Early season TNAB trips are full of people. Lots of fresh faced hikers eager to conquer the world's peaks every Thursday night. We start with a couple of friendly little trips like Poo Poo Point and Little Si before moving up to more strenuous climbs. (The West Tiger Trio, with some 3,000 feet of cumulative gain is an early-season aberration.) Fuller Mountain is the last of the trivial trips and it's after Fuller that folks seem less eager to join us. (At least until the Solstice Party.)
So you can imagine the horde that was at the Spur 10 gate waiting to tromp through the forest when Tokul and I arrived just before 6pm. Cars were lined up all along the road and dogs were everywhere. There were loads of people I didn't know, but after a few years coming out almost every Thursday I'm finally able to recognize most of the regulars and on occasion I can even remember their names. (That said, I'm not going to even try to list names or even a count of hikers. There were 10 dogs, though.)
Right at six we crossed the gate and entered the third generation forest. (How do I know it was third generation? There's an aging Weyerhaeuser sign that proudly proclaims the trees had been harvested in 1920, 1984, and are scheduled to go down again in 2030.)
Scott (See! I remembered at least one name.) was leading the way and setting a decent pace, but not one that was too hard to keep up with. At least it wasn't an issue until Robert (Name #2!) foolishly said, "This isn't a TNAB pace," and then the race was on. Scott lengthened his strides and I was all but running to keep up. It turns out my stumpy little legs aren't so handy on the flat trail. (Not that they're much better on an incline, either.) We crossed Ten Creek (really pretty) on a log bridge (Tokul loved it), crossed an overgrown road, and then finally emerged from the woods in a quarry where we stopped to wait since you need to make a jog to the left and then back to the right to pick up the trail again.
The dogs (four were with us: Tokul, Athena, Zeus, and Frieda) kind of played fetch, but only one of the three labs was really any good at it. The other two labs and the Rottweiller were content to just run around. We waited and waited and started wondering where everyone else was when Peggy (Yes! Three names!) popped out of the trail. Except she hadn't passed anyone even though she left well after the rest of the crew. Uh oh.
Turns out they left the trail when they came to the first road and wandered down the old road. Oops. Luckily, we ran into them just before we re-entered the woods for the actual climb up the mountain. Scott was again leading and I did ok keeping up until I slipped and decided that while I was off the trail (it's a primitive trail, cut me some slack) it would be a good time for Robert and Peggy to go by. Tokul continued hiking with the leaders while I seemed stuck about 20 yards behind them.
The trail is basically a rising traverse along the west side of the mountain until a final set of switchbacks through dense ferns and towering deciduous trees for the final 300 feet of gain to the summit. At the summit we lamented the complete lack of views courtesy of the trees and the advent of the bug season (where was my DEET?). For some reason it seemed to be raining a little below the summit tree, but only there. 10 minutes later the rest of the herd started rolling in, but it wasn't for perhaps as long as 20 minutes from our arrival that the last made it up.
We took some quick pics to document our official summitness since there's no register on this minor peak and then I led the group to the overlook that provides such a killer view of the North Fork valley including the rarely appreciated west side of Mt. Si (aka the Moon Wall). (One of my favorite pictures of me was taken there with Clara on my back.)
While others were soaking in the splendor (minus the clear cuts and gravel pit below us) Tokul and I tromped off to the north to see if there were views that way. Although this was my third time up Fuller I'd never really explored it too much and I wanted to see if you could spot any of the lakes that my father so likes to fish in the tree farm. The answer? Yes, but only barely. Still, it was a nice bit of solitude on an otherwise packed trail. When I returned the last of the hikers were heading back to the true summit before we were to head down.
Except Scott, of course. He had left earlier to pick up Josie to take her to the bar. (Poor Josie. She only gets to join us for the after-party and misses the sweat and blood and bites of the trail. I know, it sounds pretty appealing to most of you, huh?) Although he'd left quite a while ago, and been joined by Peggy, we heard them calling out, "TNAB!" from below us, but not the below us that was on the trail. So back up they came and down they went on the real trail with just a bit of ribbing.
As we descended in one massive congo line (yeah, that's a common occurrence this time in the season) the sun was setting over the Olympics. Although we had clouds off and on and it was "raining" under that one tree (ew... what was that?) the skies above us now were blue and the storm moving in from the west was making for quite a show. The forest around us turned orange and then red. The only problem was that the trees along the route down were just enough in the way to partially mess up shots of the brilliant sunset. Truly tragic.
Lower we ran into six late hikers on their way up. Two turned and headed down with us while the other four (including one who had left the trailhead only a few minutes behind us but go turned around and had wandered the roads below the mountain for at least an hour) decided to keep climbing. We got back to the cars at about 8:30, but I never busted out a headlamp even in the darkest part of the forest.
At the Pour House we had a large group for dinner and just as we were becoming concerned that the last group of four still hadn't shown they rolled up. All present, or at least accounted for, I headed home with Tokul to pack up for the weekend.
Total distance was about four miles and gain was 1,200 feet. Next week it's Mt. Si and after that we start going higher and harder. Good times to come.