PiB: Ararat, Saturday. Interested?
Me: Yes. What's the latest you're willing to leave?
PiB: How early is too early for you?
Me: Can we do 6:00?
PiB: 5:30. You can sleep while I drive.
4 hours sleep and PiB is right on time. 2.5 hours, 100+ miles, and a couple of coffee stops later and we're at the TH. Run into Zachster and HikingQueen who are both on their way to do a little trail maintenance (hats off to you, ladies!), but other than that, the lot @ Kautz Creek is pretty empty. A bit of futzing here and there and we're on the trail by 8:30.
The first mile-ish is a nice and easy leg stretcher - wake the body up, get the blood flowing, find the rhythm.
Cross Kautz Creek and the fun begins. Steep (seriously, but not quite brutally) for the next mile or so, steeper, now aided by a couple (but not many) switchbacks, for the next mile-ish, easing off a bit for about 0.5 miles, then RFS (with some short tight switchbacks) for another 0.5 miles. All of this is done under beautiful forest canopy and, for today, cloud cover. Both of these helps keep things cooler but the high humidity works against us. We're hot, sweating, and sucking down fluids like crazy. Luckily, there are treasures in the forest to keep us distracted, things like saprophytes (lower down)
and patches of avalanche lilies (higher up),
a creek crossing (nice bridge, opportunity to dunk a hat or bandana in cool clear waters),
and snow (right around 4800' and a little over 4 miles in).
Once we hit snow, some route finding is necessary, first a little (because it is a little bit of snow - patchy - about mile 4.0), then a lot (can you guess? yes, a lot of snow - less patchy, more consistent - about mile 5.0). The waypoints PiB has loaded into her GPS confirms we were staying on track. Have to pull out the map at one point but quickly find our location and the track. Pick up a hiking companion right about here as well - nice guy, happy as we are to be on the trail.
We pick our way up the trail (which is now consistently playing hide and seek) until around 5,600' and on the ESE side of Ararat. Here, we leave the trail and start slogging our way steeply up the snow.
Our new companion chooses to join us.
By now, the sun is out and there are few trees to provide shade. It's starting to get quite warm (PiB would say "HOT") and progress is made slowly. None of us have stopped thus far for a rest or food (though I always munch on bars along the way) and we're feeling the effects of lacking proper fuel for the final push. Quads are burning and more fluids are continually sucked down. And then, we hit a high point, not the summit, but close, and with some shade. Here is where we choose a short re-fuel break, give the quads a rest, put a couple calories in the body.
Rested and loaded, we don our packs and traipse the final couple-300 yards to tag the true summit (which doesn't have a view of the mountain that is god),
then head over to the bump with the fine campsite (which does have a view - IN YOUR FACE)
and take a load off for an all-too-brief lunch. About 20 minutes of eating, drinking, chatting, and photographing and it's time to think about heading down.
There's still a long way to go (another 6-ish miles).
Our new companion chooses to stay on Ararat for a bit of a power nap, but PiB and I both know he'll pass us on the way down. Down is hard for both of us - me with old knees and Pib with new knees.
The trip down is pretty direct, re-tracing footsteps through snow then cruising down trail. What takes us about 5.5 hours up (which includes photo stops because we both take pictures) only takes us about 4 hours down. We're back at the TH at 6:30 and on our way home by 7.
Another crappy trip with a crappy drive (pavement all the way, baby), crappy weather (cool and overcast in the morning clearing to beautiful blue skies with scattered clouds in the afternoon, thunderheads gathering just as we leave the summit but nothing comes of it),
crappy hike (nothing to look at but old trees, saprophytes, avalanche lilies, and in your face views of the mountain that is god),
and crappy company (PiB).
Yeah. My life sux.
-------------- Tomorrow's not promised to anyone, so be bold, scare yourself, attempt something with no guarantee of success. You'll be amazed at what you can achieve. -Olive McGloin
Crap! I didn't know that was you in the parking lot with Janet! I'm so sorry I didn't stop to say hello!
Glad you got up Ararat. That can be a brutal trip if it's hot. The Kautz trail was my first ever hike at MRNP and it nearly killed me! We knew nothing about hiking back then and just saw a trailhead sign and said let's do it! Knew nothing about elevation, mileage, etc... Wearing sneakers, blue jeans, no packs.... It pretty near killed me but I remember as I was gasping for breath I realized that I had just found my new calling. And I haven't stopped hiking since!
-------------- "May I always be the kind of person my dog thinks I am"
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