Decided on a Friday night that on I needed a big adventure on Saturday. I had been thinking about it for a few days, thinking I needed to get back on the horse after being bucked two Saturdays before during an attempt to traverse the entire Icicle Ridge Trail. That's a long story, but the short and simple of it is I made some bad decisions about water capacity assuming I'd make progress easier and faster than I did on long abandoned trails. Eventually I came to an impassable point in the trail a mile from my water resupply and had to backtrack to an alternate exit very thirsty and a little scraped and bruised from falling a few times on a sketchy hillside. It was a day filled with invaluable lessons for a very inexperienced adventurer like myself. I got a little hysterical in the dehydration and danger, so it took a heavy toll on my confidence.
I signed up for the Big Jim and The Chiwaukum route on Ultrasignup and immediately started doubting my ability to complete it. It was probably a good thing that I waited so long to actually make the commitment, because if I had more time to be in doubt I might have talked myself out of it. I am amazed at how big of an impact that Icicle Ridge fail had on me, but then again it is like the second solo back country adventure I've undertaken and the fail was pretty hard and scary. Getting ready in the morning was the heaviest internal battle. I talked myself out of it and back into it so many times that I was 30 minutes late leaving the house, eventually winning the fight by telling myself that if I didn't do this now it would only be harder next time. I knew that might mean there wouldn't be a next time, and I am not someone who likes the idea of giving up on anything, ever.
I finally left the house at around 5:30 a.m. and made the hour long drive up to the Hatchery Creek trail head. It was still dark when I left the house, but by the time I got to the parking area it was daylight, a little before sunrise. I was one of three vehicles in the parking lot. I hung out at the trail head for about ten minutes waiting for my inReach Mini to find GPS and send a message before hitting the trail. I like to know this guy is working before I set out on solo adventures, especially after feeling close to calling for help two weekends prior. I took a deep breath, started my watch, and headed up the trail.
The Hatchery Creek trail was in remarkably good condition. It was steep and rocky for the first few miles but well defined and easy to follow. I ran into my first human when I was almost to the top, a gentleman with a large pack and a rifle heading out. We said hi to each other as we passed. The first five miles were through old burn and the last mile more foresty. Once I was up the climb there was quite a bit of runnable trail, definitely more than I had expected, so my time was looking better than I anticipated. Also during this section my doubts had faded to a light whisper as I remembered how much I loved doing this. How much I loved the peace and quiet both around me and in between my ears I experienced when out in beautiful nature pushing my body and mind to their limits. I was starting to realize it was going to be a great day.