Sourdough MountainWe looked at the list of hikes the ranger had given us at the Colonial Campground. Pyramid Lake, Thunder Creek, Fourth of July trail, each listed with the approximate mileage and altitude gains, short descriptions of the sights and sounds hikers would find.
We wanted something fun to get above the frigid, teal waters of Diablo Lake where we had been camping and kayaking for two days. Then at the bottom on the second page we saw it. EXTREMELY STRENUOUS in all caps, like a beacon we couldn’t resist. Sourdough Mountain sounds soft and doughy, but with over five thousand feet of gain in five miles to the abandoned fire lookout at the top, it brutalizes those who attempt it.
The trail marches steeply up a ridgeline past the dubiously small town of Diablo, switching back and forth endlessly. We had brought four liters of water each, feeling the weight on our way up the first three miles. With only limited views out of the dense lodge pole pine, the trail’s rewards are underwhelming, and at mile four, after thirty-five hundred feet of climbing and sweating, we wanted flat ground. But the challenge drove us further up the winding ridge.
On the last stretch we ran into the bear scat, massive black piles of digested grass, spotted with bright red huckleberries. It’s interesting how the fear of a bear doesn’t really hit you until you see its poop. Poop makes it real, and as we hiked the last half mile, making small talk in an effort to ward off any surprise encounters, we saw several more piles—like breadcrumbs left behind. We never saw the bear, but when we got to the top we forgot about it entirely. The lake, we had spent the last days swimming and kayaking in looked like a droplet of water. Smoke from the fires in Chelan had moved in and socked out some of our views, but we didn’t mind. Sourdough Mountain is only half about the views, the other half is about doing it, standing on the top of a rock next to the fire lookout and realizing you just climbed the elevation difference between Seattle and Steven’s Pass. The views are panoramic and on the north side we watched Ross Lake meander up and into Canada, surrounding by peaks and ridges and countless piles of poop.
The Reward :
After the knee-buckling trip back down, and out of the town of diablo (population: maybe 20), we headed back home. Of course waiting for us, was the catch of our bounty: Hopworks IPX Single Hop Ale Series, a delicious, albeit very hoppy beer. The increased hoppiness is apparently due to their dry hopping process. The beer paired perfectly with aspirin to calm our aching legs. This brewer chose to use organic Simcoe Hops which are certified Salmon-Safe. Salmon-safe hops ensure that there is no downstream fertilizer runoff that affects salmon populations. Hopworks is one of our favorite breweries for their taste as well as the owner’s support of organic ingredients and cycling.