Indian summer in the Pacific Northwest; it doesn't get much better than that. By autumn the rain is usually falling horizontally turning trails and paths into treacherous slide zones. Rivers and creeks swell to impassible levels, bridges and steps become slick as snot. So when the weather is conducive to hiking in October, Northwest natives jump at it.

I got the call from a friend on a Saturday night. He had a knee replacement the year before, and it was time to see what it could do. An avid skier, the hike was an excuse to push the knee to limits of endurance required of it on the slopes. We scheduled the climb for the following morning.

At 5,344 feet, Mount Pilchuck is hardly imposing. Because it stands at the edge of the Cascade range though, the mountain looks taller than it is. And - for the same reason - the view from the top is unobstructed all the way to the sea coast and islands beyond. It's a popular trail - mark that up to its close proximity to town - and though the climb gains a mellow 2200 feet in 2.7 miles, the last hundred yards are fairly steep.

How does that addage go, Anything worth having takes effort, or something to that affect? Perfectly applicable to the treat waiting atop Pilchuck's peak, high above the piles of granite slabs heaped at its base and shoulders like dead skin cells shrugged off by Atlas himself. The prize at the summit is a shelter - an old fire lookout - that precariously straddles the mountain, affording a 360 degree view of Puget Sound and the surrounding glaciers that feed her. And my friend's knee? Never better.

g. Gordon lindy