LIVIN ON STILTS
On Monday, we woke up to the gorgeous Spokane weather at the Riverside State Park – Bowl and Pitcher campground. We were both so excited to finally be in a beautiful place with beautiful weather. Not to say Canada wasn’t spectacular, but the rain and cold really put a damper on things for us. The state park is massive, with a lot of trails and a beautiful river. The Centennial Trail runs through the state park. So, we set out to do some exploring. Fred and I walked the Swinging Bridge while Matt practiced fly fishing. Still working out how to actually fly fish, Matt lost around three flies that first day.
I wasn’t feeling well on Tuesday, so I pretty much only left the camper once to let Fred run around. Matt went on a long bike ride into town to the nearest fishing shop to pick up some more flies. The man working there gave him some pointers and I caught Matt watching fly fishing tutorials on YouTube several times throughout the day. He practiced intermittently through the day between work.
On Wednesday, Matt, Fred and me took Trail 25 (East), not sure of how long it was. There was a lot of conflicting information on the trail, so we just did it to find out. We ended up hiking around five miles, creating our own loop through the lush forest trail that followed along the Spokane River. The trail itself was an easy steady incline, well marked, and used often. We didn’t see too many other hikers, but it was mid-week.
We spent most of Thursday in town running errands. The truck got an oil change, we finally bought a couple of foam boards for under the camper. Not only does the foam keep it insulated and warmer, but much steadier than what we had in the truck bed before. The part of Spokane we saw wasn’t as cute as Coeur D’Alene but it had everything we needed to keep going. We had originally planned on only staying two nights at Bowl and Pitcher, but it was just too good to leave!
Matt and I left Fred in bed early Friday morning to bike a portion of the Centennial Trail to Nine Mile Falls. The parts of the trail that I saw earlier in the week were all paved and relatively flat, maybe a steady incline, but free and easy. I found out pretty quickly that we were going up and down some massive grades. We rode eight miles to the falls, silently cursing all of the down hill, knowing we’d have to trudge our way back up it. I bought a cheap Walmart bike before we left for our trip. The gears on this silly bike barely work, and I just knew I’d be burning the whole way back. Thank goodness I took enough spin classes to motivate myself up those damn hills.
The Nine Mile Falls were disappointing at best. What I thought would be an awesome waterfall ended up being a dam with a trickle of water spilling down it. Still, the bike ride, although difficult, was a lot of fun, especially when we got off the paved part and rode through the dirt trails. We packed up quickly after that and headed to the land of free camping. Before leaving, we watched an older man unable to figure out his hose, dump his pooh and other stuff all over the dump station and then hose it off into the drain. Gross, dude! We were after him in line, and not at all pleased.
Matt found this Bavarian-style town a couple hours away. We pulled in to the outskirts of town and the place was packed! We happened to be there during one of the town’s four weekend long Oktoberfest celebrations. We found a free place to park the camper and set off walking around the adorable town. Every building is in this beautiful Alpine/Baviarian style, even the NAPA. We each had three German beers at different bars, which is more than I ever need. We decided not to pay for the $20 tickets to get into the actual festival, especially since there was so much going on in the streets around it. It was really fun to do something totally different. I even had a reason to put on actual pants! The parking lot we slept in was very loud, especially around 1am when the people that can handle more than three beers came back to their RVs. All good, though. It was a great time and worth the sacrifice. I’d like to go back to that town one day and see it without all the craziness.
Back on the road, we needed to make up some money to stay on budget after our five nights at the state park. Matt had a few places marked, so we headed to North Bend, about half an hour from Snoqualmie Falls. It took us a few very bumpy rides through the service road to find a spot. Most of the spots were already taken. By their set up, we could tell some of these people never leave. It’s federal land, so not really sure when a ranger might come by to bug them about their stay. On our search, we found the McClellan Butte Trailhead, and now I had big plans for the next day.
Monday, I woke up early and set off for McClellan Butte summit. Washington Trails Association described the trail as difficult with a scramble to the true summit. The liars also said it was nine miles. Since Matt had to work, I took this bad boy on alone. The first 2.5 miles was a steady incline under the canopy of another lush PNW rainforest. I was surprised to see there were still a lot of wildflowers out, especially mixed with the bright pinks and oranges of the maples sprinkled along the way. The trail quickly transitioned to a very steep and muddy incline. My poles came in handy once again as the trail turned from mud to crunchy snow. There really is something satisfying to crunching snow. Maybe I just like destroying stuff, or maybe its ingrained in all of us.
I got to cross about half a football field of rock slide. Not the big deathly boulders, but small sketchy ankle breakers. Not easy to walk up and certainly had to watch my step. My poles took a beating at this part but they kept me steady. At around 4.5 miles, a heavy breathing me turned the corner to the most spectacular view of Mount Rainier. Omigosh…I actually cursed out loud “holy fucking shit” as it was so unexpected and phenomenal at the same time. Thank the stars for the practically perfect conditions and clear skies.
At 5.5 miles with no summit in sight, I knew the stupid Washington Trails association had the mileage wrong. Unless I missed something, I was sure I started at the main trailhead. So I kept going, hoping the summit would be around the next bend. A low and behold, a few bends later, I found it! A man up top (in shorts and trail runners) asked me if I was going to climb the summit. I told him I was going to try, not really sure what I was getting myself into. He told me he made it three steps before he had to stop, unable to go any farther. I was about to ask him to stay and watch me just in case, but he sprinted off like a freaking lunatic down the snowy trail before I had the chance. “Ok, bye lunatic” I thought to myself. At that point, the scramble to the top did look a little risky. I don’t think any one afraid of heights would want to try it.
It wasn’t too hard to climb up, but it’s quite the thrill to know death is on your right. There is no way Matt would have signed off on me scrambling up this. Lucky for me, Matt wasn’t there. I packed up my poles and secured my backpack, since I definitely had to use my hands to climb it. Once I got to the top, it was pure ecstasy. I can’t even describe the euphoric feeling of the clear and beautiful 360º views at the top of the true McClellan Butte summit. I can’t believe I was on this summit with stunning views of Mount Rainier, the Cascades, and even the top of Mount Baker. On an even clearer day, I would have been able to see Mount St. Helens. My stomach fluttered at the top when I remembered I packed the binoculars. Last time I saw Mount Rainier, there was still blue veins of rock visible. Now, the entire monstrosity was covered in a thick white powder. I could also see some of the hulking glaciers.
I had a quick snack at the top, signed the log, and realized I had to book it back down. It was a surprise to me to see that I had already hiked for three hours. I let Matt know my status, packed my stuff back up and got ready to climb down. I did have a brief moment of panic figuring out my route down the summit back to the trail. My perspective was off, and it was a lot harder to pinpoint my route down. I actually really like heights, but I’m not dumb enough to not be scared when I was alone on this sketchy rock. I took it easy and made it safely back to the main trail.
I did end up slipping a couple of times on the way back down the trail. Not on my butt or anything, but bad enough to slow myself down. Although my new boots are so super awesome and waterproof, without any issues with cold or wet toes, the afternoon had turned the snow into an icy slurry of mud and danger. Without the snow, ice, and muddy slush, it would have been a difficult hike. With it, I was forced to take the trail very slowly, allowing me to really take in my surroundings. The slush was a lot easier on my knees, I barely had any issues going down. This was such a fun and unexpected hike, I just can’t believe we stumbled on it by accident.
We’re still heading west toward the coast, on our slow route back home for the holidays. Hope everyone is having a lovely October so far!
Ariel + Matt
Found a perfect campground with amazing weather in the Riverside State Park near Spokane, WA. Hiked along the Spokane River. Biked 18 miles roundtrip to the Nine Miles Falls. Disappointed by the falls as it was just a damn dam. Stayed 5 nights before searching for some boondocking. Found a great spot about 2 hours from Spokane in North Bend, WA. Stayed 2 nights, hiked McClellan Butte trail, scrambled to the summit and tried to not slip and die in the snow.
- Make a checklist for all of things you’re supposed to do before leaving and post it to the door. We forgot to put down the wifi booster antenna, and it might be broken after nocking into some tree branches.
- Not everyone uses a hose to dump their tank. Although it’s not possible to predict, always try to be ahead of these idiots.
- Always have a poncho in your backpack. Never know when it might rain on your hike!