Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Elk Mountain, King's Mountain Traverse (8/7/17)

The first weekend in August was supposed to be spent climbing Mount Shasta. It's been on our list for a long time. Sean wanted to climb, too, so he booked tickets from Phoenix, and Brad planned the whole four-day excursion.

Our weather has been dry all summer - lots of great opportunities to get outside. But, as luck would have it, a storm rolled in that weekend in Southern Oregon/Northern California. We watched as the weekend approached, disappointed as predictions of thunderstorms appeared. It's not a good idea to stand atop a 14,000-foot rock pile while holding a metal rod during a thunderstorm.

Our self-appointed deadline approached, and we had to decide before Sean lost his airline tickets. Reluctantly, we pulled the plug. But we watched the weather through the weekend, confirming that we made the right decision - it looked yucky down there!

Still, we were beyond disappointed to miss the trip. Our summer hasn't gone as planned, and to miss one more trip was sad. And since mountain weather was poor around the area, other options were limited.

Brad had Monday off to climb Shasta, so we decided to instead hike the Elk Mountain, King's Mountain Traverse off Highway 6 in the Coast Range. We've hiked King's a lot, and we tackled Elk a few years ago, but we've never done the loop. 
Ours was the only car at the Elk Campground trailhead. Another guy pulled in right after us and hit the trail while we were still booting up. But we caught and passed him after a short distance. We never saw him or another person the rest of the day!!!

Elk Mountain is very steep, gaining about 2,000 feet in about 1.5 miles - it feels like it goes straight up! The trail is rugged, and I was thankful we were going up and not down those slippery slopes.

We reached the top and, as expected, found little view. Wildfire smoke from Canada destroyed our air quality and beautiful skies for a while earlier this month.
The loop continues!
Leaving the summit was a bit tricky with steep, slippery slopes coming off the back. After a bit, we hit the old road and had some normal hiking conditions for a while. I should have taken some pictures of that after my hands were free. Oh, well. After 2 miles, we turned left at the trail junction and started toward King's Mountain.

The map in the book lists the "Pinnacles" but didn't say anything about them. Well, it got a little dicey while hiking along the back side of those big rocky pillars. In fact, there was a rope hand line at one point. I was thankful for that rope - it would have been rough without it.

The trail was more rugged than we anticipated. I know it's a common trail-running route, and there's even a race or two in the area. I have no idea how one would run most of that trail. Wow.

After lots of sweating, huffing and puffing, we reached our second summit:
Still no view:
Just down the trail is a picnic table - our destination for lunch! Cheese, soy jerky and French bread:
After resting and refueling, we started down to the King's Mountain trailhead. Then it was a few miles on the Wilson River Trail to return to the car. Still, no other people! The Wilson River Trail was just gorgeous, and I want to go back with my running shoes :)

After 11 very hot miles, two happy hikers:
Since we were parked right next to Elk Creek, and we were super hot and dirty and sweaty, we stripped down and went in for a cooling dip. It was cold, but much better than the snow-melt streams we're used to! So refreshing!
It certainly wasn't a four-day climbing trip on Mount Shasta, but it was a challenging, beautiful hike to check off our to-do list :)

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