Monday, May 10, 2010

Section Line Trail, Cable Line Trail, May 2010

Two Hikes on Tiger Mountain – May 2010 (Cable Line Trail, Middle Tiger via West Side Road, TMT, Artifacts trail)

This is May? What happened to spring?

This has been an odd spring but the work of getting (or staying) in shape continues no matter the weather or the number of birthdays (I wish I could slow those down!). .

I’ve become fond of the Cable Line Trail; it’s a great opportunity to get into or stay in shape. Though I am long in the tooth I get a little faster every time I tackle it and feel I could climb forever.

We arrived at the Cable Line trailhead on a rainy Saturday morning; despite the nasty weather there were already other hikers on the Cable Line. I passed a few hikers on the trail; a few passed me. It used to be that everyone passed me so I have no complaints. Besides, it’s not about ego – it’s about feeling fit because being fit feels good.

This trail simply gets down to the business of getting to the summit of West Tiger 3 as efficiently as possible; mostly straight up. When it’s muddy, care is needed to keep from slipping in the mud whether climbing or descending. When it’s dry care is needed to keep from skidding on the packed dirt, especially descending. It was muddy though we managed to stay upright, coming and going.

It was too cold to spend time on the summit; we elected to hike down via the Section Line trail, another favorite trail. We’ve hiked the Section Line trail often enough now that we have “favorite” trees and always give them a pat in passing; seeing our pet trees is almost like running into old friends.

At lower elevations spring is springing into action – woodland flowers are blooming. We spotted trilliums, bleeding hearts, violets, fringe-cup, vanilla leaf (no flowers yet), wild ginger, false lily-of-the-valley.

By the time we got back to Tradition Plateau we still felt like hiking so hiked the Swamp Trail, the Ruth Kees Big Tree trail and the Adventure Trail. These trails are more lonesome than many trails at Tiger though we did run into a few other hikers.

This reminds me -- a woman was recently assaulted on a trail near Tradition Plateau (a potential sexual assault) but she fought back and the man ran off. We were surprised to hear of this – that happened on a Saturday morning, generally a busy time on Tiger Mountain. Since then a sketch has been released of the assailant; if you haven’t already done so take a look at The Seattle Times for the sketch. And be on the alert.

As we hiked the lower elevation trails we noted how beautiful horsetails are when they are in their proper place; (not our yard thank you!). We’ve been battling horsetails for two years now and are slowly making progress. They’re ugly in the yard but beautiful in the forest.

The second hike on Tiger was yesterday (May 5, 2010). The weather was – well, awful. The forecast was for showers with partial clearing but it never cleared, at least not in Issaquah. We drove to the trailhead on SR 18; we wanted to start out on the Iverson Railroad Trail.

The Iverson Railroad trail was closed so instead we hiked the West Side Road to access the TMT; but soon after we started hiking we got side-tracked by the old “Artifacts Trail” and followed that instead, pausing at the site of a fatal train crash in 1925; mangled ties and contorted metal tell a sad story.

Though we had the map with us we were so wet that we elected to hike until we reached a high point or the next trail junction, whichever came first. Big mistake! After passing more artifacts we were unable to identify the trail grew steeper as the rain intensified. It wasn’t too much longer before the rain turned to snow – we kept on going.

As we climbed the trail grew even steeper and the snow deeper, not enough to warrant an ice axe or traction devices but enough to render the trail slippery, making it more difficult to follow the trail. When we could climb no higher we deduced we’d reached Middle Tiger (a summit without a view, even on a nice day).

Then we made another mistake. Rather than hike back the way we came we followed a more discernible trail we believed would connect to the TMT. We soon came to a signed junction (whew!) and only had to hike another mile to the West Side Road. This stretch was gorgeous but we were too cold to stop for photography; the precipitation intensified, turning from snow to rain.

Finally we reached the West Side Road but did not stop other than to gulp down an energy drink before the final stretch back to the trailhead. We were so wet that despite good rain gear, boots, hats and gloves we were getting cold, hungry and tired. That’s never a good combination - it seemed to take forever before we got back to the trailhead.

We were overjoyed to reach the car, a hot thermos of coffee and dry clothing. It was only after we’d changed into dry clothes we were able to eat our lunch – our fingers (despite our wool gloves) had grown so cold while hiking down from Middle Tiger that they were unwilling to grapple with packs and get our lunch out. It’s all too easy to see how hypothermia can get hikers into trouble.

It rained all the way back to Seattle despite a forecast of “showers” with a few sun breaks. We were happy to get home and dry out our gear.

In retrospect we should have turned around sooner than we did and putting ourselves at the risk of hypothermia. We had good gear but on such a wet hike it never holds up as well as we’d like it to; plus, I made the same mistake I have made over and over again, not bringing enough extra food. I don’t eat much when I hike; another mistake. I get so interested in what I am doing I just don’t think about food!! For that reason I carry a protein drink along and that has come in handy several times over the years (GU packets work well too when your fingers refuse to cooperate).

We are eager to repeat our loop on a dry day so we can enjoy this hike, rather than merely survive it. According to the GPS we hiked about 11 miles with roughly 2,800 feet of gain (taking into account numerous ups and downs).

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