This trip I hiked the Rebel Rock Trail #3324, stopped at the old lookout, then hiked over the ridge to return to the trailhead on the Rebel Creek Trail #3323. Here is a KMZ file of my track, which can be opened in Google Earth.
My expectations were that I would hike up to the lookout, and then decide from there whether to return the way I came or finish the loop. The total distance is 11 miles according to the Forest Service write-up. I expected rain showers and maybe some shallow snow at elevation, but nothing that needed gaiters.
It did not go as I envisioned. Instead it was an ordeal.
I was up too late the night before, so I “slept in” til 7am and got out on the road at about 8am. This was mistake #1. I did not get a good early start. By the time I got to the trailhead, it was 10:15am. I hit the trail at about 10:30. Normally I try to hit the trail at sunrise (abt 7:30am here atm). This put me behind at the start, and I had not accounted for the shortening days. Even though I was only going 11 miles, once I add in all the ensuing “adventure”, I was already doomed to a late finish.
The first section of the hike was fine, really. I was ascending on the south face of the ridge. It was just a hard steady climb. The trailhead (point A in the Google Earth data) is at about 2040′, and I had to climb to 5300′ before the high point 6 miles in (point B). I’m still not in great shape, and it was a relentless climb. I underestimated the difficulty of this part. That was mistake #2.
Initially I was hiking in a drizzle of rain. Eventually this turned into showers of hail. Then it started snowing very hard-frozen flakes. The entire time there was a mist in the air. The best visibility I had the whole trip was maybe 500′. Most of the time it was more like 100′.
I did get some OK pictures.
On the way up I saw the old signal wire from the lookout. It’s the dark line angling down from top right to the lower center:
It hasn’t been used in years and has mostly already come down and been lost. Here is a join in the line:
This is pretty much all old growth, so there are some monster Douglas fir trees out there. These three are all 5-6′ in diameter:
Random scenery (I love it out here):
There was a whole section where the north side of the trees were just covered in hanging moss:
As I neared the top off the ridge, there were sections without trees (point C for example). In the summer these would be covered in rhododendron and other waist-high shrubbery, but now it’s all dead. The water droplets that are on everything everywhere are starting to freeze up:
It’s a good thing I had rain pants (Frogg Toggs) because I never would have made it across these open areas dry otherwise. This is when visibility was at its best all day:
A little higher, and there was a light layer of snow on everything (sorry about the moisture on the lens):
As soon as I crossed the peak and started the half-mile walk down the ridge to the lookout, it started to snow. It was pretty cool at first, because I was still warm and dry, I knew the rest of the hike was almost all downhill, and the snow was magical. I was so distracted I didn’t see the cairn to mark where to leave the path for the lookout. I noticed about 200′ down the trail, and backtracked to the right spot:
A short hike off trail and I found it (point D):
The view was hopeless. The wind was about 30mph and it was snowing pretty good:
I hung out for a little while and then got loaded up and left about 3:30pm. I knew that my mistakes had hurt me on time, but I figured since it was all downhill from here I would move faster and take fewer breaks, so I expected to make it out just before it got dark. Boy was I wrong.
I had to cross the ridge and meet up with the Scott Creek Trail at about point E. This section of trail is in very poor condition, with a lot of blowdown and washed-out trail. I doubt I was really on the trail for most of that section. I never really found the trail intersection, but I did find the Scott Creek Trail and headed west down that side of the ridge, descending quickly.
This section of trail was much better maintained and it was easy to see the trial in daylight. But by the time I got to this section, I was on the north side of the ridge, under heave tree cover, so it was already getting quite dim. Plus snow was accumulating, and visibility was about 15′. So seeing the trail became a challenge, and with the fog my headlight wasn’t much help to be honest. Then it got completely dark.
As usual, my knees hated the downhill, so I was in pain and walking slowly already. But then in the dim fogged light I mis-stepped and twisted my ankle. Not a sprain, but every step hurt. This brought me to a near crawl, and by the time I made it back to the trailhead it was 7:45.
I had to count off paces and convert to feet as I went to distract myself from the pain. That was a long 4 miles there at the end. Probably the worst bit of hiking I’ve ever had to endure in 35 years of doing it. But I willed myself on and made it out.
I had a great time, but:
- Always leave on time.
- Always give yourself more time than you think you need.
- Never step where you cannot see.
The next day I was sore. My knees hated me and my ankle was still slightly painful. But after 3 days I was recovered completely, and I have some great memories to look back on. The weather and the climb were both rather difficult, but there were moments that made it worth the trouble. Walking in the falling snow was particularly spectacular. Some of those big old trees were stunning. This would be a great hike – spread over two nice days.