Hike to Bandera Mountain
Sunday August 17th 2008
We did the hike to Bandera Mountain on a hot, humid weekend. Usually, Seattle weather in August is beautiful, but August 2008 was the fifth wettest August on record, which is perhaps why the humidity was so high. Also, we got a relatively late start on this hike, it was midmorning before we started out, so perhaps that is why it seemed warmer to us.
The trail is pretty steep. It has a relentless elevation gain once you get beyond the little waterfalls in the first half mile or so. The trail goes uphill in a steady grade, which I thought was puzzling, because the hiking guide book showed that the trail profile was steepest in the second half of the hike. It was not too long before we passed out of the trees and began crossing a series of avalanche chutes.
We passed a couple of guys who said that they were also headed to the top of Bandera. They took our picture while we were taking a break at the split in the trail. Most people take the left fork to Mason Lake. We took the right fork to the summit of Bandera. The trail suddenly becomes quite steep at this point - it is not so bad that you have to clamber on all fours over boulders, but it is comparable to climbing up a rocky stairway. The trail goes straight up the side of the grass and rock strewn mountainside. This stretch seems far, at least half a mile, but I suppose in reality it is just a quarter mile or so. Once you get to the small copse of trees at the top, you have conquered the worst of it. I was glad we were not hiking this steep stretch in the warmer part of the afternoon.
Once you get through the small wood, it is not too far to the end of the hike, over another boulder field. There are nice views of the I-90 corridor, and of Mount Defiance and Mason Lake. We thought we would enjoy our lunch here, but the top was swarming with mosquitos. What the heck were mosquitos doing at such a high elevation, so far from standing water?? Bandera Mountain is 5240 feet tall. Maybe the warm humid air lifted the mosquitos range? Maybe the mosquitos have learned that the summit is a good place to find plenty of human targets? We were not actually at the true summit of Mount Bandera - the pinnacle is another mile down the trail and a couple hundred feet higher, but the guidebook said that the peak of Mount Bandera is covered with trees, so there are no views from that point. If not for the mosquitos, we would have gone to the very top, but Melanie was getting especially bitten, so we turned around and went back down.
We passed a number of people heading up the trail as we hiked down. They were sweating profusely! It was a warm day, and the trail is a steep grade. My advice is start on this trail early. I have seen photos on websites of other hikers, showing snow at the top of Mount Bandera in July. That is probably the best time to go, the mosquitos can't hatch in the snow!
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