Mount Si – Social Distancing Edition

We got to go hiking again!!!!!!!!!

 

Effective May 5th, Washington state parks and public lands managed by DNR and WDFW opened back up for day use. Since we wanted to give ourselves the best chance at social distancing, we waited a little over a week from the easing of outdoor recreation restrictions to go hiking (it was an overcast weekday, which helped as well). I chose Mount Si  for several reasons – it was clear of snow, it was a short drive away, and I’d already been to the top and would be much less disappointed if the weather affected the view. I forgot, however, how hard it is, especially since I haven’t kept up a regular workout routine since the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order came out late March. We brought our cloth masks, and overall, people just seemed happy to be out enjoying nature, and at least half of the 76 people we saw put on their own masks as we passed them.

We got to the trailhead around 9:00 am, and there were only a handful of cars already parked. As a note, it doesn’t appear that anyone is servicing the trailhead restrooms – bring your own TP! It took us three hours to get to the top, and I was too tired to do the scramble so we ate coffee cake at lower viewpoint. This was the only time I’ve sat at the top of a hike with no one else around, and it was amazing. When we reached the parking lot at 2:15 pm, the parking lot was only a little over half full. Let’s just say I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to see the trailhead as I was after this hike!

 

Mailbox Peak

This weekend, I broke the (very) long streak of not hiking over the winter months and went up Mailbox Old Trail again. Boy, I am not in nearly the same shape I was when I went up the first time–it kicked my butt! There’s definitely still enough snow at the top to make the last scramble a little difficult without crampons, but we made it work. The forest was gorgeous and the air was crisp, and it made me remember just how restorative being outdoors can be for my mental health.

Anyway, legs are still sore and I’ve gained some motivation to get back in shape–I see more cardio and stairmaster in my future. Cheers!

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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Teneriffe Falls (Part Two)

Over a year ago, I hiked Teneriffe Falls for the first time and promised I would hike it again. Since my dad was visiting this past weekend, I decided to share with him one of my favorite waterfall hikes in Washington. Last week’s weather was such a nice reprieve from the dreary spring we’ve had so far, and my hopes were high that the forecast would be wrong about the weekend (it wasn’t). Luckily for us, we came prepared with layers and raincoats and arrived at the trailhead by 9:30am, where there were only around 10 cars. The new parking lot is one of the nicest I’ve seen, and has completely replaced the old lot, which has since been closed to the public.

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Little Si

This weekend, I finally made it out for a much-needed hike up Little Si. This was my second time doing this particular hike, and it hasn’t disappointed yet! I chose Little Si for a few reasons: it’s relatively short (coming in at a little under 5 miles round trip), the incline is enough to feel like a workout, and all the recent reports indicated the hike was still snow-free. We arrived at the trailhead around 9 AM and managed to snag one of the last 4-5 parking spots in the small, paved lot at the start of the trail (Note: this lot requires a Discover Pass, and the restrooms at the trailhead are still operational). The first section of this hike is steep, but is short and doable even for those somewhat new to hiking. Once the trail evens out, it’s an easy walk through dense forest and huge boulders.

We had a steady drizzle for the first hour or so, but the trees provided enough cover that we hardly needed our hoods. Luckily enough, the weather cleared up by the time we reached the end of the trail—the views at both the viewpoints were well-worth the last steep push. There were only a few other people when we arrived at the top, where we stopped to take pictures and eat. We didn’t use trekking poles on the way down, but for anyone who has issues with their hips or knees, I would highly recommend bringing them. We saw many more hikers on our way back to the parking lot, and when we got back to the trailhead around 11:30 AM, and the lot was completely full—it’s a popular all-season trail!

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

Mount Si

Similar to Mailbox Peak Old Trail, Mount Si is famous in the I-90 corridor trail guides for being one of the more challenging options for a beautiful day hike. Make sure you bring your Discover Pass if you want to park at the Mount Si trailhead. We did Si on the first weekend over 90° and boy, did we feel it! The journey to the top consists of seemingly endless switchbacks and a 3100+ foot elevation gain, and although it is not nearly as steep as Mailbox, the trail felt much harder in the hot weather. This trail has heavy foot traffic throughout the year, so it was no surprise that we saw hundreds of hikers along the way, many of them training for Rainier by wearing heavy packs (I was so impressed–I’m definitely not quite there yet!). One of the perks of it being such a popular trail is that the path is well-maintained and is easy to follow.

We started off at a steady pace, but by the time we reached the halfway point about 2 miles in, we were sweating and taking lots of breaks. We had only brought about a liter of water each, and about a half mile from the top considered turning back because we were completely out. Luckily for us, we ran into a friend on her way down from the top, and she saved the hike by giving us another half liter! [Sidenote: The day after I hiked Mount Si, I went out to REI and bought a 2.5 liter water bladder, and have been using it for the majority of my hikes since. If you decide to tackle this trail, I highly recommend you bring more fluids than you think you’ll need, especially if it’s a hot day.]Once we got to the end of the trail, we sat down, had lunch, and watched the birds flit around asking for handouts from tired hikers. The views were top notch, and would have been even more spectacular had we braved the rock-climb up to the top of the infamous Haystack.  

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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!

 

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