Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

Revisiting the blunt peak

Last summer I backpacked along Juniper Ridge in the Dark Divide of southern Washington State. The days were hot. Not killer heat, but.

The real problem was that -- well there were two.

The first: August, and a trail along a ridge meant lack of water. One source (and I was glad to find it at the end of a dry first day) was a 10 by 20 feet (3m by 7 m) pond. Shallow, green, and wiggling with life.

Aqua Mira took care of the living things, or if not then they only passed through quietly, the way I'd visit an amusement park. No fighting, no throwing things, no trying to destroy the equipment.

So that was good.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

Sunrise Peak from the parking lot.

Farther on, day two, I found the wonderful clear Dark Creek in Dark Meadow under Dark Mountain. (All named after John Dark, who meant well but lent his name freely to what now sounds like an ominous area.)

The second: problem, that is. The trail.

The whole region is billed as one huge blanket of roadlessness. It's even called the "Dark Divide Roadless Area".

No. Not like that.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

Afternoon Adams.

See, there's the trail. The trail is itself a road, used by off-road motorcyclists, who, by using it, have made it a road. An evil road. Often a deep and treacherous trench that separates features rather than joining them.

This trail, especially north-south along Juniper Ridge, was not designed the way it would be today. When the land rises or falls the trail does too, at severe angles. Switchbacks? No, not many. And little level going.

Walking, you feel lucky when you can take to the lip of the trench. In the rut, often three feet deep and five feet wide (1 by 1.5 m), are loose stones and dust.

Step into just the right dust, in just the right place, churned up just the right way by passing wheels, and an entire foot disappears. Not fun.

The dust is soft and fine as talc, and if you hike in shoes and you go into it ankle deep, well.

Too bad. Swear a little if you want, but there is no do-over.

So, given the motorcycles, I don't know how this can be a roadless area. Especially since, if you look at a map you see roads all over. They come and poke in from every angle. And then there is that spur road between Tongue Mountain and Juniper Peak where you could, if you wanted to, park on the trail. If you wanted to. You could.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

See? Road. Number 2904.

I don't mind the roads. I stay away during hunting season. The rest of the year a hiker would see only other hikers if it weren't for the motorcyclists. The roads make day hikes possible, and although I wouldn't build roads there now, if it was my choice, they are there and that is only the way it is. But this is not a roadless area.

Just to be clear.

In case anyone is interested.

And maybe you should be, because this is a fun place.

For example. As mentioned already, most of the trails are high on ridges. You get views. No water, but views.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

Jumbo on right, extra pokey thing on left with trail.

Now a lot of high places have no views, because besides elevation you need openings. The Dark Divide has them. There were fires in 1902, and again in 1929, and the forest has not come back yet, as though it took the hint.

I got a lot of views last year, on my first trip, and planned to get more. I had planned to hike in, and then out again along the same route, but due to trail evilosity I went back out another way. Not really the trail so much as the slopes.

Combine rut-walking with rocks and dust. Go up or down at crazy angles. Rig the payoff for a misstep to be broken bones or torn ligaments. Add thick, impenetrable tangles of brush along the trail, just so. So you have to stay in that rut.


Last year I missed a good look at Jumbo Peak, the cold stony plug of a long-extinct volcano. Went right by Sunrise Peak, with its steel railing guiding the bold right to the very rocky point on top. Skipped Tongue Mountain because I was in a hurry.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

Unnamed volcanic fin during its blue period.

"Why worry," I thought "I'll just stop and explore on the way out."

Only on the way out I took the gravel road down in the valley, where the walking was easy and water was everywhere. Where the flat, conveniently well-graded road was handy, in this supposedly roadless area.

So last year. I missed a lot of fun.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

Coming around pokey thing to the "back" of Jumbo.

This year I hiked as much of the Boundary Trail (a little to the south) as seemed reasonable, but from it saw Tongue Mountain, and Juniper Peak, and Sunrise Peak, and, most intriguing of all, Jumbo Peak. And wanted to take another shot up there.

So, at the end of the Boundary trip, at the end of August, after I got home, I began planning a short one to Jumbo. To go say hello up close and climb its back.

And then rain, and rain, and rain. "Olympia has accumulated 4.1 inches of rain in just the past 4 days and 5.3 inches over the past 31 days. September normal at Olympia is 2.0 inches for the entire month." -- Cliff Mass, University of Washington atmospheric scientist on Sunday, September 19, 2010.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

Pano toward Adams.

And I got sick. Not bad, but just enough. Aching joints, aching skin, slight fever, slight headache, slight dry cough. Those were the fun parts. The rest was exhaustion. Get up, wash, eat, lie down for a long nap. Repeat daily.

This went away after two weeks, and then it took another week to recover. So that was September.

And then we had three warm, sunny days. I packed and went back to Jumbo, pronto.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

Warm and sunny but cool and dewy in the shade.

Drove almost up to the trail, only 3.1 miles from Jumbo (5 km), and hiked in. Yay for roads. Carried in two gallons (7.5 L) of water. Cuz there wasn't none up there. OK.

Four scant meals, some tea, a bivy sack, two cameras, and enough water for a day and a half. Try it. It's fun.

The weather: good. Sunny, warm, clear. A strong east wind kept the wet Pacific stuff out of the mountains. With most of the trail on the west slope, it was calm there. Even the one night I spent there was, though clear, warm, with bright moonbeams.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

To the north, Sunrise Peak over the valley of Jumbo Creek.

I'd planned to hike up Jumbo for sunset pictures, sleep, pack up early and hit the mountain again for early morning pictures, and then see what happened. And it sort of but not exactly worked that way.

Although people have said that there's a trail "up the back side" of Jumbo Peak I didn't find one. Pulled self up the wrong side by use of shrubs. Not recommended. Was the hard way. Spooky too.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

Again, to the north and Sunrise Peak. Trail on right.

Came down another way and found elk trails. They might have followed what might have once been a sort of trail, but you'd have to change your definition of trail to qualify it as one. But it worked. Scared a bunch less snot out of me than the up-route.

That really wasn't the bad part though.

Well, there was no really bad part, but up topside was different. Than what you'd expect. From seeing the mountain.

Especially from the south, Jumbo Peak looks solid and square, but it's really more of another ridge on top of a ridge.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

Volcanic fin. Note the white spot...

It's V-shaped. Two volcanic dikes come in from the north. They are northish. They meet and fuse at a blunt, southish point. The trail up, such as it is, follows the eastern dike. That's the route you will take if you are smart. Smarter than I was.

The western dike dips and disappears for a while, then reappears to the northwest as a sort of bare volcanic spire or fin to the northwest. This isn't named on my map but is impressive when you stop and look at it, and finally understand. How massively big and stony it is.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

...which is a goat. Too bad I didn't notice when I was there.

But Jumbo.

On top is level ground but not what you'd expect, looking up from below. Narrow and uneven level ground.

East, toward Mt Adams, Jumbo shoulders off. The stone is loose and crumbly, a deceptive segue to a 2300 foot (700 m) fall, the contemplation of which makes all your body hairs stand up and scream in unison.

If you are there alone.

In the wind, as the sun is diving into cold darkness, and know that any one misstep will at best leave you dead. At worst leave you in blinding pain hoping to die, until you finally do. Later, in the dark.

Some Mumbo About Jumbo

Dirt. In case you have none of your own to play in.

So you move slowly, and retreat carefully toward camp in the weak orange light.

That was when I crossed sunrise photos off my list.

Anyway, the views are better below the peak. Where it is safe to stand. And so on.

I slept with my food as a pillow and all was quiet except for the wind.

Later we'll look at Day Two's photos and see more of Sunrise Peak. And I guess since I've run out of room, then before that, I'll have to post the rest of Day One's images.


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