Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Recent hikes, March 2010

Big Four Ice Caves (March 21, 2009)

Since this hike was described last fall I won’t go into detail except to mention that once again we hiked in a downpour.

The trail is free of snow and flowers are beginning to come out – violets, coltsfoot, skunk cabbage.

There were very few hikers on the trail; the rain kept the crowds away.

We’d planned to hike to Barlow Point as well but it was raining so hard we decided against that and turned the rest of the day into a photo-foray.

Stops included: Red Bridge (River Road), near the “Sinkhole” to see vestiges of an old Monte Cristo Railroad bridge, the Youth-on-Age Nature Trail and the Old Mill Pond; we also stopped at several points along the Mountain Loop, pulling off onto the side of the road for more photography.

The most “interesting” stop was at Red Bridge – here we parked at the gated road and walked a way. We’d spotted what looked like an old bridge on the far side of the river so wanted to investigate. We hiked the gated road perhaps 1/16 of a mile (this is called River Road but is not so signed) to where a rough path led down to the gravel bars of the Stillaguamish river. There we got a good look at the structure, definitely part of an old bridge. Here we looked across the river and saw the supports for the bridge on the other side. Neither of these edifices can be seen when the vegetation leafs out.

Since we wanted to see the other part of the bridge we hiked back to the car, crossed the river and parked on the other side of “Red Bridge”. Here we found a path that led to the bridge (not signed). It appears that this site does get a few visitors – there is some graffiti on the bridge but at least no trash.

To the best of my knowledge this old bridge is not mentioned in the Monte Cristo guidebooks – but I will double-check on that (I may be mistaken). Whether it was a part of the Monte Cristo railroad or an early logging bridge remains to be known. Anyway, it was fun to spot it.

We stopped at the “new” Mountain View Diner near Robe and are pleased to report that since ownership changed hands, it’s a good place to stop for food (or visit the Lounge). I’ve always liked the Mountain View Diner but we strongly recommend stopping when they are open – everything is baked/cooked and fresh. On Saturday they had had a brunch that morning and the leftover desserts were two desserts for the price of one because they said the “servings” were too small to charge for one. I enjoyed freshly baked ginger-bread, Silverback had a chocolate chip cookie. Before dessert, we shared a BLT (the best BLT I’ve ever eaten).

Mailbox Peak – March 23, 2010

The trail is just as steep as ever but it’s easier to follow the trail that it used to be. This was our second visit to Mailbox in the past few weeks; this time I got to the summit, Silverback stopped a couple hundred feet short.

We’re both in better shape than we were last time. A regime of hiking and eating better has helped us both. Though I am going on 67 this hike to Mailbox was the “easiest” it’s ever been for me. I never ran out of wind or energy.

When Silverback moved out here from Denver last April, he could barely walk uphill. He’s lost about 80 pounds and will soon catch up with me. It’s just a matter of time!!

There was no significant snow until we reached the boulders (where Silverback stopped last time). At that point hikers can choose between scrambling the boulders or hiking up beside the boulder field and scrambling up to the ridge on snow.

We tried the snow route first but gave that up soon – the sun was shining and the snow on the trees was melting. It was like a miniature rain-storm! Though we had ice axes, we didn’t have umbrellas so gave that up and continued on up via the boulder field.

I’m always happier on rocks than I am on snow; climbing on boulders is fun, it’s like play. There was a little bit of snow on the rocks but not enough to worry about. We soon met the trail again.

Beyond the boulder field there were scraps of snow here and there; but no significant snow until the actual summit itself. The mailbox is bare and open for business. There are always surprises inside and it’s fun to read the summit register (always).

As I started down another group started up; Silverback and I retraced our route over the boulders and back into the forest where the trail is marked with silver diamonds. The trail – while not snowy – is extremely muddy and slippery, the mud being the consistency (but not the flavor of chocolate icing).

Admittedly we were both tired by the time we got back to the car. We knew we’d be paying for our hike today and so we are. I’m a little stiff and am suffering a bit of a mountain “hang-over” – i.e., dehydrated, sleepy. Silverback is also feeling the effects from yesterday but neither of us suffering badly enough to say “Enough!”

The stats are about 6-7 miles round trip, altimeter said we’d gained 4,300 feet but I don’t think it’s that much elevation gain.

Other hikes:

March 20, 2010 (Cedar Butte and Rattlesnake Ledge)

This was a Mountaineer hike that I co-lead with Steve Payne as part of The Mountaineers Conditioning Hiking Series class. It was a pacing hike.

First we hiked to Cedar Butte (from Rattlesnake Lake), then hiked to the ledge. Cedar Butte was relatively quiet; we had the little summit to ourselves. Rattlesnake Ledge; that’s another story – it was probably the most crowded I’ve ever seen that trail but on a warm, sunny day it doesn’t matter. You expect a lot of people out on a trail like this on a nice day. It was fun to see other hikers – of all races, ages, shapes and sizes.

Cedar Butte is about 400 feet of elevation gain as I recall. Not sure of the elevation gain to Rattlesnake Ledge but it’s not a lot.

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