Even though Bandera is one of the
closest hikes to Seattle I had only done it one time before. Gary suggested
it as an after work trip and even though it was forecast to be in the 80's
I agreed to go along. The old Bandera "trail" is a rocky trench that goes
nearly straight up the mountain. The last 1000'+ is in the open on the southern
facing slope. The new trail is near completion and I was hoping to be able
to use some or all of it to save my legs from the pounding. Since I am not
very good on an exposed slope during the heat of the day I took off earlier
than Gary. We planned to meet on top. By 3:30 I was on the trail. The trail
begins as an old road gaining elevation at a steady but moderate grade. I
passed the Mason Lake junction and continued up. I was surprised at the distance
from the junction to the old Bandera trail. It was farther than I remembered.
The old road ends and turns up on a steeper road. Soon I found the old trail
junction. The old trail is blocked off and traffic continues on the new
trail. Gary took the old trail all the way up but I opted for the new one.
The new trail is built at near a steady 10% grade.
It is wide and gently graded. So far there are no gravel stretches or water
bars. It is very pleasant to walk on. I hope it stays this way. Rather than
short switchbacks the new trail makes very long ones. This will substantially
lengthen the distance. After a few of these long switchbacks the trail is
blocked by tape and hikers are rerouted back to the old trail. This was the
Bandera trail I remembered. It was well over 80 degrees and I made slow progress
on this section. Thankfully a breeze was blowing which helped a great deal.
After about 10 minutes of straight up hiking I reached the new trail again.
The old trail hits the new one at a left turning switchback. There was tape
across the new trail but it was on the ground. I expected this trail to traverse
over to the ridge then split with one trail dropping to Mason Lake and another
continuing up Bandera. I took this trail to find out. At the ridge the trail
switchbacks down. No trail goes higher. I followed it down several switchbacks
and it leveled off. I still thought it might climb back up to the ridge.
When it turned left and down again I gave up. This trail must just go to Mason
Lake. I retraced my steps up to the ridge then down to the old trail intersection.
From here it was straight up to the ridge top.
The sky was clear and Mt. Rainier was looming above
the ridge to the south. From the ridge top I could see Kaleetan and Chair
peaks. In fact the whole scramble route from Melakwa Lake was visible. I
want to finally do that scramble this year. The trail more or less follows
the ridge higher. There is one section of forest that provided a nice break
from the heat. With my detour and general slow pace in the heat I arrived
at the false summit at about 5:45. I knew I had a good lead on Gary and I
wanted to see if I could make it to the real summit without making him wait
too long. The route is not very distinct from the false summit on. I saw
trail then lost it then found it again. The lack of a good route made for
slower progress than planned. I followed the ridge and dropped down to a
low pass about half way to the summit. There was not enough time to get to
the summit and back so I turned around. Next time I will make it to the summit.
By the time I made it back to the false summit Gary was already there. The
mosquitos were fairly thick so after a quick dinner we began to descend.
The way down was made dramatically easier via the new trail. I was surprised
to see that in several places where the trail was blasted across a rock field
the builders carried dirt up to pour over the rocks. I don't know if this
will survive a few months of rain but it does make it easy on the legs. At
a leisurely pace we arrived back at our cars at 8:40, still well before dark.
Paintbrush, tiger lilies, lupine, beargrass, and others are blooming. I saw
one group just before the Mason Lake junction coming down and nobody else
but Gary all evening.
It looks like there may not be a new trail to the
top of Bandera. If they are building one it will be some time before it
is completed. The trail to Mason Lake must be very near completion. The
new trail gets two thumbs way up from me. It is the most "non overbuilt"
trail I have seen in quite a while. I wish all new trails would just stick
to smooth dirt and forget about steps, waterbars every 25', huge bridges,
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Pete's Putrid Peak
Kaleetan & Chair
Kaleetan & Chair II
Photo Page 2