Friend Renee came to visit for a full week in late May, early June. While we spent most of our time on Vashon exploring trails and farmstands, at farms and in the garden, we were able to get out into the mountains on a beautiful – albeit crowded – Saturday. The ideal hike we saught: epic views, 2.5-3 hours or less from home, 10 miles, and full of solitude. We found everything but the solitude on our hike to Bandera and Mason Lake. High point 5240 ft, elevation gain 3400 ft+, distance 10 miles.
We arrived at the trailhead to around 10 am on a Saturday. Actually, not quite 10am because a few miles shy we were greeted by a backcountry ranger warning us about crowds, a full parking lot, to please only park on one side of the road in order to avoid an impass or car wreck, but be careful of the soft shoulder as last week two cars rolled over the edge of the steep forest road. Yikes! We parked 0.6 miles from the trailhead and walked to the start. Jared forgot his water and had to go the 1.2 miles roundtrip to the car and back. Whoops.
But then we were off – onto the mild yet steadily climbing Ira Spring Trail. We tried to count the hikers and dogs – a requisite pastime on hikes with N&C – yet we lost track after 150 people and 30ish dogs. And that was merely on the way up. The throngs of hikers were well spaced though, so no conga lines or bad trail etiquette to fret over. Early on Jared planted the hunger seed and mentioned how tasty Indian food would be after the hike. At the split, we went right up the steep trail that led to Bandera’s summit, which yielded amazing views of Rainier, the Cascades, and Mason Lake. Snack time. Rest time. From there we returned to the trail junction and bore right again to scope out Mason Lake. On the banks we relaxed, took in the sunshine, and watched a few bold dogs and hikers jump in the icy lake.
The walk out was easy. We conjured up images of Indian food. We returned to our car in time to admire the small town of Carnation, sip a quick beer at the Black Raven brewery in Redmond, and of course savor garlic naan, onion naan, Saag Paneer, Chana Masala, extra yogurt sauce, and Bhuna Gosht at Kanishka before returning home…