Mount Si – Late September 2012

As all the guidebooks point out, every outdoorsy Seattlite has to hike Mount Si.  At least once.  So Hana and I headed out I-90 to check our box for this Seattle classic.  We went on a Wednesday, and thereby avoided, for the most part, the feared conga-line up and down the trail.  We still passed more people in our four odd hours on the trail than I have ever seen in total at Great Basin NP, but we were also 30 minutes away from Seattle.

Us at the bottom of the trail
Us at the bottom of the trail

The trail starts benignly in Pacific Northwest forest outside the town of North Bend.  It has no intention of staying friendly though, and almost immediately it begins to climb.  The summit is around 3,500 feet above the unassuming hiker, and that is reached in 4 miles, so the uphill is quite strenuous.  The switchbacks just keep coming, heading up with little to gauge progress in the surrounding forest.  Finally, the forest opens slightly at 1.6 miles to reveal just how much elevation has been gained, with a view of the Snoqualmie valley below.  Another slight break comes in at the halfway point at Snag Flat, where a raging forest fire was stopped by the more level terrain (a nice moment to savor a snack and read about the surrounding nature at an interpretative sign).  But after this, the ascent continues, and calves and quads will be burning by the time the hiker hits mile marker 3.5.  Shortly, one arrives at a rocky talus field that most consider the summit.  Great spots to crash out and enjoy the superlative views are abundant, as the field is quite large.  The Snoqualmie rushes below, the Puget Sound is hazy in the distance, the Cascades rush up to the east, and the king mountain, Rainier floats white and blue over everything on a clear day.  The hiker will quickly forget the painful climb while he or she basks in the awesome panorama.

Wildfires obscuring the valley floor
Wildfires obscuring the valley floor
Hana cruising the Haystack scramble
Hana cruising the Haystack scramble

Of course, Hana and I decided to climb the Haystack, Mount Si’s true summit–a 400 foot rock escarpment that offers some fourth class scrambling.  Accessing the Haystack isn’t too difficult, but I would caution anyone with a fear of heights or unsure footing to forego this side trip.  A mistake on the Haystack could mean a very abrupt return to the bottom of the trail, unintentional and likely un-“walk-away-able.”  The view from the top of the Haystack allows a better panorama, as the mountains to the north can be viewed.  We managed the scramble handily, but if you are uncertain, stick with the talus field–there are even some hidden benches!

After finishing up the intense descent–rough on the knees!–we stopped at Twede’s Cafe for their burgers and pie, and–of course–that “damn fine cup of coffee.”  It’s worth the stop, as their are something like 50+ burgers to choose from, and we definitely worked up an appetite.  All in all, it was a great hike, super views, but I would recommend mid-week to avoid the crowds.

Atop Mount Si
Atop Mount Si

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