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 lot.

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.