Sunday, Melissa and I went out with the intention of doing 16.5 miles and about 4200′, running three segments of trails from the same trailhead: the Twin Falls trail, the Mt. Washington peak, and then a little stretch on the John Wayne trail to add some distance. We packed up Saturday evening, and then got up at 0600 to head to the trailhead on Sunday morning.
We got there after some repacking at about 0730. Literally loaded-for-bear*, we started off on the Twin Falls trail. Look how young and foolish we were!
Twin Falls is a relatively flat trail that goes from the Homestead Valley trailhead. You only have to do a 2.6 mile out and back to see the falls. We made it a 5 mile trip by going all the way through to the Twin Falls trailhead and back, seeing the falls twice. I say it’s “relatively flat” because over the five-mile distance we had about 1200′ of gain, which is not a trivial amount, at least for us.
The falls are beautiful, and worth the trip. If it’s the only trail you’re doing, it’s certainly accessible for anyone without significant mobility issues. We saw lots of families with young kids, and elderly people who were on day hikes to see the falls. Running it is only a little more challenging. It took us 1:15. The views were really great (click to embiggen).
Upon our return from Twin Falls, we took the very poorly marked Mt. Washington Trail (there’s a rock cairn at the entrance and someone had helpfully arranged this Blair Witch style pointer).
This trail had almost every trail style you can imagine. Some soft forest dirt, some technical rock scramble, a water crossing (but easy). But its main feature was an unrelenting 14% grade for four straight miles. The hill was remarkably consistent. No down portions at all. Maybe a total of a quarter mile or half mile of flat. Mostly steep grades varying between 10% and 20%.
It was popular, rarely would more than a few minutes go by that we didn’t encounter someone else going up or down. There was no running up this hill except the brief flat bits. A lot of the trail had loose coarse gravel on a steep grade. If you can run up that you’re fitter than me. And if you can run down it, you’re more suicidal.
The ascent took us about an hour and forty-five minutes. There was one beautiful clearing on the way up with a great view. I wish I knew what direction I was looking but I didn’t glance at my compass.
But the big payoff was the view at the top. Looking south from Mt. Washington is a gorgeous vista of Mt. Rainier. Our elevation was about 4400′, so Mt. Rainier towered another 10,000′ above us. Only about 50 miles away, photographs can’t do justice to the immense presence of the mountain.
We lingered at the top for a bit. And I discovered I was out of water. I sweat a lot, and I brought 2.5 liters of water and another 20oz of skratch electrolyte drink. But after three hours and 9 miles, I was dry. Luckily, Melissa had a little extra. And we were going down hill and a really modest pace; I don’t need a lot of water for that. But I did try my new LifeStraw Flex at a stream. And discovered that right out of the box, the flex bottle had TWO small punctures in it, making it useless. I’ll do a gear review soon, but man was I angry. The straw works. The bottle? Straight in the garbage.
But I made it back down safely. I mostly took the descent at a gait I call “sasquatching”. Loose arms, definitely not a jog, but faster than walking. We arrived back at the trailhead four hours and thirty minutes after we started. I had smashed my shin on a large rock I climbed over, and having gone an hour with very little water, rather than attempt to rehydrate and go back out for three more miles, we called it a day.
Frozen grapes and a turkey sandwich were the best thing ever. So the run/hike ended up being 13 miles and 4249′ of gain. And one gorgeous mountain, on a beautiful day.
*We’ll do a post on what we carry sometime, but one thing is bear spray. My opinion is no need for it on the well-traveled popular trails like we were on this week, but I like to carry the things I need – even on days I know I won’t need them – as training.