Today marks one year since two brothers decided it would be a good idea to start a blog about hiking every weekend in the Pacific Northwest. If you have been following our blog for a while, you may have noticed the tone of our trip reports has become more frank. Back in the earlier days of the blog, we were trying to find something positive to write about on all of our hikes because we didn’t want to discourage people from exploring new places and making up their own minds. Now that we have a lot more experience, we have been working hard to provide guidance that hopefully helps others to avoid a poor hiking trip. In that same spirit of guidance, we have decided to mark the website’s one-year anniversary by recalling some of our worst experiences on the trail.
Given our love for the outdoors, there really has to be a grand culmination of factors to take a hike from mediocre to plain awful. Yet we’ve had a handful of notorious hiking trips that could truly be branded as “bad” since the inception of hikingwithmybrother.com. For me, Squak Mountain – East Ridge to Phil's Creek was literally a perfect storm of misery. Stricken with the flu and bullheaded pride, I decided a short and easy hike was perfectly within reason to complete. Undeterred by freezing April rain, I set out with Nathan on an unplanned route through the network of trails that make up Squak Mountain State Park.
Since we didn’t plan, we started the hike without a final destination. Desperate for something significant to write about, Nathan played on my competitive bravado by using phrases such as “Come on, don’t be a quitter!”, and “We’re almost there, only a quarter mile left!” (liar) to push my soaked, flu-fatigued body well beyond the short hike I anticipated. I’m actually glad he motivate me because now I can taunt him (which is priceless) about the time we hiked 8 miles along a trail closed by mudslides only to find a labyrinth of hoof-paths filled with ankle-deep mud and horse manure.
While Phil's Creek is an example where things just went wrong, Taylor Mountain Forest is an example of where hiking is just wrong. The only thing this place might be good for is taking your ATV or horsey out for a spin - unless of course you are a serial killer. In researching information for the original trip report, we found that Taylor Mountain Forest has the unfortunate history as being one of Ted Bundy’s favorite disposal sites.
The mountain itself is private land, so if you have any aspirations about getting to the actual summit of Taylor, forget about it. And though the elaborate trail map we procured in preparation for the hike shows finely groomed and well marked trails, we quickly discovered that some trails were only proposed, while others were still under construction - making it very easy to get lost. If you go, when you do get lost, don’t be surprised if you happen upon an irate private land owner who tells where you shouldn’t go, but is completely unable to give you directions on how to get un-lost. -Jer
Phil’s Creek was a sodden trudge. Taylor Mountain was a very, very long day that ended up not only being disappointing, but a little bit creepy by the end. Still, these are picnics when compared to what is easily our worst hike: Mt. Gardener.
Before I get into the details, I think it’s important to note that we put this post together to poke a little fun at ourselves and share some of our misadventures after a year of tromping through the woods. However lighthearted the rest of the post is, I’m very serious when I say that you should never go to Mt. Gardener. Ever.
We avoided Mt. Gardener for months. The few descriptions of the trail we could find clearly struggled to find anything positive to say about the hike. We were resigned to a boring stroll down forest roads to an oversized hillock, the principal attraction being a lovely overview of the very close and very loud I-90. In retrospect, this would have been perfect.
The first inkling that we were in for a terrible hike was finding the access road blocked almost four miles from the outlined starting point. While inconvenient, we decided to go ahead with the hike anyway, because, after all, it was all reasonably graded logging roads, right? Resolved, we started down the trail.
Then is started raining. But we were prepared; we just broke out the rain gear and continued on as the road quickly narrowed. Before we knew it we were sliding past alders and vine maples heavy with rain while navigating some large blowdowns blocking the path. When we arrived at Harris Creek, a few hundred yards of the road were just gone. “Washed out” does not begin to describe the lack of road or the amount of effort it took to navigate the gap.
It only got worse. At times the former logging road was so completely grown over that we found ourselves duck-walking for extended periods of time. Landslides blocked the trail, necessitating our use of some creative bushwhacking skills to continue. Talus fields would tauntingly give some relief from the briar patches before plunging us back into the fray. Never have we so fervently wished for a machete.
It eventually wore us down. After hours of struggle we turned back and picked our way down a large talus field to the Iron Horse Trail rather than brave the “trail.” Testing every rock with every step to determine whether or not it is loose was far preferable to the vegetative torture we’d already endured. The trip down was not fun, but at least the trail wasn’t actively fighting to impede our progress.
It was a miserable hike for us. We’ll not be back. If you are feeling adventurous, we do hope you’ll go armed with an axe or a saw. Heck. Take both. -Nathan
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