Photoset: High Rock Lookout

I’ve been training for my upcoming Grand Canyon trip, so my plan has been to knock out a bunch of day hikes leading up to the end of October. At the suggestion of a hunter we met randomly at Mount St Helens, I added High Rock Lookout to my list of hikes.

This past Saturday was too cloudy, so I decided to hold off a day. When I walked up to the roof of my apartment building the following afternoon, I saw the mountain peeking out. I immediately threw (gently placed) my gear in the car and headed south.

My goal was to hit the summit during magic hour, but I was running half an hour late. Clear days are rare birds in the Pacific Northwest, so I wanted to take advantage of the light. After driving two and a half hours south and bouncing down an incredibly bumpy dirt road, I found the trailhead. I parked, snapped on my gear, and started bolting up the mountain. I had daylight to chase.

In my mind, this was a short 1.6 mile trail. I figured I could just bust it out. Mistake. I had overlooked the fact that this was 1.6 miles straight up a 1300ft climb. (For those of you back in Georgia, Blood Mountain is a 1400ft climb over 2.1 miles. High Rock has a steeper average incline.) After about 15 minutes of running and schlepping all this gear on my back, I felt my heart smashing against my sternum. I had to take a few quick breaks of embarrassment in order to recharge and keep moving. The sinking western sun kept pushing me upward.

At the top of the trail, I had to scale a steep section of rock jutting out above the overlook. At the tippy top was a small shelter knocked together in defiance against an enormous Mount Rainier. As I climbed closer to the overlook, Mount Rainier completely enveloped my field of view. I’d finally arrived, and I couldn’t stop grinning.

I hadn’t met many people on the way up (which was great, because I was gasping for air the entire back half of the run), so I wasn’t surprised to be one of the only people up there. A couple and their dog hung out for a few minutes, and then left while it was still light out. I had the entire summit to myself.

I was completely awestruck by the view. I can confidently say this is my favorite spot in the entire world right now. I could see Mount Hood, Mount Adams, and a gargantuan view of Rainier. Rainer felt so large and so close, I could almost hug it. Just incredible.

As I sat in my camping chair on the back porch of the shelter and watched the sun set, I felt this warm happiness wash over me. “As warm as dishwater,” my grandma used to say. The mountains, totems of time, reflected my thoughts as I sat in silence. I wondered how many generations of people before me had stared in wonder at the exact same view. I wondered how many generations of people will after me.

I was a tiny blip in space and time, and I was thankful for that moment.

Take a look.

One Last Photo

The light was fading fast, and I debated whether to stay or not. I had forgotten my flashlight, but I had a full charge on my phone. Phone LED for the win.

Long exposure shots are rare for me, so I decided to try one on a whim. It was pitch black out, and I couldn’t see anything through the camera. I was flying blind. When I took my first shot, I knew I was on to something. Each shot took 30 seconds in the dark, so I had to review the photo, manually adjust focus and composition, and try again. It took me about 10 minutes of trial and error, but I finally captured something.