Challenge of the Month: Mount Defiance

By Alexander Gilbert,

A routine is alike to wearing the same shirt everyday. Even if the shirt is top of the line—last month’s funk will be today’s reality. So to not be stinky, upset individuals, we need to try something else on for size.

Introducing a challenge.

Challenges are opposed to rigid routines, and allow for new and exciting experiences. With the other side of insulating familiarity being a fun-loving opportunity—one needs to branch out. Thus set a challenge, believe in the challenge, build up for the challenge, and complete your challenge. Then through the battering of a finished challenge, arises an unearthed—uplifted mood.

Furthermore, our prolific outdoor sports setting provokes challenges. With each sport having its own skill set, and levels to achieve, the challenges our bountiful. What we were taught in our early years does come in handy—eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

With this in mind, a hike in the Gorge stands tall amongst them all—Mount Defiance. Family friendly? Hell no. Just the place you park your car for the hike is suspenseful with a name of Starvation Creek State Park.

Indeed each challenge has its own merits, and Defiance tallies up at a height of 4,959 feet. That is a mountain taller than the 138 feet of elevation you stand on when starting out. Though the Ospreys may be observed effortlessly gliding upwards the route for us is pitiless switch backs. The Z of the switch back even gives way into a steeper S which is to say the five mile trail itself, let alone our legs, becomes tired of switch backs towards the top.

Incidentally, the six foot red anthill at the trailhead insinuates hard working towering heights. The ants may be entering the roadside attraction business, or symbolically portraying the path ahead. The staunchest critic may stutter when they behold the ant pyramid of Giza, and convert to a fanatical believer in signs. Which may almost be as dangerous as the poison oak that festers in the area.

Moving onwards, the slope begins a continual change in scenery. As you march forwards the plant life that once looked similar to valley surroundings with broadleaf trees like Maples, Oaks, and Alders will yield to Conifers. The undergrowth will as well shift from thicket all the way to sparse wildflowers amongst boulders.

What do you know—life spans from the chaotic brushwood to stout Noble Firs at the pinnacle viewpoint. Charging up to the panoramic view a hiker who treaded the tedious trail has reached the point where they affirm one’s existence by gazing over it all. The moment is glorifying, but it’s not the end of the journey; nope, once you peak you have to descend.

At any rate, the time between is filled with chance encounters with wildlife, fellow hikers, and  the ambiance of nature. Most likely a deer will cross your path and hold a look of consternation concerning your sudden appearance. The struggling hiker may request a confirmation that there’re almost at the top when they’ve barely made any headway, and your stuck giving them the brunt truth or a conciliating lie. While some hikers are more than ready to spill the beans on how they’re feeling with exclamations such as “death march!” and “jelly sticks” when referring to their legs. Plus with the backdrop being the Columbia River and the local cascade stratovolcanoes, it’s always nice to check up on the spectacle at various spots along the way.

In the end, the trail does an all around admirable job at engaging the hiker throughout. Physical effort is exerted, and ear popping miles are traversed. With steep—slippery loose dirt sections, the adrenaline awakes the city dweller. Along with immoderate natural beauty flashing views to the soul, the hiker is refreshed and battered—just as any worthy challenge achieves.

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