Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Surprise Creek Nude Hike (partial, called because of rain)

The obligatory trailhead-sign pose and a latte before the hike

Well, I'm gonna pictorially get you all up to the lakes at the end of the Surprise Creek Trail yet if the weather cooperates. Wednesday is my traditional hiking day and despite looking out the window and seeing low, menacing grey clouds hanging out over Seattle . . . and thicker cumulus moisture clouds piling up over the Cascades in the distance, I wanted another hike. It wasn't raining yet and there is always the chance the sun will peek out in the afternoon. So I drove into the mountains. Hell or high-water . . . I was going to get some hiking in.

There was one other vehicle at the trailhead when I arrived around noon . . . in a drizzle of sometimes rain . . . sometimes heavy mist. This was going to be a wet hike so I turned up the heater to get myself 'in the mood' as I undressed. The vehicle, a jeep, had been there sometime. You can tell by the tire tracks and the leaf debris on the vehicle. More than likely a PCT hiker or extended backpacker. It would be unlikely I would me them on the trail and I seriously doubted anyone else would be arriving for Surprise Creek with this weather. Also, it was a little late to really be attempting this trail . . . the lake is four miles in and with an hour playing around at the top you really needed 6-8 hours to do Surprise Creek properly.

Was momentarily surprised by a BPA maintenance jeep sipping through the trailhead and on up onto the BPA Easement ahead so I decided to hike the BPA clearcut to the actual trail entrance textile and then slip out of my shorts once inside the forest canopy. Bummer since there is a little bit of a thrill hiking nude straight from my car . . . I guess I have a slight exhibitionist streak in me anyway . . . or is it just being naughty and getting a high out of not being caught? Who knows. Part of the ritual.

About an easy half hour into the hike
you enter the Alpine Wilderness Area

Surprise Creek is a very popular trail and easily hiked (except for the last mile or so of switchbacks). As a consequence, the trail is well-maintained with lots of puncheon bridges over wet and boggy areas . . . and in the lower sections, stairways to get up steep areas. But once you enter the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area the amenities peter out and the trail becomes one to watch your footing on. You soon sidle-up to Surprise Creek and are presented with a huge log crossing to the left. There are no handrails and the walkway cut onto the top of the log is somewhat slippery. The old trail hugging the west side of the creek is blocked and abandoned. Once on the east side you start a more moderate climb up in and out of cover and past an ancient, major rock slide. The size of the boulders throughout the hike is stupendous. This slide is just a sample of bigger ones ahead.

The trail turns back toward the creek and here you find some great camping locations close to the creek on level ground.

Camp site area near creek
(I don't normally post full-frontal pics but I liked this one)

This picture (and the one following) were taken at a large, flat clearing between the trail and the creek nearby. I'm estimating that three or four good-sized tents could be erected on the clearing and it has obviously been used for this purpose in the past. Though Forest Service rules 'suggest' that camp sites be 200 ft from creeks and be located away and out of sight of trails, no body seems to have applied those rules here. It has all the markings of a sanctioned camp location . . . and it's a great one.

In the trees overlooking one of the large, flat camping areas. Me, Tarzan . . . lol

The trail diverges from the creek once again to start a moderate criss-cross climb first through some open forest and then into the open . . . though the vegetation growth spurt has hemmed in a lot of the narrow trail as we work ever upward on the eastern slope toward the head of the valley. It is fortunate that I am naked because any clothes I might have been wearing would have become soaked bulldozing myself through dew-covered new growth. I like this the best . . . walking through wet foliage nude. It's a very sensuous pleasure as the supple leaves and stems brush across my bare skin with a wet caress. The trail is narrow here, and treacherous. So I take it slow and watch my footing on the hidden rocks and skree.

We cross another ancient collapse of granite on the slope and marvel at the surprising sound of a major brook gurgling deep beneath those large boulders on it's way down to Surprise Creek below us. It's been two hours now and I have classes tonight. I'm watching my time and figure half an hour more. Alas, I know it is not enough time to reach the lake because I have been dallying at every creek-approach I could find. Out here in the open, the drizzle that has accompanied me most of the way, has now become rain with a breeze. Surprisingly, I'm not in the least bit cold. But I turn around and start the downward trek back. The going is fast once I luxuriate in the foliage on the flip-side.

My one and only rest stop

I dally again at the camping sites. From here on it is gentle and easy trails and I really enjoy the hiking . . . more of a stroll now. I find myself slowing down . . . exploring this or that. I'm delaying because I know that soon I'll have to put my clothes on.

Horsing around with the trail sign on the BPA Easement

The end comes soon enough when the trails spills onto the BPA access road. I assume the maintenance crew from earlier is gone and after horsing around continue the quarter mile down to the trailhead. Next time I do this trail I am going to take you right up to Surprise and Spark Lakes for some tremendous views.

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