Mt. Washington + Cedar Butte
Gary and I got together for only the second time this
year. The forecast was for rain but we were planning to get out regardless.
After a long drive to Canada the day before I was not up for another long
drive to the east side of the mountains in the hope of finding some sun.
Instead we settled on Mt. Washington near North Bend. Gary had only been
up Washington once before. That was a summer after work trip with me 13 years
earlier. We arrived at the Exit 38 trailhead moderately early and were on
the trail by 8:00 AM. It was very overcast and we were the only car in the
The unmarked turn off from the Iron Horse railroad grade is no longer hard
to find. A short way up we found two trillium beginning to bloom. They and
a few salmonberries were the only flowers seen. The route begins a little
rocky but improves farther up. The brush was wet but we seldom touched any.
The trail has been nicely brushed out. We also found only two logs down.
One we had to kneel down to get under and another near the summit that we
had to climb through. Neither were big problems.
Lots of water was running down the cliffs. Not much was on the trail itself.
I was cold when we began but warmed up quickly. By the time we reached around
2600' it began to rain/snow. It was more snow pellets than rain. A windshirt
was enough to keep the wet out. We were fortunate to have a lot more snow
than rain come down. The "Y" junction is now about about equal sized in both
directions. The right trail is the correct one. I'm still not sure where
the left trail goes.
A little higher we reached the Owl Hike spot. Not much of a view this day
though we could see that the route up Mailbox Peak has little snow from the
boulder field on down. Above the owl spot we began to see snow on the trail.
Not much at first but it slowly deepened. The north ridge junction is now
signed. At least since my last time up. We were more interested in getting
in some more mileage so chose the longer road option.
A few more switchbacks and we reached the roads junction. There was now a
foot or two of snow on the road but it was well enough consolidated that
we kept our snowshoes on our packs. The view was minimal as the clouds seemed
to just get thicker. We contoured around to the east then headed south as
the road slowly ascended. We came around the bend and the Great Wall was
just ahead of us. The summit was in sight though the very top was partly
in the clouds.
We dropped down and slogged across the top of the wall. There were footprints
in the snow but none since the last light snow fall. Once across we turned
right on the ridge top road. The "No Trespassing - Seattle Watershed" signs
looked to be brand new. The summit seems to be a long way from the wall but
the distance goes by fast. When the footprints we were following stopped
we put on snowshoes. Soon we could see that the previous hikers did the same.
There snowshoe tracks were almost completely lost under new snow. The snowshoes
were not necessary but did make it a little easier.
Soon we reached the "Y" in the road. The summit trail goes right up the ridge
between the roads. It was not all that obvious with a light snow cover. I
was a bit pooped but we were now only 350' below the top. As we neared the
top we met two hikers coming down. They had gone up the shorter ridge route
and beat us to the top. At the top we met three other hikers who also came
up the shorter route. The wind was blowing a bit and we ducked behind some
trees to get out of it.
Visibility was almost non existent. We put on more clothes and dug into our
lunches. The 5 miles and 3500' of gain took us 3 1/4 hours. When the three
others headed down we spoke briefly. They said they had started up Granite
Mountain at 5:30. Washington was the second of four peaks they planned to
climb this day. Next was Mailbox then Si. That added up to 30 miles and over
14,000' of gain, much of it on snow. They are either extremely hard core
or it was just an April Fools Day joke. I don't know which.
With no views and lousy weather we had no reason to prolong our summit stay.
Soon we were on our way down. We quickly dropped down to the road. In short
order we were back at the start of the Great Wall. Gary then pointed out
a large party heading back on the other end of the wall. It looked like 6-8
people. Part way across the wall we found the mass of footprints showing
where they had turned around. We expected to catch up with such a large group
but we never did.
At times on the way down the snow came down fairly heavy. Other times it
stopped altogether. It was still mostly pellets that just ran off my windshirt.
I did not break down and put on a jacket until below the Owl Hike spot. Magically,
the snow stopped when I put on my heavier jacket. We knocked about an hour
off our uphill time while coming down. It was only a little after 2:00 when
we reached the wet parking lot.
Gary suggested since it was so early that we should hike up Cedar Butte on
the way home. I though it was an April Fools Day joke but he was serious.
Well, it was "only" 10 miles with 3500' of gain so far, why not? The Rattlesnake
Lake lots had the usual few dozen cars parked along the road as we drove
by. The state park lot was mostly empty. We slogged down the railroad grade
to the Cedar Butte trail.
The brush was soaking and we managed to transfer a lot of the water to our
clothes. It is about 2 miles with 1000' of gain to the summit. We were both
dragging. We passed one group heading down. I was glad the upper trail was
made dramatically less steep. At least this day I was. Just as we reached
the summit it began to snow. Within a minute it went from no snow to heavy
snow. We turned around and hightailed it out of there. The snow soon stopped
and we just had the last two miles to slog through back to the car.
This turned out to be a fun day. Fourteen miles with 4500' was plenty of
exercise on this dismal day. Although we started fairly low on both hikes
we had very little rainfall. The snow was not a problem at all. Especially
compared to getting rained on. We met only four groups on both hikes plus
the larger group we saw at a distance. For a damp overcast day it was as
good as we could have hoped for.