Suzanne, Gary, and I hiked up the Deep Creek Trail
to Noble Knob in early March of the non winter of 2005. This day Joe would
be driving back to the Tri Cities and needing a hike in that direction we
chose a return trip to Noble Knob. The fact that the high was forecast to
be near 90 on the west side ruled out any 100 degree trip east of the mountains.
Kate, a friend of Suzanne's, rounded out our group. In addition, the road
to Corral Pass was to be open the following weekend so I though this would
be a last opportunity for solitude on the ridge top.
We were out of town by 7:30 and reached the trailhead by just before
9:00 am. There is a sign for FS Road 7070 but no sign for a trail. There
is room for about 3 cars at most. It was already warm by 9:00. The trail
is in deep forest most of the way to the intersection with the trail from
Corral Pass at 4 miles. It starts along Deep Creek but quickly leaves the
creek. There were no other sources of water for the rest of the day.
The trail is a little unique for west of the crest as there is almost
no underbrush. Steeper sections are followed by short flat ones. We took
an early clothing break and a water break but otherwise kept moving. After
2700' of climbing we broke out to a great viewpoint. For the first time
Mt. Rainier is visible. This is one of the best views of the mountain.
Close but not so close as to be overwhelming. There were several downed
trees. Most were easy to step across although several large trees down together
required climbing over.
It was plenty hot as we had water and food while admiring the views.
Back on the trail we headed into forest again. There is still some snow
here though with the hot weather it won't last long. We had no trouble finding
the route. There were no footprints to be seen. We broke out into the meadows
and found lots of glacier lilies and just a little snow. The snow conditions
proved to be very similar to March 2005 but with even less.
As we approached the intersection we saw one, then two, then three hikers
go by. They were able to drive to within half a mile of the Corral Pass
trailhead. They reached the same point with a couple less miles and 2300
less feet gained. We had solitude all the way up but not on the ridge. Joe
and Kate had not done much hiking this year and had just gained 3000' at
a steady pace. We debated whether to go for Mutton Mountain or Noble Knob.
With the lack of snow up high we chose the longer route over to Noble Knob.
This is the third time I have hiked this section of trail and the first
time it was not all or mostly on snow. With bare dirt it was much easier.
The real flower bonanza has not begun but we did have a nice variety of
early flowers. From the 5800' intersection the trail is mostly flat. It
was nice after the morning climb. It is 1 1/2 miles from the intersection
to the summit of Noble Knob. We reached the ridge top where the route splits.
To the left is the real trail and it became snowy. To the right is the alternate
which was almost snow free.
The alternate does have a short scramble section. It is not very hard
but it is not easy trail either. Soon the two routes merge after descending
to a broad saddle. There was still a little snow here but it will be gone
in a week or so. There is another intersection here. We went left and began
the climb to the top. Lots of phlox blooming all over the bare hillside.
We passed two of the three hikers ahead of us and followed the third one up
the last part. The trail cuts under the summit on the north side and we did
cross snow here.
The view from the summit is outstanding. Rainier dominates to the south.
To the north we could see Mt. Stuart and Glacier Peak and even pick out
Kaleetan and Chair Peak near Snoqualmie Pass. Four lakes were visible beneath
us, all of them thawed out. On the negative side, most of the slopes north
of us were partly or totally clear cut. It was right on 12:00 noon when we
reached the top.
It was plenty hot now but we had a steady cool breeze making it almost
ideal. This was much better than a steamy day in the city. We lounged around
for about 45 minutes before packing up. Suzanne and I tried to photograph
some of the flowers but with the wind it was tough. More blur than clear
photos. We dropped down and climbed back up to the ridge top again. We
met another group who drove up to near Corral Pass.
In short order we were back at the intersection with one more decision
to make. Suzanne was up for adding Mutton Mountain. Joe decided to head
down and Suzanne, Kate, and I followed the trail towards Corral Pass. It
is about .65 miles from the intersection to the top of Mutton Mountain, The
route dropped down then came near a saddle on the ridge before beginning
to contour around Mutton Mountain. From a distance it looked like an easy
walk up the ridge from the saddle.
This was Kate's first hike of the year and having already gained 4200'
she opted to enjoy the view from the saddle. Suzanne, Sadie, and I headed
up the last 200'. As I expected we ran into a way trail which led all the
way up. Sadie dropped to the left of the ridge where possible to cool her
paws in some snow. As we climbed we saw the first magenta paintbrush in
bloom. There were several other flowers we had not seen anywhere else this
day. The top was mostly grassy with a few trees. Although only 100' higher
than Noble Knob the view seemed to be better.
We saw Mt. Adams for the first time. Down below we saw some mountain
bikers pedaling up the trail. The summit had a nice patch of anemone and
buttercup. We dropped down the ridge and met up with Kate once again. One
more uphill climb and we were soon back at the intersection. The mountain
bikers were resting there. Now we just had 4 miles and 3000' feet to lose.
Thankfully the forest is dense and dark making it as cool as we could hope
for on an unusually hot summer day.
Just as we reached the viewpoint the bikers caught up and passed us.
They managed to ride down a trail that is very steep in spots. I would
have killed myself if I tried it. The rest of the way was just a long slog.
I had just enough water though another quart would have been good. Finally
down at the creek Sadie dove into Deep Creek to cool off. On an 85 degree
day a wet dog is a happy dog.
This proved to be a very nice hike. 12 miles with 4400' gained was a
good work out. The smooth trail was easy on the knees coming down. We reached
two summits, one of which I had not been up before. The flowers were not
near peaking but were still very nice. The usual afternoon haze never came
in. Rainier remained crystal clear all day. Deep Creek is a nice way to get
to a very popular ridge top without seeing any other hikers. I'm sure I'll
be back again in a few years.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Rainier From Viewpoint
White River Valley
Corral Pass Road
Group Summit Shot
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2006