Monday, October 5, 2009

Granite Mountain, October 4, 2009

Granite Mountain, October 4, 2009

Even with an early start this popular trailhead was so full I had to park along the frontage road. Well, I can’t blame anyone for wanting to get high (no pun intended) on what could be one of the last warm autumn days of the year.

Usually I can cope with crowds on popular trails but there were so many hikers on the trail today that I felt annoyed (mostly at myself for being there in the first place). At times it was almost like being in a queue at the bank and the only chance for any kind of solitude was to go off trail in the lower basin.

I made good time (for me) to the marker for the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Then I began to slow down as the scenery began to open up and the fall color began. I’m not sure how to gauge this years’ fall color in comparison to other years but some of the vegetation at lower elevations seemed more dead than colorful. The higher I went, the better the color, especially the reds.

The conditions were perfect for hiking this steep, rocky trail – cool, crisp and sunny. No one could complain about the weather. By the time I got to the lower basin with the tarns I was in need of a rest and solitude so I found a nice boulder off trail and hung out there for a while before getting back in line to reach the summit.

There’s a little bit of snow in the upper basin and just before the lookout; if there’s a hard freeze this could complicate the last stretch. Yesterday, the sun was warm enough that it was just snow, not ice. The lookout is closed for the year.

There was a large group of hikers gathered under the lookout, hikers here and there, just about everywhere on the summit rocks and a little below. After sitting for a while and eating lunch I “caught” the “good cheer” all around me. Everyone seemed happy – even those who chose to sit alone on a rock and gaze into the distance.

The walk back down was uneventful though I felt a little sadness at leaving Granite Mountain, perhaps for the last time this season. It’s not an easy place to get to at my age (for some, not at any age) and once I’m there, I find it hard to leave.

Getting to the trailhead: Go east on I-90 from Seattle to Exit 47, turn left over the freeway, left again into the Granite Mountain/Pratt Lake parking lot. Pray for a parking spot.

Stats: 8 miles round trip – 3,800 feet gain (according to “100 Hikes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness”. I didn’t bring the GPS today.

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