Nov 24, 2008

Poo Poo Point Trail

The southwest corner of Tiger Mountain is heaven for paragliders and hang-gliders. the Squak Mountain / Tiger Mountain valley creates an uplift of warm air currents, and a couple of cliffs off Tiger Mountain have been transformed into launch and landing zones. On a sunny, calm afternoon, you will see a plethora of airborne gliders parading the Issaquah area, all launched from Tiger Mountain.

The launch area is called Poo Poo Point, and I haven't yet figured out how it got its name (that MUST be a fascinating story). The trailhead is located off Issaquah-Hobart road a couple miles south of downtown Issaquah. The trail is obvious, and its a steep, 1600 foot climb in about a mile and a half. Apparently gliders with their gear can make the climb in 45 minutes; I struggled to do it in a little over an hour. And little gear to speak of. Argh.

There are two launch areas at the top. The south launch area opens up to an in-your-face view of Mt. Rainier, and several hundred feet beyond that is the north launch area (the main one), with views of Belleview, Lake Sammamish, and Mount Baker in the distance. Beyond that you can go to West Tiger; I ventured about a half mile further before time constraints forced me back.

This hike is similar in nature to Little Si or Rattlesnake Ledge, although I would argue the views at Rattlesnake Ledge are better. An excellent trail and views for a short exercise session.

Mount Rainier

Mount Baker

Lake Sammamish

Sep 12, 2008

Pictures from Rattlesnake Ledge

Took a quick hike up to the first Rattlesnake Ledge (Take Exit 32 off I-90, go south three miles to the trailhead. Trail is a 2 mile hike, 1100 foot elevation gain) today. Weather was nice enough to snap some pics.

Chester Morse Lake, between McClellan Butte / Mt Washington and Cedar Falls

Mount Si and Mount Tenerrife

North Bend, Washington

Sep 7, 2008

Mount Si

I've posted about Mount Si before, but today I was actually able to enjoy some views, and I paid more attention to the details of the hike to be able to share them here.

I got to the trailhead early this morning, with a relatively thick fog covering Snoqualmie Valley. At 7:30am I was the fourth car in the parking lot, and I set out to conquer Mount Si in two hours. Starting elevation point for this four mile trail is 700 feet.

Mount Si is one of the busiest trails in the area, perhaps as busy as Tiger Mountain. But while Tiger Mountain offers a variety of trails (including a two mile loop that has no elevation gain), Mount Si has one trail taking it to the peak of the mountain that splits the North and Middle Forks of the Snoqualmie River.

The tail is well-traveled, wide, rocky, and well-maintained. It is pretty much the same steady steepness all the way up (each mile is about 800 feet in elevation) gain, although the first two miles are slightly steeper than the last two miles. There are a couple stops for semi-viewpoints along the way, but the views are best reserved for the top.

Once at the top (3900 feet up, for an elevation gain of 3200 feet) you have a few choices. Most people seem to opt for the first lookout, right at the base of the trail when you arrive at the summit. The trail continues on. About 100 feet past the initial summit you will see a decent sized rock on your left. A short rock scramble is well worth it here, and you will be treated with excellent views of the South Fork mountains (Mailbox Peak, Mount Washington, etc), Mount Rainier, Rattlesnake and Tiger mountains, the Olympics, and the Snoqualmie Valley.

Follow the trail a couple hundred more feet, and you will see a sign pointing to the Snoqualmie Valley viewpoint. This is the best view of the valley. Beyond that you have two more choices - the haystack, or follow the trail to the backside of Mount Si for views of Mount Baker to the north and Mount Teneriffe and Green Mountain to the east. You can even follow this trail to Mount Teneriffe, which I chose not to do today.

I also wussed out on the haystack. The views at the top were amazing, you got to see from Rainier to Baker to the Olympics. All the while Seattle and Snoqualmie Valley were covered with a thick layer of clouds below. Very cool seeing Rattlesnake Mountain and Tiger Mountain peek above the cloud cover.

Back to the haystack, I started up it and got about 40% up before I decided it was a little steep for my liking. I still had my backpack on me, and I just didn't trust myself not snagging on something or having the extra weight knock me off balance. By the time I climbed back down I decided against giving it another try. Perhaps another day.

This is a very busy trailhead, I was passing people and dogs (unleashed no less) constantly. The only negative in my book, as I like to hike for the solitude.

Oh yeah, I made it up in two hours and 5 minutes. Gives me something to shoot for next time.

The view to the east and south.

Rattlesnake Mountain in the foreground, Tiger Mountain behind it.

A shot of Rainier, with the first summit of Mount Si there at the bottom of the picture.

Snoqualmie Valley and Seattle, not visible through the clouds. The Olympics are in the distance on this clear day.

Aug 31, 2008

Tiger Mountain: West Tiger 2 Summit

A month ago the family tackled West Tiger 3. This morning I set out to hit West Tiger 2, which is the middle peak in the triad of peaks comprising West Tiger Mountain. It was a cloudy, drizzly morning, so instead of driving straight for the peak and spectacular views I took my time and did some exploring.

Tiger Mountain is interesting with a myriad of trails. It makes it easy to hike in "loops" where you can finish where you started without retracing your steps. I didn't have a plan going in, but happened to take the optimal way (from a time perspective) to get to West Tiger 2. I started at the High Point trailhead off I-90 Exit 22, and took the Tiger Mountain Trail (TMT) just passed the gate off the West Tiger 3 trail. This is a flat-to-steady climb for a good mile and a half. At that point, after crossing a couple bridges, the trail will split. TMT continues to the left, and the K-3 trail starts and veers off to the right. The sign says its an unmaintained trail, but its in good shape. It takes you a steep 400 feet up to the West Tiger Railroad grade, and in doing so shaves about three miles off the TMT, which meanders down and around the mountain until meeting back up at the West Tiger Railroad Grade. Anyway, back on the trail, the grade heads east and west on a flat trail - head east (left) a half a mile and you will find yourself back on the TMT. Take that about 800 feet up of switchbacks, and you will find yourself close to the summit. Look for a sign for West Tiger 2 about 2500 feet up, and take the trail to the left to the summit.

I really don't know what kind of views are available here, I imagine they are excellent. You also walk right by the antenna tower visible from the freeway. Walk past it and you will see a sign pointing you to West Tiger 3. I assume you can also get to West Tiger One from here but did not notice a sign (actually that's probably what TMT will do). I followed the trail back to West Tiger 3, took that down to the Talus Rocks Trail, and followed that to the Nook Trail. That took me to Tradition Loop and back to the parking lot.

The entire trip was four hours, with 2200 feet of elevation gain, covering about 7 miles (that's a guess as I didn't have good GPS coverage). I really liked the various trail and the options it gives you to explore various areas of Tiger Mountain. I'll be back to see where TMT takes me past West Tiger 2.

Aug 24, 2008

Ira Spring Trail - Bandera Mountain

The Ira Spring Trail is a trail that feeds several destinations along the north ridge of the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River, including Mason Lake, Mount Defiance, Banana Ridge, and Bandera Mountain. Take I-90 to exit 45, head to the north side of the freeway, then follow FS 9030 to the west. Follow the signs to the Ira Spring Trailhead, about 3.8 miles from I-90, elevation 2150 ft.

The trail has a gentle upward slope for the first mile and a half, then pushes more aggressively uphill for another mile through a few switchbacks, each one revealing more and more of Mount Rainier as you make your way up. At 4150 feet up you'll encounter a junction. Head west to make your way to Mason Lake, continue heading up to make your way to Bandera Mountain. The next 500 feet up are a killer, a rock meadow field at a 45 degree angle. Had to take a couple minutes of rest three times in this short stretch, but the promising views from the top kept me motivated!

You'll emerge from the meadow back into forest, and shortly across boulders as you make your way to the first summit. To the north on a clear day you will catch views of Mason Lake, Mount Baker, and the north cascades. At the summit, about 3.25 miles from the trailhead and elevation 5150 feet, the views are spectacular, stretching from Seattle and Bellevue to the west, to Rainier and Mount Adams to the south, to the Cascades to the east. Three views of volcanoes on this day, not too shabby.

The trail continues east a half a mile to the real Bandera Mountain summit, which is about the same elevation but will dip between the two summits. Having enjoyed the views here, and hearing that this is the best viewpoint on Bandera, I took a pass on going to the end of the trail.

Mount Rainier from the first summit.

Mount Adams peeking through the Cascades.

Mount Baker emerging from the clouds

Seattle as viewed from Bandera Mountain

Aug 23, 2008

Mount Catherine

We took advantage of the good weather today and the family headed up to Snoqualmie Pass to check out Mount Catherine, with a 5050 foot summit with panoramic views of the Cascades, including Mount Rainier.

Getting there is a little tricky - take I-90 to exit 54 (Hyak) and head north. You'll cross road 906 into what looks like a chalet community. There will be a sign for the "Twin Lake Trailhead" - spot that and follow the road through the chalet community, past a water treatment facility, and to a logging road that will take you to the trailhead. Three miles from I-90, you'll spot the Twin Lake trailhead on your left. Go two miles past that, and you will find the trailhead for Mount Catherine on your right, at elevation 3700 feet.

The trail is a little steep, as its only 1.5 miles long but takes you up 1300 feet in that span. It is well groomed albeit narrow most of the way. There are occasional views on the way up, but the real treat is the final 50 foot scramble to the summit. There you will be treated with a panoramic view of the Cascades, from Mount Rainer to nearby Silver Peak and then down the Snoqualmie Valley (you can see Mount Si in the distance) to across the Cascades to the east, the summit is amazing.

This is arguably the best ratio of view-to-effort in the Snoqualmie-Mt Baker National Forest. This trail is also kid-friendly - in fact my kids loved the final scramble to the top, they felt like "rock climbers."

Looking down on Kecheelus Lake

Great view of Rainer from Mount Catherine summit

Looking south across the Cascades

Aug 14, 2008

McClellan Butte

As you pass exit 38 from the west on I-90, looking up to the right you'll see an rockytop mountain that towers above its siblings. McClellan Butte reaches almost 5200 feet into the air. Take exit 42, go south, then east at the junction a tenth of mile, and you'll quickly and easily find the McClellan Butte trailed. A Pacific Northwest Forest Pass is required.

The parking lot puts you at 1500 feet, so a 3700 foot elevation gain along a 4.5 mile trail awaits you. If you've taken a peek at the top of McClellan Butte from the highway, you can deduce that amazing views await!

The trail starts simple enough - a .4 mile trek up to the Iron Horse Trail, then a .4 mile walk west to the marked trail, then another .4 miles to cross a logging road. Once you get to about 3000 feet (about a mile from the logging road), its starts a steady, steep climb to the south side of the mountain. At the end of this steep hike (4900 feet up, 4 miles from the trailhead), you get your first amazing peek at Mt Rainier, so close it seems that you can reach out and touch it. At this point the trail levels considerably, and you only have a half mile, 200 foot climb to the end of the trail.

The trail end leaves you with views of Mt Rainier, the Olympics, Seattle (downtown is obscured by Rattlesnake Mountain), and Mount Si, as well as along the Snoqualmie Valley (both east and west) and across Snoqualmie Pass. If you want a view of Mount Defiance, Dirty Harry's Balcony and Peak, Mailbox Peak, and Banana Ridge, you'll need to climp another 125 feet up a fairly steep and dangerous rockface for the summit. Dangerous in that a fall will be fatal, but safe in that there are plenty of footholds and the rock is slanted making it fairly easy to scale, just be careful.

The top gives you a 360 degree view with no obstructions - McClellan Butte towers above its siblings. I took an hour and just soaked it all in.

Except for the rock scramble, this is a kid-friendly hike. And so far, my favorite hike and views to date.

Rainier view at the turn

The view east from the top

Mount Si as seen from the end of the trail. I didn't take my camera with me to the peak, as I was a little gunshy with the rock scramble. Next time, I'll be getting a picture of me with Mt Rainier in the background :)

Aug 7, 2008

Change and Hall Creek Viewpoints

Nestled between Mount Washington to the east and McClellan Butte to the west is a ridge that splits the Hall and Change Creeks. If you're driving I-90 and take a look to the south between the two Exit 38s, you will see the ridge I'm referring to. It juts out all the way to the Iron Horse Trail, and meets up with Mount Washington to the south. This past weekend I went exploring this area and was pleasantly surprised at what I found. A short trail (about 1.5 miles) with about 1900 feet of total elevation gain made for some wonderful hiking and better views.

Parking for this area is between the two Exit 38s off I-90. If you are coming from the west, go right off the exit, go past the Twin Falls trailhead, and about a quarter mile down the road you'll see an old road-turned-into-parking (can't miss it). Park there, and at the point where the road crosses Change Creek, you'll find an unmarked trail on the west side.

This trail takes you up to the Iron Horse trail, and you are likely to find plenty of rock climbers here - this is arguably the most popular area west of Snoqualmie Pass for rock climbing. Once you get the Iron Horse trail (about 300 feet of elevation gain), go east across the Change Creek bridge, taking time to enjoy the wonderful views of Change Creek. Also, take a peek to that ridge just east of the bridge, that's where you'll be heading :)

To the east the Iron Horse trail next crosses Hall Creek, and there's a large bridge for that. Just before it, on a smaller bridge, you'll see an unmarked trail right next to the fence. Take it, and it will switchback up about 500 feet to the first viewpoint, an awesome view of Hall Creek below. Continue up the trail, a steep climb for the next half mile or so. At about .8 mile past the first viewpoint, you'll come to an area where you are on a ridge that splits both Change and Hall Creek - you'll know it when you come to it. Remember this spot and continue up the trail another .2 miles. There will be a turnoff and a sign labeled "Hall View" or something similar. Take that trail up a short ways, and you'll be rewarded with an awesome viewpoint of Change and Hall creeks. Arguably one of the best viewpoints (Snoqualmie Valley, Middle Fork, Mailbox Peak, Mount Si) that's not a mountaintop in the valley.

Back at the main trail, it continues on and meets up with an old logging road that will eventually wind around Change Creek and take you to the top of Mount Washington. On this day, I headed back down to the ridge I referred to earlier. Instead of taking the trail down, I wormed my way along the rocks on the ridge for .1 miles and was treated with making it to the ledge that juts out to the Iron Horse Trail, which at this point was about 1200 feet below. Again, awesome views of the valley.

A word of warning, this last trek is not suitable for small children, and I would be wary of the trail above the first viewpoint with small kids. Some steep dropoffs off a narrow trail. Not a family friendly hike.

Jul 27, 2008

Rattlesnake Ledge

Once again I picked a terrible weather day for a hike. Although I did find four geocaches, I was treated to clouds, clouds, and more clouds on each of the three ledges up on Rattlesnake Ledge, the southeast end of Rattlesnake Mountain. And plenty of rain to boot. Only in the Pacific Northwest can I have two layers of clothes on in late July and be underdressed.

This is still one of my favorite hikes. The trail is in excellent shape, it is steep and short (which I prefer), and the first ledge has plenty of space for all no matter how busy it is. Not many people head up to the other ledges, which I like even better (I hike for the solitude).

No pictures today due to the weather. Despite the weather the trail was plenty busy, even for an early morning hike. I can't imagine how busy this trail is these days when the weather cooperates!

Jul 20, 2008

Tiger Mountain: West Tiger 3 Summit

The family decided to use this beautiful, cloudless, mid-70 degree day to take on the West Tiger 3 trail of Tiger Mountain. Tiger Mountain has several access points, the most popular being the High Point Trailhead off Exit 20 of I-90. This provides access to the excellently maintained, level, Tradition Lake loop, a wonderful hiking area for toddlers, little kids, and those that just aren't in the mood for hiking up mountains.

Technically this area is part of the Issaquah Alps and not the Snoqualmie Valley, but its close enough to be covered here :)

The same area provides access to both the Tiger Mountain Trail, a 16 mile hike across the full of Tiger Mountain, and the West Tiger 3 trail, which, as the name implies, takes you to the summit of West Tiger 3 - the westernmost and lowest of the three West Tiger Mountain peaks.

West Tiger 3 seems like an old trail, hard-packed, mostly dirt with some embedded rocks for good measure. The trail runs for three miles with an elevation gain of 1900 feet, and drops the hiker into a nice clearing with clear views of Mount Si and the northern Snoqualmie Valley, Mount Rainier, Seattle, Lake Washington, and the Olympics. On this day the haze prevented good views of Seattle and the Olympics, but we did catch the many hang-gliders and para-gliders making their way off Tiger Mountain.

The dirt and fresh rock that's been sprinkled on the trail actually make this a little more difficult than the average groomed trail. Our kids had trouble slipping on the way down, to the point where we slowed it down considerably and ended up carrying our three year old.

The trail was plenty busy today, and we did this hike in the afternoon. Took us 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to the top, and 90 minutes to make it back down. The steepness of the trail sure made it seem longer.

No good views of anything along the way; however, Tiger Mountain does have a pretty extensive trail system, so you can take multiple ways exploring the area and multiple ways to get to the West Tiger 3 summit.

Mount Rainer from West Tiger 3 Summit

Mount Si from West Tiger 3 Summit

Jul 13, 2008

Asahel Curtis Nature Trail and Picnic Area

Take Exit 47 off I-90 and follow the signs to the Asahel Curtis Picnic Area. Despite the proximity to I-90, the area is nestled next to the Snoqualmie River and sits under lush Evergreens. The picnic area makes an excellent respite from civilization, and there is a nice, short nature trail that starts at the picnic area, wanders through several streams, runs along the Snoqualmie River, and bypasses several large, interesting trees. It even runs back under I-90.

My kids love this area and eagerly take on the trail, which goes out about a third of a mile before ending at the Asahel Curtis Nature Area.

Mount Si

Ah, le creme de le creme of where the Snoqualmie Valley splits the Cascade Mountains - Mount Si. Unfortunately, I chose a cloudy day to climb this.

Take Exit 32 off I-90, go north, and hang a left on North Bend Way. About a half a mile you will run into Mount Si Blvd - hang a right and you are on your way. In a couple miles you will spot the trailhead, probably the biggest one in Snoqualmie Valley. On any given day you will encounter countless hikers, if you can find parking at all.

From the trailhead you will have a four mile, 3000 foot elevation gain to the top side of Mount Si. Not a lot of views on the way up - the views are left to those that make the peak. Not that I got to see any on the day I went (the 4th of July), hence no pictures.

The trail is well groomed, always a steady elevation gain, and finishes rather quickly (just four miles long). At the top, there are plenty of rocks for exploring and obtaining unique and great views of Rainier, Seattle, the Olympics, and the Snoqualmie Valley. Those more adventurous can climb "the haystack" - that pointy thing-a-ma-jig that you see from below that makes Mount Si distinguishable from other Cascade Mountains. It's another 250 feet up that, with no trail. Warning signs greet you. I chose not to give it a try, instead I am going to wait until there are views worthy of the ascent. Surely an incentive to come back!

The trail is kid friendly if the kids have the endurance - no crazy rock climbs, stream crossings, etc.

Jun 15, 2008

Middle Fork Snoqualmie River

East of North Bend the Snoqualmie River has three forks, aptly named the North, Middle, and South Forks. I-90 follows the South Fork to Snoqualmie Pass, and the trails/mountains off it are fairly popular. Just north of exit 34, you can pick up Middle Fork Road, which will take you along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River. Take this pothole ridden, dirt road 11.5 miles, and you will arrive at the trailhead with ample parking and a restroom to boot.

The trail starts off with a large wooden suspension bridge that crosses the river, giving terrific views upstream and downstream Cross the bridge and head upstream (left) for a 12 mile, low elevation gain, groomed trail that will take you through the woods with excellent views of the mountains and the river. This is an excellent trail for kids. In fact, given the length, the location, and the fact there is some elevation gain (but not a lot) this might be our new favorite exercise spot for the family. Lots of old growth, lots of vegetation, and lots of tiny water crossings.

About 2.5 miles in was a nice water crossing (about 12 feet wide) where we stopped for lunch and used as our turnaround. One day my wife and I will be back to hike the entire length.

I am not clear whether mountain bikers are allowed on this trail or not. I saw lots of bike tire tracks in the mud, but did not see any bikers today.

May 9, 2008

A great essay on Mount Si

This is an amazing read from a friend of mine. You'll enjoy it.

Jan 21, 2008

Sledding at Hyak Sno-Park

This wasn't a hike, but the family spent the day at the Hyak Sno-Park, which is located right at the Hyak trailhead off the Iron Horse John Wayne Trail. Take I-90 to Snoqualmie Pass, get off at Exit 54, and follow the directions to the Hyak Trailhead.

Today we enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day free of clouds and precipitation. Since it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day, kids were not in school and it seems like all of Eastern and Central Washington congregated in Snoqualmie Pass.

Nested at the bottom of the East Summit at Snoqualmie, the Hyak Sno-Park has a couple small sledding hills, plus some ad hoc hills suitable for younger (under 5) kids. Not a large area by any means, but loads of fun for the kids. Many people bring their tailgate gear and have a nice picnic or bar-b-que. Very smart idea.

Parking is $10, and in the end it is quite a bargain compared to the $75 we would have forked over at the Tubing Center at the Summit at Snoqualmie.

Some pics of the surroundings: