June 2015 – Bandera and Mason Lake

I hiked Bandera and Mason lake 3 months ago now. Finally time for the blog post!

The route
The route

Tuesday. June 9, 2015. Hike: Bandera Mountain and Mason Lake. Distance: 9-10 miles. Elevation gain: 3500ish feet. High point: 5240 feet.

Flat even grade
Flat even grade

Another Tuesday off from work, time to hike! I left the city in the morning for a mid morning hike. The last time, and only other time, I hiked Bandera was before the PCT with Jared, Megan, and Allan as a “training hike” for the PCT a year and a half ago. I was excited to see the trail in a different season under no snow this time around.

I park at the Ira Spring Trailhead and head off on the Ira Spring Trail. The lower part of the trail is an easy grade. I see they’re even putting in a log bridge where the worlds tiniest stream crosses the trail, which will make the trail easy easy.

Peeking through the woods
Peeking through the woods
Snack break
Snack break

Switchbacks up.

There is no snow now. Last time I was here 1/3 of the trail was covered in snow and we plowed our way up a winter path. This time I see the real trail. So different!

The boulder field is all boulders which is awesome. I eat my trial sized Omnibar I snagged at REI. Legit snack. I’d buy those.

There are a few people on the trail but not many. It’s midweek and early in the day.

Boulders
Boulders
Trail junction
Trail junction

At the fork for Bandera, I go right toward the peak. Most of the elevation gain is in this short stretch. Up I climb. To the false summit. Then on to the real summit. The real summit is described as “no view” which is hilarious because I can distinctly see Rainier through the trees. Amazing. Great views all around. Short sit break.

Then down. Back to the junction for Mason Lake. Over the little hump and on to the water. I relax for a few minutes.

Summit with "no view"
Summit with “no view”
Summit selfie
Summit selfie

Then back down! Walk/run. Back to Seattle!

Mason Lake
Mason Lake
Views from the top
Views from the top. Rainier on the left. Mason Lake on the right.

June 2015 – Colchuck Lake 

Belated blog post from June. Catching up a few months later…

To Colchuck Lake!
To Colchuck Lake!

Jared and I hiked to Colchuck Lake on a Sunday. Day hike, no overnights. Colchuck is the beginning, or end, of the Enchantments (depending on how you look at it), a super popular route in Washington. The lake was stunning!

Starting out in the woods
Starting out in the woods

Sunday. June 7, 2015. Hike: Colchuck Lake. Distance: 8 miles. Elevation gain: 2280 feet. High Point: 5580 feet. 

We leave Seattle super early. We had originally planned to stay over night, but instead opted to get a good nights’ rest and get on the road around sunrise. We get on the trail around 8 am. Start hiking in the cool shade of the forested trail.

Still in the woods
Still in the woods

After 1 1/2 miles we cross a bridge and started climbing a bit more. 3/4 of a mile later, we veer left and take the trail to Colchuck instead of going right to Stewart Lake (also supposed to be a beautiful lake…another day!).

We took the trail. But how awesome is it that there's a horse ford??
We took the trail. But how awesome is it that there’s a horse ford??

Some switchbacks and more vertical gains. The longer we hike, the more people we see – people who had camped either at Colchuck or another lake and were making their way out this morning. At one point – not entirely sure how close we were – a guy tells us “almost there!”. Nice!

On the way up to Colchuck
On the way up to Colchuck

Then, bam! Colchuck! Pristine blue beautiful waters under Dragontail Peak. So ridiculous! Sunny and clear day. We stop to eat our lunch of cucumber and beechers cheddar sandwiches. Drink nuun. Jared somehow gets cheese on his neck during the eating experience – elevating his normal food-all-over-the-face routine to the next level.

Bam! Colchuck under Dragontail Peak
Bam! Colchuck under Dragontail Peak

We continue on, our sights set on the opposite end of Colchuck (or maybe up Aasgard Pass? who knows just how far we can get  before 1 pm…). Aasgard is a steep ascent (2000+ feet in about a mile or less) and the gateway to the core Enchantment Lakes.

Colchuck Lake from the Aasgard Pass side. Still and blue
Colchuck Lake from the Aasgard Pass side. Still and blue

We pass a few tents. I know Belle, my REI coworker is camped out here with her girlfriend Jule somewhere. And there they are! They had set up just off the trail, having hiked in late last night. We chat and look at the map for a few minutes. I put on sunscreen. They’re shooting for the top of Aasgard. Maybe we will?

Sandy beach
Sandy beach

We push on and make our way around the lake and across the boulder field to the tiny sandy shore just below Aasgard. We have about an hour before we planned to turn around. Let’s just enjoy the lake and the sun!

Cool but not cold
Cool but not cold

Jared and I both take dips in the cool water. It’s somehow not as cold as I was expecting. I don my wind layer (Patagonia houdini jacket) which soaks up the sun and heats up instantly, which makes the cool waters of Colchuck all the more refreshing.

Jared jumping in
Jared jumping in

At 1 we pack up and retrace our steps – back around the lake and down the Colchuck then Stewart Lake trails. The day is warm by then and more hikers are out and about. We wish we could stay a bit longer, but are happy we made the day trek. Definitely worth it. Maybe we’ll come back to hike the Enchantments before permit season opens May 15…

Refreshed
Refreshed

Drive back to Seattle…

Soaking in picturesque Colchuck Lake
Soaking in picturesque Colchuck Lake

Mount Washington – June 2015

And another belated post for anyone who is reading the blog! I’m only 8-10 posts behind now! Haha. I’ll catch up soon. I think. I hiked Mount Washington in the rain in on June 2. I hiked solo, got soaked from the rain, saw a big slug, took an accidental detour, hiked an alternate route down, and (with my bad vision) scared myself into thinking I saw a deer and/or mountain lion which turned out to be merely a non-menacing dead bush. Ha.

I followed the green trail up to Mount Washington, then the black one down
I followed the solid green trail up to Mount Washington, then the green and dashed black one down

Tuesday. June 2, 2015. Hike: Mount Washington. Mileage: 9.1 miles. Elevation gain: 3250 feet. High point: 4450 feet.

The trail starts flat and green
The trail starts flat and green

I have Tuesday off from work and plans to hike. The forecast says rain, so I decide to stay close to Seattle and settle for something that wont have views I haven’t already seen, so I settle on a loop of Mount Washington. Sometimes I get so weary of the out-and-back hikes – the same scenery on the way down as on the way up can be monotonous. Hence the loop – switch it up and hike down a different trail up and down. That should switch up the scenery and keep me on my toes.

a
Water peeing out of the rock! Best spring ever

I drive out of Seattle and toward Snoqualmie Pass on I-90, stopping well before the pass at the small parking area for Mount Washington.

Sport climbing cave
Sport climbing cave

There is only one other car in the lot. I download the topo map so I can navigate my way around the mountain. The trail starts out flat, lined with green bushes and small trees. I follow the WTA trail directions and take the unmarked spur trail to the left off the John Wayne Trail. The trail is cozy. I imagine it would be a worthy hike in nice weather too. Once in the woods, the trail gets more steeper, closed in, and more switchback-y.

First trail sign!
First trail sign!

I pass a big cave that people use for sport climbing. Bolts and abandoned quickdraws dot the cave roof. It looks like a nice spot to duck out of the rain. The sky is a little dreary and drizzly, but it’s not all out raining so I have no need for this awesome cave right now.

Open area with bouldery scree field to the right
Open area with bouldery scree field to the right

I continue up and pass a junction with a sign that says “Mt WA” – the first real indication that I’m on the right trail! It feels good to have the reaffirmation that I’m going the right direction.

After a while, I hit the junction with the Great Wall Trail and continue to the right. A ways after that, the trail flattens out and opens up to a sort-of-alpine meadow and bouldery scree field. I pee in the boulders and hope nobody pops out around the corner but I haven’t seen anybody on this dreary day and I’m not too worried.

Huge banana slug
Huge banana slug

I continue up. Eventually coming to another junction.

The
The “tower” at the top

The better trail goes to the left and I almost go that way, but the WTA trail description says go right. I double check it a few times and the go right. I loop back over the bouldery scree field from a higher vantage point and the trail gets smaller and smaller, barely more than matted down tall grasses. I’m pretty sure this is not the trail. In fact, I know this is not the trail. But I look at my topo map and according to it, if it doubles back to the left, it should follow the ridge line up and take me to the top regardless. Onward!

Summit selfie under my umbrella
Summit selfie under my umbrella

The trail peters out more and more. I see a huge banana slug! My legs are pretty wet from the tall grasses. The trail does loop to the left!

And it takes me up a lumpy ridge – I crawl over lumpy mounds of grass and logs and rocks, scrambling at times. And the rain picks up. Argh. I’m pretty wet at this point, but I have my trusty umbrella kind of covering me and deflecting at least some of the rain. Another little push up the lumpy ridge and I hit a junction with an actual trail – ooohhh, that’s where the trail went! Back when WTA told me to go left, it definitely should have been right.

Along the ridge on the way down
Along the ridge on the way down

No matter, I’m on my way. A bit more exposure up here. Another unmarked junction – I go right and it takes me on a few switchbacks. I’m hoping that the “tower” marked on the map is a firetower and that it’s open and has shelter for me…and then I get there and it’s a dinky cell phone tower. Lame.

More cloud covered views
More cloud covered views

I duck under a more tree covered area, prop my umbrella on some branches, and change from wet wind jacket to dry rain jacket. I eat a bar, then I go down to make my loop. This part of the trail gets a bit trickier because there’s no WTA description. I just have a cell phone picture of a map and my GPS for my Topo app. So far so good. Fingers crossed. I can always backtrack if I need to but I think it’ll be fine.

I hike down from the summit, going straight where the trail diverges and I find the boundary for the Cedar River Watershed, the water supply for the city of Seattle. I walk along a mostly flat forestry road until it switchbacks left, then follow it downhill and across a ridge. There would probably be nice views on a clear day. Today, clouds. The road peters out at points, but continues on as a trail.

Trail signage
Trail signage

At one point I see a fuzzy reddish brown object ahead. I think, is that a deer? It’s not moving. Wait, is it a mountain lion??!! I scare myself and my heart picks up the pace. I hold out my trekking poles and yell in it’s direction as I walk towards it. I get a little closer and the fuzzy thing comes into view. A small dead pine tree with brownish needles. Ha. Get back you ferocious dead bush. Whew I breath easier and laugh at myself, glad that nobody witnessed me waving sticks and shouting at shrubbery.

The trail rounds down to the left, then the actual trail splits off to the right from the quasi-forestry road and goes downhill and into more dense woods. After a short time, this loop reconnects back onto the trail from which I came and I’m back on familiar footing. Same trail going down as coming up. I zip down. I pause at the climbing cave. I cross the forestry road and logging road and John Wayne Trail. Take a left at the graffitied old sign. And tada – back at the car. Ride on back to Seattle and I’m home again.