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

Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout

My friends and I had been planning to take a trip down to Mount Rainier for months, and this past weekend was much too beautiful to pass up the chance for a day hike to Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout. We started off from Kent Station at 7 AM, and the drive to the trailhead took about two hours. I’m glad I read the trip reports on WTA.org before making the drive, because I was able to anticipate the rough road conditions that started about 12 miles prior to the trailhead parking area. The road is very bumpy on the way up, and the dust can severely impact visibility, especially in the sun. I recommend keeping your headlights on the entire time, even if it doesn’t seem like it makes a difference–at the very least, cars around you will be able to see you better. Luckily, the road isn’t potholed, so even relatively low-clearance vehicles can make it to the top (although we did see one car that had punctured a tire and was being helped by the ranger). About 11 miles into the gravel road you will come to a pay station where you must purchase a $25 day-pass, unless you have an America the Beautiful Pass with you. When we finally made it to the trailhead, there were already quite a few cars lining the side of the road (you can only park on the left side, closer to the lake/trail).

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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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The Ten Essentials

I’ve heard some people say that hiking is a universal hobby, a way to have fun with other people that only requires time and physical ability, rather than money. What I’ve found to be more accurate is that while this is technically true, the reality for me is that the more I hike, the more equipment I convince myself is necessary to do so. This is in addition to the Ten Essentials, which can be purchased on a budget but should not be skimped on either.

You can find variations of this list all over the internet, but I will share REI’s here because it’s my favorite version:

  1. Navigation (map and compass)
    • GPS technology has become much more widely available for the consumer to purchase, but I would argue that being able to accurately read a map is one of the most important skills a hiker can have. Whether you are only interested in day hikes or you are planning a week-long backpacking trip, being prepared for an emergency requires you to know how to navigate the area you’re exploring. Compasses can be generally found for anywhere between $10 and $100, so there’s no excuse to not have one to bring on your hiking, backpacking or camping trips.
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
    • Layers, layers, layers! I highly recommend wearing multiple, thinner layers rather than bulky coats–this allows you to remove articles of clothing in increments when you get warm. Additionally, it allows you to have dry clothes under an outer, waterproof/resistant shell when it’s raining, as it so often does here in the PNW.
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
    • Flashlights will do the job if they are all you have, but headlamps are much more convenient when you’re hiking in the dark. Having your hands free is a huge advantage, and headlamps also give you a wider view with better peripheral vision.
  5. First-aid supplies
    • The basics: bandages (various sizes), instant ice pack, antibacterial wipes/ointment, elastic bandage wrap, gauze, medical tape, mini scissors, tweezers, Benedryl (or another diphenhydramine), disposable gloves, Aspirin, etc.
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
    • I always bring enough food for at least one extra day, just in case something goes south and I need to wait for emergency assistance.
  9. Hydration (extra water)
    • Water weighs 1kg per liter, or about 2.2 pounds, making it one of the heavier items you’ll carry with you on any given hike. However, one of the great things about consumables is that their weight decreases as you use them. I would recommend getting a hydration bladder or a collapsible water bottle to keep it as light as possible, but I know some people prefer solid water bottles instead–so, do what works best for you!
  10. Emergency shelter

 

In the future, I’d like to share my thoughts on the equipment I use, and I am always looking for suggestions! Happy hiking!