Getting Dirty on Dirty Harry

From the Balcony
From the Balcony

Yesterday (April 18), a fresh Friday morning, I set out to enjoy the impromptu breaking sun on the I-90.  I wanted somewhere with a view, and with little avy danger, so I settled on Dirty Harry Peak.  I guess I felt lucky.  Oh god, the puns, the puns…

Parked down below the gate, and cruised up the road for about a half mile before two busted concrete blocks mark the start of ol’ Henry Gault’s (the codger-ey lumberjack for whom Dirty Harry is actually named) road up the mountain.  This trail-road is very, very rocky, and at many points actually a stream pouring off the mountain.  However, it is easy to follow, and the sound of the trucks on I-90 roaring past disappeared behind the big trees and moss-covered rocks.

After about 40 minutes, I came to the turn off for Dirty Harry’s Balcony (oh, so many jokes here).  It’s quite an obvious old metal pot–take the right-hand path to the Balcony.  I cruised past some of the other old rusting items left by Harry, and came upon the Balcony–really a flat series of ledges.  The view was excellent–McClellan Butte directly across the Snoqualmie, the sweep of mountains towards the big turn at Humpback Mountain (with Silver Peak just poking his head over) and the mass of Defiance rising to the east.  The sun was out, and clouds were boiling around the peaks.  Two older couples were enjoying the sunshine on the Balcony, and they offered me some chocolate and conversation.  We discussed some alternate trails up to the Balcony, and I learned that one of the closer peaks was named Putrid Pete Peak in honor of Pete Schoeing…yes, that Pete Schoeing!  Awesome.  As we talked, it began to graupel/hail on us–which I associate with desert spring much more so than the wet Northwest, but it was lovely.  Nothing like weird weather to add flavor to a hike.

As the couples gathered their belongings to leave, a window of blue opened above the Dirty Harry Peak, so, like an intrepid detective, I decided to follow the trail up.  The road really fell apart after the Balcony turn off–thousands of ankle-twisting rocks, and the trail was a free-flowing stream more than dry ground.  It was really quite adventure!

Trail/Stream...Cascades in April
Trail/Stream…Cascades in April

I hit snow after a large turn past a talus field, and met some retreating girls who had, smartly, decided not to continue because they lack solid footwear.  I had my good boots on, and figured I could make the peak.  Foolish pride kept me marching up the road–which soon disappeared under snow, feet and feet of snow.  And it was soft under the trees, so post-holing was an issue.  Doggedly, I followed some very old snowshoe tracks up and up and up.  It was a true slog, post-holing every four steps or so, hauling myself up an ever-farther away summit.  The clouds had closed back in, bathing everything in gray fog.  Really, what was the point of reaching the summit when I would see nothing but more gray fog?  Well, grit teeth and carry on.

Finally reached the summit, and the clouds lifted somewhat off the Granite Lake basin far below.  It was pretty, but I didn’t want to get to close to the edge–a likely spot for a cornice drop.  It was cold and I was tired, so I ate one stale sandwich, took a few nothing pictures, and since what goes up, must come down, ran down the slope.  That was the best part–sliding and leaping downward through the soft snow.  Exhilarating.

Arrived back on the road, and the sun broke out.  Of course.  So I headed back down to

Your author, tired atop Dirty Harry
Your author, tired atop Dirty Harry

the Balcony, and enjoyed a pipe in the sun.  The summit looked completely clear now that I was back down.  Thus is life.  I took one of the alternate trails down that the couples had earlier recommended.  It was a faint boot-track and a ton of fun, though require a good ‘trail-sense’–it also brought me by the “Bird Box” a tiny little birdhouse shoved in between some trees.  The faint trail dropped right down to the Snoqualmie, and the rush of the river drowned the highway sounds.

All in all, an excellent hike.  I definitely recommend the Balcony for a short, sweet outing (though watch yourself on the rocks–it’s a long, sharp, bang-y way down).  The peak is achievable, but be prepared–it takes a lot of strength.  Snowshoes would have helped in the soft snow.  I didn’t see any tracks up there besides the weeks-old snowshoe prints–now you’d probably see mine.  The alternate trails are a little hard to find, so be sure you are with someone who has some strong trail sense if you attempt.  Great hike though–even for this punk!

Link to trail here.

IMAG3460
Frozen pines atop Dirty Harry

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