Red Mountain – July 2015

Catching up on hike blog action…

I hiked Red Mountain on July 29. Ok well most of Red Mountain. I turned around before the actual summit. I’ve got my eye on you Red…

Views of Guy Peak from the abandoned Commonwealth Basin Trail
Views of Guy Peak from the abandoned Commonwealth Basin Trail

Wednesday. July 29, 2015. Hike: Red Mountain (Commonwealth Basin). Distance: Probably 8-10 miles. Elevation gain: 2900 feet. High Point: 5890 feet (I probably made it to 5800).

I wake early and leave home around 5:30 or 6 am. I’m shooting to beat rush hour. I do and make it to the trail by 7.

Cush log crossing on the so called abandoned trail. Looks cush to me
Log crossing on the so called abandoned trail. Looks cush to me

After my hike to the Kendall Katwalk yesterday – where I saw Red Mountain up close and personal – I couldn’t resist coming back to try to conquer this aptly named peak. The red peak loomed in the distance and I wondered to myself, “hmm I wonder what that mountain is called. I’d like to hike it”. Lo and behold, the creative mountain namers out there dubbed it Red Mountain. Ha.

The only sign to mark the trail. Yep, that confirms it
The only sign to mark the trail. Yep, that confirms it

I opt to take the “abandoned” old Commonwealth Basin trail into the Commonwealth Basin. This allegedly abandoned trail parallels the PCT (which I hiked yesterday), but cuts off some distance, making the trail steeper and shorter. While abandoned, the trail is super cush. It’s beautiful, has more character, crosses an idyllic creek, and the bushes lining the trail are overflowing with huckleberries and salmonberries. Win win win. Nothing about the condition of the trail would make you think it was abandoned other than the fact that I saw no one else on it and there were no signs other than one nailed to a tree that simply said “abandoned”.

Wildflowers!
Wildflowers!

I make good time up the trail. I pass Guy Peak (another peak that looks alluring but requires ropes which is outside my current hiking plan). Red Mountain comes into view. Watch out, Red! Here I come.

Thar she is. Red.
Thar she is. Red.

I pass wildflowers. I plan to pick berries on the way back down. I intercept the actual Commonwealth Basin trail and continue on. A tent is set up off the trail to the left, which I pass around 9 am.

The trail gets steeper and climbs more abruptly up the flanks of Red. Tight switchbacks. Views of Rainier! With every ascending switchback, more and more of Rainier comes into view.

Passing the lil tent along the way
Passing the lil tent along the way

I reach the top/end of the trail below the scramble to the peak. After exploring the social trails for a few minutes, I take the sharp right after the second cairn as per trail report instructions and begin the scramble. It’s of course steep and the footing is pretty sketchy – lots of scree. The higher I go, the more the boot path is dominated by more rock and less soil. I put away my phone so I can use my hands on the scramble. It gets steeper and I have a hard time following the boot path. I look back down and think, hmm how am I going to get down this completely loose scree? what if I loose my way? The fear is enough to deter me. Falling and/or getting stuck or lost doesn’t sound fun. I vow to come back to the top of Red one day. One day.

Sweet views of Rainier on the horizon as I climb the switchbacks
Sweet views of Rainier on the horizon as I climb the switchbacks

I turn around and slowly scramble my way back down. Snack break. I see my first person of the day – the older guy who set his tent up below. We chat then I’m off. Some running on the trail down until I reach huckleberry territory. I use the tiny zip lock bag that once held saltines to hold the berries.

The peak from below
The peak from below

I pass two guys in their 40’s. They make unfunny jokes about seeing a cougar. I let it slide because they give me pro berry picking tips which makes them ok in my book.

I hike and pick until my tiny bag is bursting with berries. Back down to the car sometime shortly after noon. Drive back to Seattle before the afternoon rush hour begins!

Some day I’ll come back for Red Mountain. Just you wait, Red…

Huckleberry and salmonberry spoils
Huckleberry and salmonberry spoils

(Later I mixed the berries with blueberries and made a bomber Huckleberry-Blueberry-Salmonberry cobbler/crisp! It was delicious)

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