I had plans for
an overnighter but when that fell through I joined Gary and John for a
trip to Mt. David. I first hiked Mt. David in 2001. The next
year I convinced Gary to join me. In 2004
we took a more interesting way back via the meadow below the ridge
trail. In 2008
we made one more visit. This year with John along we chose to repeat
our off trail jaunt of 2004. David is a long day with much distance and
elevation to cover. On a sunny day in late September it can provide
some spectacular color too. That is a prime reason I keep returning.
Since the driving plus hiking time is considerable we chose to meet at
the 160th park and ride off I-405 at 5:15 am. That meant a 4:00 am wake
up time. The drive was in the dark for another hour. Traffic was light
as we cruised over Stevens Pass and on to Lake Wenatchee. On previous
visits we saw one or two groups for the day. This time it was
different. The parking lot at the end of the White River Road was
packed. A number of big horse trailers and at least half a dozen cars.
One hiker left for David as we arrived and several more groups were
getting ready to go. I guess this hike has been discovered.
We were on the trail at 7:22 am. It was in the high 30s and we started
off at a fast pace. Since the trail drops 160' in the first mile we
needed to go pretty fast to generate any body heat. When the climbing
begins it doesn't let up for the next 3 1/2 miles which gains about
3200'. The climbing is much easier than the numbers would suggest. The
trail climbs steadily in many switchbacks with few steep spots. There
are almost no steps or roots.
It did not take long to warm up once the uphill commenced. We were down
to shorts and short sleeves by then. The climb is in forest with a few
views out. The valley below was under a low fog while we had only
sunshine above. The bright white fog sat in the valley bottom all the
way back to Lake Wenatchee. We reached the ridge top in 1:57 at 9:19.
3200' gained in under two hours but still 2700' more to go for the day.
Since we did not catch up with the hiker who left as we arrived we
figured at his pace he would be coming down while we were still
ascending. That proved to be correct.
Now that the grunt work was done the fun part began. The ridge walk is
one of the best in the Cascades. To the right, to the left, and even
right along the crest in places. A short ways along the ridge we
reached the spot of a recent fire. We knew there had been a fire. I had
hoped it would be lower down and not on the ridge top. One tree
requires climbing under it. Otherwise the going is not difficult. The
fire did burn up all underbrush and I fear that the bare dirt on a
steep slope may lead to a muddy slick mess next year. Some work to
widen and flatten the narrow tread would be much appreciated.
After the burn the leaf show began. When the sky is clear the sun
backlights the leaves bright shades of red and orange. We expected this
part would be very slow with many photos taken. We were not
disappointed. The last several visits have been on clear sunny days
near the peak of the colors and this time might have been the best of
all. Our progress was very slow. One group blew by as we were taking
yet more photos. They were soon out of sight.
We heard many pikas and a few marmots as the rock fields provide
perfect conditions for them. The early morning sun and no haze gave us
great views north to Clark Mountain and south to Hinman, Daniel, and
Mt. Rainier. After switchbacking up the steep gully to the ridge top we
stopped for a food and water break. We had taken nearly two hours to
reach this spot from where we first reached the ridge top. Really slow
going. Now we dropped down the climbed back to the ridge just below the
summit. As usual we lost the route in the loose rocks and followed
cairns up to where the narrow walkway was blasted out of rock and leads
to the top.
It was just after noon when we arrived. The early solo hiker had passed
us coming down and we shared the top with the one group that passed us
on the ridge. My GPS showed 7.38 miles with 5400' gained to the top. At
the top all the peaks to the north came into view. They had a light
white coat of fresh snow. Glacier Peak looked very white. Sloan, Three
Fingers, Whitehorse, Pugh, Whitechuck, Indian Head, Saul, Whittier,
Maude, Seven Fingered Jack, and more were laid out around us. Other
than Glacier Peak not much blocks the view from the 7420' summit of
We directed the other group over to the stone outhouse and sat down to
enjoy a well deserved lunch. There was only a light wind when we
arrived but at that elevation a jacket was needed even with the bright
sunshine. We spent a full hour on top including another visit to the
stone igloo. We could see below that a larger group was nearing the
top. The other group wanted to descend but could not go down while
there were people on the last narrow ledge to the top. Not quite like
the Hillary Step but a real bottleneck ensued. It took a good five
minutes before a gap opened that allowed them to descend.
After four visits where we saw no more than a few groups all day it was
strange to see about 15 people either on the summit or trying to get
off of it. One person in the arriving groups mentioned seeing 20 names
on the trailhead sign up for Mt. David this day. It turns out the dozen
arriving hikers were in a number of different groups that all just
happened to summit at the same time. David's friend Lauren was in the
last group. I did not expect to see anyone I knew on this trail.
When everyone was up we were able to head down. Towards the end of our
stay the wind really began to blow and I was not too unhappy to leave
the icy summit. We quickly dropped back to the ridge and dropped off
the north side where the wind was blocked. Off came the jackets and it
was summer once again. We switchbacked down the talus slope to the low
point and left the trail. Instead of climbing back to the ridge top we
dropped straight down the steep rock and heather slope. The first part
seemed tougher than on our 2004 trip. After a few route finding
discussions we managed to drop down to gentler terrain.
It was slow going on the boulders and talus as we worked out way down
towards the meadow far below. There was still some snow on the north
facing slope though none on our route. The melting fed creeks under the
rocks. In places there was boggy ground to work around. Eventually we
dropped below the rocks and onto dirt and grass with some trees and
berry bushes. The leaves here were ablaze with color. Much more time
was spent with cameras out. Some navigation is necessary on the descent
as there are steep cliffs in places. We descended between creek gorges.
I noticed unnatural colors down in a creek meadow below us and we
dropped down to explore. Someone had cached tarps and metal boxes full
of food and toiletry/camp items. That was a strange place to find
those items. We also found a fire pit nearby.
We continued down and soon reached the meadow below. The creeks falling
from above form a meandering creek in the meadow. At the far end is a
marshy tarn. We knew that the far side of the tarn is where we would
pick up a trail that climbs back to the main trail on the ridge crest.
Lots of colors in the meadow. Red leaves and yellow grasses cover the
meadow floor. Once around he tarn Gary pointed out the fantastic
reflections. We could see the summit of David in the tarn. It was
perfectly calm providing a near perfect reflection. Out came the
Satisfied that we had seen all there was to see we headed up the trail.
We had been able to see hikers descending along the ridge while we did
our off trail hike. We expected that we were now the last people on the
trail. The climb up from the meadow is not steep but it did gain 400',
more than we expected. Back on the ridge we had 3400' of downhill and
160' of uphill to look forward to. We took one last break at the point
the ridge is first reached.
The downhill went fast. It took us 1:36 to descend then gently climb
the 4 1/2 miles back to the car. Only a few cars remained at 5:48 when
we made it down about 10 1/2 hours after starting our hike. The GPS
showed our detour to be about 1/8th of a mile shorter than the ridge
route. Shorter but not faster. I had 14.62 miles round trip. We headed
over to the 59er Diner for dinner and then the long drive. I arrived
home at 9:30 pm. It was a very long and very enjoyable day. A lot of
climbing, a great summit, a fun off trail section, and some of the best
color of the year. More crowded than I would have believed but a great
day in the mountains nonetheless.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
First Good Color
Fog In The Valley
First Bright Red
Partial Clark Mountain
Hiking Through Burn
Fresh Snow On Peaks
Red Up To Rock
A Sea Of Red
Bright Red Leaves
Our Pace Slows
Best Color In Years
Sun Is Behind Us
Red & Granite
John & Gary
Ridge Top Red
Shiny Leaves & Rocks
Gary At Work
Red, Green, & White
Photo Page 2
Trips - 2010