Mt. Washington

Gary wanted to get out for an after work hike. By 1:00 pm I was sure I could get away. Since he is faster, I chose to start a little earlier. We planned to meet on the summit or earlier if he caught up. It was sunny and warm in Seattle. A last gasp of 70 degree weather. By the time I reached North Bend it was completely overcast. I took Exit 38 and parked immediately. There was no longer a sign at the gate stating it would be closed at dusk. In fact it was not closed well after dark. Still, to be safe I parked outside the gate. By 3:50 pm I was on my way.

It was plenty warm for shorts and short sleeves. I soon felt the humidity however. I wass soaked in no time. We seldom get that type of humidity in Washington state. Once off the railroad grade and into the woods the climbing began. This trail is a steady climb all the way to the top. The many rocks on the old road bed make for less than ideal footing. I was a little concerned about coming down it in the dark. There was no doubt we would be coming down a good portion of the route in the dark.

A trip report from a few days earlier showed all the vine maple changing color on the open upper slopes and so I brought a camera. Precious little to photograph before then. I figured to have a 30 - 40 minute head start on Gary. I kept up a steady pace figuring I'd likely summit first. I reached the Owl Hike viewpoint in 50 minutes and the crossing of Washington Creek in 60 minutes. There was more water still running than I expected.

I have reached the pond in the fall to find it completely dry. Not this year. Still plenty of water there. I finally slowed down where the color began. No sun for backlighting but still pretty good color. That alone made the hike worthwhile. After that it was back to grinding out the last of the 3200' of gain. Reaching the final ridge I could see down to Chester Morse Lake but peaks to the south were all in the clouds. No Mt. Rainier this day. On my May trip up I could not even see the lake so it was an improvement. I passed one person coming down earlier and there was nobody else on the summit.

My shirt was soaked so I immediately changed that. I zipped on pant legs and broke out my jacket too. I reached the top at 5:46, making for a 1:56 hike. I could see North Bend, Mt. Si, Mt. Teneriffe, and other Middle Fork peaks but to the south it was just clouds. In fact, pretty interesting clouds. I had packed away my camera for the descent but took it out again. Dark and white puffy clouds filled the sky. The setting sun turned the visible sliver of Puget Sound a deep orange. In addition to the leaves below the clouds put on a second great show.

Gary arrived at 6:12. He came up in 1:40. We ate dinner and prepared to leave when another hiker reached the summit. He turned around almost immediately and we did not see him again. Gary's thermometer read 49 degrees. Much different than at the bottom a few hours earlier. At 6:26 we headed down. The lower trail is a rocky old road but the upper part is newer trail and much easier to hike down. We had the easy part in the light and the harder part in the dark.

It was dark enough at the Owl Hike spot to require pulling out flashlights. A few minutes later we needed them to see the rocky trail. We made steady progress with few slips. Usually I can tell where I am on the trail due to landmarks. In the dark it was hard to tell much at all. One hiker we passed near the summit passed us again coming down. We also passed a group heading up for sunset though they were not going to reach the top before dark.

It took almost exactly the same amount of time for me to come down as go up. Nobody bothered our cars in the dark which was a relief. It was nice to get in a 3200' gain on an after work hike this time of year. It was plenty warm enough and flashlights made the descent no problem. The only surprise was seeing people coming up so late. By 8:30 we were on our way home. A nice way to break up a work week.

Clouds From First View
Color Begins
Many Colors
Close Up Color
Vine Maple Leaves
Color Between Rocks
More Vine Maple
Trail Through Color
All Colors
Red Against White
Vine Maple Leaves
Lake Below Ridge
Now For The Clouds
Big & White
Red & White Sound
Shiny Top Of Cloud
North Bend Below
More Clouds
Clouds Passing By
Rays Of Light
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2010