March 2015 – Mount Dickerman
With a partly sunny day off and a recommended mountain from Eve, I set off to hike Mount Dickerman in the North Cascades. With supposedly unbelievable views and not being too far from Seattle (just under a 1 1/2 hour drive) it sounded great.
Thursday. March 2015. Hike: Mount Dickerman. Distance: 8.2 miles. Elevation gain: 3950 feet. High point: 5760 feet.
Hike start: 10:30 am. At peak: 1:05 pm. At bottom: 3:05 pm. Average pace (w/o breaks): 2.0 mph. Pace uphill (w/o breaks): 1.85 mph. Pace downhill (w/o breaks): 2.24 mph. Saw: 14 people (13 men/1 woman)
I had a nice, leisurely breakfast, then hopped in my car at exactly 9 am and drove from Seattle to the North Cascades along Mountain Loop Highway. I passed signs calling out familiar place names like Pilchuck and Big Four ice caves along the way. When I got to the parking lot, 7 other cars were already there.
I cameled up on water, planning to take only 1 liter on my back. Tossed on the hiking boots and headed off into the woods. The trail was already great. Switchbacks up through dense green forest. Springy woodsy smells permeated the air. The steep switchbacks sort of reminded me of Mount Si or the new Mailbox Peak trail. I passed a few people who were going up and a few who were going down. Up the few miles of switchbacks. Past great green ferns, rock outcrops, mosses, weeping rocks
There were a few small snowmelt streams to cross. and I was glad I was wearing my Asolo hiking boots even if they were too small (too small meant thin socks, less padding, more shredding of feet by boots). I’d packed my Cascadia trail runners to give my feet a break on the way down so I wasn’t too worried. At the upper reaches of the switchbacks before entering the shoulder/meadowy area called out on trail descriptions, I passed an old, somewhat disgruntled, guy on his way down who warned me. “yeah you’re going to get your feet wet”. I was skeptical because my boots were waterproof. We’ll see.
Once out of the densely wooded switchback section of the trail, I got to a more open/flatter area swamped with slush and spring runoff. Most of the time it meant walking in a stream. And I started to notice those little places where my boots weren’t quite waterproof…
Feeling a little hungry and liking to stop for food before the top of a hike, I peeled off to the left for a lunch break just past noon. I sat on a rock outcropping with views of what I think was Big Four. I ate my curried chicken salad on a pita (trail food always tastes the best…I swear it’s half the reason that I hike) and spied a trail runner skitter past. I drank a bit of water and after 15 minutes hopped back on the trail.
Back on the trail. Through the flats, then up towards the summit. A bit more snow here. I came around a corner and bam! Views of the summit were visible. It didn’t look too far off. I walked through a few more trees. Something about the trail here – the topography or woodsy smells maybe – reminded me of hiking in the New Hampshire White Mountains. I put on my microspikes for a bit more traction. I did wish I’d brought my gaiters. I’ll definitely have snow falling into my boots around my ankles. Not a huge deal, it seems like my feet might get soaked anyway. The snow wasn’t super well packed, more sloppy and slushy. The air was warm, and the skies so sunny!
I came up to a view point/flat area that looks off to the south. A few pics here. Up further. A bit steeper now. I ran into a guy and his dog and we commiserated about the miserable and sloppy trail conditions below. I continued up through snow toward summit with only minor post holing and snow into my boots.
Just a few more yards to go! I got to the summit and the view was breathtaking. Yep, totally worth it. 360 views. Mountains in all directions. Many peaks that I should, and might one day know the names of. The side of Dickerman completely drops to the north but the trees poking up through the snow lend confidence to solid ground under there somewhere. Views of glacier-covered Baker.
I took a few pictures from this central summit area, then walked along the ridge to the right toward the outcropping on the slightly lower summit for a place to perch and rest. I said hello to the couple was set up there at the top. I drank water, ate a Skout bar, took more pics, and soaked in the sun and stunning scenery. I hung out for only 5 minutes – the rock outcrop was pretty small and the couple was engrossed in chatter, so I made it a short rest and headed back down. I made my way back from the low peak to the slightly higher peak. Snow falling into my boots. Mental note to take those gaiters next time.
Going back down was much easier and faster of course. I sort of kind of did some boot skiing. It was still just as sunny and amazing views to be had. A passed two guys who I had seen on the way up. At this point their morale was low and they looked tired. I gave them a few words of encouragement and a “you’re almost there!” which they were relieved to hear. They were surprised by the difficulty and the more vocal of the two called it “some kind of test”.
Back down through snow. Microspikes off. Then back through the slop and slush and streams in the flat/meadowy area. Ok my feet were totally drenched. That old disgruntled guy was right. My feet were wet to the point where you can feel water squishing between your toes. I took a video to capture the trudging which I think did it some justice. It wasn’t so bad on such a warm sunny day with amazing views to be had and the thought of dry, comfortable shoes awaiting me.
I passed a few more people on their way up. A few solo older guys. a group of 3 shirtless maybe teenage boys with mohawks. Down the switchbacks. They weren’t so bad. Sometimes I get to the top of a mountain and internally groan at the thought of having to retrace my steps and go down – redundant and more painful on my knees. But today the return trip and all those switchbacks was a breeze. Maybe it was because I had my boots on and I could swing my heavy feet like pendulums ahead and plod down. And maybe because after the painful trail running episode down Mount Si on my last hike, this was smooth sailing. Anyway, it was solid.
With about a mile or two left to go, my feet had had enough though. My heels were shredded, backs of ankles tore up. I found the end of a switchback, made a comfortable seat on my rain jacket, and took of the boots and sopping socks. I replaced with cozy Darn Tough socks (best socks ever!) and my shiny new pink and orange Brooks Cascadia 10 trail runners. My feet and heels breathed a sigh of relief. It was like walking on cushions. I tied the boots together and plodded down.
It was a bit trickier to dodge any mud or water, which was essential in my shiny new non-waterproof Cascadias but I managed pretty well. I’m afraid they’ll have to get dirty eventually.
I daydreamed about the trail runners that I’ll definitely be hiking the Long Trail in come June – should i go with Goretex Brooks Adrenalines for waterproofness in muddy Vermont or should I opt for my non-waterproof Cascadias? such decisions…
What I did notice in my shoes was that my knees started to hurt more than they had in boots. Hmm that’s strange. After a little thought, I arrived at the conclusion that the boots must be giving my feet weight and me the confidence to fling them forward with reckless abandon – no hesitation about rolling an ankle or stepping on a jagged rock.
However, with the trail runners I was less sure footed – some hesitation with the possibility of rolling an ankle or landing funny. The hesitation led to less footing confidence and made me hold more tension in my knees which made them hurt more. Huh. Ok guess I’m just going to have to have foot confidence and fling my feet forward in order to make my knees feel better. So that’s what I did and, while it was only over a half mile or so, I think it worked. Nice!
At last the road came into view which meant I was only a few hundred feet from the parking lot. Super close. Almost there. Down, down, done! A successful hike! I was greeted with 7 cars in the parking lot again. I refueled on water (between the liter on my back and cameling before the hike, I was fine, but had run out so hydration was nice). It was so warm down here – my car temp guage registered in the 70’s! Back in the car, winding along the Mountain Loop Highway, Seattle bound.