Thursday, December 5, 2013

Return to Melmont (A Ghost Town in Pierce County)

Melmont Ghost Town, Melmont Schoolhouse The ghost town of Melmont is near the Carbon River Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park and can usually be hiked to year-round on an old railroad grade. We enjoyed the historical walk so much last spring that we returned a few days ago to see what it was like in winter. Melmont dates back to the early 1900s when a subsidiary of the Northern Pacific Railway (the Northwest Improvement Company) opened the Melmont coal mine. Though little remains today of Melmont the settlement bustled with activity – then the town included a saloon, train depot, post office, schoolhouse, hotel and cottages used by the miners. The coal was shipped to Carbonado for processing by rail. By 1915 the little, spunky settlement of Melmont began its slow fade into oblivion - the post office closed and a few years later the Northwest Improvement Company ceased operations. Though a few mines were opened by another mining company (the Carbon Hill Coal Company) all mines had closed by the early 1920s and most of Melmont was destroyed by a forest fire. The hike is not designated by a sign. To get to the railroad grade - from Wilkeson/Carbonado continue on route State Route 165 as if approaching the Carbon River Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park (go mid-week if possible, parking is limited). Drive across the Fairfax Bridge that spans the Carbon River and note a small parking spot on the left-side of the road. Park there, walk back across the bridge and look for a short, steep path on the north side of the bridge that descends to the railroad grade – the path is rocky and steep (a hand-line was in place on our recent visit though you might not need it). Turn left (south) onto the railroad grade and enjoy! Spring or winter are the best seasons to explore Melmont before the vegetation leafs out and obscures what artifacts remain. In early December the vegetation was not dense and we were able to get better views along the way, including the visibility to follow a steep path that led to a wrecked car between the rail-grade and the Carbon River that looked it had come to rest some time ago in a tangle of small trees, blackberries and other assorted foliage (not a hiker-friendly setting!). Explore such paths at your own risk – though the railroad grade is safe (other than being unpleasantly muddy at times) if you go off-trail it is all too easy to get lost or injured due to dense vegetation and cliffs. Also, since parking is limited so keep your party-size small. The first feature you’ll notice along the grade is a wall embroidered with moss and licorice ferns (right) that was part of a retaining wall utilized by the Northern Pacific’s railroad grade. A bit past the retaining wall you’ll come to another stone structure (left). Though it might look like something you might see in an Amazon jungle it is an old shed (powder shack) used by the railroad to store dynamite. The roof is gone as is the dynamite and though the walls are standing it looks like moss and ferns are holding the structure together. A little further along you’ll come to a split in the trail. The path (left) climbs to the site of the Melmont schoolhouse; an ideal setting for lunch on a sunny day. We stopped there first - enough of the structure remains that with a little imagination you can visualize what the schoolhouse might have looked like once upon a time (see additional information). After a break we hiked back to the railroad grade and continued toward the site of Melmont. The town site is not much beyond the spur to the schoolhouse and at first glance looks like a grassy, plateau about the size of four football fields. A couple of short paths drop down to the site and on this cold, sunny day wisps of ground fog rose from the ground where the grasses and shrubs still glittered with frost. Thin ice had formed over pockets of moisture in the grasses creating beautiful effects that we attempted to photograph with some success. As for structures, none remain though there are a couple of old wrecked cars, riddled with bullet holes – apparently abandoned cars make good targets for target practice. You can understand why the town took root here on this plateau between the railroad grade and the Carbon River. It becomes a lush meadow in summer and is in the sun on a clear day. We found a grassy hummock in the sun, ideal for lunch though we had to keep moving as the shade seemed intent on following us. Other reports from those who have explored these sites indicate some foundations of the Melmont Bridge remain though we did not come across them on our visit last year. We found them on another visit but getting to them involves a steep descent on an exposed, steep slope above the Carbon River (it is not for the faint-hearted, a stumble would be a disaster). In winter the Melmont town site is a good turnaround. Come back in the spring and continue on the railroad grade to Manley-Moore Road about a 7-mile hike one-way (a car shuttle can be made for a one-way hike by leaving a car below the bridge at Manley-Moore Road (further along the Carbon River Road). This is probably best done in the spring when days are longer and we can guarantee you will want to dawdle and/or explore. While the walk to the Melmont schoolhouse and the town site is easy, the trails can be muddy as the railroad grade is also used by ATVs. Sturdy boots and gaiters are recommended, especially during the rainy seasons. Statistics: It is about 4 miles round-trip to the town site of Melmont/Melmont schoolhouse with about 400 feet gain. When (or if) you encounter private property signs do not trespass. Refer to the site below for a “Code of Ethics” regarding ghost towns which should apply to anyone interested in discovering ghost towns. There is much more history as well as old photographs of what Melmont was like in its heyday (other ghost towns too). Additional information/resources: . To view my recent photos of Melmont click on the link below, scroll down to third set. Karen Sykes

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Iron Goat Trail, October 2013

THE IRON GOAT TRAIL FROM SCENIC TO WELLINGTON The Iron Goat Trail between Skykomish and Stevens Pass is one of the best fall hikes around. Though Halloween has passed keep this hike in mind for next year if your friends and family enjoy Halloween-related themes - it is a great Halloween hike (spooky tunnels, oh my!) and with snow-sheds that haven’t been used so long that stalactites are growing from the ceiling. The “trail” is an old railroad grade once used by the Great Northern Railroad. Engineers didn’t realize how dangerous the route was across Stevens Pass until it was too late when in 1910 an avalanche knocked a train asunder in which many lives were lost and passengers trapped for days awaiting rescue from nearby settlements. The transformation of the railroad grade to trail began in the 1980s thanks to the dedication and efforts of the late Ruth Ittner, a prominent member of the Seattle branch of The Mountaineers. Ruth Ittner, employees of the Skykomish Ranger District, Volunteers of Washington (VOW) and others worked tirelessly to turn the abandoned railroad grade into a hiking trail for hikers of all ages and abilities. Ittner was also the founder of VOW and is honored by Washington Trails Association (WTA) as one of the 12 Hiking Legends. Ruth was hard to say “No” to – she’d take you aside and gently ask “Wouldn’t you like to volunteer for ____ (fill in the blank)”. Ruth was never too old to take on anything new and exciting including climbing courses and The Mountaineers photography courses. There are three trailheads to access the Iron Goat Trail; the Martin Creek trailhead (off the Old Cascade Highway), the Iron Goat Interpretive Site (at Scenic) where we started our hike and the Wellington trailhead at Stevens Pass. Of these trailheads Martin Creek and Scenic are the most accessible; getting to the Wellington trailhead is challenging if you are coming from the west because you must first drive east to Stevens Pass, turn around and head back west to find an easy-to-miss, steep gravel service road to the trailhead. If you start from Scenic take time to admire the red caboose and look at the interpretive kiosks to get a thumb-nail sketch of this historical railroad. Further along the grade other interpretative signs tell of the avalanches that doomed the route and cost the lives of many. The trail from Scenic to Windy Point is a good length for this time of year. There are 30 switchbacks from Scenic to Windy Point and in late October the trail was in good condition. The fleet of foot can continue beyond Windy Point as far as time, weather, energy and daylight allow. Though most of the fall color has past its seasonal blaze you’ll find colorful mushrooms of all shapes and sizes bordering the trail. At the first signed trail junction keep right and head uphill toward Windy Point. You can also turn left and walk a short distance for a view into a tunnel (you cannot hike through the tunnel). Peek inside where an interpretive kiosk gives a brief account of the Wellington disaster. On our hike clumps of mushrooms snuggled beside the trail, peeking out from pale bracken, still-green sword ferns and other vegetation. More forested switchbacks lead to a talus slope with a view to the west and US2. After negotiating the switchbacks and rocky steps the trail levels out on the railroad grade; here hikers can opt for a loop by turning west and following signs back to the trailhead. The railroad grade is easy-going once you are on it. Our goal was Windy Point for its views – plus Windy Point is situated in the sun making that an ideal spot for lunch or turnaround. In October the seasons were in transition; fireweed had gone to seed in silvery swirls and the leaves of Solomon’s seal were thin and translucent. Only the heart-shaped leaves of Wild Ginger were still green though something likes to nibble on the leaves. Before you get to Windy Point you’ll pass a sign for a toilet (right); a toilet with a view set far enough off the trail to ensure privacy. A little past the toilet sign you’ll come to Windy Point; here there are big views and the trail appears to end in a jumble of boulders (it doesn’t end there). Even though we planned to hike further we stopped to take in views of the first snow of the season dusting the peaks and ridges near Stevens Pass. Here you can also look straight down to US 2 and views across to the Chiwaukum mountains. Another feature of Windy Point (especially if it isn’t windy) is that it’s situated in the sun with plenty of places to settle a while. Just above Windy Point is a collapsed tunnel where the trail continues along the footing of the tunnel – the footing is about 2-1/2 feet wide but is covered with fallen leaves and could be slippery in frost or snow. Since the footing is also a few feet above the ground; some hikers might find this stretch a little spooky. You may wonder – as I did – what is the difference between a tunnel and a snow-shed? A snow-shed is open on one side, a tunnel is closed. After exiting the footing along the tunnel the trail continues through a shady, forested stretch and skirts seasonal waterfalls along an old retaining wall. When the light is right you might get lucky and see rainbows in the waterfalls. In about 4.5 miles we reached the west portal of the Wellington snow-shed. Here, you will see a tangle of rebar and a sign warning hikers of “extreme danger”. Stay on the established trail and watch for rock fall. Bring a flashlight not just for safe footing but also for better views of the ceiling and mineral formations along the concrete wall. Look up for old insulators along the grade – you may also spot old railroad ties on the open side of the snow-shed. About the mid-way through the tunnel a spur (right) leads to a platform designating the site of the Wellington train disaster (1910); here you will need a good imagination as no artifacts are within view (if any exist at all). This is also a pleasant place to linger as it is also situated in the sun with a bench. Shortly past the eastern portal you’ll come to the Wellington trailhead (this trailhead may be closed as it will soon be winter and it may not be possible to drive to the Wellington trailhead). Here we found a picnic table in the sun (the restrooms were locked) and enjoyed a leisurely lunch before retracing our route back to Scenic. Getting to the Iron Goat trailhead (Scenic trailhead): From Monroe on US 2 continue east to milepost 58.3. Turn left (north) onto the Old Cascade Highway and then immediately turn right into the trailhead, facilities and parking lot. While there is a sign for the center on US 2 the turn comes up quickly (look for the red caboose). A Northwest Forest Pass is required. Stats: Scenic to Wellington is 8.9 miles round trip with 1,550 feet of elevation gain. The map is Green Trails No. 176 Stevens Pass. For information on access to the Martin Creek trailhead or the Wellington trailhead and/or a detailed history of the Iron Goat trail visit their website for Volunteers of Washington (VOW): Additional Information: For trail and road conditions contact the Skykomish Ranger District – call 360-677-2414. You can also visit the WSDOT websites for up-to-date road/mountain pass conditions. To view photos of the Iron Goat Trail click on the link below, scroll down to the set for the Iron Goat Trail: . Karen Sykes

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Iron Horse Trail from Thorp to Thorp Tunnels

Hiking the Iron Horse Trail from Thorp to Thorp Tunnels Want to get away from it all? A quiet stroll along the Iron Horse Trail from Thorp to the Thorp Tunnels adds up to a pleasant, scenic day through a variety of terrain. Views range from sprawling ranches and farms, where curious horses, goats and cattle gather along fences that separates the “two-legged” from “the four-legged” to views of the Yakima River. Still-green hillsides rise above the Yakima River and irrigation ditches parallel the railroad grade from time to time. You’ll also pass small marshes, dotted with plump cattails and a few silvery swirls of fireweed gone to seed. Fat golden clumps of rabbit-brush added more color still. The hike is on an old railroad grade (Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad). The stretch between Cedar Falls near North Bend to the Columbia River (Vantage) is about 100 miles in length and is managed by Washington State Parks. The Iron Horse travels two-thirds of the way across Washington State and ends at the Idaho Border. Though hiking the railroad grade is easy remember you have to hike back the way you came and the last few miles on the gravel surface can be tiring (be warned - we guarantee the scenery will lure you to hike further than you intend). Most hikers will be content to hike from the trailhead to tunnels No. 46 and No. 47. The hike through the tunnels is over 12 miles round trip with about 800 feet of elevation gain. Though the grade appears relatively flat there are minor ups and downs; they add up. In summer the trail is open to hikers, bikers, equestrians and horse-drawn wagons. In winter the trail is also open to snowshoers, cross-country skiers and snowmobiles (a Sno-Park permit is required in winter). On our way to the tunnels we passed pastures where horses grazed, raising their heads to gaze at us with mild curiosity. At one farm Black Angus cows gathered at the fence to watch us go by; there's always something peaceful about looking at cows. At another farm we spotted pretty black and white goats with golden markings. Along the railroad grade a few white snags reached their branches beseechingly toward the sky, their thick trunks encrusted with yellow lichen. In about four miles we skirted cliffs of columnar basalt daubed with orange and green lichen, home to cliff swallows and nearby views of the Yakima River. In about five miles you’ll reach the first tunnel (No. 46). There you are required to sign a permit relieving Washington State Parks from any liability issues that might arise as you proceed through the tunnels. Each hiker must sign the waiver and deposit that into the drop-box provided where the forms are available. Though it is possible to walk through the first tunnel without a light source you will need one to walk through the longer, second tunnel (No. 47) though we were more comfortable using a light source through the first tunnel. Between the tunnels we stopped to view and photograph an abandoned homestead. I remembered this scene from a previous hike before the tunnels were closed; it is a setting well worthy of a pause, with or without a camera. Signage warns hikers to stay on the railroad grade rather than explore the outbuildings though you can still get good photos of the homestead from the railroad grade especially with a telephoto lens. It looked like a scene out of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” after the Joad family pulled up stakes and headed to California. Seeing the old homestead made us sad as we pondered what could have caused whoever owned the property to move away from this idyllic setting beside the Yakima River. Shortly past the homestead we passed under an old wooden road-bridge – this has been closed for quite some time as well. We soon came to the second tunnel; here we needed flashlights though both tunnels are in good condition. We only hiked a little further before turning around and heading back to the trailhead. As we anticipated the last couple miles were cruel; even with hiking boots. Despite tired feet we enjoyed ourselves in this quiet, nostalgic setting and are certain to return. Driving directions: From Seattle head east on I-90 to Exit 101 (Thorp). Turn left, (north) cross freeway to Depot Road and turn left (west), continue to the designated trailhead parking lot and pit toilet, Discover Pass required. Additional Information: A Sno-Park permit is required on the Iron Horse Trail between November 15-April 30. The Iron Horse Trail is open year-round, winter hours 8 AM to 5 PM If you have questions regarding the tunnels call Lake Easton State Park 509-656-2230. For information on Sno-Parks, the Discover Pass, campgrounds, winter schedules, rules and regulations contact Washington State Parks at: or call Washington State Parks at 360-902-8844. To view photos of the Iron Horse Trail scroll down to the fourth set at . Karen Sykes

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Burroughs Mountain, September 1, 2013

THIRD BURROUGHS – SUNRISE, MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK The hiking season at Sunrise is short – the road to Sunrise is the first to close when snow falls and trails there often melt out later than other trails in the park. That’s a good reason to make some room on your September calendar and head to Sunrise when conditions are favorable. We’d waited for a good weather window and the sun was shining when we hit the road. Temperatures were ideal for hiking though when we arrived at Sunrise a drama was unfolding before our eyes. Three climbers had fallen into a crevasse on the Emmons glacier and helicopters were setting out to rescue them. Another climbing team had heard their calls for help; the climbers were successfully air-lifted out and we are hoping they will completely recover from their injuries. When we started hiking helicopters were flying back and forth all morning and at various points along the trail folks with binoculars were tracking the progress of the rescue, scanning the glacier with binoculars as clouds of mist rose and fell as the mountain played hide and seek for much of the day. From Sunrise we took the Sourdough Ridge Trail, turning south (left) at the T-junction facing Mount Rainier. Sunrise is hovering between late summer/early fall and we could even sense winter waiting in the wings as golden-mantled ground squirrels and chipmunks darted about, racing from rock to rock in hopes of hand-outs to shore up their winter reserves. Flowers have neared the end of their bloom; hellebore has gone to seed, only asters and sand dock are still hanging on though we saw fading magenta Indian paintbrush, fireweed and lousewort in the meadows near Sunrise. Past Frozen Lake (off-limits to the public) is a five-way trail junction at 6,760 feet. There trails head to Mount Fremont, Berkeley Park, Grand Park and Mystic Lake via the Wonderland Trail and Burroughs Mountain. Junctions are well-signed. The Burroughs Mountain trail is snow-free; snow patches lingered until August this year; not unusual for trails at this elevation. Though snow would not be an issue on this warm, late-summer day we also know how quickly the weather can change at these elevations. One moment you’re sweating in the sun, the next fumbling for your parka with numb fingers. Fortunately for us the fair weather held but it was a different story higher on the mountain. Soon you will also pass a junction for the Sunrise Rim Trail (some hikers make a loop by starting out on the Sunrise Rim Trail and hiking back to Sunrise via Sourdough Ridge). When we reached Second Burroughs at 7,400 feet (a plateau with a stone bench set inside a protective rock wall wind-break) we took a break. Many hikers are content with Second Burroughs. Here you’ll usually have company but the summit is generous and there’s room for all with plenty of places to settle and take in the views. In addition to hikers you’ll be visited by those ever-optimistic golden-mantled ground squirrels and chipmunks with their bright, sparkling eyes and their tiny, nimble paws. If you’ve watched one eat you know what I mean. Feeding them is discouraged though some hikers can’t resist. By the time you’ve reached Second Burroughs you’re in the tundra zone; anything that grows in this zone is dwarfed by the harsh environment. Plants are few and far between and those that do grow hug the ground. From Second Burroughs Third Burroughs looks further away than it is though getting there is considered a “grunt”. The view of the trail is a little disquieting as the trail from Second Burroughs plummet to a plateau before resuming a steep climb to Third Burroughs. The sight of the trail between Second and Third Burroughs can be a little discouraging but remember you can always turn around when you’ve had “enough”. If you do get to Third Burroughs you’ll have a significant climb back to Second Burroughs (most hikers prefer going down on the way out, not up!). Since you are hiking toward Mount Rainier the view should inspire you to keep going if the weather holds and if you’re an experienced hiker. Of course the last stretch of the climb is the steepest (funny how that is so often the case when it comes to mountains). The last few feet are steep and rocky and if this is your first visit to Third Burroughs the close-up views of the crevasses on the Winthrop and Emmons glaciers may make you gasp. Here are the beautiful and terrifying precipices and dungeons of the mountain. Here you will look straight down into the deep, pale-green crevasses of the Winthrop glacier (directly below), Steamboat Prow (a jutting rock formation that splits the Winthrop glacier from the Emmons). The Emmons glacier is directly above and on our visit most of it was under cloud-cover though we could hear the helicopters coming and going. That thin ribbon of water on the dark moraine below the Emmons glacier is the origin of the White River. Overall the views are harrowing but inspirational – Steamboat Prow, Little Tahoma above the Emmons glacier, composed of rotten, brittle rock loosely glued together with ice (a climber’s nightmare); you may even get a glimpse of icy Willis Wall and Curtis Ridge if the clouds allow. Third Burroughs is far enough for most with several places to settle and no lack of views; even though there were quite a few hikers on Third Burroughs we found a niche out of the wind which had become strong enough to almost knock me down at one point. From hikers with satellite phones we learned that the climbers were alive but in critical condition (their condition has since been upgraded). Though we dreaded the climb back to Second Burroughs it’s never quite as tough as we imagine. We paced ourselves and took another break at Second Burroughs as the sun was warm and there seemed little reason to hurry. By the time we’d returned to Sunrise the rescue was completed and the fallen climbers safely off the mountain. A reminder – the Sunrise Visitor Center is now closed for the season (the Visitor Center closes after Labor Day weekend) and the road to Sunrise will close with the first significant snowfall. Be sure to check road status before you set out for any hikes at Sunrise. Getting there: From Enumclaw drive SR 410 (east) to the White River Entrance of Mount Rainier National Park; display the appropriate pass or pay an entry fee. When you get to the junction for the White River Campground continue on the Sunrise Mountain Road to Sunrise, elevation 6,400 feet. Map: Green Trails No. 209S (Mount Rainier Wonderland Trail) Additional Information: Call the park at 1-360-569-2211 to confirm road and facility status, fees, rules and regulations or check their website for current information: To view photos of Burroughs Mountain click on the link below, scroll down to second set. . Karen Sykes

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lake Twenty-Two, Hike, July 30, 2013

LAKE TWENTY-TWO (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest) Some trails just never get old; Lake Twenty-Two is one of them. Many an experienced hiker chose Lake 22 as their first hike; the hike is popular and has gotten a lot of press over the years in hiking guidebooks, through word of mouth and the media. There’s an old saying that if a hikers’ first hike is unpleasant they may never hike again. Since it’s almost impossible to turn this trail into an unpleasant experience it’s a good trail for novice hikers (or any hiker for that matter). It’s also a good trail to revisit as it can be hiked (or snowshoed) most of the year and the ambience of the trail changes with each season; we like to experience them all. We’ve asked ourselves - what is it that draws us back to this trail? It’s not solitude for that’s hard to come by on this busy trail unless it’s a cold, rainy day in November. Is it the poignant song of the hidden varied thrush or the shine of skunk cabbage in the spring? Is it the colorful collar of wildflowers around the lake or the snowy cliffs and house-sized boulders at the far end of the lake? Or is it a chance for guys to spot pretty girls in bikinis at lakes’ edge on a hot day as happened to one of our friends? (We will tease him forever; once he spotted the mountain nymphs we found it very hard to get his attention again). Or is it a solitary niche by the lake where the berries hang low and the views are beyond this hikers’ description? Whatever your motivation get an early start if you seek solitude or would enjoy sampling the salmonberries that border certain stretches of the trail. Now about those waterfalls; how many are there? That depends on your definition of a waterfall; several can be seen (or heard) along the trail but avoid the temptation to leave the main trail for better views. Though you can see spurs where others have done so the terrain can be steep and slippery. Don’t risk an injury. Before you hit the trail take time to read the large, brown sign designating the area as a Research Natural Area (RNA) at the start of the trail. The Lake Twenty-Two Research Area was established in 1947, the purpose to study the effects of a forest in its natural state compared to similar settings in which forests have been logged. The trail is in good condition from start to finish with old-growth trees towering over the trail. Look for Pacific Silver Fir, Western Red Cedar, Douglas firs and hemlocks. At higher elevations you’ll also find Alaska cedars with their definitive shaggy bark. Between the giants the ground-cover is a thick carpet of moss, ferns and shrubs with ripening berries. All your senses will come into play along this trail with bird-calls, the gurgle of rivulets, the happy prattle of a child on the next switchback, the scolding jay you cannot spot in the trees no matter how hard you look. Ferns border the trail; oak ferns, deer ferns, lady ferns, licorice ferns, sword ferns and bracken. Bead lily and Canadian dogwood are abundant in summer (in spring look for trilliums and stream violets). In summer Devil’s Club is tall and topped with a spathe of red berries. Huckleberries and blueberries are beginning to ripen and on our recent hike most of the biting bugs were gone other than small, weird clouds of gnats hovering around monkey-flowers at the lake. Take bug juice anyway – some hikers are more attractive to bugs than others. We also recommend wearing sturdy boots as stretches of the trail are rocky and “rooty”. Note how Western Red Cedars clutch the earth with their knotty roots that resemble the arthritic fingers and knuckles of a giant – the roots sometimes form a latticework near the base of the tree or spread across the trail. Feel the creak of old puncheon under your feet where water runs down the trail during the rainy seasons. In about ¾ mile you’ll cross Twenty-Two Creek on a footbridge with views upstream and down, a great spot to cool off on a hot day. In about 1.5 miles the trail breaks out of the forest and switchbacks across a talus field lined with ferns and hellebore though open enough for views of Three Fingers and Liberty peaks. Relish those pockets of shade at the ends of the sunny switchbacks if in need of a rest. After negotiating the talus slope the trail returns to the forest and gets a little steeper before it reaches the lake. Lake Twenty-Two sits in a steep cirque, bounded by cliffs. You’d never know that Heather Lake was just a ridge away. The cliffs at the far end of the lake are in shadow for much of the day; hence, even in July the gullies still held snow; earlier in the year you may see (or hear) avalanches. Avoid the far end of the lake when there is significant snow. Once you reach the lake you can hike around the lake (1.2 miles) in either direction with no significant gain or hazards during summer. Spurs lead to potential picnic spots; on our recent hike, we were passed by a cheerful group of local teenage boys on a “football bonding” hike who were shouting with joy (or shock) as they jumped into the icy water of the lake, none of them stayed in for long. The far end of the lake is an intriguing mix of meadow, wildflowers and towering boulders daubed with lichen. Here we found mounds of marsh marigolds, sedges, heathers and monkey-flowers; if the bugs are not biting linger awhile and enjoy the beauty everywhere you look. As we continued around the lake we marveled at how it changed colors as the sunlight and clouds shifted direction, lengthening the shadows on the steep snowfields above the lake and silhouetting the fringes of evergreens topping the knolls between the lake and the cliffs. While not considered a wildflower hike we saw several including monkey-flowers, columbine, lupine, marsh marigolds, hellebore, Canadian dogwood, bead lily, mountain ash and more. There are so many reasons to love this trail that we’ve lost count. Enjoy! Getting there: From Granite Falls drive east on the Mountain Loop Highway – in about 11 miles you’ll see the Verlot Public Service Center (left); stop in for trail conditions and/or to purchase a pass or map if needed. Stop by anyway to view their displays; including one displaying a slice from an old-growth tree, each ring representing a year of growth. From there it’s another two miles to the designated Lake Twenty-two trailhead (right) and facility. A Northwest Forest Pass is required. Don’t leave valuables behind as this trailhead has experienced car break-ins. Additional Information: Maps: Green Trails No. 109 Granite Falls, Green Trails No 110 Silverton. Questions? Call Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Verlot Public Service Center at 360-691-7791 or visit their website: . To view photos of Lake 22 click on the link below, scroll down to second set. . Karen Sykes


To view photos of Lake 22 click on the link below, scroll down to second set. .

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, July 4, 2013

MOUNT ST. HELENS NATIONAL VOLCANIC MONUMENT You’ll just barely scratch the surface of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument if you only have a day to visit but what a stunning surface it is! For the peak experience we recommend camping or seeking lodging nearby. If that’s not possible you can still pack a lot of grandeur into a day with many points of interest; overlooks with nature trails, visitor centers and viewpoints; the piece de-resistance, of course, is the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Before the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 Highway 504 from Castle Rock was the main route to Mount St. Helens and Spirit Lake (today it is called the Spirit Lake Memorial Highway). This majestic highway is just one example of how this region bounced back and recovered after the eruption. Here is our itinerary for a days’ visit starting from Castle Rock: The Mount St Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake: View displays inside (a $5 entry fee for adults); outside you can hike the ½ mile interpretive Wetlands Trail. The visitor center is also a good place to buy the handy “Road Guide to Mount St. Helens”. On a clear day there is also a good view of Mount St. Helens from the terrace outside the visitor center. Next you’ll cross the Toutle River on a highway bridge built to replace the bridge destroyed during the 1980 eruption. The mudflow resulting from the eruption destroyed about 200 homes before cresting at Castle Rock. Though mudflows are destructive life quietly returns. As soon as the area re-opened we hiked a trail at Mount Saint Helens; alders and pearly everlasting had already established a foothold. To learn how mammals, birds, insects and vegetation survived and adapted to the eruption you can learn more about their survival strategies at the visitor centers. Our next stop was the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center. Here a short path leads to the Memorial Grove, a tranquil, forested setting established to honor those who lost their lives during the eruption – a plaque lists their names. Here you can also make arrangements for helicopter tours of the region (see additional information). The next point of interest is the Forest Learning Center; (no entry fee) created/managed by The Weyerhaeuser Company, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Learn more about how the surrounding area recovered with hands-on and visual aids. There is also a sweeping view of the valley where the volcanic debris flowed – peer through a telescope for closer views. Today elk graze in the valley below. We stopped at the Elk Rock overlook to take in the views of surrounding peaks including Mount Margaret, Coldwater Peak, Mount Adams and the pumice plain below created by the eruption. The Coldwater Science and Learning Center was closed and stopped at the Loowit Viewpoint. Here look into the crater of the mountain and walk a short stretch of the Boundary Trail with jaw-dropping overlooks. Well-placed signs remind visitors to stay on designated trails; otherwise risk a $100-300 fine. You won’t need to leave the trail to be blown away by views of Mount St. Helens and masses of wildflowers blooming nearby. From the Loowit Viewpoint visitors can hike or drive 0.8 mile to the Johnson Ridge Observatory. The highway ends at a parking area with a concession stand. From there it’s only a few paces uphill to the Johnston Ridge Observatory so named to honor David Johnston, the geologist who made the last measurements of the mountain before the 1980 eruption and was killed. There is an $8 entry fee (see additional information) to hike the trails or view interpretive displays inside the Observatory. After paying your fee or using an acceptable pass park rangers will attach a pink wrist-band around your wrist so you can come and go throughout the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Inside the observatory we could not resist seeing how much of a blip we made on the seismograph that monitors the movements of the mountain. To measure your impact: jump onto the platform to see the resulting spike you make on the seismograph. You can also experience the daily blips made by the mountains’ vibrations by standing on another platform where you will feel the minor but constant vibrations and shudders of the volcano. The story of Mount St. Helens is lavishly illustrated and explained through interpretive signs, hands-on displays, historic photographs and ranger-given talks. Don’t miss the walk on the short Eruption Trail (one mile round-trip, 100 feet gain). Prepare to be wowed by close-up views of Mount St. Helens and wildflower displays. On your way to or from the Johnston Ridge Observatory take a side-trip to Coldwater Lake; the lake was formed by an avalanche during the 1980 eruption. The lake is only a short distance off the highway to a parking area with paths to the lake; restroom, boat launch (electric motors only) and trails (don’t throw away that wrist-band!). You will need them as proof that you’ve paid to visit or hike the trails inside the Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument. There are also hiking trails around Coldwater Lake and access into the Lake Margaret Backcountry (an advance permit is required to camp, see additional information). Coldwater Lake provides a tranquil ending to a long and scenic experience through a violent landscape. Getting there: From Seattle head south on I-5 and turn off at Exit No. 49 onto State Route 504 (east). Allow about 3.5 hours’ drive time one-way from Seattle. Additional information: The maps are Green Trails No. 332 (Spirit Lake), Green Trails No. 364 (Mount St. Helens) and Green Trails No. 364S (Mount Saint Helens Northwest). Helicopter Tours (Hillsboro Aviation): For prices and/or to make a reservation or call 360-274-5200. Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument (360-449-7800) Johnston Ridge Observatory: 360-274-2140 Mount St. Helens Learning and Science Center at Coldwater: 360-274-2144 Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake: Eruption Trail No. 201 – easy, 1 mile, 100 feet gain. The trail starts at the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake: located 5 miles east of I-5, operated year-round by Washington State Parks. Fees: $5.00 per adult, $2.50 youth, $15 per family. Open 9 to 5 pm daily, May 16-Sept 15. Phone: 360-274-0962 Johnston Ridge Observatory: open mid-May through October (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily). Pets are not allowed at viewpoints or on trails. A Monument Pass (wrist band) is required and available at the Observatory. Coldwater Lake or Johnston Ridge Observatory are inside the Mount St. Helens National Monument and require an Interagency Pass or Northwest Forest Pass. Otherwise $8.00 per person (16 years and older). A Senior Northwest Forest Pass enables free entry to pass-holders otherwise a Northwest Forest Pass will allow one person entry to Johnston Ridge or Coldwater Lake. The Lakes Trail (Coldwater Lake) is six miles round-trip, elevation gain 500 feet. The Eruption Trail at the Johnston Ridge Observatory is one mile round-trip with 100 feet of gain. Camping at Mount Margaret Backcountry from Coldwater Lake: Permits are by advance registration only. Apply early – applications accepted by mail, FAX or in person or at the Johnston Ridge Observatory or the Cowlitz Valley Ranger Station. Maximum party size is four – no fires, no pets, no stock. For additional information visit: . The phone number for the Cowlitz Valley Ranger Station is 360-497-1100. To view photos of Mount St. Helens click on the link below, scroll down to second set. . Karen Sykes

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Easton Ridge, May 31, 2013

EASTON RIDGE TRAIL No. 1212 The trails along Easton Ridge live up to their reputation as being the “go to” place when it’s cool and rainy on the west side of Snoqualmie Pass. At the worst you might experience drizzle or a rain shower as opposed to the deluges on the west side. The Easton Ridge trail is poignantly beautiful in June with sprinkles of dainty Calypso orchids in shady areas and in sunnier spots you’d almost expect the upside-down bell-shaped chocolate lilies to tinkle in the breeze. On our early June hike vanilla leaf was off to a good start and at higher elevations Indian Paintbrush and Bracted Lousewort were also getting started. Golden glacier lilies danced in the breeze and chunks of colorful stone-crop adorned the bony ridge-crest. You’ll also see penstemon, serviceberry, lomatiums; dainty spring-beauties carpet the path as it weaves between shady forest and sunny openings with views of the Stuart Range, Lake Easton and Lake Kachess. You might even get buzzed by a hummingbird if you’re wearing red. On a clear day before haze develops you can also see Mount Rainier. In the forest you’ll find Calypso orchids, low enough to the ground that you have to look for them; getting them to hold still for a photograph is challenging. The Easton Ridge Trail No. 1212 shares the trailhead with the Kachess Ridge Trail and Domerie Divide trails. From the trailhead bear right a short distance and cross bustling Silver Creek on a footbridge. After crossing Silver Creek the trail switchbacks steeply uphill through the forest to a gravel road. Turn left, continue to the next switchback on the road and spot the trail heading uphill. At about 3,500 feet you’ll come to a three-way signed trail junction, the first sign you will encounter after leaving the trailhead. The middle trail (soft right) is the Easton Ridge Trail (the faint path to the right dead-ends) and the trail (left) climbs to Domerie Divide and other enticing destinations such as Thomas Mountain and Mount Baldy. From the junction the Easton Ridge trail makes short work of climbing to the ridge-crest with increasingly spectacular views of Lake Easton, Kachess Lake, the outskirts of Easton, a quarry and across the ribbon of I-90 the foothills and peaks of the Taneum area some refer to as the land between the lakes. The path grows airy and narrow in places along the ridge with serviceberry and other shrubs hugging the trail, sharing the territory with phlox (spreading and cushion), bracted-lousewort, glacier lilies, yellow bells and tufts of penstemon like Tibetan prayer flags fluttering from rock outcrops. The Ponderosa pines are tall and handsome, some bedecked with the glow of moss that can only be described as psychedelic. A few silver snags claw at the sky. As you continue you’ll pass a “No Trespassing” sign which we interpret as being off the trail where a private land-owner has purchased a sizable chunk of real estate. To the best of our knowledge and also according to the Cle Elum Ranger District it is OK to continue but play it safe and stay on the trail (the private property appears to be on the north side of the ridge). We continued along the path to the high point, a rocky-outcrop only a rock climber would venture to the top like one of our companions. The rest of us were content to stop at the base. The high point is the site of a fire tower that was destroyed in 1948 – a sheet of crumpled metal near the base of the high point may be an indication that there was also a beacon at this location in the past. From the base of the high point (4,500 feet) the views of Thomas Mountain, Mount Stuart and the Stuart Range are compelling. There are also views to the north - look down on Cle Elum Lake and Mount Baldy, another high-country hard-earned treasure. The only fly in the ointment so to speak is that these trails are in tick country, especially spring to mid-summer. Despite the threat of picking up a tick after a long winter followed by a chilly spring we could not get enough of the sun and were in no hurry to leave. We also took our time hiking back, stopping several times for yet another attempt to photograph the wily Calypso orchid. Between us we picked up two ticks but found them before they settled down to feast on us. While we loathe ticks we don’t let them keep us away – take precautions and be on the alert. To get there: From Seattle head east on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass on I-90, get off at Easton (Exit No. 70), go over the freeway, turn left on the frontage road and then right on Kachess Dam Road No. 4818. In about 1.5 miles you’ll come to an unsigned road junction and a tree with an orange diamond reflector; turn right. Continue about a mile to the trailhead/parking area, no facility. A Northwest Forest Pass is required. Stats: The hike is about 7.15 miles round-trip with 2,485 feet of elevation gain. Additional Information: Call the Cle Elum Ranger District for current road and trail conditions at 509-852-1100. The maps are Green Trails No. 240 Easton and Green Trails No. 208 Kachess Lake. For photos of this hike visit my Flickr site at Addendum: About Ticks: Starting in late-April hiking related websites generate chat about ticks: where they have been encountered, how to get one out should it get embedded, how to avoid them in the first place. There are horror stories and remedies, not all the remedies are cheap or always effective. Ticks can carry diseases and they are hard to detect. Nature has designed them very well – you won’t feel them crawling on your body once they find you. They inject a type of painkiller into your skin so they can explore the trails of your body unimpeded as they search for a site to begin feeding. They prefer wet, moist places like scalp or bodily parts you can’t see in a mirror. We know people who have been – or still are – ill from the effects of a tick-bite (a friend of ours got Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick in Montana; “our” ticks can carry Lyme Disease. You can also get an infection from the tick if they regurgitate while feasting or you don’t remove the entire body once it embeds. Be on the lookout for a circular rash around the site of the bite after removing the tick. The good news (if any) is that ticks are finicky and will crawl around on your skin, clothing or pack for about 8-12 hours before they pick an all-you-can restaurant (you!). Apparently ticks go through three life cycles – initially they are about the size of a period and when they are mature they are about 1/8 inch in size and bigger after a blood meal. Twice I’ve had to take antibiotics because I didn’t detect the tick in time. People have tried many ways to remove a tick – the best method is pulling them out with tweezers. Not much else works very well. We know. We’ve tried Vaseline, flames from a match, nail-polish and nail-polish remover. It’s best to find them before they set up shop and before you get into your car. Once I tried to kill a tick with a rock (the tick was on another rock heading toward me) and couldn’t kill it. We tried to burn it; that didn’t work either, it kept coming at me; we moved to another site. I am not an expert on the effects of global warming though it appears ticks are creeping ever closer westward. It used to be you’d find them most often on the east side of the mountain passes but now they can be found in the Olympics, Deception Pass (since the early 1980s), Snoquera Palisades and other rocky areas off State Route 410. Ticks may drop off once they feed; that’s why it’s important to find them before they dig in. Twice – I’ve had to go on antibiotics as a result of tick-bites. Once was a preventative measure; the second time a bulls-eye rash had developed around the site of the bite, indicating possible infection. What’s the solution? Your dog has a better chance of evading a tick than you as Advantage works on pets to keep ticks away. Hikers are advised to wear light colors to spot them. We also recommend wearing long pants, gaiters and long-sleeved light-weight shirts. Evolutionarily speaking ticks are practically bomb-proof. Some hikers believe Vitamin B1 helps keep them away or DEET (a pesticide); others swear by bug-repellent clothing. For additional information about hiking in tick country Washington Trails Association has recently published an excellent article on that subject. Visit their website at . Karen Sykes

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Photos for Hike of the Week, Ebey's Landing

To see photos of Ebey’s Landing visit my photo site on Flickr and you’ll find a set for Ebey’s Landing on the First Page.

Ebey's Landing Preserve, National Historical Preserve, April 26, 2013

EBEY’S LANDING PRESERVE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PRESERVE (Whidbey Island) Mention “Ebey’s” and hikers ears perk up; it is a year-round favorite. Hike as little or as far as you wish, clockwise or counterclockwise, view Perego’s Lagoon from the bluffs or the shore, (consult a tide-table before hiking the beach). Dawdle; daydream, watch ships come and go where water seemingly meets sky. Enjoy a Rip Van Winkle nap in a sheltered spot out of the salty breeze. The scenery alone will sate your appetite for beauty but there’s more – there are interpretive signs featuring early explorations of the region and the Native Americans who lived on Ebey’s Prairie before settlers arrived. You can also hike from the bluffs to Sunnyside Cemetery, a pioneer burial ground, one of the most beautiful, poignant cemeteries we’ve ever visited. Ebey’s Landing is not only protected by the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountain range it is also protected by land-management agencies including The Nature Conservancy, the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks. The reserve is also home to rare plants including golden paintbrush, a rare Indian paintbrush known to exist in only a few places. Be on the watch for gray whales, eagles and a variety of seabirds including harlequin ducks near Parego’s Lagoon. We suggest hiking a 3.5-mile loop (our favorite) starting at the bluffs with views of Perego’s Lagoon, the Olympic Peninsula, the Straight of Juan de Fuca, even Mount Rainier on a clear day. The trail skirts the edge of lowland forest as it parallels the beach. From the bluff trail you can also enjoy a short, easy walk to the Sunnyside Cemetery (the junction is signed). Unless tides prohibit, don’t miss out on the beach-walk. On our recent visit we noted that a couple of our favorite, wind-gnarled Douglas firs along the bluffs had fallen - no surprise given that such bluffs are prone to erosion in a silent, endless war between land and water. Past the lagoon you’ll come to a steep, obvious trail that drops down to the beach. Over the years feet have beaten shortcuts down to the beach; stay on the main trail - not only is it safer, it is gentler on the terrain. There are several ways to hike the beach; if you’re agile you can dance along the driftwood, otherwise along the beach when tides are low or a trail that skirts the lagoon. Notice the different shapes of driftwood - let your imagination go and conjure fearsome or magical shapes cast up by the sea. Root-balls have floated from afar and come to rest at the edge of the lagoon – hikers often decorate these root monsters with stones and pretty shells. On cloudy, rainy days it is often hard to tell where fog ends and water begins – in such conditions your other senses sharpen and you’ll hear the mournful wail of foghorns and the colors of rocks and seaweed will jump out at you in psychedelic shades. Don’t overlook the colorful views at your feet. Though it was a spring day we didn’t see many wildflowers along the bluffs; however, the beach was another story presenting a kaleidoscope of seaweed, driftwood, kelp, pebbles and stones of every shape, size and color imaginable. We marveled at their intricate markings, some so smooth they felt polished others rough conglomerates glinting with minerals and agate striations. Other rocks were black as obsidian with a white blaze running through them like a bolt of lightning, no two alike. In contrast yellow coils of kelp glistened on the damp sand like ropes, knotted and twisted by eternal moon-pulled tides. Since Time was fleeting we drove to the Sunnyside cemetery rather than hike the trail. Sunnyside is a pioneer cemetery dating back to the mid-1800s. Native American tribes lived on the prairie for thousands of years and established the burial ground. According to their custom, they usually interred their dead by burying them in chests or canoes up in trees but that custom was abandoned within a decade after white settlers arrived. Headstones date back to the 1850s, including that of Isaac Ebey, an early settler. Ebey chose the prairie as a homestead for its beautiful setting overlooking Admiralty Inlet and the Olympic Mountains. During the Indian Wars of the 1850s, Ebey was killed by Haida Indians in retaliation for an ambush of their people by whites. The Haidas needed to kill a “white chief” to avenge their loss of one of their chiefs. The historic Davis Blockhouse can also be found at Sunnyside; one of many such structures built as a refuge in the event of attack. Getting there from Mukilteo-Clinton ferry: take Highway 525 north -- it eventually becomes State Route 20. Continue through Coupeville on State Route 20 and take the first left after the pedestrian overpass onto Ebey Road. Continue straight – do not take the curve to the left. Go straight toward the water and as you approach the water the road descends right to trailhead parking and restroom. A Discover Pass is required. To drive around from Seattle: go north on I-5 to Exit No. 230 (State Route 20), past Mount Vernon. Get off there, turn left at the stoplight and continue on SR 20 for about 15 miles. Near Anacortes turn left at the sign for “Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, Deception Pass” and continue on SR 20 (about 20 miles). As you approach Coupeville turn right on Ebey Road – if you get to the overpass you’ve gone a bit too far. Trail data: Ebeys Landing Loop, 3.5 miles, about 200 feet gain. Additional information: For additional information visit the website for Washington State Parks at . For additional human and natural history of the region here’s some interesting websites: The Nature Conservancy at , the National Park Service at , or Sunnyside Cemetery at . Karen Sykes

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Photographs for Hike of the Week

There are no photos for Hike of the Week this week! I'm sorry, will address the problem when I am able to. I hope you enjoy the writeup of Oyster Dome.

Photographs for Hike of the Week

Since I am unable to load photographs onto this site for unknown reasons, I am including a link to my Flickr photo account. Go to the site address below; the photos to accompany this article will be in the first set entitled "Hike of the Week".

Oyster Dome, March 2013

OYSTER DOME (Chuckanut Mountains) If I could count the number of times we’ve hiked to Oyster Dome in the Chuckanut Mountains it would be in the double digits. Though we especially relish hiking trails we haven’t hiked before this trail is an exception to my rule. There are reasons for frequent visits: you can hike the trail year-round, snow is seldom a concern and the views from Oyster Dome are terrific. However, those in search of solitude might want to avoid the trail on a warm, sunny weekend or be prepared to share the sunny outcroppings with other hikers. On our recent visit we shared the sunny overlook with a cheerful family, including a 10 year old boy who still had enough energy to climb a nearby tree and perform acrobatics on the branches. As for us, we were ready for a rest! If that’s not enough to whet your appetite for year-round scenery you can include a visit to the Tulip Festival at Roozengaarde in Skagit County (open April 1-April 30). On a sunny day there are not only daffodils and tulips to admire, there are also stunning views of Mount Baker. The hike to Oyster Dome is about 5.7 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1,800 feet. If you don’t want to work that hard you can instead hike up to Samish Overlook from the same trailhead – that’s only 4 miles round trip with 1,100 feet gain. At Samish Overlook you’ll enjoy views of Samish Bay and the Olympics on a clear day (bring a map to identify the islands). When there’s a stiff breeze this is also a take-off point for paragliders. Once aloft they look like giant butterflies in the sky. The trailhead is off Chuckanut Drive (State Route 11) with parking along the road. The hike begins on the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) with a large rock marker displaying the PNT mileages between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast. The trail starts off climbing in long switchbacks to a couple viewpoints of Samish Bay (one with a bench) before meeting the signed junction for Samish Overlook and Oyster Dome. Go right (uphill) to Samish Overlook or continue straight to Oyster Dome. Though it was a little too early for wildflowers the flowering shrubs were beginning to unfurl their leaves and it was a pleasure to hike through this heady mix of evergreens, deciduous trees, shrubs and ferns in dappled light. After gaining most of the elevation we negotiated a couple of minor creek crossings and muddy areas where balancing on rocks and slick roots required some agility and just plain luck. Hence we advise sturdy hiking boots; in spring consider gaiters as well. There are also a couple of steep stretches that require a bit of maneuvering but nothing that could be considered dangerous. As the trail gradually ascends toward Oyster Dome you’ll pass large outcroppings interspersed through the forest and a small sign for the Ice Age Trail (left). Hikers familiar with the trail system sometimes descend a short distance to the boulder field known by some as the bat caves; do not enter the caves as they provide a habitation for bats. Plus, these are not actual caves but rather a large jumble of boulders. In short, it’s a good place to twist your ankle so exercise care. Most trail junctions to Oyster Dome are signed though not far from Oyster Dome you’ll encounter an unsigned junction; here, stay left, head uphill. From there the main trail is easy to follow (you will also be encountering other hikers) though there are socially engineered side-paths that run hither and yon; none lead to better views. After a short, steep climb the main trail opens out onto a long, broad rock outcropping with what could only be described as “sudden” views, the kind of views that make a first-time visitor exclaim “WOW!” Oyster Dome sits above the boulder field with plenty of sitting room, even on a busy day. Here enjoy unobstructed views of Samish Bay, the Olympics and an array of scattered islands. Keep away from the edge of the outcropping and keep track of your children and/or dogs. Additional Information: The hike to Oyster Dome and Samish Overlook is 7.7 miles round trip with 2,300 feet gain. Samish Overlook by itself is 4 miles round trip with 1,100 feet gain. Oyster Dome by itself is about 5.7 miles round trip with roughly 1,800 feet gain. Driving directions: From Seattle head north on I-5 and get off at exit 231 signed Chuckanut Drive, State Route 11. After negotiating two roundabouts continue west about 18 miles to the trailhead. Parking is limited to the left hand shoulder (don’t park where signs prohibit such). For additional information on visiting Roozengaarde visit their website: Karen Sykes

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Photo (testing)


I was able to post a photo of this hike (the Old Si Trail) on my other blog but for some reason, not on this one - look for it at karenshikes - http//

Where to see my recent photos of hikes

Please see:


Here is a photo of Mount Si via the Old Si Trail. See previous post for hike description.

Photograph, Old Big Si Trail

For some reason this site will now let me post photos to accompany this article - to see photos for this hike see Sorry for the difficulty. The set is the most recent set on Flickr.

Photograph, Mount Si Hike Writeup

Here is a photo to accompany my trail report of the Old Big Si Trail.

Mount Si via Old Big Si Trail, February 27, 2013

Mount Si via the Old Mount Si Trail (North Bend, Washington) Maybe you need to be just a little bit nuts to hike up the Old Mount Si trail in wind, rain and snow. Or maybe you’re just trying to stay (or get) into shape. However, it’s not often you’ll find Mount Si as lonesome as it was Wednesday, February 27. Whatever your motivation, whether its for exercise or solitude, winter is a great time to hike up this oft-crowded trail where you stretch your facial muscles saying “Howdy” to other hikers coming or going more than your legs. No matter which trail you take to the base of Mount Si, it’s about an 9-mile hike with 3,300 feet of elevation gain. We parked at the Little Si trailhead, opting for the Old Si trail via the Boulder Garden Loop trail as that is a more scenic approach. We weren’t sure how far we’d get given marginal weather and more rain in the forecast so we started out agreeing to turn around when either of us were ready to do so. We’d both gone on runs the previous day so weren’t sure what kind of shape we’d find ourselves in so paced ourselves accordingly with a measured but steady pace. The hike begins with a short, steep pitch directly from the parking lot – take advantage of a couple of thank-heavens views from mossy outcroppings of the upper Snoqualmie Valley and on a clear day, Rattlesnake Ledge. After that abrupt huff-and-puff the trail levels out for a bit to the east end of the Boulder Loop Trail (it is signed) where we turned right, uphill. This is a slightly gentler climb than from the west trailhead and scenic with mossy cottonwoods, sparkling-with-rain lichen festooned branches of shrubs on an old road turned trail. You’ll pass moss-slathered cliffs, boulders and side-trails to mossy overlooks (try to avoid walking on the moss and keep in mind the rocks are slick on a wet day). For a challenge take the map/compass/GPS and see if you can find Foundation Rock before you turn off onto the (presently unsigned) trail hikers know as the Old Si Trail. Though it is not an official route you’ll recognize this site as climbers occasionally practice on the cliffs below (we spotted hardware). Watch turns, unsigned junctions and side-trails of which there are many. You will need to watch for the turn (uphill, right) where the Old Mount Si Trail begins (as of this writing the trail was not signed). Find it about it at about 800 feet elevation the start of the Boulder Loop Trail. Once on the Old Si Trail you’ll notice the steepness of the grade; pace yourself, it seldom relents. On a hot summer day with high humidity you might opt to give up hiking; we prefer hiking Si by either route in the fall, winter and spring. The trail is easy to follow with a few, slippery stretches over rocks slimed with mud or wet vegetation. After one particularly steep stretch the trail relents a bit as it continues with well-defined switchbacks with a more reasonable pitch. There is even a short, level stretch on an old road before the trail spurts insanely upward again with shorter and steeper switchbacks. Not far from the old road we began to hit short stretches of snow and mud. We’d brought traction devices with us so we were prepared. Indeed, we met one climber coming down who said he’d made it to Haystack Basin but that he had used traction devices further up the trail and also mentioned there were good steps to follow in the deeper snow above. We soon stopped to put on our traction devices for conditions we’d be facing. Once we got to the unsigned junction where the Old Si Trail provides a link to the Mount Si trail the snow deepened quickly, almost enough to warrant snowshoes. This old stretch of the Old Si Trail is short and steep but it’s also one of the prettier sections, especially with trees and shrubs festooned with fresh snow, like walking into a Christmas card. With an eye on time (you should keep an eye on time too!) we agreed to continue to at least the set of rocky steps below Haystack Basin. Given the conditions I stopped a little shy of the snow-encrusted rocks, my companion carried on a little further for a better view of Mount Si though it was late and cold enough she didn’t linger. Though she is agile and prepared for such conditions I watched her descend the rocky steps with my heart in my throat since we appeared to be the last people up there. We made a quick descent; it took us about two hours from the rocky outcroppings to the Little Si trailhead. En route we’d only met one couple on the Boulder Garden Loop and there was only one other car at the trailhead. Though we’d scampered down quickly it was challenging to keep scampering; not because we were tired but because the scenery was so beautiful (there was not enough time for photography). By the time reached North Bend the heavy rain arrived with darkness on its heels. Getting there: 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 to the designated trailhead/parking lot (left) shortly after crossing the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. A Discovery Pass is required for the Little Si Trailhead and the Mount Si trailhead. Additional Information: Map Green Trails No. 206S (Side A) Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA). The land management agency is DNR (Washington Department of Natural Resources). On my Green Trails map (2002) the trail is called the Old Big Si Trail. The hike is about 9 miles round trip (including mileages on the Little Si Trail/Boulder Garden Trail). An interesting read about Mount Si is the out-of-print “Guide to Mount Si” by Robert E. DeGraw. Though some of the trail numbers/road numbers may be out of date this book is the most-researched guide to Mount Si I’ve ever had the privilege to read and dream. For current trail/road conditions the most up-to-date resource is Washington Trails Association . Karen Sykes

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gold Creek Basin Snowshoe

January 2013 GOLD CREEK BASIN SNOWSHOE Gold Creek Pond and/or Gold Creek Trail (East of Snoqualmie Pass) If you’re seeking an easy, scenic snowshoe tour Gold Creek Basin meets all those requirements and more. The shortest snowshoe (or cross-country ski tour) would be the 1-mile loop around Gold Creek Pond. Snowshoers wanting more of a work-out or solitude can go further up into the basin to Heli Pond or even the Gold Creek Trail. The scenic basin is bordered by Rampart Ridge, Chikamin Ridge and other Snoqualmie peaks. Gold Creek Pond is especially popular on weekends as it is suitable for all ages, ranging from senior citizens to families with small children, some with dogs. If this is your first snowshoe or cross-country ski-trip the pond is ideal for a first-time snowshoe experience. You will need an early start (especially on a weekend) as this is a popular place and a Sno-Park permit to park at the trailhead. We enjoy Gold Pond year-round but there is always an air of festivity in winter. From the trailhead/portable toilet go uphill onto the forest service road to the junction where a spur (left) leads to Gold Pond. Experienced snowshoers can bypass Gold Pond and continue on the forest service road to the Gold Creek trailhead past privately owned cabins – the Gold Creek trailhead is about ¾ mile from Gold Pond. At the pond we snowshoed (counterclockwise) onto the path that borders Gold Pond (in summer the path is barrier-free). On a clear day take time to enjoy the views to the head of Gold Creek valley. Bring the map to identify the peaks that enclose the valley –Chikamin Peak, Alta Mountain and Snoqualmie Peak to mention a few. That bulky ridge that rises on the right-hand (east) side of the valley is Rampart Ridge. Rather than completing the loop we left Gold Pond at the trail junction (1/4 mile from the Gold Pond trailhead) for the Gold Creek trail. This short spur connects back to the forest service road and passes several cabins and homes (foot traffic is OK). Before you get to the Gold Creek trailhead you’ll pass Heli’s Pond (left) with a scenic, curved bridge. The pond originally belonged to Burlington-Northern Railroad and later was purchased by private land-owners (it is public land today). The pond was named Heli’s Pond to honor a previous property owner. It makes a nice side-trip. Past Heli’s Pond (about 3/4 mile from Gold Pond) you’ll come to the Gold Creek Trail at the end of the road (the sign may be buried so look for tracks where others have gone). In summer the trail crosses Gold Creek (a potentially hazardous crossing – no bridge) and strong hikers often continue on fading paths to Alaska or Joe Lake. The Gold Creek Trail also offers more opportunities for solitude; though this is a beautiful trail year-round it is not as visited as often as other trails along the I-90 corridor. In winter most snowshoers turn around at the first avalanche chute where the Gold Creek Trail breaks out of the trees where you may see avalanche paths (in summer look for waterfalls tumbling down the cliffs of Rampart Ridge after the snow melts). The first avalanche chute is about a mile from the beginning of the Gold Creek trail and is a good turnaround. Getting there: From Seattle take I-90 east over Snoqualmie Pass and get off at the Hyak-Gold Creek (Exit No. 54, about two miles from Snoqualmie Pass). Go left under I-90, turn right onto the Gold Creek frontage Road and in about a mile find parking near the end of the frontage road where it is gated. Do not park under I-90 – parking is prohibited there and you are apt to be towed. If there’s no room to park at the end of the frontage road turn around and drive back along the frontage road until you find one. A Sno-Park pass is required. Additional information: The Gold Creek Pond (Trail No. 1250) is about a one-mile loop with minimal gain. From Gold Creek Pond it is about 3/4 mile further on the forest service road to the Gold Creek trailhead (Trail No. 1314) with little gain. Your mileage will depend on how far you venture up into Gold Creek Basin). Map: Green Trails No. 207 Snoqualmie Pass (trail and road numbers may not match older maps). If you are going beyond Gold Pond get an avalanche forecast before venturing beyond Gold Pond - visit the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center website at or call their Avalanche Information Hotline at 206-526-6677. For information on where to obtain a Sno-Park permit visit the Washington State Parks website at for trail conditions call the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in North Bend at 425-888-1421. Karen Sykes