The Hike: Mount Ellinor Upper Trailhead
Mount Ellinor Distance: 3.2 miles, 2,444 feet of elevation gain (over 1.6 miles to the summit)
Highest Point: 5944 ft.
From 101 take State Route 119N toward Mount Ellinor. Follow 119 9.3 miles to a T-junction. Turn right on Forest Road 24 and follow 1.6 miles. Turn left on Forest Road 2419. Drive for 4.9 miles to the lower trailhead for a 6.2-mile round trip. To get to the upper trailhead (featured in this article), go 1.7 miles and turn left on Forest Road 2419-014. The upper trailhead is located at the end of the road.
Hiking Mount Ellinor with Strangers
It all started with a friendly exchange on the Pacific Northwest Outdoor Women FB page back in July. Nina Brucker reached out and expressed a desire to join me for a hike. Since I’m always down to meet fellow hikers, I said sure. Then Melanie K. Kitzan asked if she could join us; we both responded affirmatively. Still strangers to one another, we moved the conversation to messenger and planned our hike by chat. We set a date, and Mount Ellinor was the mountain of choice.
Excited about the excursion, I left home (Seattle) at 4:30 a.m. I had decided to make a day of it and booked a hotel up north, so you can imagine my confusion when my GPS sent me south on I-5. Thinking I was sleepwalking (driving), I reset my GPS and again it led me south. That is when it came to me, I had confused Mount Erie with Mount Ellinor. I mean, they both start with the letter “E.” I chuckled to myself while saying aloud, “Really, Dede?”
I arrived at the upper trailhead about 15 minutes late, at 7:15 a.m. My new hiking companions were already there. I apologized for being tardy and changed into my hiking boots. We hugged our first hello and started out on our journey. However, we soon returned to our vehicles so we could place our Northwest Forest Passes in plain view. The requisite pre-hike selfie was taken and, for real this time, we were on our way!
photo: Nickay3111 via flickr
Out the gate, this route is steep with plenty of switchbacks. Early on I stopped and announced to my companions that I needed to get my trekking poles out. Nina graciously removed them for me and in no time we were back to the grind. As we hiked we learned about one another: careers, children, ex-significant others and places we enjoy traveling. The conversation was easygoing. Melanie laughs easily and Nina asks good questions. We shared life lessons, expressed the importance of our friendships with women and how they deserve the time and effort, regardless of our relationship style.
I positioned myself at the end of our line going up the mountain as I take a lot of photos and I’m slow and steady. Nina, on the other hand, is a Mountain Goat! I mean this in the most loving way possible. This lady needed no trekking poles on our ascent, she seemed to never tire and remained hopeful throughout our climb that the clouds would melt away. Both ladies waited patiently for me as my breaks became ever more frequent, as I needed to catch my breath.
Listen, Mount Ellinor is no joke! I rate it a strenuous hike with roots, rocks and stairs to be found in various sections.
There’s a false summit, which offers a place to take some photos and get a little rest. Visibility was low, but we continued to the summit, with only a brief reprieve from the clouds and fog.
The hike continued on longer than expected and I was wondering why we hadn’t hit the summit when Melanie echoed my sentiment and said she thought we were going to run out of mountain in no time!
Both Nina and Melanie were hoping to see some goats as the area is known for being home to many. We didn’t encounter even one, and that was fine by me. I like to see wildlife in photos or from afar off and comfortably safe distance away. Perhaps the goats were upset about the weather and decided to go elsewhere for the day. Thank you goats!
When we finally arrived at the summit of Mt. Ellinor, two women who had passed us earlier were enjoying chili and coffee. After chatting for a bit we found out that they too were from the Pacific Northwest Outdoor Women Group.
It was cold at the top. I was glad I had a headband to cover my ears and gloves for my hands. As we sat enjoying our lunch, two gentlemen joined us: Jim and Tom. Before we knew it there was a party of seven. We chatted, laughed, and got to know a bit about each other. Hikers are such friendly folks! And we captured our time spent together on camera
The clouds blocked the view from the top of Mount Ellinor. Allegedly, several mountains can be seen and the views have been described as magnificent. I will have to return another day for the big scenic payoff! But, I’m going to need a minute. That was a hard hike for me, but I’m so glad I did it!
The descent was challenging. I fell on my (ass)et two times in quick succession. Melanie was there to lend a hand and I almost took her out too. I could only laugh because I was in no pain— except for maybe my ego.
Spending the day with two awesome women filled me with gratitude. There’s something very powerful and empowering about women in their forties. We’ve been through much, learned how resilient we are, appreciate who we’ve become, and are comfortable in our skin. We are living our best lives.
My takeaway from the day? Do more of what you love with people you like. Take a risk and open yourself to new people and experiences. It makes life that much richer.