I was supposed to hike Vesper Peak weeks ago. An unfortunate chain of events happened and the climb never came to fruition. One of our team members who was supposed to climb with us came down with emergency surgery to remove his appendix. How crazy is that. That was two days before the actual climb was to take place. With one team member down, I consulted with the other member of our expedition and she stated that she was still good to go.
You won’t believe what happened next. We missed the turn off to the trailhead. We ended up parking by Barlow Pass trailhead, hiking two miles up a gated service road and ended up on the Gothic Basin trail. Twelve miles round trip of seriously rugged, tree-rooted infested, boulder hopping, switchbacks into some deep back country in the Mt Baker National Forest. The trail seemed endless. As we climbed higher and higher, the sun would play peak-a-boo with us forcing us to remove our outer shells as we continued our trek. Then the cloud cover and the wind chill would force us to put our coats back on. Dripping with sweat and rain water, we forged on.
It was a brutal hike. As we hiked around the summit block (which apparently had Foggy Lake at the top, which we didn’t know about until our descent and by passing by hikers who knew about it) we came to a dead end. The trail seemingly disappeared but a vast gully to the left would take us all the way to Weeden Lake and if we went right that would take us to Gothic Basin (which at this point we were 20 minutes passed the Basin and didn’t even know it). As we contemplated our next move, a lone hiker was fast-moving in our directions. Head down and chugging along, he seemed determined to get to his destination. I called out to him several times before he finally acknowledged us.
After a brief conversation with the lone hiker, we found out that we were three miles South of the Vesper Peak trailhead. He also informed us that the forest service road that leads to the trailhead is not very well marked. There is a stop sign with some pink flags tied to it about three miles from the Barlow Pass trailhead. According to my GPS, from what I could tell, after we passed Foggy Lake, we would enter the gully and hike our way to the base of Vesper through Headlee Pass. We were dead wrong. We missed the trailhead, that much was a fact. But if we would’ve continued on through Weeden Lake we would’ve ended up at Vesper, that much I was sure of. But that was another 3 some miles through rugged back country, and probably infested with bear.
Our climb down was torturous. The steep switchbacks that punished our legs on the way up were now beating on our knees on the way down. It was brutal. The trail was muddy, slippery and dangerous. We were soaked from the rain storm that had come through and further soaked from the wild flowers that continually bushed up against our clothing. As we reached the final mile, we had to cross the raging Sauk River once again. The ensuing rain storm that had battered the forest made the log jam very dangerous to cross back over. As I hoisted myself up on the logs, I lost my footing, came crashing down on the logs and smashed my rib cage into the rain soaked timber. It hurt. It hurt a lot but I was not injured. The upcoming weeks would prove otherwise as I was extremely sore and was forced to miss a day of work. Along with that, the log jam gave me three good sized lacerations on my left forearm. The mountain beat us today.
Vesper Peak will have to wait another day. I was amped up and ready to go the morning of but losing a team member and missing the trailhead was obviously a sign that maybe The Mountain had other plans for us. Maybe it just wasn’t our day and we would’ve been seriously hurt up there or maybe we would’ve gotten lost or attacked by wildlife. A multitude of scenarios played out in my head as to why we ended up on the trail we ended up on and not at the summit of Vesper. So the sage continues…