Thursday, March 19, 2009

The hike to Boulder Loop and Little Si, March 18

Boulder Garden Trail and Little Si (3-18-09)

The Boulder Garden trail is always a pleasant surprise the first time you hike it. It’s even pleasant the second, third or fourth time – you get the idea. Not only is it an enchanting hike it is a trail that can be hiked year round. But, enchanting? Well, yes. Once you are on the trail you’ll see the first of several mossy outcroppings. Paths of varying disposition lead to them where there are overlooks of North Bend, Rattlesnake Ledge and beyond. The moss is thick and loosely attached to the rock. Step carefully – you might step on an elf. Always step on rock when there is a choice – moss is fragile.

The hike begins on the Little Si trail with an immediate uphill. That first up is probably the steepest uphill on the entire loop. On a cold day the up is welcome. In roughly a ½-mile look for the Boulder Garden trail on the right, signpost missing, elevation about 800 feet. Long, lazy switchbacks climb gently to a high point. The trail heading straight uphill is the Old Si Trail. Your trail begins to descend (it is a continuation of the Old Si trail). As the Old Si trail starts down you’ll pass through a cool, shady forested area where the trail is squeezed between mossy boulders, some the size of ships.

The Old Si trail comes out on the Little Si trail. Here you can either turn left on the Little Si trail and go back to the trailhead or extend your hike by turning right, continuing on the Little Si trail as we did.

Not far past the junction you’ll pass below another mossy, rock garden at the base of Little Si. This is a dark, cool place to take a break on a hot day. The trail rounds the side of Little Si in a squiggle of switchbacks, some long, others short and steep. Don’t be fooled as I am every time by a glimpse of sky through the trees. Just when you think you are about to step out onto the summit the trail makes another switchback or two before you are finally there.

Here you will usually encounter cheerful groups of dogs and hikers. Today there was one other group of hikers besides us and two dogs who seemed to have arrived on their own, undoubtedly beloved, local pets who like Little Si just as much as hikers.

Today the sky was clear with in-you-face views of Mount Si with its snow-capped pinnacles and snow-filled gullies.

As of this writing both trails are snow-free and isn’t it nice that both trails begin from the same trailhead?

The stats: The Little Si trail is 5 miles round trip with about 1,200 feet of gain. The map is Green Trails No. 206S Mount Si NRCA, Snoqualmie Pass, Gateway Peaks, Side A. The Boulder Garden Loop is about 5 miles round trip with about 900 feet of gain, about 5 miles round trip. The map is Green Trails No. 206S Mount Si.

Getting to the trailhead: From Seattle drive I-90 east to Exit No. 32 (436th Avenue), turn left over I-90 and proceed to North Bend Way, turn left, then in about ¼ of a mile turn right on Mount Si Road, continue to the Little Si trailhead and facilities, 500 feet. No pass required.

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