It’s ya boy—the chronically underdressed hiker—back at it again with another regaling tale of heroism and adventure! Gather round the campfire and listen in awe as I unfold a masterfully crafted tapestry of hopes and dreams—yes, you heard me right—hopes and dreams. We’re not here to play, we’re here to go HAM.
Now, with Papa John himself personally arriving at my home in twenty minutes to reward my trek with only the finest Italian-American cuisine, I’m afraid this write-up won’t be lengthy. Be still my children, dry your eyes. Realize that what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in girthy goodness—I’m here to please.
And what could possibly be more pleasurable than an obscure history lesson?
Mt. Si. Originally believed by the Snoqualmie Tribe to be the body of the moon, fallen to earth after succumbing to trickery from the wilier forest animals. Thanks to modern science, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that Mt. Si is likely not in fact the body of our second-favorite celestial body. (first-favorite being Uranus, heyo!)
I woke up at 9am—only my second Saturday free from the clutches of a draconian corporation over the past 3 months—and my very first thought?
“I’m going to watch a guy play video games on YouTube for a few hours before leaving the sheltering embrace of my blanket fort.”
How I went from that admittedly Very Good Idea to “let’s hike a mountain” I cannot say, but alas… 40 minutes later I was driving 35 miles to Mt. Si with 400mg of ibuprofen, 100mg of caffeine, and remnants of last night’s pizza all sharing an uneasy embrace within my gut.
Mt. Si is—to describe it as my hiking soul mate would—breath-taking. Eye-opening. Heart-achingly beautiful. It is her very favorite hike on this entire planet, and she’s told me this no less than 50 times. Likely because I can’t really comprehend her thought process behind said opinion, and I keep asking her to repeat herself. To me Mt. Si is the most average hike imaginable.
8 miles round-trip?
Minimal flat sections, minimal steep sections, zero brutally steep sections?
Decent overall traction, with a mix of smallish rocks, a few roots, and hard packed trail?
View at the top of various other local mountains, and—oh wait... Is that the highway..?
Again, quite average.
Si does have one quality completely unique to it though, and that quality is… A frustrating penchant for obfuscation. Let me explain. Having done Si near a dozen times, when I think of this hike I imagine a super easy stroll up the mountain. Get out of the car, walk a bit, hit the summit, run down. Boom. Done. Driving home. However… While Si is no Mailbox Peak—not even a Blanca Lake level endeavor—it is not easy. Nor quick. Time and time again, Mt. Si refutes my expectations, dashes my preconceived notions, and makes a complete mess of my evening plans. And time and time again… As soon as I complete the hike, my brain refuses to accept the reality that Si is not in fact a 45 minute stroll in the park, and will usually steal 5+ hours from me.
I vowed that this time things would be different.
There was one goal today. Speed. Like a 16 year-old bequithed a turbo Busa from that one uncle—you know the one—I ripped the throttle and held on for dear life. Earbuds in, custom playlist half death metal and half hardstep club music, the likes of which blare out from a wall of speakers in the hottest clubs worldwide. Powering past jagged breathing and jellified muscle fibers through sheer will, this was the first time in my life that I considered myself a “hiker”, as apposed to an “adventure lover who happens to hike sometimes”.
Pants were left at home, replaced with silk-thin basketball shorts. Traction spikes were untied from their usual resting spot on the outside of my pack. Gloves and hat removed from stash pocket. Food left in the car. Mid-layers were left at home. A thin base layer and an emergency wind-breaker rolled up into a fist-sized bundle were all I brought to keep my torso toasty.
My only concessions to weight were my trusty pair of boots, and mountaineering-thick knee-high wool socks.
I was That Guy, blowing by everyone with thighs bare to the world as God intended, forearms unencumbered by the weight of sleeves.
And you know what? It felt great. I found my niche, and that is as the ultra-light guy. Sure, Mr 80 liter pack over there might have the gear to comfortably survive any unfortunate happenings, but my goal is not to be reactive. I’m trying to be proactive. Stay a step ahead of misfortune, two steps ahead of the weather, and twenty steps ahead of every other hiker on the trail. Oh and I don’t believe in hiking poles. Perfect traction is for wussies. REAL hikers learn to LOVE the aches and pains felt in their knees for days after a hike.
Final time was 88 minutes from trailhead to the top, and 91 minutes back down. Not bad for a steepish hike through mud, and up to a foot of snow. Temps were 41°F at the bottom, and colder at the top. Shorts kept me from overheating, and the windbreaker was put on once I started the descent. All-in-all, this was the most successful gear load out of the year, and the approach I’ll use for the remainder of my cold-weather hikes this season. At no point was I miserable, and comfort level was kept in the goldilocks zone of “cold enough to make you move faster without being unsafe”.
On the way down I came across a young woman jogging uphill, in shorts and a tank top. Snow still falling in thick chunks, I jumped out the way with a massive grin, yelling “is that all you got?! Pick up the pace!”
Never breaking stride, she turned her head back and said, “you’re right! Thanks!” before speeding up even more.
It was the most profoundly beautiful moment I’ve ever been a part of.
I’ve got tomorrow free, which means tonight I get to enjoy something I’ve been missing for a very long time.
Chang, baby! Thailand’s best delivered straight to my door! Along with about 10 different ciders.