Darkness Descends on Silver Peak

We hiked this weekend in the Cascades, near Snoqualmie Pass. We were slow getting started, and didn’t roll out the drive until nearly noon. Given the late start, I wasn’t sure we had time for a decent hike, but the image in Figure 1 shows that we eventually did reach a worthwhile destination. Of course, when you hike the back country, getting to a destination is only one half of a complete trip. One also has to get back in one piece.



Figure 1: Rainier as seen from Silver Peak. (Click to enlarge)

The Camera


It was a day or two after the equinox. That meant we needed to start early to finish a long hike before dark.


We didn’t get leave the driveway until noon. I delayed our hike further by taking time to purchase a memory card for our new Powershot SD550. I bought a 2 GB card. That sounds expensive, but it cost less than 32 MB cards did back in the day.


When I booted up the camera, it told me I had over 1000 pictures available. This was an embarrassing degree of overkill, but it made me happy.

Choosing the Hike

The first hike we looked at fizzled when we arrived at the trailhead and saw well over a hundred cars in the parking lot. It is wonderful that Seattle is so near the mountains. Yet crowds are the price for proximity.


We dug a little deeper in our Harvey Manning trail book, and found a destination called Catherine Peak. We drove further up the road, traversing the pass and heading into eastern Washington.


This time, however, we had picked a trail that was a bit too obscure. Driving on narrow gravel roads, we fumbled the first attempt to find the trailhead. Rather than retrace our steps, we settled on another destination, which we thought to be Twin Lakes.


The hike started by leading us though a clear cut. The barren landscape soon yielded to a beautiful old growth forest. Stepping in under the trees I felt the soulful call of the woods, as if I were returning home after a long absence.



Figure 2: In the clear cut near where the trail began, we found a lake. (Click image to enlarge)



Figure 3: Forest abstract. Don’t stop too long by the side of the trail, it’s easy to get distracted. (Click image to enlarge)


We weren’t on the trail long, however, before we realized that we still weren’t properly located in time and space. A couple we met on the trail oriented us, and suddenly I saw that we had overshot Twin Lakes, and Catherine Lake, and that we were headed, whether we would or no, toward Silver Peak.

The Judgment Call

In our marriage, Margie is the practical one. She said it was now too late in the day for us to bag the peak and make it back to the car before dark.


I waved such arguments aside, and led us further into the wild. We came to a beautiful lake, and then headed straight up a steep slope to a saddle visible above us. The ascent went smoothly, except for one encounter with a fellow hiker coming down from the peak. “Oh yes, it’s beautiful up there, but it is a bit late in the day for you to do the whole hike.” I thanked him, and led us on up the trail.

The Power and the Glory

After reaching the saddle, we hiked out a ridge to the base of Silver Peak proper. From there we could see most of the route to the peak.



Figure 4: Silver Peak as seen from the saddle. (Click image to enlarge)


It was about five when we started to climb up through the brilliant sunshine. Behind us we kept catching wonderful views of Mount Rainier.



Figure 5: Rainier from the trail to Silver Peak.


The trail grew steep as we neared the peak. It seemed as if the whole world were opening up before us. To the west we could see past Seattle to Olympics, while the eastern view was clear all the way to the flat lands near Ellensburg.


The mountain top afforded us 360 degree views of the cascades. To the north we could see a large peak, probably either Baker or Glacier, more likely the former. To the south we saw Rainier, and off to its left another large peak, probably Adams.



Figure 6: The Cascades spread out before us in all their glory. (Click image to enlarge)



Figure 7: Margie and Charlie survey the wonders of world. (Click image to enlarge)

A Race against Time

When we finally tore ourselves away from the peak and started back down the trail to the mundane world, the sun was still fairly high in the sky. I was feeling confidant that all would work out for the best. Margie kept stealing looks at the back pack, and mumbling something about the extra batteries she had packed.


Coming back down along the ridge, we saw two deer, picking their way through the blueberry bushes. I leaned down and gathered berries, popping the delicious fruit into my mouth. “We probably ought to keep moving,” Margie said. I paused a moment longer, to get a picture of the deer. It was difficult, because the light was getting a bit dim.


By the time we had descended the ridge, it was becoming clear to me that darkness was only a few minutes away. It grew dark as we reached the point where the level trail clung to the top of a steep 1000 foot descent to Twin Lakes.


Margie paused to retrieve the flashlights from the back of the pack. Justice was not entirely absent from our venture, however, as I was to find out when the batteries on my flashlight began to run down. We located the back up batteries, only to find that they were dead. So I was forced to walk on through the darkness, doing my best to see by the flickering light of Margie’s flashlight. Fortunately, it was so dark that I could not properly appreciate the steepness of the descent to the right of the trail. If I missed the trail and veered to the right, someone could come by in the morning to pick up the remains.


Some very patient and forgiving angel must have guided my feet, however, for we did make it back to the car in one piece. It was just eight when I turned the key in the ignition. I tried to make a joke about the very faint glow visible on the horizon. “See, its not quite dark yet,” I said, and we both laughed. Not at the lame joke, of course, but out of relief that we had made it back in one piece.


As we drove back toward the city, we relived our adventure from beginning to end. I was looking forward to getting back to my computer so I could see if the pictures from our new camera captured the splendor of our hike.



Figure 8: Looking west from Silver Peak across the sensuous rolling mountains toward Puget Sound. (Click image to enlarge)

Comments (1)

  1. Welcome to the fifth Community Convergence update. This file is published on my blog, and shortly thereafter…

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