 50 miles during the month and add a few new trails to my “life list” of boots on the trail.

Here is the link to my fundraising page if you are so inclined. Thank you as always for joining me here.

16 Comments on “Ch-Ch-Changes

  1. Everyone of your stories delight me! I love your photos and your words! Thank you so very much for sharing your adventures with us!

  2. Wonderful morning reading, and the captures of the mountain and her subjects, stunning as always. Keep trukkin’, sandals and sox and all. And thanks for leaving stupid behind while mastering intrepid!

    • Haha … yes, I’d like to think I’m getting wiser not just older. I’m feeling really strong my last couple outings, now if only I could lose that pesky “Covid-10” … thanks, as always, for the kind words. ❤

  3. It’s a popular look I think . Fashionistas be damned ! Thanks for the kind words. It’s pretty beautiful up there despite the lingering snow. I would say I’m way more intrepid than stupid most days 😊 Stupid would have been Plummer Peak with slippery slopes and no bug spray. The skeeters are ferocious this year ! And as you’ve seen yourself, the critters are plump and plentiful. Thanks for being here in my orbit.

  4. This post made me laugh. From the socks (I have the same ones) with Tevas (I leave the house in socks with Tevas to drive to the trailhead) to the splatted marmot. And yeah, no, not hiking the Saddle before the snow melts. You ARE intrepid. Or stupid. Your photos are gorgeous. That goes without saying. I surely do not know how you got the pika to stop for you. Kudos.

  5. You’re an inspiration! What joy you are finding while expressing your full self at the same time. I have to tell you a funny story: before I retired I worked for VA and in the federal building we had to go through a metal detector every morning. One day I went through and the alarm went off and I was baffled. “What could it be?” I asked the security guard, rhetorically. He looked pointedly at my feet. “Uh. Socks with sandals, ma’am.” I laughed so hard. I don’t remember what the problem actually was, but I’ll remember his joke forever. I can relate to everything you say and I’m 51. Well, possibly not the violent tooth-brushings, but injuries over stupid things: yes.

    Your photos are outstanding and your tenacity to make 12 snow crossings impressive. I never see marmots on the trail, and you caught one body surfing. So cool. Also the life cycle of the Pasque flower answers some questions. I’ve seen the wild hair on the last stage, and had no idea it was a flower in its former life.

    • Thank you so much for everything ! The kind words and especially the generous donation to WTA for the trails are much appreciated !! I love the story … sandals and socks are definitely a thing ! I’m looking forward to a wonderful summer of adventure ! Finding joy in every step ♡

  6. I just read your first paragraphs aloud to a couple people around me as I sit here in Bend watching smoke take over blue skies and the heat closing in. Such a perfect portrait of what it is to age. I’ve been laughing at myself for wanting to go to sleep at 8:30 (stop acting so OLD), but the problem is I’ve been waking at 4:30 no matter what I do and 6 hours a night is giving me brain damage. I know I need to give in to it and just embrace it and find somewhere cool to go at 4:30am… Seizing life around you with both hands is the very best way of traversing our 60s. Thanks for all the beauty!

    • Haha … aging is not for sissies ! I’m still feeling great on the trails, but I recognize the changes as they settle in. Not bad things, but definitely surprising. I highly recommend black-out shades and earplugs. Wait ? Is that another change ?? Thanks for writing !

  7. Love your writing, very entertaining. Sounds like you love your life! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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