Hiking postsSunday October 07, 2012
Mt. Pilchuck: Breathtaking Twice
I was going to call this post “Rocky Horror Pilchuck Show,” since, as I was climbing Mt. Pilchuck on this glorious, glorious fall day, there was a couple ahead of me, then behind me, whom I couldn't shake (I kept stopping to take pictures), and whose male half kept droning on and on. About nothing. In a loud baritone. It was like being pursued by the Bore-anator. That same kind of calm, plodding persistence.
But eventually I did shake them and forgot about them amidst the beauty of the hike and the fall colors.
Here's a video from the summit. The Cascade mountains were clearer to the north than the south. I filmed it from the rock on which I was eating lunch.
One day I'll figure out how to make better movies.
Here are some of the fall colors:
Granite Mountain Redux (Redux)
It was blue skies and 80s in the Pacific Northwest today so I did one of my favorite hikes, Granite Mountain, about 40 minutes east of Seattle on I-90. It's a pretty difficult hike—4 miles one way, 3800 feet elevation gain—and I've had health issues recently, but it was a great day. Much of the hike is along southern exposure, so once you're out of the woods, halfway through, you definitely get some heat. You also get a gradual view of Mt. Rainier. Going up, it's kind of like Rainier-rise: there's a bit of it, then more, then more. When you reach the cabin outpost at the top, on a good day, you've got a clear view:
iPhone cameras don't do it justice.
On the way down, it's Rainer-set: a little less, a little less. By that point, of course, you want it to go away so you'll be closer to the shade of the woods. Southern exposures can be brutal. At the same time, as with all loves, it's tough to say good-bye to Rainier. And as with all loves, your love doesn't care.
The outpost, by the way, is a functioning outpost, run, this day, by Bob, a former Washington Trails Association member, who, five years ago, became a volunteer USFS member. He spends weekends, June to September, on Granite Mountain. This outpost is apparently the third one built on Granite Mt. The first was a cabin, built around 1912. The second was a cabin with a cupola for viewing in the 1920s. “Like a lighthouse?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. Then in the 1950s, they decided to combine cabin and cupola and put the entire thing on stilts. That's how we got what we got. Which I love. In the photos below, Bob is the right-most photo, the right-most person:
My first trip to Granite Mountain was two years ago.
Last year I did it again with video.
Day Hikes from Seattle: Bandera Mountain
The guidebook, or guide website, mentions a fork in the trail about an hour into this hike: one path heading to Mason Lake, the other up to the summit of Bandera Mountain. It also mentions that, on the Bandera Mt. path, things get pretty steep. They ain't kidding. On the way down, I noticed that the hill is so steep it's actually convex rather than concave. It curves, like the earth, and you lose sight of people on the other side of the curve.
Nice trail, all in all. Starts out wide and gently sloped, gets steeper past your first (and only?) waterfalls, opens into meadows and wildflowers. Then it makes you choose: a lake or that hellish ascent to the summit. I went latter. The summit, or false summit, is actually a bit of a disappointment. I was hoping for 360-degree views but no such luck. Rainier was way out, though. Bandera is actually one of those Mt. Rainier, peek-a-boo hikes. You go along a southern exposure in which you get the tip, then the top, then the whole of Mt. Rainier.
Half of Mt. Pilchuck: Powder in August
I was late getting my teeth straightened and I was early losing (some of) my hair, so for a time, when I was 19, I feared I would exhibit the imperfections of youth and age simultaneously: bald with braces.
I remembered that post-adolescent injustice today while hiking Mt. Pilchuck in the Cascade Mountains. From the moment you get out of your car at the trailhead you're inundated with flies and mosquitoes. They're still bugging you an hour later, halfway through the hike, when the trail disappears under snow, making it difficult to continue unless you have serious hiking boots and ski poles.
Mosquitoes and snow? Imperfections of winter and summer? C'mon Nature, pick a season and end it.
For a time the hike seemed almost too pristine. Early on, it was a damp, a clue that the snow was still melting, but then it gave way to long stretches of a fairly easy, almost too easy, gradation. WTA had even built some steps into the hike. I breezed along, trying to get away from the bugs.
Around a corner the dirt-trail becomes a rock trail, which I find difficult to pick up. Ten minutes later, the rock trail disappears beneath patches of snow. Then “patches” disappears, leaving only the snow. This is as far as I got:
I could've gone further but at one point took a step and disappeared up to my knee. Bad sign.
On the way down I saw four dudes hiking up with skiis. “That's the idea,” I told them. They were pumped. Powder in August.
Granite Mt. Redux
Two years ago hiking Granite Mt., I missed the turnoff for Granite Mt., went a mile out of my way (two counting the return), and wound up with a 10-mile hike rather than a mere eight.
Today, the first nice weekend of the year in Seattle, I returned. Didn't miss the turnoff this time but probably should've checked the snow conditions. Put it this way: the prepared brought their crampons; I brought a turkey sandwich.
A good day, nevertheless.
P.S. First time attempting audio commentary. It'll get better...
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