This time of year I grow impatient waiting for the snow to melt on many hiking and backcountry trails, especially the trails that head deeper into the wilderness and away from the I-90 and western slope hordes.

Here’s what I typically run into above 4,500 ft this time of year. This was scrambling up the snow toward Rampart Lakes above Rachel Lake on June 21st.
Rachel Lake through the trees

I am jonesin’ to explore new trails, knowing that come late July I have about three full months of endless trails waiting for me. While I wait, I make sure my gear is in shape, get myself in shape, and plan trips with my friends to get our calendars lined up.

Getting my gear in shape means making sure everything is in trail-ready condition. For example, I’m old school, so my hiking boots may need another layer of waterproofing. Or perhaps your tent seams need a fresh layer of sealing tape. I also look to see what equipment upgrades I can afford, which usually is limited to whatever my REI dividend works out to be for the previous year.

The bigger effort is to get myself in shape or at least intensify the workouts I’ve been doing over the winter. As I get older, this proves to be harder, but I have a decent regimen that’s proven to be adequately-targeted to hiking and backpacking. I do high-intensity elliptical workouts at the gym a few days a week, which also includes weightlifting that focuses on my core and my upper body strength. This also helps to keep my weight in check — it makes more economic sense to burn off 5lbs of Ken than spend a few hundred bucks for a tent that weighs 2lbs less.

I did more running than usual this year, but it ultimately did more harm than good as I’m still trying to sort out what appear to be running-related injuries. I’ve never been a runner and I do it as a social thing and for its cross-training benefits, but again, my body just doesn’t like it. Better to stick to the low-impact high-resistance workouts at the gym.

The more satisfying part of training means hitting spring workouts like Mailbox Peak and less-crowded but just-as-tough-if-not-tougher Mt. Teneriffe (take the trail up above the falls, not the long and boring road trail). Or hitting some not-yet melted trails like Perry Creek or Mount Defiance — slipping and sliding as you head up a snowy slope works out all kinds of stabilizer muscles.

Here’s the snow above Perry Creek from a few weeks ago.
Trail at 4,756 ft.

Late Spring also encourages me to head east to hikes out in the Teanaway area like Ingalls Creek or up along the Wenatchee range including Longs Pass and Esmeralda Basin; hikes that are hot and dusty come July/August. Also, a hike along a river on the eastern side of The Olympics is a good choice; Duckabush River is a worthwhile one. I generally choose these hikes in part because they’re dog-friendly — but be mindful that if hiking up Ingalls Creek that dogs are not allowed at Lake Ingalls.

The Stuart Range from Navaho Peak, a peak in the Wenatchee Range on the north side of the Teanaway river basin.
Mt. Stuart to Little Annapurna

And now is the time to line up all your big trips — your multi-night outings to new places you’ve been thinking about for years, or to bring along some new friends to a trip that you want them to enjoy like you did. When you reach middle age, many of us have kids, pets, family events, and other vacations planned during the summer. So now is the time that I like to finalize the plans and groups for the grander adventures of the summer and early fall. It’s also important to find folks that can commit to the plan, because dropping out near trip time can make it logistically challenging if you’re planning a traverse trip with cars at either end, or you’re sharing a tent and sharing the load for food and other gear. And of course you have to map out your routes, get the necessary passes, and be aware of seasonal road construction.

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