Today I attempted to hike Mount McCausland. It was really, really pretty. As a beginner, I also learned a few interesting hiking lessons.
Start of the Trail
We got to the Smithbrook Trailhead around 9am after spending the night in Leavenworth, which is an adorable Bavarian themed town an hour’s drive inland. There were about ten cars there and plenty of space. I was expecting cold temperatures on top of the mountain, so I packed the only jacket I had (leather) in my backpack and started out.
After some brush and a cute bridge we reached the start of what felt like the actual trail. The trail was in great shape and consisted of many short switchbacks. It was a lot easier to ascend than the large rock-stairs of The Chief. The weather was pretty perfect, around 14C with clouds and sun, and I didn’t end up needing the jacket.
At the top of the switchbacks, the trail joined the Pacific Crest Trail for a while, and it was mostly flat.
One of the stranger comments I read about the hike before going was that one should bring fresh fruit to offer to hikers that are walking the Pacific Crest Trail to Canada. The specificity, the air of obviousness, and the seriousness with which the commentor stated this really stuck with me.
- Is this an RPG, where offering fresh fruit could open up new quests?
- Is this a myth, where failing to provide fresh fruit for the hiker results in being scorned by a god in human form?
- Is this a fairy tale, where offering fresh fruit brings good fortune and not doing it brings ill?
- Is this a cultural norm, where not having fresh fruit is just considered rude?
- Will the hikers ask? How do you identify the ones going to Canada?
I saw only one obvious candidate pair, and chanced asking them if they were on their way to Canada, but they were not. Hopefully I haven’t offended anyone, or anything.
No Summit for Us
McCausland has a trail to the summit that is short and very steep. We only made it a short way up before I was wishing that we had some trekking poles. We also started getting swarmed by mosquitoes and flies, which wasn’t the best part of the hike. Thankfully, we had been warned and were completely covered in DEET. I appear to have gotten no (obviously itchy) bites, and Lise only one or two. This experience was a complete reveral of my expectations, where I expect bugs in low-lying areas and no bugs near the tops of mountains.
Despite not reaching the top, we had a lot of amazing views. I was particularly enamoured with Lichtenberg Mountain, which stands over Lake Valhalla and is very majestic. We hung out taking pictures for a while here, despite the swarms of mosquitoes, because the views were so good.
After giving up on Mount McCausland, we turned off and hiked down to Lake Valhalla, which was also really, really pretty. There were some pretty meadows with lots of wildflowers and more great views of Lichtenberg Mountain towering above the lake.
The way back up was fairly easy and only took about 1.5 hours to get back to the parking lot. The well maintained switchbacks also made for a lot less joint-abuse than some of the BC hikes I’ve been on, which tend to be rockier.