I’m in the National Forest, near Olympic National Park, in the Buckhorn Wilderness area. The Olympic Mountains are beautifully rugged peaks known for their ice-frosted tops and mountain goats. On clear days in Seattle you can see them off in the distance all white and sawtoothed and majestic. These mountains glean moisture from the incoming Pacific storms to the extent that they create a rain shadow to their east and cultivate monstrous trees shrouded in thick moss on their flanks.
On this day, it’s party sunny, or partly cloudy, depending on your perspective. And it’s the perfect temperature for a hike. The trailhead to Tunnel Creek is up a windy dirt road that follows the Dosewallips River. At its junction with the road ancient Douglas fir greet us in their moss blankets. The winter has just departed here and downed trees cross the trail but are passable so, up we climb. And I mean UP. This is the steepest, craziest trail that I can recall ever hiking – EV-AH! As we hike, or shall I say tip toe our way up the path (only the toes of our shoes strike the ground on this trail). I’m grateful as a trillium (Trillium ovatum) requires a photo and stopping to snap a few frames allows my screaming calf muscles to quiet down a bit.
We don’t have time to go too far, but we’re happy for that excuse as we both know that the trip down this mother of a hill is going to be tough on our ole knees. So, we climb to a sunny spot in a patch of second-growth fir and sit a spell, peeking at the peaks of the mountains through the trees. We reapply the layers of clothes we stripped off on the taxing climb only to discover that there are trails steep enough to keep your heart rate elevated and your body sweating as you descend. I’ve never experienced such a thing. I also have never experienced the incredibly sore muscles that arrived the following day and lasted nearly 5 days. I’ve had some sore muscles in my day but this round is the all-time winner of the painful muscle prize. But, with each stiff step I’m reminded of the peaks, and the moss, and the mountain air – I’d say that’s a fair trade indeed.