Mount Si Hike
Sunday August 12th 2007
I had not climbed Mount Si yet, despite the fact it is one of the most popular hikes in the state of Washington (an online description of the Mount Si hike states that over 10,000 hikers a year use the trail!) The Wikipedia site says that Mount Si was made famous by the Twin Peaks show, which was filmed in North Bend - I have never seen the show, I think Mount Si is famous just for being a tough hike close to Seattle with a great view - on clear days - to reward you at the top. Melanie had been up to the top two or three times, but I had not. We decided to get an early start, to beat the crowds at the parking lot and start up the trail. But driving to the trailhead we had some doubts - we got rain drops on the windshield, and the dark clouds looked ominous. Should we risk it? Yes! We would brave potential rainfall and the clouds that could obscure the views at the top - Melanie said that on one of her previous ascents that the top of the mountain was completely encased in white clouds, no views any where.
The hike is 4 miles long, and it is a relentless climb. One good thing about hiking on an overcast day was the cool weather - this is a tough hike, I believe there are 3300 feet of elevation gain in the climb - it is almost entirely uphill. The trail profile in our guide book shows an unrelenting gain of elevation. Yet despite the steepness (or because of it?) we saw three trail runners along the way - evidentally these men and women run all the way to the top, and then run back down. Now that is a grueling work out!
Halfway up the hike is boardwalk with some interpretive signs describing the forest. This mid point is called Snag Flats. Apparently there is the turn around point for a good number of people, especially during wet and cold conditions.
The trail is entirely in forest, there are no views until you get to the top, other than one glimpse to the west right at the 3.5 mile marker. The popular trail is well maintained, and we found it entirely deserted during our hike (except for the trail runners) until we got to the top - when 10 or 12 people passed us on their way down, they must have started very early! I don't know why they all left the summit at once - maybe some clouds blew in and obscured the view - but as a result we saw only 2 or 3 people at the top, despite the fact we spent about an hour looking at views and walking around and eating lunch. The top of Mount Si is big, there are plenty of places to look out, it has at least three different points where you can easily climb up on to rocks and admire the scenery. Maybe on a nice day, hundreds of fellow hikers might make the top seem crowded, but for us Mount Si was gloriously deserted.
The official top of Mount Si is called the Haystack. This is a steep rock pinnacle that requires a bit of rock climbing skills to climb the top, a distant of 100 - 200 feet(?), I went part way up, but then realized that coming back down would be a whole lot harder, and decided not to go to the top. Rock climbing with out ropes is not for me. But Melanie pulled herself up the "path" and made it to the very tip top. I should have given her the camera, but I didn't realize at the base just how challenging the climb would be. There is a marker on the mountain top to a young man, one on-line trail write up suggests that he fell to his death climbing the Haystack.
On our way down, we suddenly saw plenty of people! The threatening rain clouds had dispersed (though there were plenty of white fluffy clouds), and we saw many hikers, including a whole busload of young adults wearing Army T-shirts - apparently they were using the hike as a conditioning excursion. At the bottom of the trail, we saw cars in all four of the parking lots, so it turned out to be a full day for hiking after all.
In between white-out conditions from the clouds, I took a series of photos from the Snoqualmie Overlook, and from a point looking east up the I-90 corridor. Click on thumbnail for a full size picture.
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