Trail Fails

Historically, I have never been the one who is known for her athletic ability, nor have I ever been loved for my adventurous outdoorsmen spirit. Because I do not possess either of those. Never in my life have I been asked, “Hey, want to snowshoe across Siberia with me this winter?” (Who fucking does that anyway?)

Despite this, I have really been wanting to get into walking local trails for exercise. Well, if we are being completely honest, I just really want to marvel at the beauty of nature while I sit my fat ass on a comfortable rock. Doing this while eating something, like a dripping slice of watermelon heaven would really just be the cherry on top.

Because getting anyone I know to just sit in nature with me, without sounding like a total lazy loser, is a hard sell, I have been trying to be adventurous by engaging in hiking.

Well, I can most assuredly say that hiking don’t want my fat ass. Hiking wants me to just stay at home with my Halo Top ice cream and Netflix. Hiking does not play.

I’m going to detail three times I failed on the trails recently. Really, this could also qualify as a “This Is Why I’m Fat” post, because almost anyone would have given up after the first failed attempt. So, I hope the Trail Gods are listening. Ya’ll have some work to do…

A week or so ago (I’m a teacher on summer break, so I have no idea what day it is), a friend and I went on a much-needed girl getaway to the Point Reyes Seashore in California.

I stand or crouch behind all of my friends in pictures to appear smaller!
It was gorgeous, but strenuous. We did a lot of walking, trailing, and huffing and puffing.

1. The Stair Climb of Doom

Our first order of business was almost dying on the stairs to and from the Point Reyes Lighthouse. The climb is equivalent to 30.flights.of.stairs.

30 flights, ya’ll. 

I just thought I’d reiterate in case you missed it the first time.

It’s like the freaking Wall of China!
I’m 1000% sure my friend didn’t let on to that fact beforehand, because she knew for certain that it’d be a hard pass from me.

Despite the fact that an elderly man passed me on the hike up the stairs (do you see him in the picture?), and I had to stop at every rest point, it was actually totally worth the sweat-drenched pits and rat’s nest hair (it was so windy, that my phone almost blew away several times).

Fat Pro Tip: Stop to take a picture of literally anything every five minutes or so in order to catch your breath. They’ll have *no* idea!

2. Cataract Fall-Down-The-Hill-Trail

The day after almost needing to be airlifted from the lighthouse steps, we did some more adventurous trailing. I figured, “Why not? Might as well work on another bunion!”

The first few trails were quite easy, as there was no elevation or climb whatsoever. It was absolutely grand. Because we didn’t have to expend energy on moving our bodies up a steep hill, we had energy to climb trees and crawl into reproductions of Native American dwellings. I felt like an obese kid again (I was actually not obese as a child, strangely enough).

My legs were so sore from the previous day’s adventures, I almost didn’t make it out of that squat.
How I got up in that tree…I still don’t know!
 

It wasn’t until we thought it would be a good idea to try to find the Cataract Falls did we have problems. This is also the part in my story where I’m going to be putting All Trails on blast.

Not only was the following hike not “easy” as it was mistakenly rated, one of the lengths of the “loop” was not a trail at all. It was a grassy hill, and we almost broke our asses more times than I’d like to admit as we stepped/slid at a snail’s pace the whole entire way down. 

(I was also insanely afraid a mountain lion was going to come up behind me. Do you think that was irrational?)

Does this look like a trail to you??
This was a steep mother-effer!
When we made it to the bottom of the hill and the actual trail, we found that our pants, socks, and shoes were positively filled with foxtails and these terrible poky stickers that were absolute bitches to get off of our clothes and shoelaces.

We sat on the ground for a good 20 minutes, plucking shit out of everywhere!
If this wasn’t bad enough, when we got to our first trail marker, nowhere did it say “This way to the waterfall”, and the names of the available trails had nothing to do with the trail we thought we were on. We went the wrong way for 30 minutes before we got service on our phones and could see where we were on the trail.

When we finally found the waterfall, after a huge descent into what looked like middle earth, it was stunning and worth the trials we went through to get there. Well, it was a beautiful experience until I realized that’d I’d have to climb back to the car at some point.

Honestly, at one point during the hot, sweaty, and ugly hike back, I questioned how much it would cost for Search and Rescue to retrieve me from the trail.

It was so bad. And hard. 

The waterfall was a pretty anticlimactic affair, but the surrounding area was beautiful in an otherworldly-way.
3. Jones Creek Loop Trail AKA Call For Help

After being back home for a week or so, I decided that I would try hiking again (Why? Maybe I am a masochist, or I feel I deserve punishment for past transgressions?). So, the boyfriend and I looked up easy trails in the trees. Shade FTW!

We settled on the Jones Creek Loop Trail because it was rated as easy and only 1.5 miles.

We used the All Trails’ directions app, and it took us right to the trail head.

After a little trek that was almost all uphill, we came upon a sign. It said, “Jones Creek Loop”, and it had two arrows pointing to the right and to the left. Considering it was a loop, we figured it didn’t matter which way we went, as it would just bring us right back to where we started.

We seemed to be hiking quite awhile when the boyfriend remarked, “I think 1.5 miles seems longer when we are on a trail, because it’s not just a straight stretch?”

At least the scenery was gorgeous!

At this point, we were getting a little apprehensive. We also realized that our “loop” did not seem to be looping back to where we started whatsoever-we just kept heading further and further away.

We saw a man coming off of another trail (I will get to the myriad off shoots of unmarked trails in a minute…) and we asked him how to get back to the parking lot. He said we needed to go in the direction we were headed in, but for three or four more miles.

HOLD UP.

Somehow we got onto the wrong trail, but we had not taken any of the unmarked trails that veered off of the main trail.

At this point, my stress began causing my asthma to flare up, and I saw images of us, emaciated and half-eaten by mountain lions, in front of my eyes, like a mirage.

We decided to just keep walking and hope the guy didn’t know what he was talking about.

Ten minutes and almost all of our water later, we saw another guy coming off some other trail. I tried to stay calm when I asked him how we could get back to our car. While I was asking him, the boyfriend was off admiring some bark, pretending he didn’t belong to the sweaty girl who was in a near panic.

The guy said he was headed to the parking lot, and we could follow him.

A half mile later, we saw what looked like civilization and our spirits rose. We came upon a parking lot, but we quickly realized, stomachs sinking, it was not our parking lot.

As we were looking at the posted map and trying to look cool, like, “We meant that”, the guy waved us over.

He realized that he had led us to the wrong parking lot. He offered us a ride back to our car, three miles away.

We had somehow ended up on the 9 mile trail called the same damn thing as the 1.5 mile trail.

So, we ended that trail fail crammed into the cab of a tiny truck belonging to a very kind man. The whole way back to our car, I was trying not to reek of sweat and defeat.

We massively failed on the trails again only yesterday, and I was going to write about that fail too, but I have already gone on long enough.

The clouds were epic!

I will say, though, that the most recent fail is not entirely our fault. What in the actual eff is up with All Trails and their “easy” loop trails? Not only are they not easy, whoever is creating trails that feed off of the loop ought to be taken out back and given a stern talking to. In my mind, a loop is just that, A LOOP. Yet, every single trail we have tried is not really a loop, but a maze of deviating trails that go off in every fucking direction.

Really, it is no small miracle that more people do not get horribly lost in the woods on “easy” trails.

Or.

We are just utter idiots, and we need to take a “Trails For Dummies” course.

Tell me: Have you ever gotten lost on trails? Is it just me who can’t seem to find my way on “easy” trails? Help a fatty out! Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

WTF, Google?! 

Last week, my boyfriend and I went on a quickie road trip up through Portland and on to Mount Saint Helens (I almost typed “Mount Rushmore”, and that’s where I said we went when the gas station attendant asked us where we were off to the morning we left. It’s a wonder I can even function). 

Mount Saint Helens is an active stratovolcano located in Washington state, about 50 miles northeast of Portland (thanks, Wikipedia). It last erupted in 2008, but it’s most famous eruption was on May 18, 1980. Growing up, I heard stories of how the ash from the 1980 eruption found its way nearly 400 miles to the deck at my grandparent’s cabin on Coeur d’ Alene Lake in Idaho. My mother said the ash blocked out the sun and it looked like the end of days. 

Since I always heard the stories of the eruption growing up, and I teach my students every year about the cause and effect of volcanos, it was decided that it would be our summer destination. 

We left Reno around 7:30 AM, stopped in Klamath Falls for some Taco Time lunch and a Dutch Bros. coffee, and arrived in the Portland area around 5:30 PM. It was a long day of straight driving, but it was the start of our vacation, so there was no bloodshed yet. 

We stayed with my aunt, who was gracious enough to host us. She had her pool ready and raring to go, so we definitely took advantage of that luxury. Our TBs (tired butts) were very grateful. 


The next morning, we were up early and excited to see Mount Rush..Mount Saint Helens (See? There’s something wrong with my head). 

We stopped at Tom’s Pancake House to fill up, as we planned on doing some hiking (to be honest, I was really hoping there’d be less hiking and more sitting in a scenic spot, eating the “hiking” snacks we packed). When I saw that Tom’s had an option to top your waffle with Oregon marionberries, it was an easy choice! I’m not really sure what a marionberry is, but since we don’t usually see them in Nevada, I had to try them. 

Mmmm…this was so good! I can’t really describe the flavor of the marionberry. The flavor is just “berry”.

When we got back into the car, we used Google to get the directions to the mountain. 

Before we had left Reno, we did a small amount of research and knew that there was an observatory and plenty of hiking trails to choose from on and around the mountain (I liked the sound of the 1.5 mile one and the one that had no incline). 

So, back to Google. Via maps, we were given the directions to Cougar, WA. So, we merrily made our way to where we’d hoped to find a spunky grandma who’d take a picture by the town sign.

After we wound our way through a quaint rural community, the road became very twisty and turny (yes, that’s a word) underneath a thick blanket of trees. We were climbing a mountain, just not the mountain we had come to see. 

The landscape was not at all what I had expected. We also saw not one sign indicating we were headed toward the mountain, an information center, or the observatory. In fact, there were some signs, but they were stangely covered up. 

There was so much green- nothing like the pictures we saw online!

Eventually, we made our way to the first hiking spot. We were hoping there would be further information at the trail head that would help us glean where the heck we were. But, no such luck. 

Also, the hike was an eight-miler, so that was a no-go.

‘Thumbs up’ to not hiking eight miles!

We got back into the car and continued up the mountain. Not long after, we got sight of Mt. Saint Helens and it was glorious, but, worryingly, still pretty far away. 

While we were admiring the volcano with our 10x magnifying binoculars, a friendly German couple came up to talk to us. 

They remarked on the beauty of it all, and we asked them if they were headed to the observatory. The woman said the road to the observatory was closed due to a late winter. 

(The jury is still out on that).

We felt pretty defeated and downright lost, as we had zero service on our phones and no paper maps to help guide our way. 

We decided to get back into the car and continue further. Almost at the very end of the road was another spot to hike. We decided it would have to work.

I’m sure by now you’re realizing that we were lost or just completely mixed up. Well, right you are! 

It wasn’t until we headed back down the mountain and to Ape Cave did we come across an information kiosk/gift shop where people with factual information could be found. 

When I asked how we could get to the observatory, the young man working the gift shop said it was some three hours away, but we could still make it, as they didn’t close until six. 

Three hours away. 

We were on the complete opposite side of the mountain. 

We had spent our entire day, dedicated to seeing Mount Saint Helens, like total dopes on the wrong side of the mountain.

So, how did two college-educated individuals mess up so royally? 

It’s all Google’s fault. Yes, just like a tattletale seven-year-old, I’m blaming it on someone/something else.

When you Google, “Johnston Ridge Observatory”, Google has you go to Cougar, WA. 

Notice how, in the first website under the egregious misinformation, it says, “Toutle, WA”? Yeah, that’s (closer to) where the observatory is. 

Our trip wasn’t all in vain, however. The hike we took was through utterly stunning terrain (honestly, I think it was way prettier on the wrong side of the mountain). We also went in Ape Cave, and I crossed a suspension bride just like the one in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It was just like that one (don’t listen to my boyfriend. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about). 

Paul Bunyan strength

This raging river, cutting through volcanic rock, had pools with beautiful Caribbean-blue water.
Huge volcanic rock formations
This was truly one of the scariest things I’ve ever done!
My boyfriend took this while he was crossing the bridge. I kept yelling for him to not drop my phone. I was totally concerned for his safety, too.

We didn’t have enough layers on to do the whole cave. It was FRIGID!

We decided against driving another three hours (one way) to see the observatory, so we drove back into downtown Portland for some sightseeing.

We hit up the world-renowned Voodoo Donut and the Deschutes Brewery. 

Donuts and beer totally made up for not getting to the observatory. 

It was 93 degrees out. The sun beat down on us as we stood next to a glittery brick wall that was radiating heat. It took 20 minutes to get to the front. TOTALLY WORTH IT.
Utterly, insanely gluttonous
My favorite was The Neapolitan.
I’d like to spend some more time in Portland when it’s not melt-your-face-off hot. I DID NOT get the true Portland experience.

So, kids, learn from Aunt Fatty. Do not rely on Google, it’s not all-knowing. Go to the actual website for the location/landmark/attraction you are going to visit. Do some damn research before you go, and don’t rely on your phone for everything-you might not have service where you’re going! 

Know before you go:

Johnston Ridge Observatory, last stop on HWY 504, 52 miles from Castle Rock. NOT in Cougar, WA. 


Source
References: 

Wikipedia