When I first moved to Washington from the Midwest, I was fascinated by the big bumps in the land called mountains. Naturally, I wanted to try my hand at hiking in them, so I got the name of a good trail from a co-worker and set out with two visiting Midwesterners. In other words, we were three noobs setting out into the wilderness.
Since then, I’ve taken courses from The Mountaineers, and have gathered the gear and basic knowledge that will improve my chances of not ending up in the local newspaper with a headline that includes words like “Lost”, “Fell”, “Death”, “Exposure” or “Airlifted”.
Back then, though, it was a different story.
The trail we attempted was to Snow Lake and started from the parking lot of the Alpental Ski Area. It’s about four miles to the lake. We made it halfway before running into snow and having to turn back. That was probably a good thing.
If you’ve done any mountaineering, you may have heard of the “10 Essentials” — a list of ten things to bring whenever you go hiking. Well, let me offer you a counter-list.
The 10 Anti-essentials for Hiking:
- Bring no water. Hydration is for wussies.
- Wear tennis shoes, preferably low-top. If you have weak ankles, they’ll get stronger. Or break. And if you step in a puddle, your feet will be kept nice and cool by all the water that will seep in and soak your [cotton] socks (see item #3).
- Wear lots of cotton. It soaks up the sweat and stays wet for hours, just what you want in the cold mountain air. This will encourage you to keep moving.
- Don’t bring a map or compass. How lost could you get in the mountains? Where’s your sense of adventure?
- Bring no food. If you get hungry, perhaps you can find some berries to eat. Besides, you may lose weight. If you run out of energy and can’t go on, maybe you can become food for some of the mountain creatures.
- Don’t bring any rain gear — especially in Washington State. It hardly ever rains in Washington.
- Go alone or with a party that has no experience. That way no one will tell you that the tiny pond in the valley below is not Snow Lake, and you can cut your hiking time in half.
- Get a late start. It’s more exciting when you’re racing against the coming darkness. And, if you lose the race, you can enjoy the challenge of walking on an uneven trail without being able to see the roots and rocks. (That’s assuming you even stay on the trail.)
- Don’t bring a flashlight. That will help with #8.
- Don’t tell anyone where you’re going. If something happens, chances are someone will notice your absence eventually. Of course, even once they notice, they won’t have a clue where to start looking, which may well make their heart grow fonder. Plus, if you do get out alive, you can hear about how worried they were, which is bound to make you feel good. And isn’t that really what it’s all about?
By the way, I did finally make it all the way to Snow Lake several years later. I don’t have a great photo to share, but this gives some idea of what we missed that first time.