The Daddy Dilemma: Indulge yourself or be around? I gotta say I don't like this question. Why can't we hike on Wednesdays or have concerts on Fridays? Wouldn't that be a much better solution for everyone involved? Or maybe it'd just be better for me... Regardless, it sucks.
In the end Amy assured me she'd be able to handle the monkeys (like that was ever in doubt) and perfect weather (ok... 30% chance of Thunderstorms, which really means 70% chance of NOT thunderstorms) convinced me to head to higher ground with TNAB instead of to the park with the kids. Boy, I hope this doesn't turn out to be one of those cat's in the cradle moments.
The family was already at the park (or near to it) when I got home for a quick pickup of gear and Tokul. I was at the trailhead (the northern PCT trailhead at Snoqualmie Pass) well ahead of our departure time and had the opportunity to shoot a few pictures of bunchberry in full bloom around the parking lot. When we did leave we had a pretty decent sized group. Quite the contrast from previous weeks where it looked like TNAB was on its way out.
Although we started on the PCT heading north we turned off on the old Commonwealth Basin trail after just 100 yards. It's a decent trail that I'm more familiar with as a route for snowshoeing. Where we normally have to fight high snowbanks to cross the creek, though, we turned north and followed a scratch of a bootpath through brush and onto talus. Tokul did really well in the rocks, as did most other dogs, though a couple of them snagged collars on branches and had to be freed by hand. We rested a moment on the PCT having shaved a mile or more off the lazy route it takes.
The main group took off down the trail at normal TNAB speed, but I noticed Rich was still working up the talus with one of his dogs who was having issues on the rocks. Knowing just what that felt like I decided to hang back and hike with him. Scott did the same.
We followed the PCT as it cut long switchbacks up the slopes below Kendall Peak gaining only slowly. TNAB used to follow another shortcut that bypassed a long traverse around a basin, but this year (and for the last several years, apparently) we stayed on the well-maintained trail as it climbed methodically. There were a few campsites at the top of the ridge, but none that I'd really want to stay at. No views and, worse, no water. Plus we were only a few miles from I-90 and the comforts of Snoqualmie Pass.
Coming out of the trees below Kendall Peak we were in a large meadow with small talus fields scattered about. Marmots were apparently hanging around and some others had to chase down their dogs who would still hunt. This section was my favorite as we started getting real views to the south and east. I'd never done this part of the PCT so it was really nice to see what was so close to home.
We found a waypath that headed straight up the slope and were reminded that while the PCT seems designed for distance and speed TNAB rarely stays on such trails for long. A fe rocks kicked loose, but most of the hikers were already on the summit. There were a few flowers in bloom, but nothing like what I'd seen the week before on the other side of the mountains.
When the trail reached the ridge it was a sheer drop off the other side. Tokul had been on leash the whole time and I was especially grateful of my decision to keep her close when we got to the top. She's always had a penchant for daring the edge and I fear one of these days it'll get the better of her. (Plus there was an account of a hiker who had a dog go over the edge very near Kendall just a few weeks before.)
The summit was crowded, but they made room for us and the few behind us. We had great views all around including down the Gold Creek valley. Sound familiar? It's a frequent snowshoe destination, but I've never really explored it much beyond the Pond. Now I'll have to, especially the access it gives to a couple of lakes and Alaska Mountain beyond.
The sun refused to set (darn late light nights!) so the group melted away down the trail with only a few hanging on for the sky to turn red. I wound up hiking down with Scott and Tom and our four dogs. Down is always so different than up. My thoughts often wonder and in particular I was looking forward to the weekend and a trip on the shoulder of Rainier. We decided against the talus hop down (in the dark) and instead descended all the way into the Commonwealth Basin. Sure, we'd have to cross the creek twice, but that was better than the rocks. We ran into Chris and his daughter, but otherwise it was uneventful to the parking lot and the Pour House after.
Now I can cross off this peak and when it comes up next year in the middle of the concert season I can say, "Yeah, nice, but I'll dance tonight instead."
Totals were about 8 miles and 3,100 feet of gain.