Kyle Kotajarvi

Day 5: Mount Index

IT’S CHRISTMAS TODAY!!  As I slowly began to gain consciousness, I admired the morning light that was pouring through the studio apartment’s floor-to-ceiling windows.  Clancy had slept on the couch opposite of me, while Chelsea and Kassidy shared Chelsea’s bed.  Chelsea’s studio was one of the most unique living spaces I’ve ever seen.  The unit was located on the top floor of a re-purposed mansion.  The estate sat along the banks of the Tolt River on the outskirts of the small town of Carnation.  

We didn't have a solid plan for today, so we spent the morning lounging around and talking about our separate journey’s.  Kassidy and Clancy had departed Minnesota about a week and half prior to my flight and had driven almost 30 hours straight to Washington, so there adventure has been a bit more extensive than mine.

At about mid-morning, Kassidy and I sat down to make plans for the day We thought about going out to Lake Calligan, but we were thwarted by the fact that you needed a special, expensive pass to get through to the trail head. Eventually, after a short amount of research we decided on Lake Serene near Gold Bar.

After a bit of preparation, we left towards Gold Bar at roughly 12:30.  Coming out of Carnation, we were greeted by foothills and fields, before we transitioned into the Cascades.  The weather was beautiful before heading into the mountains, but as we departed, we found ourselves under an overcast sky.

We arrived at the trail head after a short hour drive.  The trail head info board said the trail was tough, but it was way more treacherous than I expected.  The grade of the hill was gradual, with streams every so often that we had to traverse. As we climbed higher and higher, the trail transitioned from small stones, to larger boulders, which required us to be a bit more attentive to each step.  

About 1.75 miles into the trail, we came across our first destination, Bridal Veil Falls.  The falls cascaded down the mountain side and fell graciously directly perpendicular to the trail, before continuing down the remainder of the hillside.

Our original goal was to make it to Lake Serene, but as the light began to fade and my legs began to quiver, I began to realize that the chances of us making it very slim.

We moved quickly past the falls, and we found ourselves traversing back and fourth up the face of the mountain on a boulder filled staircase. The rest of my group was keeping the pace while I fell further and further behind. The combination of me being quite out of shape, and carrying about 20 pounds worth of gear was making it very difficult. As I paused to regain my composure, I contemplated calling it a day, but I pressed on. I found Kassidy, Clancy and Chelsea about 200 yards uphill, and as I began to apologize for slowing them down, they told me that we weren't going to make it.

They said that a group of descending hikers informed them the lake was veiled in a layer of thick fog and that the connecting meadow  was covered with about 3.5 inches of snow. We decided it was best to turn back, so Chelsea and I began to descend while Kassidy and Clancy stayed behind to rehabilitate some more. Chelsea and I reached the falls and snapped some photos before the others arrived. Kassidy painted for awhile while it began to lightly rain.

We began the last leg of the trail back to the lot again at about four, and as the light rapidly fell off, we became a bit disoriented. By the time we reached the car it was pitch black.  Luckily, Kassidy had brought headlamps, which made the last 20 minutes of hiking much easier!  

We drove back to Chelsea's place to pack our bags and headed to Kassidy's mom's place in Kirkland. Her mom lived with her boyfriend Rob in a nicely kept condo in a suburban complex. We dropped off our bags but hurriedly left to get pizza from the gas station. When we got to the station, we found that gas was $1.99, so we took a selfie in front of the sign. We bought some Angry Orchard, two Jack's pizzas and some Doritos and headed back to the condo. We played a really fun game of Life with her mom and Rob while we ate pizza and then we crashed.