Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Section Line Trail

Section Line Trail, Tiger Mountain - March 12, 2009

This wasn’t the first time I’ve hiked the Section Line Trail but it’s the first time in treacherous conditions. Recent snow made this getting-in-shape dream hike a hazardous undertaking. True, there wasn’t a lot of snow but it was cold enough that most of the snow had turned to ice.

Intermittent snow began at the Tradition Plateau trailhead. From there we hiked the Bus Trail to the Bonneville Powerline trail and its junction with the Section Line Trail. The Section Line is one of the steepest trails on Tiger Mountain; signs along the way insist the trail is not maintained yet enough hikers use it the trail is not difficult to follow. It makes a great conditioning hike though not for hikers with knee problems.

We followed a set of fresh tracks in the snow. As the grade steepened it became a challenge to stay vertical on the ice, my boots are worn. I pulled on Yak Trax , glad I’d carried them. Charlie needed no devices other than a trekking pole (I prefer rocks to snow). In mixed terrain Charlie heads for the snow, I head for the rocks.

The Yak Trax gripped the snow and I began to pick up speed though even Charlie suggested we hike the West Tiger 3 trail on our way back to avoid the steep descent on ice.

While there wasn’t a lot to photograph we did notice how pretty the snow was where it was untrammeled; especially with blue shadows cast by trees. We took a short break at the junction with the West Tiger Railroad Grade before tackling the last steep pitch to the summit of West Tiger 3 (elevation 2,522 feet).

It was good to linger on the summit – the sun was warm and it wasn’t crowded. There was one other couple and a sad-faced snowman whose eyes seemed to follow us with every bite of food we took.

The West Tiger 3 trail was just as slippery as the Section Line trail, despite its heavier traffic. We met a few hikers coming and going, including a runner whose feet never seemed to touch ground.

As we began to hit stretches of dirt and the trail leveled off I removed my Yak Trax. Big mistake. As we rounded a switchback there were still several stretches of hard ice; and I had to perform a Irish Jig a couple of times to keep from falling. As for Charlie, he never came close to a tumble.

The hike is about 7 miles round-trip with about 2,000 feet of gain. The map is Green Trails Tiger Mtn WA - No. 204S.

Getting to the trailhead: From Seattle take I-90 eastbound and get off at High Point Exit No. 20 just outside of Issaquah. Turn right on the frontage road, proceed 0.6 mile to the High Point trailhead (old-timers still call it the Tradition Plateau trailhead), kiosks and restrooms, elevation 520 feet. Allow about 30 minutes drive time from Seattle.

No comments:

Post a Comment