Crystal Lakes - Tiger Bridge

If the title of this hike seems strange it should. Crystal Lakes are nowhere near Tiger Mountain. This tale really begins about a month ago. Gary, John, and I planned a long loop trip near Mt. Rainier. Up to Crystal Peak, cross country to the PCT, and around via Crystal Lakes. The temperature was in the mid 90s that day and we changed the destination. Now the temperature was to be in the 70s and maybe low 80s and the trip was back on. Unfortunately, much of Central Washington is going up in flames. When marine air blows in the sky is clear on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. When it blows offshore the smoke blows in. This day looked like it might be smoky.

We met in Kent at 6:35 am and headed to Highway 410. It was clear in North Seattle but before I reached Kent the haze was at hand. As we drove to the trailhead it became worse. We arrived and decided to give it a shot. The smoke was very noticeable. At the first break in the forest I could barely see across the highway. My throat began to hurt. John had a headache coming on. A 15 mile loop trip in these conditions? It was not going to happen. After 1.5 miles we reached the peak/lakes junction and the same conclusion. Forget the loop. Try to make it the next 1.5 miles to the upper lake.

As we climbed Crystal Peak came into view...sort of. A very hazy brown Crystal Peak. We met several groups of backpackers coming down. They mentioned that yesterday was also smoky but it cleared out in the late afternoon. We had no plans to see if the same happened this day. After what seemed like a long 1.5 miles of hacking and wheezing we reached Upper Crystal Lake. I could just make out the ridge behind the lake. We had a late breakfast there and headed down. It did seem a little less smoky higher up. Oh joy, time to descend into the brown air. On the way down we meet a number of groups heading up. We were glad get out of there.

It was still early when we reached the car. We were on the trail just after 8:00 am and back at the car by just after 11:00 am. I want to add that I'm joking about the bad air for hiking I fully realize that it is no joking matter for folks on the east side of the mountains. Many of them are going through hell. I chose to head out into lousy conditions. Those folks do not have the same choice.

We tossed around ideas for another hike but everywhere seemed to be in the smoky haze. About the only place with a chance of clear air was back near Puget Sound. Well, Tiger Mountain is not far from home and it was clear the day before.... We headed back north and west. Rather than retrieve my car we headed back on Highway 169 then over to Highway 18. We arrived at High Point to find... mostly clear sky. Unlike nearly the entire drive. We headed up to take a look at the new TMT Mega Bridge ™. Construction is moving along. It may be done be early next month. Since it was still just mid afternoon we continued on to the K3 and up the railroad grade. We turned left and crossed the old bridge site. There was no bridge when I used to hike it long ago. This was the first time I'd crossed the creek since the bridge was moved up to the new TMT section. No problem at all.

We continued to Fred's Corner and down the TMT. We only saw a couple of groups the entire way. Driving back through Issaquah the smoke was apparent once again. We seemed to have found about the only spot with clear air anywhere around. I have done two hikes in the same day on a number of occasions. I have seldom done two hikes that are about 50 miles apart on the same day. While we had to cancel the 15 mile 4400' of elevation gain hike for the second time our dual trail trip ended up being 12 miles with 4000' of gain. Not a total washout by any means.

Crystal Lakes Trailhead
First Viewpoint?
Smoky Crystal Peak
Clearer In Meadow
Upper Crystal Lake
PCT On Ridge
Hole In Rock
Among Smokiest Hikes
Hack, Wheeze
Rare Color Shot
Getting Worse?
Clearer To The West
Peak Framed By Fir
Mt. Rainier?
TMT Bridge Site
I'm Resting
High Point Creek
Gary Fords Creek
Foundation Blocks
View Of 200' Span
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2015