Black Diamonds and Saving Private Highin’


There I was. Chugging down-trail from a postcard-perfect afternoon at Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground at Mount Rainier. We switchbacked through old growth forests and high country meadows marinaded in wildflowers and fall finery. Lunched at the back country patrol cabin. Squished another mile or so to Mirror Lake (below), which is as stunning as it sounds on a clear September afternoon.

Then it was time to hike back to the trailhead at Kautz Creek. All downhill. About 3,000 feet. And my knees went on strike.

Yea, verily. There’s nothing like a postcard perfect, multi-mile hike up the Ridge From Hell to make you appreciate your knees. Especially on the downhill.  I was chugging along with the alacrity of a gimpy snail. My brain kept saying, “C’mon! Get a move on! We’re burning daylight!” My knees responded, “Are you nuts?!”

Hours later, I hobbled into the parking lot opposite Kautz Creek, whining like a World Class Wuss: “I can’t do this anymore. My knees are shot. No more climbing.”

This was Day 2 of a week-long hiking trip at Mount Rainier National Park.

Note to self: It’s not the climbing that kicks you. It’s the descent. Other note to self: If you can’t climb/handle uphill trails at Mount Rainier, your hiking options inside the park are almost nil.

“Well, we’ll have to do something about that,” replied Hiker Dude, slipping me a post-trail pick-me-up. Ghirardelli’s raspberry white chocolate will cure just about anything. In fact, I felt better immediately. My knees, not so much.

The next morning, quick like a bunny, Hiker Dude and I high-tailed it over to Whittaker Mountaineering Store in Ashford in search of some high quality trekking poles. (This place has everything outdoor-ish. Just sayin’.)

We coughed up about $200 for two pairs of Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking Poles.  Lightweight, adjustable and built to last, Black Diamond trekking poles are reputedly “the best on the market.”

Built with high quality craftsmanship and “extremely high standards,” Black Diamonds have an excellent patent-pending anti-shock system. Using these poles, the stress reduction on my knees was huge on descents out of Panorama Point, Mazama Ridge, Pinnacle Saddle, and to Louise Lake. These trekking poles saved our ‘private highin.’ In fact, I would not have been able to continue hiking without them.


My knees are now kicking my brain for not investing sooner in a pair of high quality, sturdy trekking poles. But better late than never. I highly recommend you do likewise.

By the way, when it comes to trekking poles, you get what you pay for. Don’t settle for cheapies. Cough it up. Your knees will thank you. Mine sure do!


Happy trails!

5 Responses

  1. LadyPamelaRose

    Sounds like a great adventure! I have treking poles as well and find them to be a huge part of getting out as I normally use a cane or walker for regular walking. Treking poles allow me the same type of stability when I want to do more of a walk or “hike” so I was pleased to find your article. Keep on Trekking!!!

    • HikerBabe

      Thanks Pamela. We take our trekking poles everywhere, even on “easy” hikes. They weren’t cheap, but they were an excellent investment. Worth it for the extra stability,esp. in difficult creek crossings. Also saves wear and tear on our knees! Glad to hear you’re getting out and enjoying being outside.

  2. Jone't

    Kristin, I feel so fortunate to read this post. We moved to the south from “sunny” Portland and went on many scenic adventures in our 5 years in the PNW. Thank you for these beautiful photos and taking us along on your hike. I want more!

    We used to love driving up to Timberline Lodge and hiking up the mountain trail to the top. The view was spectacular and in the summer, the closer you’d get to the top, you’d see large patches of remaining snow. There were always snowboarders in shorts, enjoying what was left of winter in Oregon. Sigggggh, beautiful memories.


    • HikerBabe

      Sounds like so wonderful memories Jone’t! We visited the Timberline Lodge last May! Of course the trails were still buried in snow. But what a beautiful part of Oregon! We also enjoyed the Columbia River Gorge. Stunning!

  3. Mel's 2nd Act

    Beautiful photos. I haven’t done a lot of hiking in the mountains, since there aren’t any near where I live. My son is an avid hiker in the mountains and one of the things on his Christmas list was hiking poles. They too were over $200, which I thought was crazy. He hikes for weeks at a time, so after reading this I guess that was a good gift 🙂

    Happy trails…. Melanie