Mount Walker — Monday, Apr. 6, 2009
Spring Break chores can wait when it's sunny, so the Boy and I headed for our first trip up Mt. Walker, along with my Nephew and his 5-month old son. Boy wants to go out for track at the middle school next week, so I offered him a chance to stretch out those pipe cleaners he calls legs. At 10 AM we were the sixth car in the parking space off Highway 101. The road to the top of Mt. Walker is gated shut for the off-season, but about 12 cars can fit in the spot between the highway and the gate. The Nephew loaded baby on the front and diapers, formula, bottles, camera, oh and his lunch on the back. Nice to have THOSE days in the rear-view mirror! It's a quick, short quarter-mile up the road to the trailhead sign, where we stop for the traditional photo (so we can tell our hike pictures apart!). We checked in at the trail register (note: they need more blank trail logs) and started up the trail, which is beautifully shaded and very green. The tall rhodies will look beautiful later on, but there were few flowers of any kind blooming at this stage. The trail is in great shape; one of the nicest things about it is how clean it is; are the locals meticulous about picking up trash? Good for them! The "book" on this trail talks about 10% and 20% grades. It feels like the tens are all on the first half of the trail, and the twenties are on the second half. Partway up I shouldered the Nephew's backpack; he didn't know how much heat 16 pounds of active baby can generate in a front pack! By some judicious use of my staff (!) and various promises about the views, I got my crew up the 2 miles and 2000 feet in about 2 hrs and change. It's a fairly easy conditioner, but I have to admit I heard someone puffing hard at one point that sounded a lot like me. The views at the top are as advertised; clear skies and 60 degree weather are the right combination for sitting and staring at Mt. Baker, Mt. Townsend (oh, the SNOW on that one!) and other Olympics from the North Mt. Walker Viewpoint. The bench makes a perfect place to relax, eat lunch, and change a diaper. The Boy explored the area and found picnic tables, vault toilets, and the parking area back in the trees, but skulking in the trees is more his thing; I like open viewpoints and heights. The trip down was smooth and quick, though we dawdled down at about a 1:15 pace (no sense jamming the toes more than needed). As always, I'm surprised at the people you find heading up as late as 2:30 PM, but to each their own. We celebrated as usual with hand-dipped ice cream at the Hoodsport Coffee Company (new owners took over 5 months ago, so be sure to stop in and support them!). A great hike, and a highly-recommended early-season leg stretcher, at least before the road opens up and you have to share space and views with the car crowd.