“I can’t believe the news today. Oh I can’t close my eyes and make it go away.” Of course, these U2 lyrics weren’t written about the recent news, but the sorrow still rings true. And even though I can’t make it go away, sometimes I do want to “close my eyes” by running away to be alone and surrounded by stillness – even if it’s just for one night.
I had been eyeing Mount Townsend for a couple years. June is not a month with many options for escaping into the mountains (without an ice ax at least) so I was sort of saving it for the “perfect” time. With a weather forecast of party cloudy, and a world forecast that felt like doomsday, it seemed the right moment to cash in on Mount Townsend.
The trail reports warned that this is a place to be avoided at all costs on weekends or holidays, so in addition to the other “perfect” conditions, I knew I needed to take advantage of what could be my only opportunity to go on a weekday. Feeling pleased to find just a few cars when I pulled into the parking lot after what felt like driving forever (the forest road alone will take you 45 minutes) I was not feeling so pleased to find that “party cloudy” was in fact “one giant all encompassing” cloud. Being this hike is ALL about the view at the top, I was sad to realize I had cashed in my one shot at Mount Townsend at the wrong time – but I was still happy to be alone and determined to make the most of it.
With 3,000 feet of elevation in four miles, I was considering stopping at Windy Camp a mile short of the top…it’s not like I’d be able to see anything anyway. Except I never found it. (I have since read you need to go left where a little sign is directing you to go right to follow the trail. I kind of figured that must be where it was at, but at this time, it is very obscured by snow.) Until the switchbacks stopped, I didn’t even realize I had made it to the top, such was the state of the complete white out. I had read there were places you could put a tent on the ridge, but I could barely see 20 feet in front of me; so as soon as I spotted a do-able spot right next to the trail, I set camp.
As I ate my dinner looking into the white, I hoped maybe I would wake up to something different. And though I couldn’t savor beauty, I could savor the silence – which was eerily saturating. After hitting my sleeping bag early to get out of the cold, I decided I’d better pee one last time before I fell asleep. (If you are considering doing this as an overnight trip, be warned there is NO PRIVACY whatsoever. Thank God I was alone, because my butt would be out for all to see. Also, be aware you need to haul all your water up as well.)
Tears came as soon as I unzipped my tent. Pictures can never capture what it feels like to be surrounded with such overwhelming beauty. It felt like I had hit the jackpot.
The four miles down the mountain took a third less time (three hours up, two down, for a total of eight miles) and today I have a body that hurts as much as my heart. It feels right and good, and I am incredibly grateful to Mount Townsend for all it gave me.
6 thoughts on “Mount Townsend Escapism”
Gorgeous! We’re thinking of going up this weekend, but the forecast is calling for heavy rain and snow. Too cold for my wife and I. Love your photos!
Looks amazing! Thinking about going up this week for an overnight but I was wondering if you need a bear canister/other food storage method here?
Hi Blake! I use the scent proof bags. They aren’t as effective as a bear bin, but they are so much lighter! I double bag and keep it in the tent in my backpack with me. I of course would use a bear bin if I was in an area that was known to have bear issues.
Looks awesome ! Thinking about going up for an overnight but I was wondering if you need a bear canister/other food storage?
Brought tears to my eyes reading the heartfelt beauty of your post. Thank you 🙂
Best view i have seen for long time !