Ridge & Mitchell Hill
I did my first hike of the new year. An 8 mile 1200' gain trip on
Cougar Mountain. That was the first day without rain all week. This day
looked to be better. No rain and some afternoon sunshine. The rain
would return on Monday for most of the next week. I made the most of
the weekend. To complicate things, a huge snow storm closed Stevens,
Snoqualmie, Blewett, and White Passes for days. There would be no
skiing and no hiking in the mountains this weekend. I-90 was closed
from North Bend to Ellensburg. All recreating would be on close in
trails. Even the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road was buried with snow. The
Mt. Si lot was a quagmired of snow. I planned a trip with no views and
bicycles. I would see bikes but hopefully few folks hiking. Grand Ridge
it would be. I had done up to 15 miles on Grand Ridge. There is
shortage of mileage on this very close in trail system. Hikers do not
like to hike bike trails and I find a bit of solitude on this trail. I
knew that would not include a lack of bikes this day. I started early
as bike are fast and they can start later and still get done early. I
arrived at the High Point Trailhead off I-90 at 8:03 am. By 8:08 am I
was on my way. There were a few guys milling around two cars but I
never saw them again.
It was right at freezing as I hiked downhill on the old railroad grade.
Not a good way to warm up. I had a wind shirt on from the start.
Issaquah Creek had lots of water and was making quite a bit of noise.
My route would not include any creeks to cross except on bridges. No
water problems. No mud problems either. It snowed down here a week
earlier and then rained all week washing away the snow. I expected mud.
I did not get much. I was glad to leave the grade and start climbing.
It finally allowed me to start warming up. Contrary to the forecast the
sky was blue. There were no clouds all day long. That had not happened
in the Seattle area in a long time. I could feel the 8 miles I hiked
the day before but it only slowed me down a little. The nice
grade makes this a fast trail to hike. I reached the junction with the
trail from the Central Park Trailhead at about 1.6 miles and still had
not seen a single person. So far very good.
I planned to go all the way to the Michael O. Bridge and maybe up to
the road above where the Duthie Hill bike trail system is located. The
key would be my right heel. My case of plantar fasciitis is slowly
improving but a long trip after 8 miles the day before was asking a
lot. If it began to throb, I would turn around early. Unlike the day
before on Cougar Mountain I had on low top boots and left the folding
saw behind. Two good calls. Very little running water on the trail and
no down logs or branches needing to be cut out. The highest point on
the trail is only about 1000' and that was below the snow level. I
continued on the trail with only photo breaks. Past the paved road to
the first Water Tower Loop trail junction at 2.5 miles. I was now
starting to see a couple of bikers and a couple runners. The trail
descends for half a mile to the next junction with the Water
Tower Loop. It drops to cross a small creek on a boardwalk.
The router begins to climb. I was now kicking around taking the way
trail over to Mitchell Hill. I had seen the boot path heading off quite
a few years ago. A land acquisition added more acreage to the park near
Mitchell Hill. Perhaps today would be a chance to check it out. The
boot path snows up on my Gaia gps map showing .60 mile sand about 300'
of gain to a pave road at the end. If my heel was not doing too bad I
decided to give it a go on the way back. I had no trouble finding the
start of the route as I passed by. Right about there the trail begins
to descend to Canyon Creek and the WTA Bridge. It was now noticeably
warmer. I had taken off the wind shirt earlier and now my gloves came
off. Soon I even rolled up my wool shirt sleeves thought the poly pro
layer sleeves remained down. It had to be approaching 40 degrees. I
dropped to the WTA bridge at about 4.25 miles, arriving at 9:45 am.
4.25 miles in 1:37 with a lot of photo stops was not too bad. The heel
still felt good. Beyond the bridge I came to the lone erratic rock
right alongside the trail. I always take a selfie here. I very seldom
take any selfies.
The route continues through a forest of good sized cedar trees. The
bikes fly on by. I always slow down to enjoy the big trees.
Just before the trail begins to drop down to the Michael O
Bridge the temperature took a nosedive. It must have dropped 10 degrees
in five minutes. The sleeves rolled down and the gloves went back on.
All was not bad as I started to notice some hair ice. This amazing
display of bright white hair follicle like stuff is really neat. I only
see it a few times each year and this display started slow but kept
getting better and better. Some of the patches were really good. I
slowed way down and took a lot of photos, hoping some would turn out
perfectly focused. Some did. I finally picked up the pace again and
arrived at the lowest point, the Michael O Bridge, at 10:24 am. This
was just about at the 6 mile mark. I took 2:16 to hike that 6 miles.
The bridge itself was coated in ice. It did not look like ice but I had
to be careful not to slip and fall. I continued all the way to the far
end. I had come this far and decided to climb up to the road above.
That added about 170' of gain in .35 miles. I started to see families
with a couple groups of 4-6 bikes passing by me. Right near the start
of the Grand Ridge Trail.
I popped out at the road and crossed over to the Duthie Hill side. Time
for a lunch break. An early lunch but I was hungry after hiking 6.4
miles. I arrived at 10:37 am and headed back at 10:45 am. Down to the
bridge then uphill through the hair ice display once again. I stopped
for even more hair ice photos. I was glad to top out on the plateau
above as the temperature began to quickly rise. From around freezing
back up to the low 40s in just minutes. Off went the gloves and up went
the sleeves. By the time I reached the WTA Bridge my heel was starting
to hurt. I still had 4.25 miles to go. Uphill hurts less and the next
section was uphill. At the top of the hill I had one last decision to
make. Mitchell Hill or not? What the heck. I started up the boot path.
The path was completely covered with big maple leaves. I could seldom
see dirt. It was not hard to stay on the path. The 300' happens at the
start. It is pretty steep. I was really slowing down here. I had about
17 miles done since yesterday morning.
The route did flatten out and I started to see some snow. The trail was
also a creek in one spot. I continued on, now with bright sunshine
right in my face. I could hardly see anything ahead. I did see one
hikers who passed me near the end heading the other way. I ended up
popping out of the woods to a paved road. The signs said that
continuing onto the road was highly frowned upon. I did not do so. I
turned around and headed back. Down the steep path and back to the
Grand Ridge Trail. My heel was making itself known. A bit of a limp but
not continuous pain. I would get out okay but the last 3.5 miles were
not a lot of fun. The crowds had now really shown up. I few hikers and
a whole lot of mountain bikers. They do pass by very quickly. I stood
off the trail a few dozen dimes as they sped past. I was really glad to
get back down tot he railroad grade. Just a last .6 or so miles back to
the car. I arrived at 2:05 pm. Just under 6 hours on the trail. I
traveled 14 mils with 2200' of elevation gain. Not bad for a trail that
never gets above 1300' and 1000' without the Mitchell Hill Trail.
I accomplished all my goals this weekend. I got in my first two hikes
of the new year. I traveled 22 miles and gained 3400'. I did not have
crazy crowded trails on a weekend when everyone was kept out of the
mountains. On the drive home my car registered a temperature of 52
degrees outside. That is the highest temperature I can recall in many
weeks. It only lasted one day but it sure was nice. Soon, I can get
back to snowshoeing and cross country skiing. This weekend I stayed low
and got in a lot of mileage.
Click on thumbnails to get
Small Cedar Trees
Big Cedar Trees
Another Hair Ice
Michael O. Bridge
Lit Up Moss
One More Hair Ice
Up To The Plateau
Moss & Sunshine
Creek/Trail & Snow
Back On Grade