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’.)
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!