Thursday, December 6, 2012

Talus Loop, Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area

Usually when hikers talk about Mount Si that’s where they end up going. Mount Si is a great conditioner year-round except, perhaps, when trails get icy in winter. If navigating ice in winter isn’t your cup of hot cider, there are other options for hikers at the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area, managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The Talus Loop trail is a sweet compromise between an easy hike and a strenuous work-out. Plus, the loop provides a measure of solitude for hikers who prefer solitude. If you are a genuine misanthrope you should be prepared to share the first stretch of the Mount Si trail with other hikers, runners and mountain climbers with weights in their pack as they train for loftier ambitions than Mount Si. Display your Discover Pass at the Mount Si trailhead and start up the forested trail. You can start from the lower Talus Loop at .7 miles and climb to the upper end of the Talus Loop at 1.7 miles (where the trail meets the Mount Si trail). Both the upper and lower junctions of the Talus Loop are signed. That makes a nice loop. We prefer starting from the upper trail junction at Snag Flats to make the loop and re-connect with the Mount Si trail at the lower junction on our way out. That way you’ve got the “up” out of the way and you can take your time heading down (or, if you’re feeling spunky you can continue to Mount Si). Take a field guide and take a look at the variety of moss and lichen on this trail (you don’t see as much on the regular trail). The upper Talus Loop trail descends briefly to cross a small creek followed by a short easy climb through silent forest to the namesake of this trail; a large, open triangular-shaped talus field with views out to North Bend and nearby foothills. The talus field is the obvious spot for a break as it is usually in the sun until later in the day. It’s a pleasant place to stop any time of the year; on a sunny day the rocks are warm, even on a winter day (unless it’s raining). The trail has been engineered so there are several spots to “settle” for a while. After the trail traverses the talus field it makes a series of long, descending switchbacks through the forest again where in late fall/early winter you’ll find a variety of mushrooms, fungi, lichen and moss. The trail crosses the bottom of the talus slope again where vine maples are taking root and in fall, providing fall-color displays. Overall the trail has more of a natural feel/ambience as fewer hikers use the trail and less vegetation has been disturbed. You may experience a bit of culture shock when the lower end of the Talus Loop deposits you back onto the thronged Mount Si trail but by that time you’ll be just as cheery as the folks you meet coming and going. To get there: From Seattle head east on I-90 and get off I-90 at Exit No. 32 signed 436th Avenue SE. Go left (over the interstate) and continue ½ mile to North Bend Way and turn left. Continue about ¼ of a mile (toward North Bend) and turn right onto Mount Si Road. Continue 2.5 miles to the designated trailhead/parking lot (left). A Discovery Pass is required. Additional Information: The Talus Loop hike is 3.7 miles round-trip with 1,750 feet elevation gain. The suggested map is Green Trails No. 206S (Mount Si NRCA). For additional information on this trail and others in the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area (Department of Natural Resources): Karen Sykes

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