Every single time, the moment I make a plan to play in the mountains, the anticipation for the day takes control! I always have an idea of approximate distance and elevation numbers and of who I will be playing with but I do wonder about weather forecasts, scenery, trail conditions and will we succeed in reaching our goal! A high percentage of the time all objectives are met, "more or less". The odd time the outcome isn't just "more or less" but "so much more and surprisingly less". Today was one of those odd times!
Our goal for today was to reach the summit of Corral Mountain (unofficial name) southwest of Longview. It is a remote area, not popular or well known, off the beaten track, not advertised nor promoted, no signs, no trails maps, no official route...I'm sure you get my drift. Given all the above points was one of the main reasons I was game to venture here and that may hold true for my five friends. I love going to where we can take ownership for the entire day! I was shocked and disappointment when a car full of folks followed us to our very remote parking spot and parked six inches away, with all intentions of adventuring with us. While questioning them, I then realized these were the same people that also were hanging out at our carpool spot the same time we were there earlier and were suspiciously keeping their eye on us. At the trail head, an explanation was given that we were a small group of six by choice. Also, for reasons related to safety, experience level, responsibilities, we needed to remain at six, no more or less. Needless to say, once we hit the trail and looked back, that was the last we saw of that group for the balance of the day which leads me to believe they did not go prepared with directions, nor a map, nor GPS, nor track to find their way.
We began finding our way with this open fence framing the direction of our destination. At this point which was just a couple of kilometers along, I already needed to remove a bottom layer and gaiters plus two upper layers. I had on more cloths then needed and surprisingly it was still only mid morning.
Quite a bit of time was spent in the trees, route finding, bushwhacking, creek crossing then finally it all opened up and we could see the tower-like thing we hoped to top out at. There was no snow hardly to speak off the whole way, obviously much less then I was expecting and had gone prepared for.
As we began the final ascent, the scenery grew to be amazing.
I find beauty in these ugly, scraggly, dead looking trees.
We ascended along side the rock face to the col.
The colors were spectacular!
We reached the col and I looked back for a view and a photo before heading on to our lunch spot. We checked the GPS to see that we covered more elevation than expected already and we had not reached the high point yet.
We enjoyed views in all directions from our lunch spot. We could see the Hailstone Butte Lookout on the left. It was amazing how much more snow was just over there. That cornice was still hanging in there.
After a long lunch, we walked the rocky ridge to the high point of Corral Mountain. This was as high as I dare go safely. The one rocky spot that was a tiny bit higher had a sheer drop off at its' side, so I was happy to raise my arms in victory right where I did.
The whole summit area was clear enough of snow that there were no concerns of post holing nor needing micro-spikes, not even gaiters. It felt like a summer day with the heat of the sun and some greenery.
Mid to late afternoon, we finally began the return portion of our adventure. Once again we put our route finding skills to use, bushwhacked and tackled more creek crossings. There were lots of lady bugs around, but I only saw one flower.
I could have used more scenes like this....
...and less like this!
This area was polluted with very old, semi-old and brand new bear tracks. We stuck together, got a little louder and a bit faster through what looked like a passage way for bears. Once away from here and onto a more pleasant wide open area, we stopped for snacks. I took the time to play with my polarizer to see what I could get in return for turning it round and round. How about a return like this? I'll take it!
I was expecting to cover more or less 17 km to 18 km but by now we were just about at that distance with still lots to go. I was very tired, I was thinking don't even think tired, I still had to drive my friends home safely. I also felt blisters forming on my heels and long before now realized I could have choosen boots that provided less warmth.
I was more then happy to close the gate! This meant our day was winding down and I was ready for that. We had one last stretch of road to cover, one last creek crossing, a bit more bushwhacking and thank goodness, we finally had our two vehicles sighting! The third was gone so that is good to know they found their way somewhere and back safely.
Our total distance and elevation turned out being more than expected. The amount of snow was less, the clothes and equipment needed were less. The scenery was much more then I anticipated. They say "more" is not always better. I think "more" and "less" were both equally better today. I truly appreciate those odd days when you are awarded with so much more and surprisingly less.