Washington Hikers, you aren’t all that bad.
On a perfect, sunny, Sunday in July, I climbed Mt. Ellinor with my family and about 1,000 other people. And I lived to tell the tale.
I am supposed to be telling you how awful it was.
How I went out into the wild looking for solitude and zen and only found other people doing the same, along with a few goats.
I should seem irritated about my annoyance with all the people trampling ON MY mountain.
I should complain about their inappropriate behavior on and off the trail, how poorly prepared they were and how bad I felt for the forest rangers trying to keep everyone in check.
And finally I should proclaim that this surely must mean the end of the wilderness, that there’s no more natural beauty left on this planet, and finally civilization at large is in grave danger.
But really, it wasn’t at all like that.
Yes, both parking lots (of the upper and lower trail head) were overflowing. There were only few times when we didn’t see other people on the trail. Many times we had to navigate narrow trails with people overtaking or people passing us heading the opposite direction. Despite that, folks were friendly, or at least courteous.
I didn’t see any trash on the summit, but mostly friendly faces sharing these incredible views.
No one was dumb around the many goats on this popular hike. Even when a family of five goats chose to block the main trail across the big scree field just below the summit, people let the goats do their thing, gave them space and let them pass.
The folks we ran into were wearing proper shoes and we didn’t see anyone without water.
Lots of people brought their dogs, which is allowed on National Forest land. Yes, a few didn’t have them on a leash, but those dogs were small and the owner had to carry them anyway. Why you would bring a dog up to Mt. Ellinor is beyond me, but that’s just my personal opinion and preference, not a grievance by any stretch of the imagination.
We had a great time hiking, with so many other people on this rightfully extremely popular trail.
You see, there are advantages of being not alone in the outdoors:
Being in close proximity of mountains goats didn’t worry our kids because several other people were with us on the trail.
On the final steep and somewhat exposed sections of the trail, folks were encouraging and cheering our kids. There was friendly chatter on the summit while people ate their snacks and tried to figure out the names of the surrounding peaks.
We even ran into some friends of ours we hadn’t seen in month.
You see, this was a great day.
It wasn’t a day of solitude, introspection and personal navel gazing.
But it most certainly wasn’t a day of being annoyed, worried or downright angered at society either.
It proved to me that more people in the outdoors does not equal trash, destruction, and doomsday as many long time nature lovers fear.
I loved seeing so many people enjoy the outdoors on a popular trail with arguably the best views in the Pacific Northwest.
Let’s expand the trail head parking lot and improve signage the forest road and signage to the trail head.