Until Johnny's back gave out, we hiked Spirit Mountain every New Year's Day, no matter the weather. The last year we hiked was 2006. Johnny's back is better now, after surgery, but we had the Upper Nestucca Christmas Count on January 2 which entailed a day of hiking thanks to snow-blocked roads. I could not do two strenuous days in a row. So we decided to hike Spirit on Johnny's 70th birthday instead: today, Martin Luther King and Inauguration Day.
Johnny did fine. I, on the other hand, had a knee give out before we
reached the top... in spite of knee supports and walking very slowly.
Johnny took several side trips to explore while I was mincing my way up
the mountain... and taking photos. Not knowing how far I would make it, I
took pictures at the big rock along the road that marks the one mile mark. Then again
at the 1 1/2 mile mark.
We left the road to go up the mountain on old logging roads just before we came to the two mile marker. It was a lovely, sunny, windless day. A stump at a clearcut we passed on the way up gave Johnny a good viewpoint.
Under the tall firs, the leafless shrubs were still coated in ice. They were so lovely I ran the battery down in my camera taking pictures. Fortunately, I had brought a second battery.
After two and a half hours, we made it to the top, a slower than usual ascent thanks to me. Here's Johnny on his 70th birthday, after our 1500 foot in elevation climb.
In the sunshine with no wind, an unusual combination for the top of Spirit Mtn., we ate lunch, then started down. The valley below us was shrouded in clouds. In years past, we could see our farm from the south face of Spirit Mountain. But now the trees have grown so tall, I don't think we can, even without clouds. I didn't try because I knew it was going to take me a long, slow way to get back down the mountain.
We traditionally come straight down, instead of circling to the back side to make the climb more gradual as we do on the way up. Going down with my sore knee was a challenge. I had to keep my left leg as straight as possible. Bending hurt. A time or two, the easiest way was on my butt.
When we saw a big rock below us on a ridge, we knew we were headed in the right direction. Even after seven years, we recognized the mossy rock with an elk path going past. There was still plenty of opportunity to get lost in this dense forest, but at least at this point we were where we should be.
That was the last photo I took as I had a walking cane in each hand and was concentrating on not falling down amongst the logs and Oregon Grape. In his attempts to chart the least challenging route for me, Johnny went a bit off course and we hit the road at a different spot than usual. Thanks to my painfully slow descent, instead of our customary one hour return trip, it took an hour and a half and that was with Johnny hurrying ahead after we hit the road to get the van and drive up to rescue me. So I rode the last 1/4 mile home. That's okay, it wasn't my birthday.
Johnny proved to himself he can still hike the mountain at age 70. And hopefully for many more years beyond that.