Mt. Si towers over the Washington town of North Bend (location of the cult TV series Twin Peaks). Just 45 minutes from Seattle, it's one of the most popular hikes in the U.S. The trail rises 3,200 feet over four miles of switchbacks. An accomplishment to be proud of (if you ignore the hordes of small children, pregnant women and old ladies with walkers zipping past you). The summit was my destination.
You know all the supposed benefits of hiking: Improve your health, reduce stress, enjoy nature, etc. Bah. There is one reason, and one reason only I subject my body to four sweaty miles of switchbacks: Trail Mix. I adore the stuff, but if I plowed through it while lolling on the sofa, I wouldn't be climbing the mountain - I'd BE the mountain. Watching "Into Thin Air" does not count as exercise. Rats.
Trail mix has come a long way since my summer camp days when it was peanuts, raisins, ants and gravel. An Amazon search for "trail mix" yields 1,123 varieties. How do you choose just one? How do you figure out which mix is best, not just for a particular hike, but for each stage of your hike? Wonder no longer! Let me be your trail mix guide. Like the restaurant sommelier who suggests the perfect wine for each course of a meal, I will select the perfect trail mix to complement each mile of your hike.
Welcome to the trailhead, madame! I see you've selected the four mile trek. Excellent choice, if I may say so! Please allow me to select some trail mix accompaniments to enhance your hiking experience...
MILE ONE: You begin at the trailhead. Mile one is a brisk stroll on a bed of fresh local gravel. Sling on day pack, check water supplies, tighten bootlaces and dig in.
TRAIL MIX RECOMMENDATION: G.O.R.P. -- Granola, Oats, Raisins, Peanuts - the original. GORP is the perfect accompaniment to the starter mile. Let the word roll around on your tongue: GORP. It's a happy, friendly sound, reminiscent of the sound your boots make tramping across the gravel pathway that slopes gently from the parking area. GORP GORP GORP GORP.
MILE TWO: it's getting hot and gnats are starting to stick to your sweaty skin. You've given up hoping for a cool breeze and will settle for a log to rest on for just two f%*$ing minutes, OK? As long as it doesn't have too many ants.
TRAIL MIX RECOMMENDATION: C.R.A.P. -- Chocolate chips, Raisins, Almonds, Pistachios. Mere GORP simply won't do the job any more. It's time for something more substantial: chocolate and a nut upgrade will restore flagging energy and make a fine accompaniment to the steeper grade.
MILE THREE: Time and space are becoming relativistic. A single mile expands to at least nine and what used to be a manageable uphill grade has become nearly vertical. Judging by the rivers of sweat soaking your clothes, they've also apparently moved the entire mountain from temperate Seattle to Equatorial Guinea.
TRAIL MIX RECOMMENDATION: H.E.L.P.M.E.G.O.D. -- Hazelnuts, Edamame, Lucky Charms, Pistachios, M&Ms, Exedrin, Granola, Oats, Dexadrine. Protein + sugar + uppers = second wind!
MILE FOUR: Out of the shade of trees, the sun is a relentless orb of burning torture. The summit recedes into a simmering white void. They tell you it's cold in the stratosphere, but it's not. Oh dear God, it's not. How is it possible to keep walking when your feet melted away at least nine miles ago? But somehow you continue to put one stump in front of the other.
TRAIL MIX RECOMMENDATION: K.I.L.L.M.E.N.O.W. -- Kahlua, Ibuprofen, Laughing gas, LSD, M&Ms, Ecstasy, Nuts, Oxycodone, Weed. Dude, are we climbing the mountain or is the mountain climbing us? Woah!
SUMMIT: Four miles of switchbacks bring you to the summit. The last dose of trail mix has fully kicked in. There's a lovely breeze up here and the view is spectacular. You suddenly can't remember what you were whining about. It's beautiful! And no one told you there were unicorns up here! After a pleasant coma in the shade, you convince yourself getting here was a piece of cake and you really should do it every weekend. You'll tackle bigger mountains! You'll be the next Ueli Steck!
But eventually, you hear the siren call of home, beer and shower and rouse yourself from dreams of glory. Then the realization hits: Four miles up = four miles down.
TRAIL MIX RECOMMENDATION: A.A.A.R.R.R.G.G.H. -- Almonds, Absinthe, Amphetamines, Rum, Red Hots, Red Bull, Granola, Ganja, Halcyon. The almonds and granola make it health food.
Gotta go. My flying horse is here. Oooh! Sparkly!