I’ve hiked Hidden Lake Lookout twice now. The first time I failed to reach the summit due to my inability to prepare myself. Hidden Lake Lookout was the first hike that really tested my abilities both mentally and physically and also taught me a valuable lesson. I hiked this trail before I invested in hiking pants, and that was part of my problem. This is why it’s important to invest in the proper gear when out in the back country. Hiking pants, believe it or not, really allow your body to breathe and self-cool while hiking in hot weather. I was wearing denim which was restrictive, didn’t allow my body to sweat properly which caused massive over-heating which led to severe leg cramps and heat exhaustion.
Throughout the hike, I just couldn’t drink enough water. I supplied my body with two bananas to help get rid of the cramping I was enduring early in the hike. I rested and stretched every quarter mile but there was no real shade to rest in on this hike. To the actual lookout it’s about 4-5 miles. It’s a long, arduous trek through tight bunny trail-like switchbacks, through green meadows and a rock fall or two. Once I came up on the first snow field I knew I’d be turning back. The snow fields will really test your endurance and leg strength as they are not easy to pass through. I climbed through maybe fifty yards of snow before my leg cramps became so severe I could barely stand it anymore.
I had a lot of thoughts running through my head. I thought I’d be stranded at nearly 5,800 feet with no one around. I was alone, and I could barely walk. I tried several times to stretch out my legs but every time I tried to stretch the cramping just got worse. I tried to sit down on some rocks to get off my feet and that helped somewhat but as I sat, my hip flexors started to cramp up. I was on my feet then off my feet and back on my feet trying to alleviate some of this cramping. Nothing seemed to work. I was out of food and running out of daylight. The last thing I wanted was to be caught on this mountain at sunset. I started to panic internally, fighting back tears and gripping my pants in pain. I just wanted the pain to stop.
The sun was relentless. With no shade to escape to, I had to keep moving. I wanted to close my eyes, and just be at my vehicle at the trail head. At this moment, to avoid my situation from getting worse, I had to compose myself. I was in real danger. I was vulnerable and any wrong move could put me in a position I wasn’t prepare to get out of. I took some deep breaths, calmed myself down and started to get moving. Every step was agonizing but every step meant getting down the mountain that much sooner. The rock fall was brutal. Stepping down as I descended just increased the work I had to do which caused my cramping to flair up again. I couldn’t stop, though.
Once I reached the bunny trails I knew I was a couple miles out from the trail head. The switch backs weren’t as bad as they were going up but it still hurt. I tripped on rocks, tripped on tree roots stumbling my way to the trail head. I finally reached the dense shady protection of the forest and as I turned through the windy trail, I finally saw the trail head. I was relieved. I could cry happy tears. I was in such bad shape as I limped to my vehicle.
The Hidden Lake Lookout hike took me through dense forest, tight bunny trails, rock falls and snow fields. It taught me some valuable lessons and prepared me for my next adventure. I was determined to summit and get to that lookout. Weeks later, after a few extra gym sessions, I took to the trail again. This time I made it to the top without any problems. It was late August/early September and I hit the trail head way before the sun came over the ridge. Once at the top, I didn’t want to leave. It’s hard to leave any summit, really. It takes a lot of work and determination to make it to the top of some peaks, and all I wanted to do was enjoy the fruits of my labor on this one. Alas, I slowly made my way down and headed home. What a hike.
Stay safe and see you on the summit!