Ah... blue skies smiling at me... and I'm in a hurry. Again. As usual. I try, I really try to get my stuff packed the night before, but this time it just didn't work out. Instead I found myself scrambling around the house trying to avoid the accusatory stares from the girls who wanted to go hiking while putting together my gear and at least a little something to eat when I got to the top. Only a few minutes late I raced out of the driveway with Tokul in the passenger seat.
By this time in the TNAB season there's not too many of us left. However, blue skies have a way to bring folks back so the parking lot was packed. We started down the trail, but I quickly discovered water dripping out my pack. Apparently, I had not properly secured the lid on my Camelbak so I had to stop and tighten it. TNAB hikes fast and just a few moments spent tweaking my gear meant I was on my own for the next 15 minutes while I pushed to catch up.
When I did catch a glimpse of the end of the train it was reassuring, but it still took another 10 minutes to catch up completely. Good thing I did at last, too. We almost made the same mistake I made on my first trip in 2004 by going left of the talus field instead of right. Back on track we started climbing in earnest.
As we exited the trees onto the open, unstable slopes I stopped to get out my helmet. Yes, a helmet. I got it for my birthday way back in February, but never got a chance to use it. The last time on this trip there were rocks rolling down the hill as we scrambled up the loose slope. I figured it was a legitimate time to wear the helmet.
You won't be alone in making fun of me. Just about everyone else did, too. Until the rocks started falling. As we climbed higher and higher the calls of, "ROCK!" echoed off the hills. Even the dogs took the opportunity to kick a few loose.
At the summit we were treated to brilliant blue skies with hardly a cloud anywhere. Each little fold in the mountain held snow that had fallen just a few days before (yes, in June) while the exposed ridges were bare and dry. Like our previous visit Tokul refrained from actually tagging the summit since it was a jumble of rocks that freaked her out.
The way down was more dodging rocks and looking for the trail. At one point a rock kicked loose far above us screamed past us at head level. Helmet or no helmet, it would have been a nasty knock. We reassembled before entering the woods again and after some mathematical challenges ("I count 18!" "I count 17!") we turned on our headlamps and dropped into the darkness.
At the trailhead we counted again. Still the right number... except the guy who had decided to wait on the trail for us to return. Thanks to the excellent cell coverage along I-90 we were able to get in touch with him.
"Where are you?"
"I'm on the trail."
"I don't know... the trail."
A couple of more experienced hikers headed back up the trail to look for the lost hiker using the high-tech method of whistling to locate him. Now that hiker is known as "The Whistler." Once we knew he was safe we departed. I got home a little before midnight... just in time to get a shower and get ready for work. Blech.
Total distance was about six miles and 3,100 feet of gain.