Friday, January 30, 2015

Mount Washington Hike

On a mid-January day I had plans to hike part way up Mount Washington with a small group of friends.  Our goal was to get a good work-out and if weather allowed, enjoy a nice view.  With an elevation of 4450 feet, the trail from about 2000 feet elevation and above is normally inaccessible in the winter under several feet of snow. So our plan was to go about half way up staying below the snowline to the first spot with a great view.

Mount Washington is a nice destination for a day hike, located only 40 minutes east of Seattle.  The trail head is accessed from the parking lot in Olallie State Park.

Directions to the Mount Washington Trail Head:

  1. Take I-90 to exit 38
  2. Take a right at the exit
  3. After a short distance take a right at the entrance to Olallie State Park (Discovery Pass required)
  4. Access to the trail is at the end of the parking lot near the restroom and sign board

Ollallie State Park Parking Lot

There is no signage to indicate the way to the Mount Washington trail, but take the gravel path that leads uphill a short distance to a junction with the John Wayne Trail.  

The path from the Ollallie State Park Parking Lot to the John Wayne Trail
After arriving at the John Wayne Trail, to the left there is a sign listing several trails and distances, but still no hint of the Mt Washington Trail.  Instead of turning left, go to the right along the John Wayne Trail.
Trail Signs on the John Wayne Trail

After about a quarter of a mile is a path on the left marked with a small rock cairn, and I do mean small.  The little pile of rocks is maybe 18 inches tall.  

Unsigned Mt Washington Trail Head
A short distance from the trail head, a small stream and waterfall come into view.
Mt Washington Trail Head Stream and Small Waterfall
Although this trail has a fairly steep constant uphill grade, there is a lot of beautiful scenery including several rock walls that helps to distract from the climb.

Rock Wall Mount Washington Trail
Several of the rock walls have small waterfalls of dripping water, this one was large enough to qualify as a shower!

Take a shower along the Mount Washington Trail
 I always bring water for my dogs when we hike, but I had no need of it on this trail because of so many creeks and waterfalls.  Hank and Tim were able to take frequent drinks along the way.

Hiking with Border Collies
Our destination is the "owl spot" about 2 miles from the trail head.  The name suggests a birder's hotspot for owl sightings, but that isn't the reason for the moniker.  The name was created by The Mountaineers, a group of early hiking enthusiasts in the area who created trails and wrote numerous Pacific Northwest hiking trail guides.  They made a list of relatively short hikes that could be done in the evening after a day at work and called them "owl hikes".  This spot on the Mount Washington trail with the stone bench is the destination of one of these hikes.
Mount Washington "Owl Hike" Bench
The view to the north from the Owl Spot is the reward for hiking this far.

View to the north from the Mt Washington Trail
At this point we had reached our planned destination, but with a rare warm, sunny January day and an abnormal absence of snow, after a brief discussion, we all agreed to press on to the summit.  What were the chances we'd ever have the opportunity to hike together to the top of Mount Washington on a January day like this?

Mt. Washington Trail Sign
Ironically after hiking past the owl spot, and more than half-way up the mountain, we finally see a trail sign confirming that we are on the trail to Mt. Washington!

A Stream to Cross
A short distance later, we encounter a stream which was not possible to cross without getting wet feet.  It might not be safe to attempt a crossing at the height of the spring run-off.

A small pond on the Mount Washington Trail
The trail became quite wet and was essentially a shallow stream until we arrived at a small pond.  At this point the trail to the summit takes a sharp right.

Rock Scree on the Mt Washington Trail
Further along the trail passes through a large rock scree.

View of Mount Rainier from the summit of Mt Washington

 After a few more turns and a last steep uphill climb this is the breathtaking view of Mount Rainier that awaited us making the arduous hike to the top well worth the effort.

Mount Washington Hike
Length 8.5 miles, round trip 
Elevation Gain: 3250 ft. 
Highest Point: 4450 ft

A Grey Jay Looking for a Hand-out 
A welcoming committee of about five tame Grey Jays (obviously accustomed to mooching tidbits from hikers) met us at the top.
Hiking Border Collies, Hank and Tim

The highest point of the summit was a fairly easy incline where Hank and Tim took a rest overlooking the view to the south.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Squak Mountain - Bullit Fireplace Trail

Border Collies Tim and Hank Ready to Hike the Squak Mountain Trail
Recently I took a hike with my dogs to Squak Mountain.  Squak Mtn is 2,024 feet tall and is one of several peaks in the cascade foothills known as Issaquah Alps.  The Squak Mountain natural area has 13 miles of hiking trails.  So where is Squak Mountain?  If you are unfamiliar with the area, here is a map.

The parking lot is a paved dead end street to the side of Mountainside Drive.  Since Squak Mountain is a Washington State Park, a Discover Pass is needed for day use and parking.

Squak Mountainside Drive Trail Head Parking Area 
The Bullitt Fireplace trail head provides an entry point to the trail system on the north side of Squak Mountain.  The approximate round trip mileage of our hike to the Bullitt Fireplace is 4 miles with about 1100 ft elev. gain
Bullitt Fireplace Trail Trailhead Sign
The original 594 acre portion of the park around the summit of the central peak was donated to the state by the Bullitt family.  Subsequently additional land was acquired making the current total size of the park 1,545 acres.
Squak Mountain State Park Natural Area Sign

The 13 miles of trails loop through the park with multiple junctions including a connector trail to Cougar Mountain.  Fortunately there are trail signs to help guide the way, but I recommend having a map along, too.
Squak Mountain Trail Signs

The trail has a variety of sights to enjoy including this interesting nurse log.

Nurse Log on Squak Mountain

Although I didn't test my cell phone reception while on the trail, I'm guessing it was 4 bars since this collection of radio towers is at the summit of Squak Mountain.

Radio Towers at the Top of Squak Mountain

The trail's namesake Bullitt Fireplace is what remains of the Bullitt family summer cabin.

Bullitt Fireplace
Posing the two border collies for a good photo op is always a challenge, but this one wasn't half-bad.
Border Collies Tim and Hank at the Bullitt Fireplace - Squak Mountain, WA
Beyond the fireplace on our way back to the trail head there are great views of Lake Sammamish and beyond.
View of Lake Sammamish from Squak Moutain
On the way down, we stopped to read some of the interpretive signs that are placed along the trail.
Interpretive Sign on the Squak Mountain Trail
This was a really easy hike with a wide trail and gradual elevation gain making it suitable for hiking with children, older dogs or anyone who is not physically ready for a more difficult hike.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Winter Hike on Little Si Trail

Little Si Trailhead
This winter we're out exploring the Issaquah Alps and Cascade Foothills, great places for hiking near Seattle.  This week we decided to hike the Little Si Trail.  According to the Washington Trails Association, the round trip distance is 4.7 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1500 feet.

The trailhead is near Tanner,WA.  (Who knew?  I had never heard of Tanner even though I've lived in the Seattle area since birth!)

The trail immediately starts an uphill climb with a rocky surface.  No need to do any time on the stair master today after the first quarter mile of this hike.  I will admit that the rocky surface is a pleasant relief from the typical Pacific Northwest muddy winter trail.  Dogs are required to be on leash and for good reason, this is a popular trail and a dog running loose could easily bump into someone causing them to fall on the rocks.

Tim and Hank my Border Collies starting up the Little Si Trail

View of the Snoqualmie Valley from Little Si Trail
 It doesn't take long to gain enough elevation to have some great views of the Snoqualmie Valley.

Ferns and Moss along the Little Si Trail
 As we steadily climb, we round a corner and pass through an area surrounded by lush ferns and moss-covered trees and rocks.
An old snag covered in moss
 The trail levels off and passes through an area with some old trees and moss-covered snags.
A Boardwalk on the Little Mt Si Trail
 A wet area is spanned by a boardwalk, but beware,  these can be slippery when wet, especially in the winter.
A View of Mt Si from Little Si
 The trail gets steeper revealing a rocky ledge with views of the taller summit of Mount Si.

A Rocky Ledge Along the Little Si Trail

A short distance of a steady uphill grade and we arrive at the summit of Little Si with views of North Bend and the Snoqualmie Valley below.

North Bend, WA and the Snoqualmie River Valley

Boulder Garden Loop Trail Sign - Little Si Mountain

Since it was such a lovely, sunny winter day we decided we weren't yet ready to leave Little Si, so we decided to do the extra 1.5 mile sidetrip on the Boulder Garden Loop on our way back to the trailhead. 

Boulder Garden Loop Trail, Little Si
 The Boulder Garden Loop is a beautiful trail, which passes between tall trees and walls of large boulders covered with ferns and moss.

Moss Covered Rocks Along the Boulder Garden Loop
  The path twists and turns with gorgeous views around every corner.

Hank and Tim, the Border Collies in the Burbs
 We complete the Boulder Garden Loop and arrive back at the main Little Si Trail.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Three Forks Dog Park Under Flood Waters, January 5, 2015

Three Forks Off Leash Dog Area Flooded 1-5-15
It's amazing what a few days of rain and snow melt can do to the rivers in Western Washington.  We visited the Three Forks Dog park near the Snoqualmie River on January 3rd and it looked like the previous post that I wrote about this park.  Two days later, we went back to get some exercise.  In between there were warmer temperatures and 24 hours of rain.  The snow in the mountains melted and Three Forks Dog Park is now underwater.  I hope when the waters recede there won't be too much damage.