Sunset & Darkness: October on Granite Mountain

An afternoon Autumn hike up a mountain to watch the sunset turns into one cold scramble back down towards midnight

*This is a work in progress. Feel free to enjoy in the meantime. Thank you!*

Click on any image to enlarge the foto & enjoy.

Grunting up to the summit late in the afternoon of Monday the 9th of November 2017. All fotos by the Author.

Gazing deeper into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness from near the mountain summit.

I seem to end up hiking in the dark a lot lately. One reason I always bring a headlamp with extra batteries for me. Today was one of those gorgeous fall days of Indian Summer bright with autumn foliage amidst the evergreens. Winter awaited me at the top of the mountain, however, and accompanied me back down into darkness. There wasn’t any ambush. Instead I embraced the elements and went into it. All the way into it, too. Yes, it was a glorious day.

“Epic!” another climber declared as he hiked back down as I scrambled up. Low-angled beams of waning sunlight lit up the mountainside in shades of fiery golden reds before the encroaching shadows of sunset.

Wilderness sign along the Pratt Lake Trail from which the trail up Granite Mountain eventually forks off to the east and north.

Relatively new growth upon the steep, lower-elevation hillsides framing the base of Granite Mountain and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Dynamic landscapes changed the higher I climbed.

Landscapes & lifescapes kept shifting and changing with both the elevation and the seasons.

The transitions from one season to another the higher one climbed was stunning. There ahead of me sits the fire lookout tower upon the summit. Granite looms along the southern flanks of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness at 5,629 ft / 1,716 m.

Back along the Pratt Lake Trail into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

The views open up as the Granite Mountain Trail veers off from the way to Pratt Lake and cuts back & forth up the avalanche chutes towards the high, open meadows.

Native of the Pacific Northwest from Alaska & British Columbia down into Northern California, the Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) is the only species of the Palmatum Group of maples whose natural biorange is outside of Asia. This small, shrub-like tree with its tangle of branches and roots is also blessed with a long life in these harsh mountain elements. The same tangletwist, however, led early Euro-American explorers to curse these wild maples as Devil Wood.

Vine maples glow with some of the most brilliant fall colors anywhere. One may eat the sap as well as the inner bark and young leaf shoots if famished. The mature leaves, however, are toxic to humans. 

Breaking out of the woods & avalanche chutes into the high meadows near the mountaintop.

As I hiked up the mountain not far from here, a woman and her pit bull came bouncing down the trail. I found her instantly attractive and tuned in on her outdoorsy playful energy. Her doggie mirrored her energy, too. The pit bull was young, curious, and of a breed often, unfortunately, unfairly maligned. I stopped to step off to the side while looking down to connect with the dog in an energetically open-hearted way. Her dog never paused. Came right on up to me in a relaxed, trusting manner and stopped to lick my legs. “You must be very salty,” she said and laughed. Thrown off a little bit, I responded with, “Yes, I am very sweaty,” immediately felt ridiculous for saying those words, and broke into a laugh. The woman paused and looked at me for a brief moment, we both smiled, and off she and her doggie boo went. I chugged on up the mountain, momentarily lost in a rapture of intoxication. She looked familiar, in her 30s or 40s. Gosh, where have I seen her before? But I do see so many outdoorsy people coming & going where I work in the outdoor adventure industry at the Mothership of all the flagship stores. Oh, maybe she was one of those prolific posters on Instagram or in a local hiking & climbing group on social media. She was one of the last people I saw that day. Oh, yeah, I “must be very salty,” indeed.

Yup, that’s me getting in one of those terrible selfies!

Mt. Rainier looms along the southern horizon.

Sun going down on the way to the top of Granite Mountain.

Self-Portrait in the waning moments before sunset.

 

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Up, up, up on into the alpine upon the edge of dusk!

Chair Peak in the distance from a plateau just below the summit of Granite.

Chair Peak pokes up into the sky at 6,238 feet or 1,901 meters.

Chair Peak is a crumbly ol’ mountain. Climbed it with a group from The Seattle Mountaineers. Ugly ass climb with loose, bouncing rock. Fun as Hell, tho!

This beautiful, cold sunset began to feel spooky. Felt I was entering Mordor in The Lord of the Rings.

Quick look back down from where I came.

 

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I felt awe at this unique sunset of beautiful gloom. Felt as if gazing into the Eye of Sauron from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Looking down into the night from the base of the fire lookout tower.

Slippery slicky on the way back down from the tippity toppy. Loved being there, too.

Last selfie of the climb as the day hike is now a night hike.

 

*This is a work in progress. Feel free to enjoy in the meantime. Thank you!*

 

 

 

 

 

William Dudley Bass
Monday 20 November 2017
Wed 15 November 2017
SeaTac/Seattle, Washington
Cascadia
Earth

Sources:

“Granite Mountain (Snoqualmie), Summit Posthttp://www.summitpost.org/granite-mountain-snoqualmie/150562.

“Granite Mountain, Snoqualmie Region,” Washington Trails Association. http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/granite-mountain-1.

Hansen, . “Acer circinatum (Vine Maple),” The Wild Garden: Hansen’s Northwest Native Plant Database. http://www.nwplants.com/business/catalog/ace_cir.html.

 

Copyright © 2017 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.

 

 

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