when you get up at 2:30 AM to work on a puzzle

I was supposed to go hiking today in search of the heavenly autumnal larch, but I came to at 2:30 AM (an hour before my wake-up call) and the bed was empty beside me. The boys’ mother had never come up for the night, after my initial disorientation I realized the blanket was still tucked in on her side. Downstairs I found her tapping away at the keys on her laptop hard at work. She regarded me with one curious raised eyebrow as I limped like Quasimodo through the dining room en route to the back porch for a weather report. My heart sank a little as I stepped out into the early morning drizzle and acknowledged the telltale lower-than-usual flightpath and amplified booming drone of cargo jets headed to Seatac and Boeing Field.

The forecast called for afternoon clearing. Diana urged me to come home late if that’s what it took for me to take advantage of the latest favorable weather window, but the fun of that idea went out the window with her being up so late. I knew she’d be pooped the following night, I didn’t want to be gone after what I knew would be a long, hard day for her. I’d narrowed down several options:

  • Headlight Basin in the Teanaway: A beautiful place on the eastern side of the Cascades, and a stunning lake (Ingalls), but I always think of this area as an afternoon destination (as in, be there in the afternoon). And it’s hard to tell how far along the larches are at the moment based on beta scattered across the web. I’ve been saving this hike for later in the month, because it could be done with some minor snow.
  • Carne Mountain (the Chiwawa), which I also like to call Big Slab of Meat Mountain: It would be fun to revisit the Chiwawa area (I hiked to Spider gap earlier this summer). Carne would have a great view of Phelps Basin and loads of neighboring peaks. The best shooting here is in the morning, and the forecast didn’t look promising for significant AM clearing. There are a lot of larches here.
  • Easy Pass (North Cascades): I’ve been wanting to come here really bad for a couple years and see the smattering of larches. In October with the snow level at 5,000 feet and on a misty morning to boot……….that would be a bad idea. In the same vein, I couldn’t bear to pass up the views that would be fogged over in the morning. Easy Pass is not an easy hike, and I’m not hiking a steep, hard trail to look at swirling fog.
  • the Upper Enchantments via Aasgard Pass: The larches look good up here right now. A friend of mine is camping here this week, but she’s an experienced backpacker. I’ve never been up Aasgard Pass, and i don’t think my introduction should be a wet, slippery one.

So as you can see, at 2:30 in the morning the steady drizzle did not help my motivation. I thought about hopping on the computer and checking the Doppler radar for western Washington, but then it occurred to me no hike is worth studying Doppler radar at three in the morning. So I sat down next to Diana and began whittling away at the 1,000 piece puzzle Adam and I started earlier in the week. This puzzle is the bane of my existence at the moment. I eat every meal on it, it’s basically a place mat. I’m continually picking up tiny puzzle pieces off the floor. And I’m constantly tormented by the feeling at least a half dozen different puzzles came in the box with this monstrosity. This is the last puzzle I’m ever working on. I went overboard on Sunday when Adam and I did a half dozen of his and then we decided we would surprise Mama when she got home from her trip by spreading out all the finished puzzles. And we decided the perfect centerpiece for our work would be a gargantuan one thousander. Well, if you’re like me I’m here to tell you- you don’t just breeze through a 1,000 piece puzzle.

Puzzles are excellent developmental tools for children, the benefits are well-documented. I enjoy working on the easier ones with Adam. We talk and joke around a lot even though there’s varying levels of concentration involved. It’s very relaxing. It’s good family time. But 1,000 piece puzzles are good for one thing- giving you an ulcer. If you read this and want the puzzle I’m talking about, then let me know pronto. Because it either finds a new home or I’m gluing that bastard together and it’s going straight into the recycle bin (okay, that’s not entirely true……it’s a funny motorcycle cartoon with all kinds of silly characters and Adam has indicated he might like to have it on his wall). We’ll probably finish it tomorrow night, and I can’t think of anything more I’d rather be doing on a Friday. Diana promised me she would finish it because I can’t hunch over the table anymore like Sherlock “Puzzle” Holmes.

Enough about the 1,000 piece puzzle-from-hell. At least I can add it to my bucket list! Here are a few more pictures from my hike to Mildred Point. Tonight’s blog was not supposed to be about a puzzle. It was supposed to be Mildred Point Night. I’ve got a landscape version of this picture I like a lot better that I’ll share later, but in my unscientific opinion these portrait views look nicer on WordPress. You can see how this is a tricky place to shoot with the shadows below. You also have to be careful standing someplace like this, to not slide and tumble down the loose rocky slope because you’d be a sure goner. I liked how this little fir has managed to survive in spite of the crumbly mountainside. Unfortunately, you could come back here in two years and this little tree might be gone. It’s not a very hospitable place. But that’s part of what makes the alpine so fascinating, how life clings on……

mt. rainier from Mildred Point and the tenacious fir

Below is a view of Eagle Peak and the southern Cascades. I loved this beautiful, verdant perspective! In the other direction is what I call the Grand Canyon of Mt. Rainier, looking across dangerous air and unbelievable cliffs and rocks and boulders from Mildred Point. But this way, it’s a serene setting of postcard prettiness. That’s a leftover patch of snow below. I skied on it.

Eagle Peak in the distance and a patch of snow

And lastly, a trail sign…….

there are all kinds of wonderful places to visit in MRNP! This hike would make a great one way hike down to the Wonderland Trail instead of returning the same way; hitchhike your way back to the trailhead with some tourists from Germany

There has been a significant amount of maintenance on the “unofficial” path to Mildred Point. Someone has gone in and etched out a bunch of homemade water bars.  Why the path is unofficial, is beyond me. The tricky crossing of Van Trump Creek shortly before here? There’s a big log there now, but the fast-flowing creek looks like it could be scary most of the summer. Later in the year, though, you’d be a fool to not walk the steep extra half mile to Mildred Point. It makes for three very exceptional highlights from the Comet Falls trailhead (the first two being Comet Falls and Van Trump Park, of course). All the way from the trailhead to here, it’s incredibly scenic.

One thought on “when you get up at 2:30 AM to work on a puzzle

  1. I always fantasize about living out in the PNW but could never see myself getting up at 3am for a hike—I’m just too damn lazy! Beautiful MRNP shots… I hope the puzzle fun is behind you now!

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