Colchuck Lake

Last weekend, I was able to spend the weekend in a tiny house with some great people near Leavenworth, WA. I won’t go too much in depth about tiny houses, but here are a couple of pictures!

The trail starts off with an easy walk through a dense forest. We passed some neat boulders along the side of the trail, and we were never too far from running water. About 1.5 miles in, we reached the first real bridge, which crossed over the creek in the picture below. After the bridge, the hike became noticeably more difficult and we stopped more often to drink water and catch our breath. When we reached the fork, we followed signage to Colchuck Lake–I will definitely come back to do Stuart Lake someday! The next bridge we crossed next was very narrow and led to a large hill made of boulders. At first we thought it was a scramble, but luckily the trail curves around the base of the rocks, along the water. Continue reading

Hamilton Mountain

I decided to try Meetup for the first time following my last (failed) attempt, when I ended up on the wrong hike. This time, I was going with a small group down to Beacon Rock State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. From our meeting point (transit parking at Tacoma’s Discount World), it took us about 3 hours to the trailhead parking lot. When we arrived around 9:30am, the first parking lot was already full. Luckily, there is a second, larger parking lot 0.1 miles up the hill from the first and we found many open spaces there. The road is well-paved and the parking lots are easy to access (and both have restrooms). Discover Passes are required to park in either of the two lots available near the start of the trail.

The start of the trail is wide and flat, and for about a mile it’s a very easy jaunt up to the turnoff for Hardy Falls. The trail down to the falls is steep and unfortunately, the falls were only a trickle this weekend–they might have been more impressive a month or so ago. Once back on the main trail, it’s a short distance to Rodney Falls and Pool of the Winds, which were much more unique. The Pool of the Winds (pictured here) requires you to climb up a rocky area at the fork, and there are guardrails for safety along the side of the edge. I saw several hikers debating whether or not they wanted to take the detour, and I made sure to let them know it was worth it (and that it was short!).

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Ira Springs Trail

I haven’t had a lot of time to hike over the past few months, so when a long weekend came around, I was more than a little excited to hit the trails. Since I was hiking this one alone, I decided to do a hike with fairly steady foot traffic and went with Ira Spring Trail, an out-and-back trek along the I-90 corridor. Recent trip reports indicated that I could leave my microspikes behind, and so I packed my bag with the usual: first aid kit/survival tools, an extra layer, water, snacks and my camera. I met a friend for breakfast before driving out to the Ira Spring trailhead, so I didn’t end up getting to the lot until after 10AM. A big thanks to all the people who worked on the road leading up to the trailhead–there were hardly any potholes, and it was a pretty smooth drive all the way up.  There were already too many cars in the lot, so I parked 0.3 miles up from the trailhead on the left/drop off side of the gravel road.

The trail from the parking lot starts off very flat and wide, an easy walk for over a mile. Almost a mile in, I crossed this waterfall, which apparently used to be a creek crossing before they built the bridge in the picture below. Had the bridge not been constructed, I doubt I would have attempted to cross on my own. Around 1.5 miles in, there’s a clear trail leading up where the “real” hiking begins. I was unprepared for the trail to be as relentlessly steep as it turned out to be! It actually reminded me of Mailbox Old Trail, albeit much more maintained. I leapfrogged with several groups of hikers on my way up, and many faster parties passed me on the long incline.

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Icicle Gorge

We’re in December now, so of course I had to go on another snow hike this weekend. My friend and I packed our bags and headed off to Leavenworth for a couple of days to see the tree lighting and eat brats. Although we were certainly looking forward to enjoying the town, we were equally excited to explore Icicle Gorge, which is one of the more popular trails in the Leavenworth area. Since it was so cold and we wanted to be back in town by noon, we did the short version of this already-short hike, just going a mile out to the overlook and turning around from there. The Icicle Gorge trailhead was only 15 miles from our Airbnb, but it took much longer to drive to the parking lot than we expected–the 24° weather kept Icicle Road slick in places, and the last few miles to the trailhead were fairly bumpy. We saw two coyotes on the drive up, although they were skittish and ran quickly into the forest. Since there was only one car in the lot when we arrived around 9:30AM, we had the trail mostly to ourselves for the short hike. Continue reading

Talapus and Olallie Lakes

This Saturday, the weather was 65° and sunny–much too beautiful to not go out hiking. We decided on Talapus and Olallie Lakes off Exit 45 in North Bend, which is an approximately 6 mile round-trip trek featuring very well-paved trails and a modest incline. To get to the trailhead, you have to drive up a relatively windy gravel road which could get slippery in the winter–drive carefully, as there are a couple switchbacks with steep dropoffs on the outside edges. At the trailhead, there is a parking lot big enough for at least 20 cars, a restroom, and a self-serve pay station for anyone who doesn’t have a Northwest Forest Pass.

The first couple miles of the hike are fairly easy, though there are a few steeper stretches. Be careful of the many roots along the trail, and of the muddy sections (at least this time of year)–there were parts where almost my entire boot sunk through. I would highly recommend waterproof boots and/or gaiters, but they’re not strictly necessary. There are several places where you can see running water Continue reading

Skyline Divide

After much too long a stretch of busy, non-hiking weekends, I was finally able to get outside. My dad and I drove about three hours north from Kent to the (tiny!) town of Glacier, WA where we had rented an Airbnb for the weekend. It was the perfect place to stay as a base camp for Skyline Divide, as we only had to drive about 1000 feet to the start of NF-37, the gravel road leading up to the trailhead. I had been anxious that the drive up would be icy or covered in snow, as the USDA Forest Service had reclassified the road conditions as “NOT CLEARED” on 10/12. However, in terms of ice and snow conditions, the road wasn’t bad, with only the last few miles seeing any snow–and it helped that we were driving a car with FWD. I would recommend taking the drive slow, though, as there were some potholes and fallen tree branches scattered along the road (it took us about an hour from the start of NF-37 to the parking lot).  At the trailhead, there’s room for quite a few cars, as well as a picnic bench and a restroom (Note: the restroom was running low on toilet paper when we arrived, so I recommend bringing your own–just in case!).

We started off on the trail at 8:45 AM, and I was surprised at how quickly we warmed up–I began taking off the warmer outer layers Continue reading

Teneriffe (Kamikaze) Falls

I did the hike to Teneriffe Falls back in March when it was much cooler, which I appreciated because the trail is uncovered for much of the way up to the falls. At the time, the parking lot at the Teneriffe trailhead was packed so we made our way from the Si lot instead–it added on an extra 3 miles round trip, but made for a nice warm-up/cooldown. You are required to hang a Discover Pass on your dashboard at both the Mount Si and Teneriffe parking lots, so prepare for that when you plan your hike. This hike is 6 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of almost 1500 feet. While not exactly Mailbox, Teneriffe boasts its fair share of rocky terrain, especially near then end towards the falls. It also has what feels like endless switchbacks, although the views along the way make up for it. The end of the trail is clearly less maintained than the first couple of miles, so watch where you step because it can be slippery (at least, it was in March!) and gets worse as you get closer to the waterfall. Teneriffe Falls is gorgeous–it makes the list of my Top 10 Favorite Waterfall Hikes! I looked up at crystal clear water cascading down a sheer rock wall and just felt utterly small–I would 100% recommend this hike to anyone, and am looking forward to going again in the future!

 

Heybrook Lookout

This past weekend was the hottest of the year thus far, so I decided to ease into hiking in heat by tackling Heybrook Lookout. Located off US Highway 2 in Index, this hike is a very short 1.25 miles up with nearly 900 feet of elevation gain to the lookout. The first half of the trail leading to the top is the steepest, but it’s mostly shaded by tall trees and then levels off after the initial trek uphill.The trail is well-maintained and easy to navigate, and there was no litter on the hike (always a pleasant surprise!). There is a viewpoint near the top, where you have your first view of the mountains–we took pictures at this point but reached the lookout tower within minutes of continuing on the trail. The last stretch consists of climbing almost 100 stairs to the top of the tower, where we were rewarded with gorgeous 180° views of Mount Baring, Mount Index and Mount Persis. I would highly recommend this hike as a beginner’s alternative to Rattlesnake Ledge, as it has a great payoff for being easy/moderate difficulty.

Panoramic View from the Lookout

 

Rattlesnake Mountain

A few weekends back, I decided to take a solo sunrise hike to the top of Rattlesnake Ledge. As I noted in a previous post about this hike, Rattlesnake is an easy 2 mile hike up to the top, so I figured I could getting to the trailhead an hour before the estimated 5:15am sunrise would give me plenty of time. I brought a picnic blanket, lunch and a book, and set off from my apartment at 3:30–since there was almost no traffic to speak of, the drive was much shorter than usual. The main parking lot was gated, so I ended up parking in the limited space next to it. It wasn’t until I reached the map at the start of the trail that I realized I had driven to the Snoqualmie Point side of Rattlesnake, about a 10.5 mile trek from where I wanted to be by sunrise. Since I couldn’t possibly make it there in time, I decided to go for the new trail instead (unlike Rattlesnake Ledge, this side of the mountain requires a Discover Pass, so make sure to hang yours before starting your hike).

I made it to the first viewpoint, Stan’s Overlook, at 2.5 miles in and caught the sunrise–it was gorgeous! The trail was relatively easy and well-maintained, even throughout the forested area. I did get to walk through several spiderwebs on the way up to Grand Prospect, which is 5 miles in and served as my stopping point for the day. I put on sunscreen, set up my blanket and started reading. I didn’t see a soul until around 8am, when a trail runner who was planning on doing the entire 21 miles to and from the Ledge passed by. It was so peaceful here, and although I obviously can’t speak for the entire length of the trail, I would highly recommend Rattlesnake Mountain for an easy day hike, 6.5/10!

 

Mailbox Peak

Since my old housemate (Logan) is moving this week, I decided to send him off in the best way I know how–with a grueling hike through the woods to a ridiculously gorgeous viewpoint. Mailbox Peak (Old Trail) is one standard by which hikers in the PNW are measured, featuring an almost 4000 foot elevation gain in a short 2.5 miles. However, Logan hadn’t been hiking in a while, so we were planning on taking New Trail instead, which is half as steep and twice as long. We left from Kent at 8am sharp and arrived at the trailhead around 9–this hike requires the Discover Pass at the parking lot–and headed up to the trail. We somehow managed to completely misinterpret the map at the bottom and ended up taking Old Trail anyway.

Old Trail is everything they say about hiking Mailbox–it is a steep, poorly maintained (although there are reflective markers on trees along the way), relentless trail with few switchbacks. Despite it being the most challenging hike I’ve done to date, I found it to be much more enjoyable than I was anticipating. It helped that the day started off cool–we walked through a few clouds on the way up–and I can’t imagine doing this particular hike in mid-summer heat.

The majority of Old Trail takes you through a seemingly never-ending wooded area. We definitely got lost a couple of times, since the “trail” is pretty unclear at times, but luckily were eventually able to locate the reflective markers every time. There were quite a few other people taking Old Trail too, so we tried to keep an eye out for hikers who knew where they were going when possible. We played leapfrog with a group of hikers all the way up–in fact, we passed each other so often that we actually learned their names! Continue reading