Mount Baldy & Kachess Ridge Trail Report, A Comedy

Yesterday I visited my new speech therapists in the early morning, yes two of them now, and then used my time on the mainland to go for a hike. My plan was to head east over the Cascades and nab a peak off the I-90 corridor that had opened up and by all accounts melted out. Mount Baldy (1212) is supposed to be a steep climb, but the wild flowers are in bloom and there’s an unparalleled view awaiting you when you top out, or so I’ve been told.

I made a beeline from the medical center over this pass and to the parking area. The road get’s progressively worse. Nothing car stopping-ly bad for my Crosstrek, but beware if you drive a low hung Prius or something similar. You’re going to bottom out in a few places if you’re not careful.

Trailhead has no facilities and as it unfortunately turns out an amazing population of biting mosquitoes. I parked said Crosstrek (named Stella because it’s blue and black like a Steller’s Jay) and started to put my back on and get my camera ready. I wasn’t two breaths into the affair when the cloud of hungry beast descended on me and tried to carry my bodily into the woods to have their evil little way with my person.

First things first, out came the bug repellent and the head net. Damn! These guys are persistent. I readied my stuff as quickly as I could and then beat feet right past the informative sign that said “1212” and “1315,” no arrows.

The mosquitoes followed me for a while, but I out paced them. Eventually, I was also joined by a delightful katabatic breeze boiling down the stony hill that washed the last of the little buggers away.

The trail is indeed steep, as are most of the footpaths in this neck of the woods. My feelings are that the design philosophy behind most of the trail construction in this neck of the woods was and has been “it should make my horse sweat.” The key insights being that the surveyors never walked the trails they compelled constructed and these were frugal men who never really enjoyed seeing the lands through which they traveled.

Despite the incline of the ascent I was treated. Eventually the tramp cuts through a vine maple forest the likes of which I have never seen before. The hike was worth it just for the for the amazing explosion of sunlight through green leaves.

I carried on and eventually met up with a waterfall which I was not expecting. “Huh, better make sure to include that in my trail report,” I made a mental note knowing that no one else had said anything before me. the cascade of water through rock was breathtaking. I often find that these unremarked gems, off the beaten path, that never make it into the pages of a magazine are my favorite. I paused a moment to take it in.

Then, after entering a shaded valley, from where the stream originated the snow began. I played elf for a while, pretending I wasn’t 20 pounds overweight, and tried to stay on top of the melting crust. The day was warming, there was a haze of moisture sublimating from the dirty white beneath my feet and the track wasn’t easy to follow. Still I pushed on for about two miles before I began to question my self. Was I even on the right trail? I came to a stream crossing and a partially uncovered bridge where a trail sign proclaimed “Kachess Ridge Trail 1315” but no Mount Baldy.

Uh, WTH?

I got out my phone. No signal. I got out my InReach, held it above my head for a long while. Signal. One handed, looked at the map on my phone. Okay, there I am. Where is there? Not on 1212, but I knew that I guess. Why am I not on the right trail.

Eventually I had to put the InReach back in its pocket and zoom in and back to the trail head, where, it turns out 1212 takes an unsigned hard right down by the creek. In my rush to get away from the mosquitoes I’d blown right past it. Grumble grumble.

I pushed around a little more in the snow and couldn’t find any more tracks. Finally, I decided that it would be best for me to head back. Admittedly I was a little disappointed, mostly in myself for missing the turn, and then later for not being 20 years younger and just going and doing Mount Baldy anyway, but it was super nice day anyway. That vine maple forest was unspeakably wonderful to me and made a lasting impression I can’t begin to share. The waterfall was unique and powerful and refreshing too. And I came through it all with only about two mosquito bites.

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