Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm a Hiking Wimp: Lower Lena Lake Trail, Eldon, WA

My calves are complaining the loudest... But with all the tripping and sliding I did, in addition to the brisk walk up the mountain over rough terrain, my whole body is unhappy to some extent.  I didn't realize that what seemed like a simple hike would stress my neck and shoulders, as well as my ankles, legs, and hips.  First of all, there is all that looking down to try to see where your feet are landing.  And when you start to fall, the whole body jumps into action, many times going in different directions, when all sorts of muscles get into the act!  I have to say that even though it can get to the point of requiring some ibuprofen, it's still a better pain than that from sitting at the computer all day.

I didn't research this hike before passing on the suggestion from Princess Sassy to Hubby that we do it before coming home from our night out at Alderbrook.  After all, Sassy and her prince had just done it, without any fanfare or complaint.  
I should've taken more major notice, however, when they spoke of Prince Steadfast promising his new bride Reese's Pieces when they got to the top, and how he had to move her to the front of the line, when he kept hearing her trying to stealthily open the zipper on his backpack to sneak a few on the way up.  The red flag should've gone up when a young and fit cross-country runner needed a bribe to keep walking... But I attributed it all to her sugar addiction, and let it go.  Also, Hubby and the boys, including a then 5-yr-old Prince CuddleBunny, had hiked to the lake to camp a couple of years ago.  The boys had complained some, but they were youngish and carrying a lot of gear.  If a 5 year old could do it, how hard could it be?  (Thank goodness they camped at the lake, and didn't do roundtrip all in one day.)

* = Home
* = Alderbrook Resort
Traveling the highway north along Hood Canal, we knew we went too far and weren't sure where to turn.  I looked at the parks we passed along the way and thought maybe we should just trade the hike for a day on the beach... But instead we called Steadfast, who helped us find the right turn off.  It was marked for the Hamma Hamma Recreation area, and only had signs to the Lena Lake trails once we'd turned in.  This was a narrow, but paved road that headed up the mountain.  We soon lost phone service and without any markings or other cars, it felt like we were headed into nowhere...and alone.  8 miles in, that seemed more like 15, we arrived at the trailhead, and I felt less alone, seeing several cars parked in the area. 

After a visit to the less than luxurious, almost outhouse style restrooms, we paid our fee and signed in at the stand at the entrance to the 3.1 mile trail.  We took along water, but Hubby didn't think it was necessary to take food... 'We were just going up and back and could eat again when we got down.'  Hmm...OK.  I was wearing a light jacket, and thought I might get a little chilly.  Ha.

The little zig zags represent the many switchbacks.
Map from
The start of the trail looked benign and quite beautiful.  We walked and walked.  Then walked and walked some more, now back and forth through several switch backs that attempted to soften the impact of the climb.  The path was less often just dirt, and more often an uneven route of toe-grabbing, gnarly roots, broken trees, and loose rock rolling out from under our feet, or wreaking havoc with ankles. 

My legs were beginning to tire, and I got past the point of talking and walking at the same time, electing to breathe instead!  The jacket was no longer too light, but was, in fact, off, and I was carrying it.  I asked Hubby how far he thought we'd hiked.  He started with "Oh, about half...," and I, of course, thought he was going to finish with "way."  Instead, he finished with "...or maybe quarter of a mile."  Aargh.  I thought, "The view at the top better be something!"
It turns out that about 2/3 of the 1200 foot elevation change is experienced in the first mile, with the most severe angle right about that point where I was ready to give up, dreaming of those shoreline parks.

We could hear the sound of rushing water for most of the walk, but had only a couple distant glimpses of Lena Creek through the trees.  The trees themselves were awesome.  So tall and big.  The photos don't do them justice, because you can't get a sense of the scale.  There were, of course, downed trees here and there.  Hubby was drooling about the hundreds of board feet of cedar just lying on the ground that he could envision his students turning into boats!

We went through one area where there had once been a major slide...Giant trees and boulders still lying in a tumble, now covered in moss.  It was something to imagine the might, power, devastation, and sound that must have occurred.  Again, the photos can't do it justice, as the scale is lost.

There are a couple of nice bridges.  One over a dry creek bed... Hubby finally said we were about halfway there.  
The other was nearer the end, and with the added treat of small falls and creek flow underneath.

Just a bit farther, and we could finally see a bit of the lake through the trees...but it was down, and we were still climbing up!  

Reaching the overlook spot, I could see that it certainly was gorgeous.  A little strange to come across such a large lake with no houses, no boats, and at that moment, not another soul in sight.  Other hikers we'd encountered continued all the way down to the lake to camp overnight.  But since going down only meant climbing back up, and we were only out for the day, we were happy to take in the view and call it good.  We basked in the sun a bit on the basalt, but at this point I realized I was hungry.  In retrospect, it would've been the perfect place to enjoy a picnic (or for others, apparently, Reese's Pieces), and take a rest before heading back down.  

In case you think, like I did, that going down would be a piece of cake, I have to say that I'm not quite done complaining, and it wasn't.  Going up exercised my leg muscles and kept me out of breath.  One hip started to ache a little, but mostly, the trip up was only tiring.  It was on the trip down that my neck complained about looking down all the time, my tired body tripped and slipped a lot more, straining odd muscles like my shoulder, and my toes were constantly jammed into the ends of my usually comfortable shoes.  So hiking that direction was not so much tiring as painful.  Going up, I noticed that I was a bit out of shape.  Going down, I noticed I was in my 50s...
Trillium with blossom bud

Interesting albino-ish flowers
We were, though, able to enjoy the vegetation a bit more, and were delighted to come around a corner and join another couple hiking down the trail, even if just for a moment.

Mr and Mrs Grouse, I presume?
We got back into the car just about 4 hours after we'd gotten out.  We often walk a 3 mile loop near home, that even includes a significant hill.  That takes us 45 minutes to an hour, so that same distance on the Lower Lena Lake Trail took about twice the time.  I finished it, and am glad I did it.  We've done several family hikes over the years that I knew I could enjoy again...But, I'm just not in a great hurry to redo this one!
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