After 3 3/4 years, I finally completed the 50k elevation challenge (for geocaching) in October with my friend Jes.
I logged far more than than 50k of elevation over the period, but the challenge had so many rules that many of my hikes didn’t count. In fact, for a while I had kind of given up even tracking gain. I was tantalizingly close after a huge boost in July from Cycle Canada but resigned to completing the official challenge in 2015. In September, Jes mentioned that she wanted to go to Mailbox Peak, and let me tag along. The elevation gain (>4000′) put us both over the cutoff. On that trip, we schemed on how we might finish it off while not completely incurring the wrath of our respective spouses.
Armed with the three rules (credit to my soon-to-be-ex-coworker Ronni):
- Remain friends
- Don’t get hurt
- Have fun
So at oh-dark-thirty, we arrived at the Mt Si trailhead to see four other cars in the abject darkness. Thanks to improved stamina, the hike up to SiHi went very quickly and felt far less strenuous than Mailbox Peak did a few weeks earlier. After Haystack, we were in find-or-bust mode for the 50k, zig-zagging up a vein on the side of the mountain.
Now as most of you know, when you do a hike like this on a cool/windy day, and you stop actually climbing, you get quite cold. That’s pretty much what happened to us. With half-sandwiches in hand, we set out to the east to the next set of caches. This was an adventure as the BirdsEye imagery supplied by Garmin seemed like BirdsCrap. There was bushwhacking. Lots of bushwhacking. However, in looking back at the tracks, I still think it took about 40% of the time than it would have to find the trail we came in on and circle back.
Once on “Unmarked road”, we headed east with the intent of getting to the top of Teneriffe and returning west to the caches we passed. About halfway, we heard intermittent rumbling of thunder. Then it completely opened up. We were huddled under trees for a while when Jes spotted an oasis – a small shelter made for the trailworkers’ stuff. We stood under that for a while.
Despite my poker face, I was pretty cold and wet, starting to shiver while standing around watching the weather. Self-preservation overcame social awkwardness and I lifted up the tarp and suggested we hang out inside for a little while. Being dry gave me a chance to rifle through my backpack for the pair of mylar blankets I tossed in the night before. We each huddled under one. When the rain subsided, they were stuffed into the jacket as an extra layer of insulation. The crinkling noise was obnoxious, but being warm was nice.
Resigned that goal 2 (Teneriffe) was a dicey proposition — altitude + bad weather — we headed back west for the caches we’d skipped over. Three DNFs in a row due to trail work. As appetite returned, Jes served up a lovely pasta salad made with roasted pine nuts.
We headed down the zig-zag until the cross-trail to Kamikaze Falls.
With 90 minutes until official sunset, we hoped we might be able to get the trio of caches at Kamikaze Falls. Once at the falls, we had 40 minutes on the clock, but the sun was definitely below the mountain line and it getting dark fast. We punted on the other two caches because one of them felt rather insanely dangerous with the conditions (tired hikers, rain, dark) and turned around. That takes a lot of willpower when a cache is so dangerously close. The falls were very nice, though:
It was probably a good thing we left when we did because the trail looked completely different at night, what bits we could see. We just sort of plodded west, climbing over things along the way, until the trail got less minor.
The thunder returned, as did the rain. Being under the tree canopy tempered the effect until we got back to the main trail. There, it was pouring enough that pools of water were collecting in the horse tracks, which made for slower going downhill.
Close to the bottom, we were debating whether to take the “closer” trip that would bring us to a main road, then walk back along that a mile to the car, or power through the paths leading us to parking. I suggested the latter simply because we’d been out for over twelve hours and I was tired.
This section of trails was in good condition. As we continued, we saw an occasional reflective tack from a night cache in the area. The thunder subsided enough for us to hear owls in the trees above. It was pretty cool.
Nearly 14 hours and 16 miles after we started, we were back at the car. This was the longest hike either of us had done. Jes’ fitbit claimed it was 45,000 steps.