Trip report (my version) to Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene (probably NOT going to post this on the Washington Trials Association site though):
I had decided several weeks ago Rhys was going to be my hiking companion for this trail. He’s a good hiking dog now. However, he really needs to be leashed up on all new-to-us trails and if we are going to encounter a fair number of other hikers and dogs. and he still pulls quite a bit. I figured that would be helpful for the elevation gain. And then last night I started thinking about the part where you go down.
Still undecided, at 5am I made an executive decision based on a pure gut feeling. TRUST YOUR GUT, PEOPLE! I would be dead right now if I had brought Rhys today.
This trail is brutally rocky, has a LOT of steps and stairs, has a lots of roots, and it’s steep, Camm was perfect because she is completely trustworthy off leash, does not pull, and has impeccable trail manners. (I really do not know how that all happened. Although those of you who see us at agility trials will not be surprised to know that “sit” and “wait” cues get the paw on trails too.)
Camm did most of this hike off leash. Not because I wanted her to. Because I HAD TO have her off leash. Otherwise I’d probably be dead now. It is nearly impossible to jump from rock to rock, to climb stairs built apparently for men with a height of at least 6’5″ while also negotiating hiking poles and a leash, and the occasional passing hiker.
The terrain starts out very disarmingly. Sure, you’re climbing a bit, but no big deal. Then you see the sign for Bridal Veil Falls.
Do not pass if you want to see the falls. Believe me, on the way back this will NOT be on your list of must-dos. In fact, you’ll probably be wishing for an alpine rescue team to maybe happen by because it’s training day on the way back. Either that, or you’ll be thinking what a good business opportunity it would be to set up a massage therapy chain at various trail heads, including this one. Or maybe you’ll be wondering how many toenails you might lose .
Anyway, take that half-mile trail. Sure, it’s steep. Sure, it’s rocky. Sure, those are some big steps. But it’s absolutely gobsmacking. And really, this a good little warm-up. Also, a very mellow taste of what is to come.
The falls are lovely to sit near, enjoying the cooling spray, even if the ambient temperature is barely above 60 degrees. This is because you’ve worked up a good sweat.
You have no idea yet how sweaty you will become.
Once you descend back to the main trail to Lake Serene, you are feeling happy and perhaps thinking the world is a little magical what with the waterfall and beautiful woods around you. You think this for the next quarter mile.
Then you start encountering rocks. Kinda small ones at first. Then bigger ones. Then really big ones, but now there are all kinds of roots embedded in the trail along with the rock, which are now getting a little bit slippery due to light misty rain that is falling THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO START AT 6PM. (Have I ever said how annoying I find Rich Marriott? Every time I hear one of his forecasts on the radio I know to look for something almost opposite.) In fact, this rain will eventually soak the top of your backpack. It will probably contribute as well to your overall wetness, but trust me, that’s mostly sweat.
Due to the elevation gain and the many rocks, helpful people built stairs. Some of these are hewn from stone. Many, many, many, many – did I say many? – are engineering marvels hewn from wood. Except those helpful people were men. Tall men. I said 6’5″? Oh no. Probably men standing at least 7′ tall. Certainly no “older” women standing barely 5’3″ had anything to do with these marvelous steps. If they had, they for sure would not have allowed a woman of this description to continually extend her height-challenged albeit muscular legs up to her belly button and then simultaneously leap, hurl and lunge her way upward to the next step. Think those lunges you do at the gym comprise a workout? Um, no. Let me introduce you to Mother Nature and the helpful giants that build trails.
On this day, a scenic overlook or two might have cut the constant torment. A pretty mountain glimpsed through the majestic and large pine, spruce and cedar trees that surround you and dull and absorb the lone sob that sometimes escapes your heaving chest might have taken your mind off the fact that the stairs are never-ever-never ending.. You decide to embrace the fact that sometimes your legs simply become like lead and cannot move. You try very hard to make the mistake of half-sitting, half-leaning while guzzling through your water supply only once.
Still, there’s something so peaceful about being wrapped in dampish soft clouds as you continue to step and climb Mother Nature’s version of the practice of raising money for charity by climbing the stairs of a skyscraper – if those stairs where misshapen, growing more slippy, and steeper and steeper.
Eventually, you realize you’ve made it to Lake Serene. The only way you know this is because a group of hearty and foolish teenager are swimming and splashing. You do not know this from seeing the lake. This is because you cannot. Mother Nature has not only enshrouded you in her blissful fog blanket, she has made sure the lake is completely tucked in the fog too.
You continue to climb, because at this point, what’s a few more? And with a heavy thud, sit on Picnic Rock to devour your sandwich. Camm helps with this. Despite aggressive jays flitting about looking to steal food and some very friendly chipmunks, Camm holds it together. Mostly because she was on leash, tied to my blood and exercise engorged thigh, as she decided to explore Picnic Rock, nearly giving me the heart attack I amazingly have not yet had on this hike, by venturing down it’s very steep down slope.
We lingered, we talked, we ate, Camm basked in the admiration of the many people she met.
Alas, what goes up, must come down.
Personally, I can pretty much go up all day long. I am not a fan of the downhill. Luckily, in another stroke of pure genius on my part – also known as “I have a gut feeling about this” – I located and pulled out my rarely used if ever hiking poles last night. This morning I looked at them and almost decided to leave them home. That gut feeling rang giant bells in my head. I brought them.
Because I never use them, I thought I probably wouldn’t today either. I took a few steps back down toward the lake and grabbed one. I figured one would be fine in case I ended up having to grab Camm and leash her up.
Suffice it to say this was not my favorite part. Camm was incredible and listened to not only me but also to Michelle when we needed to step aside for someone to go by (today brought new meaning to being “painfully slow”) or when encountering an uphill hiker who didn’t want to break momentum and take a rest break to let us pass. Funny how nearly everyone wanted to break stride – really stretching the meaning on that one – and desired to take a little break when we were approaching downhill.
Camm minded her business until a boy dog decided to sniff her. She promptly retorted. After that, she was on the lookout. Hardly any dogs today though. (Quite a few people seemed impressed Camm was doing the hike. It is dog friendly, but I’d be wary about bringing most dogs on the trail, especially if not conditioned.) We did encounter one other border collie. A very fluffy and cute boy, who we learned was about three years old. He flirted madly with Camm, old enough to be his great grandmother. I advised the somewhat clueless owner that this wasn’t going to end well. Camm let the pretty boy get nice and close on his flexi-lead, then did the girl-dog equivalent of cussing at him and slapping him in the face. He got the message and went to flirt instead with some lady hikers.
The rest of the way down is blurred as 1) I was mostly watching my footing so I could hopefully not a) break an ankle, or b) not slip and fall and break my neck and die; and 2) although the fog had now started to lift, I was ensconced in a cloud of blood-tinged pain. Seriously. Pain has color, depending on the type. Today was a throbbing bright pink. At one point I may have resembled a crab. A very ancient crab with creaky claws sidestepping its way across the rocks.
I think I mentioned all the rocks, right? In a strange reversal the steps now were almost my friends. This is because I could open up my stride and practically dance down them. Maybe dance is too strong. More like that weird thing white guys do when they dance.
Then there was the crawling down and butt sliding down a few rocks. But let’s not talk about that.
Let’s talk about how it became brighter as we descended and how the fog miraculously lifted. Also how we started sweating again profusely as we went down because it was a bit warmer and how this is the only trail I’ve descended in 60-something degree weather where I sweated almost as much on the way down as I did on the way up because it was so much freakin’ work.
Back to the brighter part. Michele courageously asked a couple that went up after us, and passed us on the way back down – they both had long legs – if they’d had a view. I’m not so secretly pleased to tell you that while they could see the lake, they really couldn’t see much of the mountains surrounding the lake. Or maybe they felt bad for us. In the next sentence they said they could see a “bit of snow” topping the mountains. I’m not a detective, but fog is white and snow is white. Clearly they saw some mountains.
Now I have to do this damn hike again sometime.
I look forward to it.
Although this time I might not bring the vehicle with a stick shift.