Duration: 2.5 hours
Elevation Gain: 1160 feet
A week after the snow dumped on Seattle for several days, I was itching to get back out and hit the trails. Since the weather had been so bad, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find any trails that were passable without snow gear. After consulting a few trip reports, I decided to hit up Rattlesnake Ledge which ended up being a pretty good choice.
Per my usual cold-weather hiking routine, I stopped for my morning coffee and filled up the thermos with hot cocoa for the trail. The drive to the trailhead is almost the same as the way to Mt Si, about 45 minutes from door to parking lot. When I arrived, the main parking lot was gated off with a sign warning of hazardous conditions. I parked in an inch or two of slouch and watched a couple get out of their Subaru (the only other car in the lot) to head up the mountain. For a minute or two I debated whether or not I should set out, but I figured I’d make a start and see how it went- knowing that I wasn’t alone on the trial.
From the parking lot, it was .3 miles walk to the official trailhead where there were a few porta-potties and a few signs with information about the trail and the area. I’ve come to realize that I really appreciate the toilet facilities at the trailheads here because the local hiking paths aren’t conducive to ducking off the trail if you have to pee- at least not if you don’t mind sliding down the steep slope of the mountainside while the other hikers look on.
The trail to Rattlesnake Ledge isn’t a particularly difficult one, except for the the steepness of the path. As previously mentioned, there was a warning at the parking lot that there were hazardous conditions on the trail, the sub-note was regarding falling and downed branches. On the first quarter of the ascent, there were quite a few blowdowns, ranting from branches and twigs to small trees- at one point I had to crouch down and duck-walk under a set of three small trees that were broken across the path. As I continued up the trail, I figured that it was raining today and it was shaking loose snow on branches and dripping down through the trees. I was wrong; there was no rain, only warm (for January) weather melting the snow on the trees overhead.
The middle half of the trail was mostly slushy snow and a few places where snowmelt was running over the trail. The air wasn’t cold enough to make this icy, but I can imagine that early in the morning on a cold day this could be quite precarious. All the while, bigger and bigger chunks of snow were dropping from branches- a few landed on my head and I was thankful that I’d had the foresight to pull up my hood. As I neared the last quarter of the uphill trail, I passed the couple from the parking lot going back down. They had been to the top and said that the conditions improved farther along. They were right, the last part of the trail was powdery snow, not too deep nor slippery. All the sounds of the modern world, save the crunching of snow under my boots, slipped away until I reached my destination.
As I came up to a clearing to my left, I believe my exact expression was, “Holy shit, that’s amazing!” The view was beautiful, you can see much of the Snoqualmie Valley as well as the other local mountains. I spotted Mt Si and Little Si in the distance. A few meters on the trail ended and there’s a lovely 360 of the area- including a view of an alpine lake which the sign at the trailhead so thoughtfully informs you is Seattle’s supply of drinking water. I thought that I took a short narrated video at the summit, but apparently I only succeeded in filming for 3 seconds. I guess photos will have to suffice.
The way back down was a bit slushier and slipperier than the way up, likely a combination of more melting and also that cruel mistress, gravity. From the ledge to back to the trailhead I passed quite a few afternoon hikers. In total, (including the couple who went ahead of me) I saw 14 adults, 1 child, 4 dogs and a mosquito(!!!) on the trail. For all the people I passed going up as I descended, the trail was pretty quiet and I enjoyed the solitude. I’d like to return to do the full hike of Rattlesnake Mountain and the ridge to the lake- but this will probably have to wait until the weather is warmer and I can find someone else to go (it’s a through-hike, you need two cars unless you want to be stranded at the end of it all).
Distance: 4.25 miles
Duration: 2.25 hours
Elevation Gain: 1200 feet
Little Si, and Mount Si in whose shadow Little Si sits, is somewhat of a local chestnut in terms of local hikes. I figured, given its popularity, that this would be a good solo hike for a cool winter day. During the summer, I was recommended Si & Little Si as good rainy day hikes- the trail is mostly covered through the woods and the rain discourages the crowds.
When I got to North Bend, I had a little trouble finding the turn off for Mount Si Road. I stopped at the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Ranger Station, where the nice woman behind the desk didn’t even snicker at me as she gave directions (hint: there’s a yellow espresso shack at the corner where you’re supposed to turn). She also asked me if I had a Discover Pass (I did), which is required for parking at the trailhead. After you turn onto Mount Si Road, you cross over a red bridge and the parking is the second lot on the left- the first lot appears to be for the bridge…?
As I pulled into the parking log, the grey skies decided it would be a good time to start a light shower. I took the opportunity to arrange my gear, call my sister to check in and use the restroom at the trailhead. Similar to other trails, the restroom was a permanent port-a-potty. Unlike other trails, there wasn’t a log book but there was a signboard warning of bears, branches and rocks.
The first part of the path is somewhat steep and rocky. Through a series of switchbacks, you gain a good deal of elevation quite quickly. The path continues on through a wooded area and the slope of the path decreases significantly. The forest is lovely, there are some large boulders and turn off to a section of the trail that turns into a rock face for climbers. During this part of the trail, I passed a few other hikers and a pair of trail runners going the opposite way. The last section of the trail was a bit steep and eventually opened up to a short rocky climb to the peak. From this opening there was a nice view of the Snoqualmie Valley and a clear view of Mount Si.
At the top, I stopped for a few pictures and to catch my breath, and found that the temperature had dropped a bit. After being fairly warm most of the way up, it was time to dig out the hat & gloves. I found a nice little spot on a rock overlooking Si to have my candy bar lunch and some of the hot cocoa I’d packed in my thermos.
On the way back down, I passed quite a few others going up and a few dogs. I think the total count for the day was 14 adults, 1 child and 3 dogs. When I got back to the parking lot, at least 3 groups totaling 8+ people and another dog started on the trail. I’m glad that I decided to make the trip on a cool winter weekday, I can only imagine how crowded the trail would be on a summer Saturday.
Distance: 9.9 miles
Duration: 4.5 hours
Elevation Gain: 1400 feet
I went on this hike with a buddy; we had a short-list of trails to try, and only made the choice in the car on the way out. The weather forecast for Wallace Falls was warmer and had a lower chance of snow than the alternatives, and it was a shorter driver.
As we parked the car, there was a moderate crackling noise. At first I thought it was the sound of rain, but it was actually the high-voltage power lines overhead. The ranger in the station said that the power lines are louder when it’s humid- I guess that means they’re pretty loud year-round. Contrary to what my book said, a Discovery Pass is required to park; I was able to purchase mine at the ranger station about 50 meters from the trailhead. There are permanent restroom facilities; I can’t speak to the quality of the men’s room, but, the women’s restroom was clean, dry, had warm water and was well stocked with TP & soap.
We signed in at the trailhead, I noticed that some eager beavers had completed the trail by the time that we were starting around 11 am. The trail started gently, passing under the high-voltage lines for a short section. After passing the “amphitheater” the trail got steeper and we walked between fuzzy, green, moss-clad trees, listening to the sound of the river in the distance. The trail was a little muddy, but not slippery or difficult to traverse. On the way up I had to pause a few times to catch my breath or take a sip of water. During the trip to the upper falls, we leapfrogged 3 other hikers on the trail.
There are several nice viewpoints along the path where you can step off the trail and get a nice view of the falls. Also, there are plenty of fabulous signs warning of the danger of falls. At the upper falls, after reading the ridiculously passive-aggressive notice board warning of the dangers of going beyond this point (have you looked at your watch? do you know when it gets dark? do you know how long it will take to get back to your car? these two girls got lost, don’t be like them…), we decided to press on, follow the blue diamonds up the hill and see if we couldn’t find the alternate route back. About this time, a light rain started falling (in addition to the mist from the falls).
The trail up the hill was a bit steep, and after about a third of a mile we reached the top of the ridge where the trail widened up and flattened out. After skirting the edge of several large puddles on the trail, we found a somewhat covered log to sit on and eat lunch. While the lower sections of the trail were warmer, the difference of a couple hundred feet higher made a big difference in the temperature. After a couple minutes of sitting down, out came the hats, gloves and extra layers.
Farther down the path, we met with a father and son who were following the same path in reverse order. They told us the path would continue on by Wallace Lake and the turned off to go back to the trailhead. For the next couple miles the path followed a relatively flat course along the top of the ridge, opening up onto a DNR road. Along the sides of the road, there were a few scattered patches of snow and the rain let up for a while.
Eventually, we came to a fork leading along the DNR road to pass Wallace Lake or several miles back to the trailhead. We opted for the latter, knowing that the other round would require backtracking or going very far out of the way . The path back to the car was really beautiful, there was more of the fuzzy green moss on the trees and the way was mostly downhill and the going was quick. About a half mile from where the side path rejoined the main path, there was a single-occupant restroom with a composting toilet, complete with hand sanitizer. As we made our way along the last mile of the trail after the turn-off, we passed about a half dozen different people just making their way out.
We ended up going almost 10 miles according to my GPS. It seems that instead of the extended falls loop, we did most of the Wallace Falls/Lake Loop– not going the extra mile to go all the way to the lakeshore. In total, it took about 4.5 hours with plenty of stops along the way for pictures and snacks.
Distance: 25.77 miles
Duration: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Elevation Gain: 854 feet
This is a standard ride for me on a day off. The mileage is nice, and the path is in good condition.
I start the ride at the Kenmore Park & Ride, cross the street and get on the Burke Gilman Trail. After a couple of miles, there’s a turn-off onto the Sammamish River Trail. The Sammamish River trail is a well-maintained path that runs along the Sammamish River to Marymoor Park. As you pass through a few stretches of Redmond office parks, there’s fragrant lavender planted near the path.
In Marymoor, the trail went past sports fields and through a marshy field only to come to an abrupt end due to construction. In the main part of the park there are restrooms, water fountains and even a Subway stand. In a resting area, benches surround a foot reflexology path.
When the Burke-Gilman Trail constructions finishes on the section in Lake City, this will make for a nice workout ride from my apartment in Seattle around the north side of Lake Washington.
Distance: 9 miles
Duration: 6 hours
Elevation Gain: 2500 feet
Following a quick day-hike the weekend before, I was inspired to go out again. Unable to find any friends who wanted to go hiking, I found a group hike to Lake Ingalls organized by the Bellevue/Seattle Hiking & Dragon Boat Meetup group. I hadn’t met any of the other people before, but everyone was very friendly and it was a nice way to meet people.
We met at a park & ride in Issaquah and carpooled from there. The drive from Issaquah to Cle Elum took well over an hour and we arrived at the trailhead around 9:30 am. We were all quite surprised by how many cars there were at the trailhead. Cars were parked along the sides of the road several hundred meters down the road beyond the parking lot. We changed our shoes, put the Northwest Forest Pass on the dash, utilized the pit-toilet restroom at the trailhead and got on our way.
Having looked at the weather forecast, I knew that it was going to be a hot day and brought extra water. The first part of the trail is a series of switchbacks passing through a shady forest. From the outset I knew that I would be at the back of the group, I anticipated that this might be a challenging hike for me. Through the woods four of the members of our group went on quickly and one woman fell behind me. As the trail left the woods and continued onto an exposed hillside, the faster members of my group were taking a break waiting for us slowpokes to catch up.
After going uphill for quite a while, we eventually crossed over a ridge and descended a bit and once again climbed to cross another ridge. The trail continued over some patches of snow and a rockfield that was somewhat confusing, the trail was marked by others with small piles of rocks. The last stretch of the trail before the lake was a high meadow, with an elusive “toilet” and plenty of flat space for camping. We saw several tents setup and passed a group of very tired looking scouts with heavy packs going the opposite direction. Approaching the lake, we scrambled up and over large rocks down to the shore.
Taking a few extra minutes, we stretched out on large rocks in the sun and lunched. The mosquitoes were out in full force and, hot as we were- a few minutes in the shade lead to a palpable chill. The water of the lake looked inviting, but the patches of snow on the opposite bank served as a reminder that the temperature was likely to be quite cold. A few brave souls did attempt to make a foray into the water, but we contented ourselves with perching on rocks and sunning.
The return trip was much quicker than the way up, however it became evident how much down there had been in addition to the ups. I passed several mountain goats on the trail, giving all a wide berth having seen the warning signs at the trailhead & having heard the news of the hiker killed by a goat recently. The sky was quite clear on the return, you could see Mt Baker in the distance. As we neared the end of the trail, we passed quite a few hikers just starting their ascent in the mid-day heat- many of them with heavy packs.
Overall, the hike was quite challenging- but doable. I had a good time, but it was sweaty hot, I was sore for a few days and I developed one rather nasty blister. I think if I were to go back after doing more hiking, it would be a much more pleasurable experience.
Arrived in Missoula in the wee hours after a white-knuckle ride across Montana in the sometimes rainy dark. Since I got in so late, I decided not to try and head out early and make it to Seattle in time for dinner. Instead, I slept until 10, checked out at 11, filled up on gas and Starbucks, replenished my snack supply and set out in the direction of Idaho.
Idaho is beautiful, but the rest stations leave something to be desired. I made a pit stop in a small town and some kids came in dressed in old-timey costumes.
Eastern Washington wasn’t what I was expecting. Mainly, there were a lot of rolling hills covered with large farms growing field corn, soybeans and other various cash crops. I thought that I saw a giraffe in a field, but it turned out to be some rusty crane-type apparatus- guess that’s one way to tell when you’ve been driving too long.
After a final long day of driving, I arrived at home around 9pm.
Distance: 502.8 miles
Total distance: 2531.7 miles
Today was long and much time was spent driving. I started in Chicago, drove north and then west through Wisconsin, Minnesota and crossed most of South Dakota. I left around 8:30 and arrived at 12:30 (but in the next time zone, so it was more like 1:30). To be fair, I wasted a fair bit of time before I even left the greater Chicago area- but with construction and pitstops, the ride took much longer than anticipated.
I didn’t want to be out driving after dark, but the sunset over the farms and prarie were beautiful. Not sure yet what it looks like here, we’ll see in the morning. Tomorrow I’m taking the scenic route through the park and, hopefully, swinging by Mt Rushmore.
Official stats for the day:
Time on the road: 16 hours
Time actually driving: 14:24
Miles traveled: 853:2