Sunday, September 7, 2008

Table Mountain

Loni and I hiked Table mountain yesterday (Saturday.) It was far more difficult than the trip reports indicated. At no point did I expect this to turn into a scramble with severe drops mere feet away, but Loni conquered her vertigo and we made it to the top. She elected to skip the last quarter-mile along the ridge to the overlook, to avoid aggravating her phobia. From the very edge of the cliff, you stand above a 500 foot drop. Turns my stomach, it does. Although, there is something fascinating about the feeling of falling. It's not the fall that hurts, it's when you hit the ground. True as in so many other areas of life!

The good:
We started from the Bonneville trailhead, which connects to the PCT pretty dang quick. The PCT was great, blackberries and birds along with various interesting scat to examine. We passed some lovely little ponds, although some people would call them lakes. This section of trail was fairly gentle. There was also a PCT trail crew cleaning up some of the underbrush and digging culverts. It looked like it might be worth joining one of those crews to learn how to build trails. We also found lots of mushrooms (Yay for chantrelles!) and may have spotted a pileated woodpecker. The view from the overlook was CRAZY. My legs turn into jello when I see that kind of drop. Gravity all of a sudden seems excessively potent and my heart starts skipping. I was so scared I almost cramped my taint from nervousness. God, what a rush. We also met some very nice peeps on the way up, Neil and Sarah, who gave us a ride to the car when we went back their shorter route. They are new transplants to Oregon, and I tried to give them some advice on good hikes and mushroom picking out here.

Advice: always worth about what you pay for it.

The bad:
We hiked through a few stands of stumps, the remains of previous clearcuts. The two trails that used to fork off the PCT to summit Table Mt. were re-built at some recent point to avoid delicate ecological areas. Never having been up this mountain previously, I cannot compare the replacements. The route I selected bypassed the first arm of the loop and continued a half-mile further along the PCT. Leaving only 0.75 miles in which to climb a quarter-mile. It was a steep, rocky scramble. Exhausting and sometimes a little terrifying. Fortunately, the way back was almost as awful. One particular stretch was a "talus field" which is the usual volcanic rock pile down a slope that we've previously called scree. The two routes (East & West) comprise the "Heartbreak Ridge Trail" as the kiosk labeled it. Cheesy name, but pretty accurate.

The ugly:
We didn't bring enough water for the full 15 mile hike. We again didn't keep up with our caloric needs going up the hill, resulting in brain and muscle fatigue. The downhill section of the scramble was super hard on the feet and I've got some achy arches from walking across pointy rocks for what seemed like ages. Finally, I completely underestimated the hike. Simple math mistake: 7.5 miles to climb 4300 feet. Nobody tells you that all the climbing is in the last two miles! I've been officially fired as hike selector by Loni. This means that I will have to do my last few gorge hikes solo, because they are tough and I don't really trust any of my other hiking buddies to handle it. I'll probably pony up for an emergency beacon first, because some of the last few beastly hikes look to be slightly risky.

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