Sunday, December 4, 2016

Wygant Peak because WyNot

Last year, around October, Keeley ran a half marathon in Hood River and to pass the time waiting for her I did a hike. That hike was Wygant peak. A fairly forgotten mountain overshadowed by the more dramatic Mitchell Point and Mt. Defiance hikes nearby. It's a mostly abandoned hike by most accounts. There isn't a view at the top to see, the views you do get are less impressive than Mitchell, it's harder and farther than Mitchell, and there is poison oak and stuff. Wygant is not a well loved place.

I explored most of the lower area and reached the "best" viewpoint partway up the mountain last time before I needed to turn around due to time constraints. Since I never reached the top, I marked Wygant off my checklist as "unfinished business".

Time to finish that business. Keeley was doing a coding thing on Saturday. It was me vs the Mountain. Time to bag the peak.

Got a late start, spent too long trying to decide what to do on the cold, cloudy day. Do I do the Elevator Shaft? Not a far drive, no poison pak in December, but probably not real safe when things are wet. Do I do Nick Eaton ridge, and mark off some trails for my map? Nah, the clouds would block any views at Indian Point, and I might not be in good enough shape to tackle Nick Eaton in a reasonable time. So I settled on Wygant, which is listed at a medium length and height (8 miles, 1,200 feet elevation gain)

I think both of those stats are low because the people who wrote them don't actually hike the mountain enough to get accurate measurements. The thing I kept saying on the hike, to myself, was "This is more mountain than I expected". I ended up walking close to 10 miles and almost guarantee I climbed more than 1200 feet. Wygant is 2200 feet high, and most of that you climb. I'd wager somewhere around 2000 feet.

It didn't take me long to get back to the turn around point from the last excursion, since I wasn't spending much time meandering looking for picture opportunities and I was cold so I just powered up as fast as I could go reasonably.

The bridge is even more wrecked now. It was 3 pieces last year, now only 1 piece remains and the rest has been washed further downstream and upturned into shreds. The trail itself though, felt better. It's still a mess, with tons of trees over top of it that require careful steps (At least 20 blowdowns on the whole trail altogether). When I reached the upper viewpoint spur it felt easier somehow though. The trail is not great, but it's not terrible. There are a few dicey spots as the trail climbs the north west flank, which is a steep ass hill the trail slowly switchbacks up.

All that's left of the bridge over Perham creek now.

Switchbacks are the name of the game here. Wygant has no mercy for switchback haters, When I reached the upper viewpoint and officially entered new territory, I knew I had like...6 left according to google maps and most other maps.

Turns out most maps just kind of lie and drew inaccurate squiggles to the peak, because there are at minimum 13 switchbacks from the upper viewpoint to the top. The trail keeps switchbacking up the north flank for a while, giving occasional views to the west. Then the trail starts to level out, and the end feels near. NOPE. After cresting a ridge, you see plenty more ridge to climb. So climb it, you heathen. More mountain than expected.

Seen from the lower viewpoint on the way up

The upper viewpoint


After cresting that hill, it feels like the top. NOPE. The top is actually 5 minutes and 50 more feet of climbing to your west along the summit ridge. Wygant is a tease.

The Summit is an unremarkable lump with a pile of rocks and no views. Thankfully, having done my research, I knew about the supposed "meadow" on the west flank 200 yards past the summit. I trudged back down hill following the ridge and sure enough, a viewpoint that was actually kind of nice. I stayed long enough to snap a few quick photos then quickly shuffled back into the woods because the cold wind was ripping at my very soul.

Sunglare view

the view from the meadow

The thrilling summit of Wygant peak

Then it was back the same way, which got dull because the trail is just treacherous enough that you have to pay attention to each step and you can't just fart down on autopilot like you can on better built, more popular trails.

Because of the cold winds I never actually took a break longer than a minute for 9 goddamn miles of walking and 2000 feet of climbing/unclimbing. I was worn out by the end. I never saw another person the entire time, and despite it's problems, Wygant has a solitary charm to it that can only come with unpopular trails.

I have one more reason to come back here sometime this winter/spring: The Chetwood loop (An alt route halfway up Wygant) is completely toast after neglect, but there is a powerline road accessible from the beginning of it, and that powerline road should go all the way to Mitchell point, offering a Mitchell loop option that I think is worth checking out. It might not exist, but I'd like to make sure.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Patapsco State Park and Harpers Ferry

So this past week I went home for the usual thanksgiving romp for delicious food, football and family. Those were labled in order of importance. But outside the one day spent dedicating myself to becoming fat I actually had a couple of solid hikes.

First off, a quick visit to Patapsco Valley State Park west of Baltimore, MD. Patapsco is probably the one place that I can directly pinpoint my love of hiking coming from. I spent probably 80% of my childhood hikes in this park with my dad and I loved every minute. I have no doubt this park made me the weirdo who goes out and does 16 miles and 4000 ft by himself today. It was a quick visit, parking by the old swinging bridge and walking up to Bleode Dam, soon to be demolished. We saw a big ass bird chilling on a rock. It was nice to be back and I felt like a kid again and wanted to explore the whole park.

We also took a brief stop in Kinder Farm park, a park near my house with a gross pond and bamboo patch.

A few days later my mom had to drive back to James Madison University to drop off the other offspring and she had a great idea: drop me and Keeley at Harpers Ferry on the way and let us spend a few hours putzing around. This was an excellent idea. I had been to Harpers Ferry once before as a wee lad and remembered pretty much none of it. I didn't care about historic little towns as a kid. You don't really appreciate history until you have been alive long enough to have some of your own.

We started at the John Brown fort, a historic individual who had to be bold and do something crazy to be remembered by history because otherwise how can you be remembered with a name as bland as John Brown? Lesson for you boys, if your name is bland, do something doomed to fail in the name of justice and everyone will remember you and your kickass beard. After taking some photos, we crossed the bridge to the Maryland side of the town and started climbing.

Loch me up

Almost the middle!

The Potomac flows majestically after swallowing the Shenandoah

The trail in Maryland climbs at a reasonable level to a junction that offers a big long loop to the north, or a short jaunt downhill to a rocky promontory over the town with stellar views. We went for the overlook since we had a time limit on the day. The overlook was crowded, but we managed to find a solitary spot on the second of two outcroppings, low down at the cliff edge, where we could be alone and admire the views.

The best photo taken all day

After heading back to town, we got lunch, and found out due to a stupid scheduling plan JMU wasn't going to let my sister into her dorm so we had some extra time to kill. We wandered down to the river and walked along it for a while, then went back and climbed the hill to Jefferson Rock, which was a rock that Thomas Jefferson thought was rad or something. The view is okay. It's no Maryland Heights. We walked up to the cemetery nearby then back down into town for a final pass through the old armory locations and I wandered down to the river again for photos. Mom picked us up and we went home. I felt very satisfied. I would have wanted to see the full Maryland Heights loop and the Virginia side Loudoun Heights trail, but alas, it was a good romp.

A man on a mountain

So like, what happened to the rest of the house

Probably a drug deal

I hope she said yes because damn that's one hell of a reminder if she didn't

Now back to the land of green for early winter hikes before Christmas takes up all my time.

Annapolis picture for the end