Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, December 2010


It was another black and white day on the western side of the mountains with a non-descript gray sky thrown in. Rain was in the forecast but it often is in the Pacific Northwest; we were prepared. Under these conditions we knew there wouldn’t be much to photograph but we enjoying trying. In fact, some of my best photographs have been on those days when the light was poor because I’ve had to look harder for subject matter. On black and white days like these I long for a better macro-lens because the microscopic world is fascinating and often provides exceptional beauty to those willing to look. A broken branch beside the trail can provide Van Gogh reds and yellows; and a wisp of lichen can take on the intricacy of tattered lace and moss the lime-green of hippie-days Day-Glo extravaganzas.

It being mid-week there were only a couple other vehicles at Red Town where we began our wandering and musing. We had no idea where we wanted to go; Coal Creek Falls was rejected because of the lack of light or ice formations and we’d recently hiked other trails on Cougar Mountain. We’d left the map at home not because we are mindless idiots but because we wanted to wander and be surprised at what we discovered. Besides, the trail system is generally well signed and you never have to venture far before you come out at a trailhead.

One of the trails we hiked was the Old Man’s Trail (we joked we took that trail because we were feeling old). Why it is called the Old Man’s Trail remains a mystery to us but it is a relatively gentle trail that eventually comes out near the Sky Country trailhead, a trailhead that was new to us. We also hiked the Cave Hole Trail, the Coyote Trail and the Klondike Swamp Trail not in that order (We’d started at Red Town and hiked the Cave Hole Trail, turning off onto the Old Man’s Trail (also new to us), came out at the Sky Country trailhead, retraced our route back via the Old Man’s Trail back to the Cave Hole Trail then took the bypass trail to the Klondike Swamp Trail then took the Coyote Trail back to the Cave Hole Trail, then back to Red Town.

The hike ended up being about 6 miles with 615 feet gain – not a strong work-out but a pleasant leg-stretcher with fresh air; plus, the little bit of photography we were able to indulge in was good for the soul.

By the way if you do forget your Green Trails map (No. 203S, Cougar Mountain/Squak Mountain) there are printed maps available at the trailheads.

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