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Eiger and the Death Hike

July 9, 2006

I cannot believe it has been ten days since I last wrote. Time flies during the summer. Since I last wrote, I have been rejected for a job that I really wanted, visited the Washington Coast, hiked around Mount Rainer, been invited to a wedding and have been told that I should attend a conference in San Diego next week and then told that I was no longer needed to attend that conference – and I thought summer was going to be easy.

I just got back from a camping trip with my friends Paul and Kelli. We were about 40 miles outside of Enumclaw, near Mount Rainer. Paul and Kelli were asked by another couple to watch their dog for the weekend. And, they said yes. So we took along a giant Bernese Mountain dog named Eiger (pronounced: eye-GAR) on our trip. After having dogs in my family my entire life, I was weary of taking on Eiger for the trip. The smell, the constant licking and poo are the main reasons I don’t like dogs.

A closeup photo of Eiger on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

A closeup photo of Eiger on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

Photo of Kelli and Eiger before our hike on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

Photo of Kelli and Eiger before our hike on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

The highlight of the trip was the hike. It is common knowledge that I really do not like hiking. I don’t get the appeal of hiking to some place, packing food and water, not having access to a bathroom and then hiking back. But Paul and Kelli were billing this hike as a short walk from our campsite. Now I like walking. I walk to work. I walk to the store. I walk to school. Walks are fine. So when they said this was more of a walk than a hike I agreed to this idea.

We left our campsite around eleven. And the trailhead was a ten-minute walk from our camp. With Eiger leading the way, we started on Trail #1184 to Nobel Knob. The trail is just over six miles round trip. The elevation gain is close to 1,100 feet. After hiking what seemed 10 miles, we reached an old wooden sign – Nobel Knob 1.5 miles away. I was shocked. It only had been 1.5 miles!? It seemed like we had been hiking forever.

The views along the trail were breathtaking. It was a glorious, clear July day. Rainer loomed to our left and the valley was filled with a thick forest cover. Deep colored flowers engulfed the fields along the hills. Orange paintbrushes and purple wildflowers provided the much needed color around the dusty trail.

Photo of Mount Rainer taken on Trail #1184 to Noble Knob on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

Photo of Mount Rainer taken on Trail #1184 to Noble Knob on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

While the views were stunning and the flowers were great, this was a death hike. Right before you reach the knob, there is a significant elevation gain. This led me to believe that the hike was almost over. However, at the top of this hill, you can look down to the valley below and see the trail going down and then leading into an even higher elevation gain to the knob. I was defeated. Not only was this going to be the hardest part of the hike, I was going to go over that hill again when we decided to come down from the knob. But I was determined to be on top of the knob.

Years ago, there used to be a lookout on top of the Noble Knob. What they were looking out for is unclear but you can find remnants of the lookout on top. Getting to the top of the knob requires you to hike around it like a candy cane. About halfway up to the knob, Eiger bolts for the shade of a lone pine tree. He is down and out for the count. Eiger does not want to go up there – and who can blame him. We decide to let Eiger rest in the shade, and Kelli and I went up top to the knob. The views are wonderful. Here are some photos:

Photo of Kelli and the candy cane like trail. Taken on Trail #1184 to Noble Knob on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

Photo of Kelli and the candy cane like trail. Taken on Trail #1184 to Noble Knob on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

Photo of Mount Rainer taken on top of Noble Knob on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

Photo of Mount Rainer taken on top of Noble Knob on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

 Photo of Nick Peyton and Mount Rainer on top Noble Knob on July 9, 2006. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton.

Photo of Nick Peyton and Mount Rainer on top Noble Knob on July 9, 2006. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton.

Photo of a US Geological Survey marker on top of Noble Knob on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

Photo of a US Geological Survey marker on top of Noble Knob on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

Photo of either Lost Lake or Lake George. Taken from the top of Noble Knob on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

Photo of either Lost Lake or Lake George. Taken from the top of Noble Knob on July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

Photo of the outstanding views from Noble Knob July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

Photo of the outstanding views from Noble Knob July 9, 2006. Photo by Nick Peyton.

We come back down and take Eiger from Paul and we hike down to the place where there was a significant elevation gain. We find this a shady spot, take out our sandwiches and have lunch – my personal favorite part of any hike.

We rested and continued. Eiger was beat though. Throughout the hike back to camp, Eiger wanted to rest in the shade. Oftentimes he would pull me into the trees. At one point, we rested on a shady log and Eiger decided to take a nap on the trail, see the photo below.

Photo of Eiger sleeping on the trail on July 9, 2006. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton.

Photo of Eiger sleeping on the trail on July 9, 2006. Photo courtesy of Nick Peyton.

My calves were burning, my ankle felt as it was just one misstep away from breaking, my back ached with pain and I was covered in dirt and sweat. And just when I thought, I could go no further, just when I thought I would join Eiger in the shade of a pine tree, we reached the trailhead and the hike of death was over.

Maybe one day I will get into hiking. But that day is not soon. We packed up camp the next day and headed back to Seattle. On our way back, we stopped at a small local café and had breakfast. The next stop was Eiger’s house. And I was honestly sad to see him go. I have always said that I don’t like hiking or dogs but maybe, this is the beginning of changing my mind.

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