Wonders of Washington

Day 148: Red Top Mountain south of Trout Lake

The trail today is perfect. It is wide, flat, and covered with small spruce needles. So parklike, you forget you’re in a distant wilderness area.  The huckleberry and beargrass float above soft ground, dampening even the small sounds that I make. There is a breeze so tempered it feels like a nuzzle on my face and body, a moving hug of the divine. I stop periodically to simply absorb this grace, hoping I can capture it at least in a memory. Then I experiment with a diversion.

slug trails

I’m reading On Trails by Robert Moore while I hike the PCT.  He has me thinking about trails as pathways to something, typically to food, home, market centers, or water. I have come to see that this long trail is a journey unto itself.  While it appears linear, it is in fact circular. The point of walking it is to find greater depth in the point of walking it. One walks in a long line to arrive at yet another version of oneself.  And somehow it seems to work. Cheryl Strayed and her self discovery in Wild became so famous that a remarkable number of this year‘s hikers on the PCT are here to similarly unfold their own personal worlds. Aspen Matis wrote her version Girl in the Woods, showing how this long hike healed her damage from rape. I myself didn’t know what I wanted to heal, or even that there was anything at all to heal. But I knew that somehow it would make me a better version of myself. I have definitely come to agree with this hypothesis.

Indian Racetrack still visible

In honor of On Trails, I took a diversion from the PCT today, adding a few miles and a couple of hours to my day, something few thru-hikers do and something I want to advocate.  I went to the Indian Racetrack and up Red Top Mountain to honor the book I’m reading and learning about trails as critical indicators of human behavior. This prehistoric Indian track is not really anything very significant to see, it can be seen, despite lack of use after a century or more, because it had been in use for many centuries prior to that. I met a history buff at the racetrack who explained that three tribes came together here every huckleberry season to exchange goods, including horses, and race them to show the skill of Indian and horse alike.  Also, a gentleman‘s agreement was made between European settlement powers and local native tribes regarding picking of the local huckleberries. Whites were allowed huckleberries on the east side of the trail and Indians those to the west. Strangely, gentlemen agreements were still being made as late as this one around 1900, especially given how many had already been broken. Amazingly, this agreement is still honored today.

I have discovered that diversions have been some of the highlights of this long trip.  Just another .8 mile up the steep incline brings you to the crest of Red Top Mountain (750 foot gain).  There you have a stunning mountain view on a clear day, and today was perfect! Adams, Rainier, Saint Helens, Hood, and Jefferson we’re all crisp on the horizon and it took quite some time before I was tired of spinning around on the peak.

Seriously, hikers: Consider this 2.6 mi total side trip, slowing down for a half a day.  Exchange the need to make miles and gain instead a sense of the land.                     


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