Mt Si, 08/19/08

After spending ten days with family in Wisconsin, and eating like one might imagine, I came back to Seattle nearly a-pound-per-day heavier and anxious to put the bratwurst behind me.  I decided that I’d take advantage of my Tuesday off and hike something nearby–solo, since Nicole would be working.  With the weather threatening rain and temperatures in the 60s, I wasn’t hiking for views.  After weighing all the factors, I came to the conclusion that if I were ever to hike Mt. Si, it would be now.

The Mt. Si trail is, from what I’ve read, one of the busiest trails known to man.  It’s only ~30 miles from Seattle on I-90, but at 8 miles round-trip with over 3000’ of elevation gain, it ain’t no cakewalk.  This combination keeps the trail consistently populated, with weekends being exceptionally busy.  Plus, it’s the first big piece of rock one sees as they drive up the Snoqualmie Valley–I can’t help but look at it every time by.

Mt Si from North Bend.

Mt Si from North Bend.

After making each of us a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for our respective (but not respectable) lunches, I left West Seattle at about 10:35 and headed east on I-90.  Take exit 31 to North Bend, and take a right at the downtown stoplight past a place promising Twin Peaks Cherry Pie (North Bend Way).  Shortly after that there’ll be a sign alerting you to the Mount Si Road/432nd SE intersection.  Take a left and follow the road past the Little Si trailhead to the Mount Si trailhead ~2.5 miles down the road.  I pulled into the parking lot about 11:20–about 45 minutes after I’d left West Seattle.  Not bad, but even more exciting was the scene at the parking lot.  I think there were four (4!) other cars parked near the trailhead, with the majority of the vast parking lot completely empty.  Excellent.

With boots on, I hit the trail at 11:30.  There are large signs and a map at the trailhead–all posted by the managing Washington State DNR, which is different.  We’re almost always in National Forests or Parks.  Anyway: I believe that the trailhead elevation is ~500’.  (This is one trail I didn’t feel it necessary to buy a map for, but I normally have one for every hike we do.)  The trail starts off flat, but then begins ascending in a way that really never lets up the entire four miles.

Along the lower trail.

Along the lower trail.

The trail is probably five to six feet wide the whole way up, and there are plenty of stairs along the way, with those at the lower elevations made of rock, and those that are a bit higher made of logs.  It’s definitely constructed like a popular trail.  It had that State Park trail feel to it.  No condition problems anywhere, though it’s obvious some people have been cutting switchbacks.

I started off fast, feeling like I needed the exercise and curious as to what kind of pace I could set going solo.  As normal, I had my backpack with a little weight in it; for a change, I used Nicole’s trekking poles.  At 12:10, I reached the 1.5 miles signpost, which also stated the elevation of 1940’.  By this point I’d passed maybe five people–all of them would pass me again as I neared the top.  Just before you reach this marker, you go through a large flat area full of felled trees.  There’s a bit of boardwalk, and some informational signs about a ~1910 forest fire on Mt. Si.  The area is, I learned on the way down, known as Snag Flats.  My knees loved this area.  And it was kind of pretty.

I didn’t take a picture on the way up, obsessed as I was with the act of hiking itself.  At 12:25, I reached 2 miles.  At 12:40, 2.5 miles and 2760’.  At 12:55, 3 miles and a short break to refill my water bottle.  Around this time, my pace slowed considerably, and people I’d passed on the way up made their way around me.  Sure, I was tired, but more importantly, I realized, I hadn’t eaten anything since my blueberry/banana smoothie that morning.  I was out of energy.  I slowly continued, hoping that I could make it to the top before I had to pull out my food.  At 13:30, I stopped near 3.5 miles and sat down to eat every last banana chip I had.  I was disappointed that I had to stop so near the end, but felt better as I got up to continue.

Just a few moments later, the first views opened up to the southeast.  That’s right, you’re in the trees without views for almost the entire hike.  At least you’re protected from the sun and/or rain…  When the trail turns rocky you know you’re near the top.  At 13:45 I reached what is signed the Snoqualmie Viewpoint, a large rocky area with many places to sit down and admire the view south and west, all the way to Seattle and Bellevue.  Also visible from this area is The Haystack, a scramble and the true summit of Mt. Si.  Since I was alone, and pretty tired, I opted to leave it be, and spend some time relaxing.  I believe the elevation of the Viewpoint area is ~3600’, and the Haystack is something like 4200’.

Snoqualmie Valley from the viewpoint.  Seattle is visible.

Snoqualmie Valley from the viewpoint. Seattle is visible.

The Haystack summit.

The Haystack summit.

Mt Si.

Mt Si.

I stayed up at the top for ~45 minutes, snapping a few pictures–some for others, giving water to a very nice dog that seemed without a master, and protecting my food from the birds that seem quite accustomed to free handouts.  I also spotted three mountain goats in the distance.  Eventually I deemed it time to leave, and even with my knee in a bit of pain, I made good time down the trail (and met very few people) and arrived back at the Explorer at ~16:00.

Overall, this was actually more than I’d hoped for.  I wanted a workout, and I got it.  I was also pleasantly surprised that the place wasn’t overrun with hikers.   Maybe I got lucky, but if it’s midweek and the weather’s crummy and you don’t want to drive more than 30-45 minutes to get to a trail, this might work out for you.  It’s popular for a reason, and if the timing’s right, you might even have a few minutes to yourself out there.

Distance: ~8 miles round-trip.  Max elevation at the viewpoint of ~3600’ with a gain of ~3100’ along the way.  There’s always The Haystack scramble if you want a bit more.  It took me ~2:15 to get to the top, with couple pretty decent breaks near the end, and ~1:30 to get back down.  Total time, with breaks, lunch, and a bum knee: ~4:30.

An extra picture or two at Flickr, but not many.

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One Response to Mt Si, 08/19/08

  1. Pingback: The Year in Review « Don’t Look Down

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