Well we set out with some big goals today. One... find out if Auden had gotten any stronger over the winter. I mean he's been quite active, and I had a hunch he was going to be able to crank up the mileage, but I needed to put him in a spot where he could prove it. Second... try out some new gear, and theories.
Probably our biggest change this year will be the them of "light and fast". That doesn't mean cutting back on safety at all, but rather bringing only the essentials and overall keeping out skin-out weights as low as possible. We still carry our 10 essentials like every good hiker, but are very careful with not bringing anything extra. Also, we're trying to be a lot smarter about clothing. We've invested in lighter and warmer clothing that does a far better job at regulating temperature. This keeps us from stopping on the trail as frequently to layer-up or down.
We had picked Auden up some new Salomon trail runners, and a Camelbak Mini Mule the night before. I always enjoy shoe shopping with him, because he's so intuitive and knowledgable when it comes to picking out shoes. He's slogged through some bag trails with poor footwear in the past, and is VERY smart about understanding what will feel good and what won't. He absolutely loves his Vasque hiking boots (aka ninja boots), but was also very understanding that a good set of trail runners would be lighter and more comfortable for the longer distances.
Clothed for a faster pace we set out today with the plan to attempt a traverse of Blanchard mountain via the Pacific Northwest Trail. The plan was to start at the Chuckanut Dr. trailhead, and traverse the mountain from SW to NE. Kim dropped us off at the trailhead, and we got a moderately early start around 9AM. This hike starts off with a good portion of it's 2,000ft of elevation gain coming within the first 3mi. He was huffing and puffing, but the report back was that his clothes, pack, and more importantly shoes were feeling awesome and we were full speed forward when we hit Sammish lookout.
We did stayed true to the PNT route, and crossed over the top of Blanchard mountain and through the Lilly/Lizard lake area. This is a beautiful area that has tons to see. We were shocked to find just a few spots with snow remaining. We stopped there for our first official break, but after really noticing how cold it was we decided to keep moving along and get our body temperature back up.
The backside of the hike wasn't super technical which allowed us to keep a really nice pace weaving through the woods, on and off gravel roads, and down shared trails with mountain bikers. There was large celebration when we were informed by our GPS that we crossed the 8mi mark officially making every step from there on forward as his longest hike!
We closed out the hike for a total of 10mi right on the money, and 2,000ft of elevation gain. Perfect! Every single part of today was a success... shoes, clothing, packs, and more importantly attitudes. This... is what hiking is all about!