Mason Lake - Bandera Mountain

June in the Puget Sound area can mean hot and sunny or cool and wet. This day looked to be the best of mid week so our after work hiking group decided to head to Mason Lake and Bandera Mountain. Traffic was bad in Seattle even leaving at 2:40 pm. I just arrived at our 4:00 pm meeting time at the Ira Spring Trailhead parking lot. The dirt road from I-90 was in great shape. Gary and John were aready there and David arrived shortly after me. By about 4:08 pm we were on our way. Doppler radar showed no rain anywhere in the state though it was very overcast all day. On the drive out rain fell off and on from Issaquah east. It was not raining when we started. It was moist and a bit humid. I started with shorts and short sleeves. We made good time up the  old road/trail. Two days earlier I saw my first blooming tiger lily and there were several more along the lower route. We chose to do a loop and soon after crossing Mason Creek we headed up the old Mason Lake Trail. After gentle switchbacks it really gets down to business.

The route climbs steeply alongside Mason Creek. With the humidity I was really sweating badly. The overcast really brought out the many shades of green along the old trail. It was much more scenic than on a sunny day.When we reached the boulder field our route around the edge was on some moist rocks. Traction was still fine. The section above the boulder field is the steepest of all. It had cooled enough that I was feeling much better as we neared Mason Lake. At the lake we were completely in the clouds. I could not see all the way across the lake. Bandera Mountain was right above but lost in the clouds. We took a short food, water, and photos break before heading on.

The trail winds its way up to the ridge then onto the southern slope of Bandera Mountain. One reason for doing this hike now is that Bandera has an open slope that is covered in beargrass about his time of year. Trip reports from the previous weekend showed that they were almost at their peak. Our timing was excellent. The upper slope was awash in the pale yellow beargrass blooms.  They are light enough that direct sunshine can blow out the highlights. That was not a problem this day. If anything the overcast really brought out the colors. There were also a small amount of lupine and Indian paintbrush in bloom. We made slow progress along this section. On the way up we saw one solo man and one solo woman. We saw one other person on our way down. Seeing only three people on these ridiculously popular trails was great.

It was a bit misty as the clouds became even thicker higher up. As we reached the upper ridge brightly colored penstemon appeared. Phlox and a few other wildflowers snowed up too. The thickness of the beargrass dominated above all else. We reached he summit at 6:20 pm. Not a great time but just a few days short of the longest day of the year we had lots of daylight left. With the sweat and the mist I could have wrung a pint of water out of my shirt. I put on a dry long sleeve shirt for the hike down. From this high viewpoint we could see many feet in every direction. Well, at least several feet. After food, water, dry clothing, and some photos, we were ready to head down. By 6:35 pm we were on our way.

The upper mountain took a long time to descend. We kept stopping for more photos. When you hit the beargrass at their peak you need to take advantage of it. I was glad when we reached the Ira Spring Trail. Now we had nicely graded tread all the way back to the trailhead. Part way down the from the summit it began to rain lightly by the time we were on the main trail our umbrellas came out. I kept my hands bare to make operating my camera easier. The others soon had on gloves. It was chilly in the light rain. Once the cameras were put away out pace picked up. We reached the bottom well before sunset at 8:21 pm. We took 1:46 to descend. We only saw the one guy while coming down and were surprised to see half a dozen other cars still in the lot. I arrived at home just after dark.

Though the chance of rain was quite low we had a fair bit of light rain. On the plus side it did not begin until we made it all the way up and almost back down to the main trail. The lighting conditions were very good. No problem with bright sunlight blowing out any photos. For the day we hiked about 7 miles with 3000' of elevation gain. A fun mid week after work hike.

Tiger Lilies
Cloud Level
First Beargrass
Old Mason Creek Trail
Green Forest
Heading Up
Rocks Begin
Mason Lake
Framed Reflection
Gary, Beargrass & Clouds
John & Beargrass
Great Penstemon
Bright Beargrass
Summit View
Heading Down
On Ridge Top
Dark And Bright
Descending Ridge
Gary At Work
Colorful Penstemon
More Beargrass
Misty Slope
Buncha Beargrass
Lone Beargrass
Thick With Beargrass
Peak Beargrass
Gary, John, & Beargrass
Looking Upslope
Indian Paintbrush
Sea Of Clouds
Mason Creek Falls
Boat In The Road
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2019