Iron Horse + Cedar Butte

Here it is March 1st and I had done only three cross country ski trips this season. With very warm temperatures forecast I headed up to Snoqualmie Pass to get in an early trip. I arrived at the Hyak Sno-Park at 8:45 and was the third car in the lot. In all my years of hiking I have forgotten many things. I have taken three pin boots and NNN skis. I have taken no lunch. This time really takes the cake. I grabbed my skis and went to get my pack... Oops, where's my pack? It's right next to the fireplace in my living room where I left it. Oh well, it was too late by then. I took off with a hat, gloves, and nothing more. The temperature was about 26 degrees when I started with a clear sunny sky. The cross country season at Hyak's level is about over. There was about 6 to 12 inches of hard packed snow left. There was no dirt showing through on the trail but there were bare spots under the trees to the side of the trail. The morning conditions were great. The snow was hard packed and quick but not icy. I actually had a good kick and glide. This was the first ski trip where I have taken a camera and with the clear sky I managed to get some nice mountain shots. The way down the lake was quick. I took 1:18 to get to the Lost Lake Road. The distance is 6 1/2 miles. There was a chain link fence blocking the road over the dam. No trespassing signs were posted. I was curious if the Price Creek Sno-Park had been rendered useless. I saw two skiers who had skied around the fence and went over to find out. The first skier turned out to be Jack Wallace who was also on the  Pratt Mountain trip we did last year. I thought I recognized his face but he not only recognized me, he also remembered my name. I wish I were that good with names. Jack and Peggy were going up to Lost Lake. They had no problem, other than a lack of snow, coming from Price Creek. It seems that the route is still open.

Since I had no lunch or water, there was no point waiting around. After saying good-bye to Jack and Peggy I was heading back. The temperature had warmed considerably but the snow was still not very soft. I was able to continue to make good time. I had to keep my long sleeves down due to my lack of sun screen. I have received some of my worst sun burns on clear days in the Winter while on snow. On the whole way down I saw 5 other people. When I was back within four miles of the sno-park traffic began to pick up. Still, it never became very bad. One advantage of late season skiing (March 1st?) is that most others have given up for the year. On the way back I had the sun behind me and stopped frequently to take photos. This is far from wilderness on an old railroad grade across the lake from an interstate highway, but it was beautiful none the less. By 11:40 I was back at the sno-park with 13 miles under my belt. The temperature was now up to 45 degrees. What a difference in less than three hours!

It was way too early to head home. Since this trip had exactly zero elevation gain I brought along boots to get in a short hike as well. I decided on Cedar Butte which starts from near Rattlesnake Lake. By 12:30 I had driven down from the pass and up to the trailhead. Cedar Butte is a short 4 mile round trip with 900' of elevation gain. It is too short for me to devote a day to but makes a good early morning trip when you don't have a full day free. It also makes a nice second trip of the day. There were cars parked down the road from Rattlesnake Lake so I bet the Ledge trail was mobbed. I, on the other hand, had one person leave just after me and he was the only person I saw on the whole trip. There is now a sign for Cedar Butte along the railroad grade. The trail has also been largely rebuilt. Instead of a short steep climb up the Butte, it is now a longer trail with many, many, many switchbacks. All but one of the short steep sections have been rerouted. This is now a trail that is well suited for small children. If they can handle the four miles there are no longer difficult sections of trail to navigate. Even after 13 miles of skiing and no food since breakfast it only took me 48 minutes to reach the top. The trees are growing and blocking a little of the view but I could see from Mt. Defiance to Mailbox to the Middle Fork Peaks to Green, Teneriffe, Si, and Little Si. This is a very nice view with a minimal amount of effort. After a short stay on the summit it was time to head on down. The downhill part is no longer a knee basher. It is quite gentle now. I passed two signed trails to the Boxley Blowout but lacked the energy to explore them this day. The blowout took a massive amount of hillside down into the valley when it occurred. I didn't know that there was a trail to a viewpoint. I'll come back with my camera soon.

Overall, this was a nice day to be in the mountains. I managed to overcome my own stupidity and made do without my gear. Hopefully, it will be another 21 years of hiking before I do it again. The totals for the day were 17 miles and 900' of elevation gain. All that and I was home by 3:00.

Click on thumbnails to see larger pictures.

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