It's how you finish and this one finished up quite nicely. We made an early start and arrived at the first lookout on Elk just before 9:00. Unfortunately there was little to see as the valleys on both sides were pretty socked in with cloud. We caught a decent view here and there but decided to head up to the Elk summit.
By this time the skies were improving and we figured by the time we made it over to Thurston we'd be golden. That just wasn't meant to be today. The clouds just rolled up continually the entire trip.
We met up with Jonathan, who had braved a solo campout Saturday night, just below the cairn at Thurston. It was about 10:30 and couldn't have been more than 10 degrees. Again, without a lot of views due to cloud we continued on to the Thurston summit but the further east we went the worse the clouds were so we didn't spend a lot of time there.
On the way back as we got closer to Elk, the clouds above were breaking up and it was warm. Saw lots of people on the way back, most on their way up.
Trail conditions were good other than a little slippery due to rain the night before. There was compact snow in the forest sections beyond Elk and leading up to the cairn on Thurston. From there to Thurston summit was all packed snow. I brought my spikes along for the ride but didn't bother putting them on and it was fine.
Sadly, my trusted walking stick gave out today after exactly one year of service from when I picked it up on the Taggart hike last June 3. Moments earlier, I was admiring its longevity and my preoccupation with its greatness resulted in a sudden and somewhat embarrassing slip. The stick broke almost perfectly in half, with one half shooting down the hillside and the other still in my hand. It protected me to the end, bearing a fair bit of the load on my tumble, evidently much more than its fair share. A fitting end to a stellar career. I picked myself up and walked for a while with the broken half in my hand, wondering if I should look for the discarded portion in the hopes of maybe duct taping it back together. But alas, it was time to move on.
So that was a bummer, however, as mentioned, the hike did have a strong finish. By the time we reached the parking lot, it was 1:00, the sun was shining and it was 22 degrees. Glen had brought the portable bbq, the cooler was well stocked and we finished up the hike with a tailgate party. Burgers and smokies with all the fix'ns. The chef even had hand sanitizer to reinforce that this was a first class operation. Bevvies were cold, food was excellent. Great end to the day.
Total trip was 5 and a half hours. Saw a few whiskey jacks and a toad. Lots of bees, not a lot of flowers yet but I imagine it will be a different story in a couple weeks. ...