Once again, to the bottom of the top

Of all the years and all the places, this was the year to fixate on Tyler Peak.

On my first trip there, we got to the mountain fairly easily and had wonderful views of the top bathed in snow. Then came days and weeks of almost constant snow and of wondering when we could get back.

We got back months later.

Still, the mountain itself was bathed in snow. There was no hint as to where the trail up the mountain was (I've been told, there is none, but you don't need one). We again had to turn around and retread our steps. The good news is that Forest Service Road 2860 is clear to the Dungeness River and beyond, and 2860-120 is open to the trailheads to Mount Baldy and Tyler Peak (1.7 miles). But the top of Tyler Peak still is hard to locate from a snowy meadow at the bottom of the top.

Truth is always elusive. This year, we are told that the snowpack is down, but we were up on the Switchback Trail two years ago in late February; it's May, and I haven't made it there yet this year.

Two years ago, a mountain goat and I had a slight dispute about whether or not I should pass him on that trail on my birthday in late March. You can't assume anything around here.

Four or five years ago, I was stuck in a snowdrift on the back side of Mount Muller on July 4. My wife, Candy, never will let me forget that.

Each year and each season here is unique. Normal is some statistical abnormality.

I did learn something quite valuable on this trip up to Tyler Peak and down:

Cat-Tracks, sort of like chains for your hiking boots, are a great boon coming down scree-covered slopes. Last trip up Tyler Peak, I spent more time that I ever wanted to on my butt. This time there were no such problems.

But this time was no easier than my first trip here. In fact, my hiking buddy Diane and I totally erased our memories of the trail from our last trip. The level places seemed sparser, and the steep uphills were much longer and steeper.

If and when we summit Tyler Peak, there will be a lot less snow on the mountain. Unlike your run-of-the-mill hikers, we will get an early start, carry plenty of water and try to get down before the heat of the day saps all of our energy.

We are old but not dumb.

We also noticed that there are tons of deer tracks on the path we follow and tons of elk excrement on the snowless spots below Tyler Peak ... all which suggest that cougars might be in the area looking for a meal.

We certainly won't wear our deer costumes up here. We have the advantage of being old and tough and we both pride ourselves on our lack of good taste when we are on the trail.

You'd have to be pretty lame to consider either of us a tasty meal.

To add to the frustration of snow, rain, aging and sore muscles, I just was informed that the meadow we have twice reached is about halfway to the summit of Tyler Peak. I hurt just thinking of it!

But hiking is a mental, more than a physical, endeavor. Mount Townsend is a case in point: Halfway up you emerge from the forest, and the rest of the climb feels easy.

Why? Although it makes little sense, you pretty much can see your destination. Seeing the top of the bottom is just about as strong a positive force as seeing the bottom of the top is a negative force.

Halfway is meaningless in the face of visual evidence that the top does, in fact, exist. Wonderful views can negate frustrating aches and pains.

And so, Diane and I are just about sure that sometime before August we will have reached the summit of Tyler Peak. Then, we can begin to formulate new plans to avoid internment in some long-term-care facility where the nurses look our age and we act as mature as is possible for the teenagers that we are in our hearts.

Life is good!

Richard Olmer can be reached at

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