Mt. Defiance

     This day was the official dedication of the new Ira Spring Trail to Mason Lake. Suzanne and her visiting friend Joe wanted to hike up Mt. Defiance and I came along. I did this hike in mid May and it was mostly snow beyond Mason Lake. I hoped to hit the flower fields near their peak. With the expected crowds and a forecast for thunder storms in the afternoon we headed out early. We were at the trailhead by 8:15 and there were already several dozen cars there. I saw Karen Sykes for the first time this year. She and her group were also heading up Defiance. The trail is outstanding. It is an honest to goodness dirt trail. No unnecessary overbuilding was done. I wish all new trails were built like this. It is a fine tribute to Ira Spring after all he did for trails in Washington state.

     It was already warm when we started. The sky was clear. As we climbed higher the views began. Mt. Rainier poked it's head above the ridge to the south. It had no clouds around it. McClellan Butte rose across the valley from us. Bear grass was blooming all along the trail but the lupin, paintbrush, and others were not yet in bloom. It will be at least another couple of weeks before the best flower show. In short order we reached the intersection with the trail up Bandera. Here we caught up with the first hiker we had seen. Shortly thereafter we passed a group of backpackers coming down from Island Lake. We dropped down a short way and reached the outlet of Mason Lake. Not a drop of snow remains anywhere around the lake. It was now 10:00. It took us 1 1/2 hours to reach the lake. We passed one group at the lake and continued on. On my previous trip I was on snow from the lake on. This time it was snow free most of the way. As we climbed up the north side of Defiance's east ridge the trail was periodically covered by snow. The trail is already pretty sketchy through here and with the snow it took a little more care to stay on route. We didn't have too much trouble. Once up to the ridge we were done with the snow. There were several peaking fields of glacier lilies in the trees so the snow was only recently gone. In the open the glacier lilies were finished. On the traverse of Defiance the flowers were also a few weeks away.

     Just before reaching the spur to the summit the trail goes from south facing to southwest. At that point flowers begin. There was lupin, a little paintbrush, a couple columbine and three tiger lilies. Not much yet but at least a start. The flowers may not have taken off yet but in conjunction with that the sometimes awful bugs were hardly seen. I have been chased off the summit of Defiance by a black cloud of mosquitos and flies. This day they were barely a nuisance. We reached the top just after 11:00. It took a little over 2 1/2 hours coming up. Some clouds were now coming in but the views were still outstanding. Baker, Glacier Peak, and Rainier were out but Adams was lost in clouds much farther south. I had a real front row seat to Revolution Peak and Point 5124 where I had snowshoed in January. Without the bugs and with no signs of thunder storms we were able to have a liesurely lunch. After more than half an hour the group we had passed at the lake reached the top. Soon after we headed on down.

     Joe does more biking than hiking but he didn't seem to have any problems with the 3600' gain. The steep downhills were tougher but again he was fine. After traversing the side of Defiance we ran into Karen and here group coming up. They were only the third group of the day on Defiance. The rest of the descent to Mason Lake went fast. As expected, there were now plenty of people at the lake. Our stay was brief and we headed on. We had decided earlier to make it a loop and also avoid the crowds on the new trail for the dedication. The old Mason Lake trail was just as steep as I remembered it. The good news is that there was very little mud even in the bad stretches while contouring around the rock field. Thre are a number of big trees down beyond the rocks but all could be ducked under. The old trail is much harder on the knees but proved ot be a quick way to get down. When we reached the trailhead the lot was stuffed and the first part of the road had cars parked along it. It paid to be early.

     This was a much different hike than in May as nearly all the snow was gone. The bear grass was nice but I was a little disappointed that so few flowers are blooming yet. They snow on Bandera's south side has been gone for months. The new trail is terrific. The summit of Defiance has phenomenal views considering how far west it is. Mt. Stuart was perfectly clear to the east. The day ended up being hot but with our early start and a little breeze up high it was fine. The old trail down was also much cooler than the new trail with almost no shade for it's upper half. This turned out to be a fine day for a close in hike.

McClellan Butte
Mt. Rainier's Summit
Joe & Mt. Defiance
Ira Spring Plaque
Mt. Rainier
Bandera Mountain
Glacier Lilies
View Of New Trail
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Photo Page 2

Trips - 2004