With a conveniently-located trailhead (right on highway 12), a taste of the PCT, and a lesser-traveled section of trail leading to a summit of sorts with a panoramic view including Mt Rainier…this hike seems almost too good to be true. I’ll admit though – I was judging a trail by its name when selecting it for my Saturday outing - “Twin Peaks” - due to an old TV show I have an affection for…
Most of this hike is a very gradual upward grade. So gradual, in fact, you barely register you are going uphill…until the very end during which point it is undeniable you are going uphill…but we’ll get to that later.
From the parking area* you immediately cross Clear Creek and soon pass by Leech Lake (aren’t you just dying for a dip in that lake based on its name?). Somewhere around 2 miles you’ll pass a boulder field where I believe I heard (but sadly never caught sight of) a pika.
The trail enters forest once again and soon you’ll find yourself passing into Goat Rocks Wilderness. Pass by Ginnette Lake, a boggy pond, and then you’ll hit the trail junction. The trail sign for Twin Peaks Trail 1144 is high up in a tree and easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. The start of this trail branching off of the PCT descends into a lush meadow and flattens out before your grunt to the peak begins. There are some fallen debris you’ll be required to scramble over, but all part of the charm of this trail if you ask me.
It is fairly straight up to the first of the Twin Peaks, but you have plenty of excuses to stop for a breather on the way because each step opens up your view of Hogback Ridge, Dog Lake, and Mt Rainier. Don’t give up or give in before the high point though…it is completely worth the effort.
A bare, gravel-covered ridgeline leads you to a neighboring peak if you fancy a bit more exploring at the elevation. Here you find a bone yard – bleached, burned trees standing as sentinels and a haven for birds. If you are a birder, you’ll delight in this area so bring your binoculars. There is something serene and lovely about the skeleton trees in contrast to sky, something marvelously uplifting of seeing how something burned and long dead providing the backdrop for the liveliness of dark-eyed juncos and grey jays.
The hike back down is almost entirely downhill, so you can complete this hike somewhere in the 4 – 5 hour range, even with lingering at the summit for a long while like I did. If you rally to getting an early start you’ll find you had the whole hike to yourself as you pass small groups of late-morning hikers on your way out … feeling slightly smug at your achievement of “early bird catches the worm.”
There are many benefits to getting trail time and peak time entirely to oneself. And I experienced a new one this week.
I had brought a letter from a friend to read at the peak – seemed a novel thing to do. I didn’t know exactly the words it contained, but apparently it was something God really wanted my heart to hear, because it struck me deeply, and permitted me to cry.
I don’t know if you’ve ever cried aloud, alone, on a mountain peak. But I now believe it to be one of life’s essential experiences.
It doesn’t have to be a mountain peak actually. It just needs to be somewhere solitary, with no other human around, and no human sound. Somewhere exposed so you can let yourself be exposed. Let your heart be exposed to yourself.
At any rate, reading this letter in this space brought me to tears. They surprised me, but it was sort of intoxicating. It felt like I was tapping into something not allowed. Something I should have had to pay extra for.
I hesitated to share this because if you aren’t a melancholy soul, then you likely won’t understand what I am describing. I mean, if you are all smiles and laughter all the time – marvelous for you. I mean that sincerely and not sarcastically.
But that is something I just can’t be and don’t understand. I know for myself, and I think it generally true for most of us, that we need to allow ourselves be a little more raw every once in awhile…a little more real…a little more exposed.
If you are a melancholy soul you will understand entirely that to cry is not always (or even usually) something to be a cause of concern. I wonder over the social reaction to crying. We are always trying to stifle it, apologize for it, fix it, hide it. Our knee-jerk reaction to someone crying is to say something like “don’t cry” and attempt to comfort them to stop the crying – stop not to let them cry. If we are the one crying, we try to hide our face, turn our head, or apologize for crying. We try to choke it down, bottle it up, push it away.
Why is it so very much “ok” to smile and laugh, but repulsive and shameful to cry and shed tears? Why do we apologize for it? Why do we try to snuff it out before it starts? Why don’t we just embrace it?
And please don’t misunderstand, the crying had nothing to do with loneliness or being alone. It wasn’t painful, it felt more like cleaning out something that was gathering dust, something beautiful that needed to get access to oxygen, something that was essential to my breathing. Something that needed to breathe itself.
It felt therapeutic to be up there alone, mountain ridges all around me, Rainier in the distance, a symphony of bird calls giving texture to the air. I was hard-pressed to leave. Hard pressed to let the moment go.
So, I’m risking to share it here so that if you ever get a chance to experience something similar – don’t let the moment go.
so, let go...there's a beauty in the breakdown (frou frou)
*Note: Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful annual pass required & don’t forget to fill out your wilderness pass (free at the trailhead) before you begin.