East Tiger Mountain

Another weekend with only half of one day free. I needed something close but not another trip up West Tiger 1, 2, or 3. I decided to head a little farther east to East Tiger. Passing High Point at 8:45 am there must have been 60 cars outside of the gate. I was glad to not be in that crowd. I turned off on Highway 18 and 4 miles later I was at the Tiger Summit trailhead. Only 3 other vehicles in the lot. The lot was about 40% dirt and 60% water. I navigated the lakes (puddles) to find a dry place to park. By 9:03 I was on my way. The forecast was for mostly sunny and I was looking forward to it. Hmm... The thick cloud level was not far above my head.

The start is at 1377'. The summit of East Tiger is 3004'. I went around the right gate and immediately found a pond full of bright yellow skunk cabbage. I guess spring is here after all. After all the mountain snow we've had the past month. Within a few hundred vertical feet of climbing there was some snow along the road. I left my gaiters and winter boots at home because there would not be any snow this far west on Tiger Mountain. Well there was.

My 1700' most of the road had a fresh white covering. I saw one set of boot prints, some dog prints, and a couple bike tire tracks. A little more than a mile up I met the hiker and dog. They had just turned around and were heading down. The bike tracks ended soon after. Now there was just fresh snow and animal tracks. A deer cut across the road some time earlier.  There were bird and rabbit tracks too. A set of dog like tracks continued heading higher.

These tracks baffled me. Several feet apart and one minute close together then 3 feet apart. What could have made them? I still have no idea. My umbrella came out when a rain/sleet squall blew through. Ten minutes later it was done and that was it for precipitation for the day. I was in the clouds and visibility was minimal. The snow plastered trees and misty clouds made it feel much different than the usual road walk. The snow cover on the road helped with the aesthetics too.

This is not a great hike on a sunny day but it was very nice on this snowy day. Easy walking and no other people. I have seen bikes on most trips up this road but the deepening snow made that pretty unlikely. I didn't expect to see any tracks until well down the mountain. On a trip up last fall it only took 73 minutes to reach the summit. The snow slowed my down and there was no way to go that fast. Past the 2 1/2 mile marker it was about 3 4 inches deep. I was wishing I had my gaiters as the snow was sure to be deeper up high. At 2 3/4 miles I reached the "T" junction. Left and uphill leads to the summit of East Tiger. I was very surprised to find three sets of footprints coming down the way I was heading up.

These tracks made it much easier. The tracks looked very fresh, as if they had been made earlier this day. It was only 10:00 am. Where were they heading in snow this early? They did not start at Tiger Summit. These very unexpected tracks made it much easier for me. It only took a little under an hour to hike up the first 2 3/4 miles. It took another 40 minutes to hike the next 1.1 miles, even with the boot tracks. At the next junction the tracks turned left and headed up East Tiger as expected.

They must have come over on the trail from the Tiger 1 area. In places the snow was up to 6 - 8 inches deep but in some places it was only 3 or 4 inches. Where the trail came in I found the hikers tracks. They also headed uphill. My luck was holding. They set a track to the summit and stomped it even better coming back down. It wasn't much farther to the top. The towers were in the clouds. I could see the tops on and off. The picnic table had about 6" on top. There were spots with 8-10 inches. Gary and John did an evening hike to 2750' on Tiger 2 just three days earlier. They saw no new snow. Now I was at 3000' and there was plenty of it.

It was still 33 degrees. It seemed to be the same temperature all the way up. I could hear the sound of ice falling off the towers. It was cold and a little windy so my stay was short. Zero views out through the clouds. I arrived at 10:39 and By 10:50 I was on my way down. It was much faster and easier slogging down through the snow. When I reached the gate I heard voices and saw the first people since the hiker with his dog. After a brief conversation I continued down.

Since discovering it last spring I now include a quick visit to Sally's Summit. At the junction I turned left on deep untouched snow. Where were my gaiters again? The yellow gate was open. It's not far from the junction. I headed right off the road and found the boot path heading up. The snow was much thinner in the trees. It just took a few minutes to reach the top. I turned around and headed right back down. At the road I had the bright idea to follow the road down 120' to get up to 2000' of gain for the day. The snow was quickly knee deep and I realized just what a dumb idea that was. Instead I slogged back to the gate and went up Sally's summit again. With 2000' of gain in the bag it was time to head back.

The trip down went pretty quickly. I met 4 or 5 groups heading up. More crowded than I expected but nothing like the other side of Tiger Mountain. I even met several bikes heading up. I wonder how far they made it. By 12:35 I was back at my car. The lot was nearly full. The Iverson Railroad and Northwest Timber Trails which are mountain bike favorites are closed in the winter and will reopen after April 15th. There will be a lot more bikes around then.

It may by April but it was mid winter on East Tiger Mountain. Fun to have the road covered in fresh snow with no tracks. Even better to find tracks higher up to make my travel much easier. A good quick morning hike with 8 miles and 2000' of gain. Close to Seattle but without the crazy crowds on West Tiger 3. All in all, a very nice day to be in the close in mountains.


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Trips - 2011