High School-Tiger 1 Loop

     Wednesday nights in the Spring are a time to get in conditioning hikes. Once daylight savings time comes, there is enough time to get in a good hike before sunset. The Monday forecast called for 70 degree temperatures. It looked like a chance for a nice warm hike. By Wednesday the forecast deteriorated to a cloudy morning and sun by the afternoon. Not as warm but still nice. David and Gary put together an ambitious trip for the amount of daylight we would have. It was a loop trip from Issaquah High School at 160' elevation to the top of West Tiger 1 at 2948'. That is only 60' lower than Snoqualmie Pass. The distance would be 9 miles with about 3300' elevation gain. The group plans to meet at the trailhead at 5:00. Sunset would be at 8:20.

     One of the nice features of being self-employed is setting my own schedule. Since I know that Gary and David can blast up a trial at light speed, I decided to get a little head start on them. I arrived at the trailhead at 4:35 and low and behold, Gary was already there. It seems that for the one time in memory I-405 was wide open. He arrived way before he expected to. Talking with Gary slowed down my departure time and I got started at 4:47. This gave me about a 15 minute head start. After the first mile I turned onto the Poo Poo Point trail. In 18 years of hiking Tiger Mountain this was one of the few trails I had not been on. The trail is well built and in great shape. At one large creek crossing there is a fairly new massive bridge. There was only one tree down and a few mud patches on this section of the trip. I had a great aerobic workout as I did not slow down at all. I reached the railroad grade, elevation 2000', at 3 miles in exactly one hour.

     The next mile took me up to the Tiger Mountain Trail. The day was gray and only about 52 degrees at the start. So much for the sunny afternoon. With a good steady climb I was sweating like crazy and comfortable with only a short sleeve shirt and shorts on. I reached the TMT in only 18 minutes so the fourth mile was actually faster than the average for the first three. At the TMT I took my first rest stop and drank some water. One minute later it was time to get moving. My pace was faster than I anticipated and getting down in daylight seemed possible at this point. I wanted to keep up a fast pace to see how quickly I could get to the top. I also did not want to get up there too early and have to spend too much time shivering while waiting for the others. Speed won out over comfort and I kept up the pace. A quick jaunt down the TMT and I reached the Hidden Valley Trail. Now the going became steep. Poles were useful in getting up the steepest section. From here it was a steep grind to the top. Farther up the ridge I encountered another example of the Tiger broken tree syndrome. In a variety of places I have come upon dozens if not hundreds of trees broken in half. In all the years I have hiked Tiger I have never seen anything like this. These are not old or diseased trees. They are smaller, flexible trees snapped in two. Some of these areas are on ridge tops but some are on leeward slopes. The only thing that makes sense would be a tornado setting down in several spots. I doubt I'll ever know what caused it.

     I came out of the woods inside the antenna farm on top of Tiger 1, very near the actual summit. By now I was in the clouds. The wind was blowing enough to make the conditions a little uncomfortable. I was please to see that the speedsters had not caught up with me. A quick hike down the road took me to the Hikers Hut, a conical steel building with several benches inside. It is an ugly building but it was very much appreciated with the cold wind blowing. I reached the top at 6:38. It took me 1:51 to cover the 5 miles to the top. About 12 minutes later the others arrived. Rather than just coming in to let me know they were there, someone had the great idea to toss a rock at the hut. Inside this metal dome it sounded like a bomb exploded. The echo was deafening. Needless to say, I was not pleased with this wake up call.

     David and Gary brought along two of their co-workers. The four of us had "dinner" and prepared for the descent. The way down was about a mile shorter than the ascent and would bring us back to the high school with less than a mile of the ascending trail to repeat. It was about 7:05 when we left the hut. The road over to Tiger 2 descends steeply then regains about 250'. This was the last up hill for the day. On top of Tiger 2 we had the same nonexistent views that we had on top on Tiger 1. We decided not to go to Tiger 3 and instead took a much nicer trail than the Section Line coming down from 3. Read that to mean it was steep but not suicidaly steep. The trail from the TMT to the west side railroad grade was another section that I had never hiked. To hike two trails on West Tiger Mountain for the first time, let alone on the same trip, was amazing. The rest of the way down was just a pleasant hike. The temperature felt about 15 degrees warmer at the 2000' railroad grade than it was on top of Tiger 1. We reached the cars at about five minutes after sunset but well before it was dark. This turned out to be a great workout and a fun way to get out of town in the middle of the week without going very far.