The Climb: A Hiking Story

Pandemic restrictions being lessened, thanks in no large part to enough people being vaccinated, led to my first trip to Seattle in several years, for Homecoming weekend. And while the football game Saturday evening did not turn out optimally, Sunday was quite the day.

I took a little hike.

Well, it wasn’t exactly “little.”

One goal for the weekend was to catch up with old friends. And for one of those, he said that he often spend his Sundays hiking. I asked if I could tag along.

After some back and forth about what I might be capable of, he ended up taking me on a hike that really, really pushed my limits, but was also awesomely beautiful. Named the Granite Creek Trail to Granite lake, it was, according to the Washington Trails Association website, an 8.8-mile hike with an altitude gain of more than 2000 feet.

Now that 8.8 miles is out and back. So that means that more than 2000 feet of gain is over the 4.4-mile “out part. That’s about a foot of altitude increase for every 10 feet of trail, on average. Of course, no trail is simply a steady incline, but has many ups and downs over its course, and this was no different.

We had dim sum late in the morning and then made the drive from Seattle to the trailhead, starting out about noon. This was the first photo I took, early on the way up, almost certainly at a point where I desperately needed a pause:

I was quite happy that I had packed my travel zoom, a Canon PowerShot SX740 HS, on the trip and that I brought it with me on this hike. It’s capabilities are so much better than a phone camera.

My friend was used to these hikes, and started at a pretty good pace. I was gung-ho to keep up, but I fairly quickly realized that this was more bravado than ability. Right from the beginning, this trail was determined to go up, and go up quickly.

The trail spends a lot of time adjacent to Granite Creek (thus its name), and here are a couple more photos of the creek:

At the 1.3 mile point, we’ve already gone up 1680 feet, and at the 1.6 mile point, there’s a bridge over the creek:

The creek at this point looks pretty awesome:

One of the interesting things about being up here in the mountains is that various types of landslides happens. Here’s one that I spotted through a break in the trees higher up on the trail.

As we got higher into the mountains, I was really dragging. Despite having gotten back out onto the soccer field in recent months, and despite having gotten back into the gym fairly regularly where I was spending time each session working on my cardio, it turns out I wasn’t really quite up for this much effort.

Fortunately, my friend was sensitive to this as we did take the occasional break, sometimes even to grab a swig of water.

And we finally made it to Granite Lake. Wow, the water was mirror-smooth.

There was a large mostly flat rock where we could just flop down and rest a bit. You may notice a wisp of cloud at the top of that photo. It turned out to be a marvelous day for hiking, considering it was autumn in the Pacific Northwest. Almost, but not quite sunny, temperatures around 60, barely a breeze. But there was a storm coming, due in later than night, and that wisp of cloud was an indicator of what was to come.

But needed to rest. I was not only pretty exhausted already, I was soaked. I had ditched my hat and sweatshirt early on, and still, my t-shirt had nary a dry spot by the time we got to the lake. We couldn’t rest all that long; I did have a flight to catch later that night. It was about at that point that I noticed the bottom legs of my pants had caught some mud on the way up. I figured I’d have to change into my previously used pants when I got back.

But first, a few more photos of the lake.

And this might be my favorite, the one photo I took with my iPhone, a panoramic photo taken from a rock close to the shore:

I thought heading down would be easier than going up. I was wrong. Of course, I knew this from my days way back when when I ran cross country in high school. Not so much harder on the lungs, but harder on the legs. The hike down really was work to not go too fast, in no small part because this was a rocky trail and the footing was occasionally precarious.

I took only one photo on the way down, something that looked kind of interesting:

We made it back to the trailhead as the skies were getting grayer. I hadn’t really noticed, but the hike took almost 5 hours. We actually had to get moving back, and we hit the road as soon as we took bio breaks. Made it back to the hotel, where I picked up my bag and got the shuttle to the aitport in time to catch my flight.

Unfortunately for my fellow passengers, I needed up not changing pants. Fortunately, I did have a shirt to change into, and I had mostly dried out by the time we boarded, so all was good.

And while I was utterly exhausted, I hope we can go on a hike like that my next trip. Maybe not quite that long or going up quite that high, but it was still an amazing experience.

And finally, data. I kind of brain farted at the beginning, but after we’d been walking some 20–30 minutes, I realized that my Apple Watch not only could track this as a workout, its GPS would show the route. So I started a workout. And these are the results:

And it’s this data stuff that’s extra cool. You can see, for example, that I started the “workout” after we started. The Apple Watch is able to not only track the route, but the elevation change. I had my heart rate well up, and I burned a LOT of calories. (Sadly, that did not translate to a better number when I stepped on the scale the next morning.)

So there you have it, a super awesome and exhausting day in the Pacific Northwest.

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