February 12 and 14, 2014.
8.5 mi | 3300′ ele. gain
Eula Ridge > Hardesty Mtn.
I’d first used this trail in 2012 as a steep training hike for a climb in the North Cascades. It’s no joke: in just over 4 miles it gains 3300′ in elevation. That’s about 1000′ a mile, and by most people’s standards, that’s steep. Therefore, I decided it would be the perfect test for my Mt. St. Helens climbers.
I took a solo jaunt up here on February 12 to scout conditions in order to let people know what to expect. It was wet and rainy, with one small patch of snow near the top. It would be no problem for this team.
I hiked in full rain gear, rain hat, and did my best to charge up the trail without losing my footing. Fortunately the trail mostly followed a ridge, which meant it was covering the driest possible ground. The worst part was the very bottom, before crossing the bridge. I couldn’t even fathom someone wanting to mountain bike this.
The whole hike took me 5 hours to complete with my normal winter daypack (minus snowshoes.) I anticipated adding a little more time with a larger group.
It was still very damp and cold on February 14, but we started in short sleeves or thin baselayer shirts. We had a small piece of our team participating, so we were able to move quickly and generate some heat.
Up, up, up. And more up. The trail was relentless. But our little team kept plugging along, even the one who warned about being “slow.” No way. We were making really good time.
Much to my surprise, we encountered fresh snowfall as we climbed higher. It was enough to be pretty without being a hindrance to travel.
Our team took it in stride.
At the summit, we took a brief break to eat lunch and share some treats. I was happy to be sharing the trail with this group. They were fun, willing to work hard and they showed up prepared. Would the rest of the team be this awesome? Only time would tell.
The hike out was quick and uneventful. We chatted as we tried really hard not to slide down the muddy trail. Unbelievably, we made it out a half hour faster than I did when I hiked it myself 2 days before. Sweet! This was a good sign.
Venturing into the realm of leading group hikes is scary, but it’s something I think I can do comfortably. I enjoy sharing my passion of the outdoors with others, and so far I’ve met some really fun people this way. We’ll see how our mountain climb goes next month.