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Kings of the Hill

Thursday, December 28, 2006
On December 26th, while some people were fighting the huddled masses shopping at their nearest mall, my friend and I decided to hike up Larch Mountain. (For those interested, this is the same friend I took a motorcycle trip to San Francisco with back in 2004.) The idea was to drive up to the gate about 4.5 miles from the peak and walk along the road the rest of the way. (In the winter they close the road to the top, since it's frequently covered in snow and not cleared.)

Let me start by saying that it didn't rain like a bastard the whole way; it slowed down a lot once we were halfway down. But we were absolutely drenched from the beginning. My jacket is waterproof, but my jeans and hiking boots definitely are not. My friend's boots are waterproof, but his pants and coat weren't. We were soaked to the bone by the time we hit the snow-line, one mile from our start.

We didn't have a map or a GPS with us for this trip, so we didn't actually know how far the top was. We've ridden motorcycles to the top before, but all we remember is that there's a slow hairpin turn right before the parking lot. Since we didn't know what mile-marker that was at, this knowledge was only helpful in letting us know that we weren't, in fact, near the top as we hiked on, trudging through increasingly deep snow.

One of the things my friend and I agreed on is that if one of us feels that we should turn back, we will - no questions asked and no shame in it. (We can get a little competitive sometimes!) I was starting to think that we should turn back as we got several miles up in the snow and my boots were completely soaked through - as were my pants. But we both also wanted to keep pushing on, so we said, "well, let's walk to the next turn. If that's the hairpin turn, we'll continue to the top. Otherwise, we'll turn around."

We did that twice. Finally, we got to a turn and were going to have our meal, then go back. Peering ahead, I said, "Is that a mile marker sticking out of the snow?" My friend had remarked that we should find something to mark how far we got so we could check that in the summer." We decided to climb up to the mile marker - and there was the sign for the 15-mph hairpin turn! Despite being tired, wet, and cold, our spirits soared as we hiked up to the top of Larch Mountain!

Me and the sign for Larch Mountain.
We found shelter in front of the restrooms, where there was a small covered concrete slab that offered shelter from the pouring rain. (Not from the wind, however.) My friend had amazing purchased these wonderful self-heating meals, and we enjoyed hot food (and wine and cheese!)

A cold picnic at the top
Upon finishing our fine meal, we bundled up again to head down the hill. Despite the deepness of the snow, it was significantly easier than coming up! My friend's boots starts to fill with water that was draining from his pants, though, and my boots and jeans were twice as heavy as normal due to the water - so our quadriceps were getting quite the workout.

Just over two hours after we left the top we arrived at the bottom. It certainly help that the rain slacked off as we were coming down, but we were so soaked it didn't matter. It was a fun adventure that we had, and I'd certainly do it again... though I'd want better waterproof gear in the future!


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