“Why are we doing this again?” my friend Michelle asked as we pulled into the parking lot at Mount Rose.
Michelle is my most-frequent hiking companion and in January, over a glass of wine, we wrote down a bunch of dates for hiking. The idea was to plan hikes well in advance so they didn’t get crowded out by other responsibilities. So far, it’s working out well.
Sunday was our third hike of the year out on the Olympics, which we’re trying to explore more.
For some reason, we decided it would be fun to pick something hard. So, we chose Mount Rose, 8.2 miles and 3,500 feet of gain.
Craig Romano, who wrote “Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula” said in his hike description, “With all due respect to the Bard, what’s in a mountain? That which we call Mount Rose by any other name would still be as steep. This is a challenging hike — one of the steepest trails in the Olympics.”
Craig’s right. Rose is steep. After you cross a pair of bridges at the very start of the trail, you don’t see anything flat for more than two miles. In fact, I suspect it would be easy to count the number of steps on flat ground on this entire trail.
While the trail is certainly lovely, we hiked Rose for the workout and we got it. The first part of the trail is excellent, if steep. After about a mile, though, the trail gets rooty and rocky and a bit more challenging. At 1.8 miles you have two options to get to the summit. You can head left for a shorter and steeper trail. Or you can head right for a longer and gentler trail. We chose shorter and steeper.
Shortly before the summit, we ran into a pair of hikers headed the opposite direction.
“How you doing?” I asked.
“Warming up,” one of them said. “It’s snowing quite a bit up there.”
Sure enough, in just a few minutes, we had climbed into the snow. It fell thick enough to coat the trail lightly, and make everything look moody and beautiful.
It also completely destroyed any chance of a view, but we could live with that.
After a good deal of complaining (we were getting hungry) we finally reached the summit. The last little push requires some minor scrambling using your hands.
We skipped climbing up the rock outcrop that’s supposed to have a good view. We could see the inside of the cloud just fine from where we were.
We carried on until we found a cozy log settled under some dense trees. We plopped down for lunch and to give our exhausted legs a break.
Our food vanished quickly. We packed up and headed down, taking the longer side of the loop until it rejoined the main trail.
The trip down was much faster than the trip up, although much harder on the knees. When we reached the flat ground at the bridges again, my legs had nearly forgotten how to walk on level ground.
We were wet and disgustingly stinky but completely happy. It felt satisfying to knock out a hard hike so early in the season.
On the way home, Michelle composed a joking text to a friend who sometimes hikes with us.
“The trail was brutally steep. It rained or snowed the whole time. There was no view. You totally should have come with us.”