Back To The Beginning: Off-Trail Adventure in Tomichi Creek

This hike was the first one that was specifically to train for Mt Rainier in June 2019. There was no marked trail so the idea was that we would just drive until we decided to stop and start hiking! I was not immediately sold on the idea of just picking a place to climb without having a trail, in fact I didn’t like the idea at all until we were there. That was when I realized that this was going to be unlike anything else I’ve ever done – the area was literally untouched and there was not another person in sight.

We were somewhere near the end of that white road, I would guess hiking up or around Bald Mountain.

We started down a crazy bumpy road and ended up being forced to stop because an avalanche had taken out the road sometime in the previous weeks and it was completely closed indefinitely. Danny parked his vehicle as close to the avalanche chute as possible and we started up the mountain. It is the closest I’ve ever been to an avalanche area that was newly fallen and I was in absolute awe. My pictures will not do it justice, the sheer enormity of destruction was astonishing. Full-grown trees were snapped off and there was just mess everywhere. The first thought I had was the sound had to have been just deafening.

The further up we went, there was actually snow in the chute so that was really awesome to see. The snow was hard packed in some places but my feet went right through other areas. My boots are waterproof and I gave them a second coat of waterproofing spray at the beginning of the summer so my socks didn’t get wet.

We made our way across the snowfield and started climbing up the hill on the left side of the picture below.

Straight up. I don’t know what the incline actually was but holy burn, my calves were screaming. Everything in front of me was above my line of sight so I’m sure the incline was something crazy. I don’t even know how to measure incline but it was steep. Chelsea is using Rainier guidelines to train me and one of them is to “be able to ascend steadily for 5,000 ft on slopes up to 40*” grade. This hike was definitely a sneak peek of how tough that is going to be. Constant up and up is tough on the legs and on the mind when hiking because it can be so easy to get discouraged where there isn’t an “easier” stint in sight. I tried to make my own little switchbacks and that was actually pretty helpful.

A mountain to the left of where we were hiking, possibly Monumental Peak.

I could be wrong but it felt like the ascent got steeper after passing tree line. To the point that when I tried to stop and take a rest, my leg muscles were still tense and not resting because I had to hold myself up against the incline. I took a lot of pictures so I could try to figure out what the incline was later on. After looking at some internet graphics my very uneducated guess is that it was probably somewhere in between 30-40 degree grade.

See the baby deer!? I did not see it until it was specifically pointed out to me. So cute!

So the above picture…is where I gave up. I cannot believe I’m actually typing that because I have never once given up on a hike. The original plan was to continue going straight up and then cross the ridge at the top to the right. It was a tentative plan since we didn’t actually know what peak we were hiking but it sounded good. The hard part is that in the mountains, it is nearly impossible to tell how long it is going to take to get to said destination and I was starting to get worried that it was going to take much longer than planned. There were a few clouds sneaking in and my legs were so freaking tired that I couldn’t even talk myself into going further. I had forgotten sunscreen and could feel myself burning up so I was hiking with my top shirt layer tied over my head and it wasn’t helping that much besides making me hotter and exposing my shoulders. I later blistered and peeled so bad, it was pretty disgusting. Danny would have gone further because guys can just do that but I was done.

A fun photo op on the way back to the cabin. I follow a lot of adventure photographers and I feel like they are constantly posting a picture of a Jeep or some kind of SUV speeding through rushing water, so I unapologetically marked this off my bucket list. I walked across the water (without falling in) to snap these shots and the cold water felt so amazing on my tired feet. I didn’t take my big camera out for any of the hike, so I felt like I needed to take at least one picture with it to make it worth carrying the added weight in my backpack! Thank you Danny for putting up with this Kansas girl’s request for an adventure action shot.

Take aways from the hike:

  • I have a ton of physical preparation to do to get ready for the beast of an incline we are going to be hiking on Rainier. My calves need the most improvement at this point, they were so exhausted and to the point of cramping. Since this hike, I have been doing lots of stairs (straight up, two at a time and at angles), calve raises with 50 lb kettlebells, jump rope and jumping jacks. I go until I get that feeling of cramping and then back off, stretch out and go again until I reach fatigue.
  • I have got to work on holding a high heart rate for longer periods of time. At this point that is my biggest barrier. I had to stop ALOT. I do not like the feeling of my heart racing out of my chest, it is so uncomfortable. That is just going to be the reality of physically exerting myself in high altitude and quite simply I need to get used to the feeling. I have hiked many mountains and this was the first one that gave me a really accurate idea of what I’ll be up against in Washington. I mentally refer to this hike often when I’m in the middle of a long and strenuous aerobic training output. I have made huge strides of improvement since this hike. Plain and simple, it is necessary to have experiences that humble you so that you can ultimately overcome them.
  • Take more risks. I had been so nervous about just taking off and hiking without a trail but when we got started I was just in awe. The views were breathtaking and that raw natural beauty is something I would have deprived myself of if I had let fear reign. I have hard time trusting other people but when I let control go a little bit, it ended up being a pretty epic adventure to prepare for Mt Rainier. Danny clearly knew what he was doing and knew how to get back to the car. Let’s just say I wouldn’t have gotten back to the car in one try if I had been by myself.
  • My stats for this hike are non-existent, my Apple watch and my phone battery died on the way up. It was this hike that made me realize I need to upgrade my watch so I can keep track of miles and altitude without worrying about the battery dying. I really do not like researching things details and specifics about equipment. I knew that I wanted a Garmin just based on ads I have seen in outdoor magazines and hiking blogs but there are so many to choose from! When I got home from this trip I explained what I needed to my husband, asked him to do the research and surprise me with the one he picks for Christmas. He ended up choosing the Garmin fenix 6X Sapphire Pro and I couldn’t be more happy with his choice!
  • Last takeaway – I have some pretty awesome and adventurous friends, so grateful for these two. Sasha for being willing to watch my son Liam so I could even go on the hike in the first place and Danny for picking out a challenging training hike and getting us there!

Written by Rebekah Baier