Friday, May 27, 2005

Tunnel Creek to Lake Hope and PCT

Photo: Tunnel Creek Trailhead Posted by Hello

I really like this pose . . . I'm almost narcissistic about it. So therefore it bugs me a little bit to have to trim and censor these pictures to post them in this blog. Not that I worry too much about being seen nude and in explicit detail . . . there are plenty of pictures of me in my photo album that show all of me. The decision to not show my genitals is to shy away from militant nudism and present my nudity implicitly rather than explicitly. You have to admit that the picture above leaves no doubt that I am naked as the day I was born (except for my beloved silly hat), yet I am not showing my genitals at all. I think that says more than an explicit image ever could. Still, sometimes I wish people would just 'chill out' and enjoy the naked human body for the work of creation it is. Anyway, stepping down off my soapbox.

Wednesday I hiked the Tunnel Creek trail. I'd always had this one in mind for a nude hike but never seemed to have found the time for it. Though rated difficult, it is a short 1 1/2 mile hike (all uphill) and is extremely popular, especially because of the twin Hope Lakes located at the top where the trail intersects the Pacific Crest Trail as the PCT winds down from Cowboy Mountain at Steven Pass on southward to Snoqualmie Pass. Because of this popularity, the trail sees lots of family hikers . . . so I held back on that trail. Wednesday, I decided to check the trailhead again.

No vehicles at the trailhead and there are probably no hikers on the trail already and you can hike in naked and relaxed instead of keeping a pair of shorts at the ready should you encounter a family group on the trail. We were lucky. A weekday and getting a later start than normal (1pm), we had the trail to ourselves and the weather was glorious. I hike with a friend of mine . . . she's just as passionate about nude hiking as I am and more importantly, hikes at about the same slow speed as I hike . . . since I love to dawdle and explore little side trails and such. I've long since given up trying to make the two miles per hours the guidebooks suggest. You miss too much huffing and puffing yourself to death. My rate on a moderate to steep slope is more like one mile per hour, so these shorter hikes are special events. More time to loll about at the end or along the way and just enjoy being nude.

I mention my friend. Platonic. But absolutely the best companionship on the trail. She is just so easy to be with.

Tunnel Creek starts out steep and stays steep; the first part heading up under the canopy into a series of switchbacks to gain altitude. Some of the best views are as you come out of the canopy and get to see the snow covered mountains ahead of you near the goal.

The snows in the background was our destination for this hike. Posted by Hello

Then the trail heads in southward, climbing moderately now, alternating between canopy and open, sun-drenched outcroppings of talus. The trail generally follows Tunnel Creek up, though staying way above the creek, itself. That leads to some spectacular viewpoints along the way . . . my favorite, a large mass of exposed shale hanging precipitously over the creek about half way in.

The trail is in reasonably good shape after a wet winter. There is one fallen tree across the trail . . . easily gotten over. There are a lot of wet areas and bogs (especially lower down near the beginning). The puncheon bridges are sound with a few broken planks and a general kilter to them that is fun to walk across. The wet areas of the trails are to more recent snow melt and runoff . . . the water seeking the lowest point . . . the trail. Interesting to read the footprints in the mud and moist dirt. Tracks going in . . . and tracks going out. You can tell a lot about the hiker and the company kept; in this case a male, rather affluent because the treads were from expensive hiking boots. And a dog accompanying him. I also noted the bear tracks on the trail following them in for a short distance . . . which make me reach for the reassurance of the bear spray at my hip.

You cross a couple of alpine creeks further up and have to step carefully to avoid slipping and getting your shoes soaked. That makes for miserable hiking; even though I carry extra socks in my backpack and would need them later on.

As you gain altitude the canopy changes too . . . evergreen seedpod cones crunching underfoot as the Western Hemlocks give way to fir trees and the cones become larger. The canopy thins as well letting in more of the afternoon sunlight. Through it all, the roar of Tunnel Creek at a distance below you keeps you company. We can smell the change in the air . . . lighter . . . cooler, with a hint of sharpness as we near the ridge. Patches of snow have been teasing us for the last quarter mile. Now there is a little crunchy snow sluicing the trails in places.

The lake comes upon you all of a sudden as you top the ridge into a wide, flat area. At first, your not sure it's the lake. It's still frozen and covered with snow like everything else up here. But as you catch your breath and bearings, you see the open water of the first of the two shallow alpines lakes and it's time for some pictures (as if there is never a time for pictures).

Anyone for a polar nude dip in this lake? Posted by Hello

This is were the PCT connects, cutting a trail from the northeast to a southwesterly direction toward the nearby Surprise Lake a ridgeline over. There is still a lot of snow up here. The PCT is difficult to make out unless you already know where it goes. We head up around the lower lake across a field of crusty and still clean snow to view the other lake. Then it's lunch time and an hour or so of enjoying the snow-bowl. We're naked, in the snow, and it feels wonderfully. No cold at all. And there isn't a better way to get some sun than to stand out in the middle of a field of glaring white snow in full afternoon sunlight!

Eventually, you have to head back and this is where my misfortune happened. We'd crossed a creek earlier . . . probing and trusting the thick snow pack to hold. This time it didn't and my weight broke through, plunging me into a ice-cold frigid creek flowing underneath the snow all the way up to my shoulders.

I wasn't hurt (except the shock and my pride). The snow kinda cushioned the slow drop. But wet I was . . . shoes and socks submerged as was most of me up to my shoulders before I could right myself, stand up and climb my way out of the hole I'd made. And I made a discovery. Being nude saved my ass. If I'd been wearing clothes they would have been drenched and sucking the heat straight out of my body. As it was . . . the water rolled off my naked skin and the sun was quickly soothing those goosebumps down. Guess I'm kinda ready for next years New Year's Arctic Plunge now.

We headed back down after making sure I didn't break anything and that my pack was really water resistant. It was as I found a warm and dry log to sit on and switch out my sopping wet socks for dry ones. Then off we went, the hiking bringing my internal furnace online again.

We dawdled all the way down. Jeez, you know it's going to end and you just don't want to have to put on clothes again. We've had everything . . . wind, bright sunlight, snow and everything in between (I even went ice bathing).

The trailhead was as we left it earlier . . . just our cars. Reluctantly we got dressed and headed back to the highway. Tunnel Creek is a great weekday nude hike, and except for the switchbacks, sight distance is adequate for advance warning of approaching hikers. The lakes at the top provide lots of areas for frolicking around au'natural, and I would imagine the lakes, being shallow, would made for good skinny-dipping later in the summer.

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