04 May 2006

Mud Shoe Diaries: Bridal Veil Falls, Lake Serene & Mt. Index

Mount Index, seen from the shore of Lake Serene.
Two words: Oss. Umm.

Dear Greg:

Howya been? Don't say nothin' because I already have your answer: nowheres as good as me! Why the obnoxious-yet-self-assured overconfidence? Because I've been hiking, yo! And not just some lame-ass flatland hike in tiny, tiny bear territory. I've been up in the snowfields, ogling the waterfalls, huffing the mountain air, and gleefully causing myself all manner of trepidation and injury.

Last Sunday (April 20-something), me & the gang took USFS Trail 1068 up to Lake Serene at the foot of Mount Index with a side jaunt to Bridal Veil Falls. The round trip was 8.2 miles with an elevation gain of about 1,900 feet (which ain't so bad, until you figure that pretty much all that elevation gain happens within about 1.3 miles of trail). Thank God some burly-ass Washington Trail Association volunteers built stair frames (see photos at the end of this letter) to take the place of the nasty-dangerous dirt trail that used to go pretty much straight up.

Lake Serene with "just a little snow".

That doesn't mean it was easy. Oh mais non. I told you about the Hellclimber 3000 in my previous blog. Well, working out on it paid off in spades when it came to negotiating these stairs. There was also a wicked nasty patch where a gigantic blowdown roughly the size of your grotesquely Popeye-ish right forearm made us have to scramble through some really slick mud and roots. And then there was the snow which we had not anticipated - which was thoroughly my fault. You see, when it comes to outdoorsmanship, I am still what John Muir would call an "idiot". Or perhaps he wouldn't be quite that kind. He might've called me something like a fookin' penty-weest or even a flat-moufed basturt, nae bu' beef tae th' heels. I digress.

We didn't anticipate the snow because I had heard that the snow level was at something like 5,000 feet, and we were only hiking up to 2,500, so I figured... Well, snow level has to do with where new snow is likely to fall, not where the edge of the snowfields end, and since we've had a lot of late-season snow here, that means... Yeah, so, snow. Better still, I have snappy new traction devices for my boots as well as trekking poles, neither of which I had during my ice-and-tiny-bear encounter earlier this season on Mount Si. But did I bring my extra traction? Nay. And did I believe that sleekly-attired fastpacker we met on the trail who told us that there was "a little snow up there"? Aye.

Greg, never believe a sleekly-attired fastpacker. They lie and they're crazy. Subsisting on nothing but Nutella does something to their brains. They are the meth freaks of the outdoors. (Not to be confused with the meth freaks of the North Cascades, a brand of homonids from Snohomish county that cling to the undersides of rotting double-wides and paranoiacally swat at imaginary bugs.) We wound up smushing our way up, through, and over a snowfield for about a mile, at times having to balance on its treacherously rotting edge. But at the end of the trail, the gob-smacking, heart-rending beauty that you see in the photos above was enough to make one forget all about spandex-clad fastpackers and their falsehood-spewing mountebankery. And although the temperature at the lakeshore brought to mind adages of plumber's cracks, witches' bosoms, and the neutering of brass monkeys, the intermittent springtime sun was quite warm. I offered a prayer of thanks to REI for blessing me with black outer gear.

Side note - speaking of REI: the twice-yearly 20% off sale started this weekend, so naturally I had to expand my gear collection. Come to find out, I'm already geared up to about my eyeballs (which are also quite nicely outfitted), so I was hard-pressed to find anything that I actually needed. That didn't stop me from purchasing an MSR WaterWorks EX Microfilter, a ceramic and carbon water filtering system so effective it screens out Giardia, bacteria, viruses, tiny-tiny bear poop and poltergeists. To underscore its effectiveness, there's a photo on the package of a fastpacker in Patagonia using it to drink straight out of a cow's butt. It should come in handy some day when I go swamp stomping in 'Nam.

Cheers, and give my best to Marie.
PS: Here's a whole bunch of photos that my friend and co-hiker Jim Bergman took of the trip. Enjoy.


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