June 15th, 2014
I’ve been spoiled again with the perfect fathers day weekend – Friday – picking up an awesome kayak as a gift from Clara for fathers day and my birthday (still coming up); Saturday hauling a load of ‘stuff’ from my garage that will find new homes when it is resold to raise funds for a school, then stopping off for Bourbon ice cream (yes it is a key ingredient) at Snoqualmie Ice Cream and ending the day watching a movie; sleeping in until well past 8:00 on Sunday morning, getting up to eggs benedict and espresso, hearing from the kids, a walk in the woods, and coming home to a surf and turf dinner.
About that walk in the woods – While Barclay Lake has been a good standby, I’ve been scouting around to broaden choices for trails that are easy for the smaller crowd, and less challenging for the acrophobic, but that still offer scenic rewards. This weekend, I convinced Dave G. to check out the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie trail with me. After a delicious lunch (como bread, liver pate, cappicola, cambazola etc.) – thanks Clara – we headed east on I-90 towards the mountains. Crossing Lake Washington, we went from light drizzle into full rain storm, but in Seattle you can’t let a little rain deter you, and besides, looking ahead there were a few holes where bright blue sky was visible through the clouds.
Travelling from Seattle to exit 34, just east of North Bend took about 45 minutes, and after a short drive north past the TA truck stop, we turned east (right for the challenged) on SE Middle Fork Road. For the next couple of years, the road will be under construction, with an anticipated completion of paving in 2016, so keep your eyes open for closures or delays. Despite the steady drizzle, a number of cars were pulled out at various spots along the river and white water kayaking was in full swing. After a few miles of asphalt, then ~ 10 miles of gravel we reached the trail head. The last 0.25 miles were pretty rutted, but there were several cars in the parking lot. As I pulled on my trail boots, I also got out the rain shell, since there was a constant drizzle, and the patches of blue sky had disappeared.
The valley and surrounding ranges that comprise the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie watershed are developing into an outdoor wonderland. From the lush lower lands along the river, to the tributary rivers and creeks and upstream to the Alpine Lakes, there are trails for walking, climbing, cycling or horseback riding, not to mention kayaking and fishing in the rivers and creeks. This should be fair warning – if you are looking for solitude you might want to find a more remote location. Even on this rain soaked afternoon we met a number of outdoor enthusiasts. If however, you need a convenient fix of classic Northwest forest and river, soon to be accessible by the luxury of a paved road, this is a great place to come.
Stepping out of the truck and into this landscape I feel an immediate sense of home. Having grown up in the countryside near Chilliwack BC, and as a child, having traipsed around in the hills and along the Chilliwack and Vedder rivers, this setting is familiar. Moss covered trees, lush undergrowth, devils club reaching up to 10 ft or more, leaves dripping with dew (or in this case raindrops) and salmon berries in their orange and red hues are all happy reminders of my youth in the Fraser Valley.
Just a few hundred feet out of the parking lot, we crossed the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie and at the T, took trail 1003 to the east (left). The Pratt Lake Connector trail (to the right) will have to wait for another day. Did I mention it was still drizzling? Despite this, the trail was in great shape, with very little standing water. We meandered along the river, then a little ways up into the woods, coming out below a huge rock face at Stegosaurus Butte. This trail provides a quiet walk through the woods, with great views of craggy mountain peaks and waterfalls across the river valley.
As we hiked along, two boys on mountain bikes cruised by, soon followed by their sister who looked to be about 10, and their parents. We also met up with a couple of US Forest Service rangers and some other day hikers on their way out. Its good to have your actions validated by others – if we are a little nutty to be out on the trail on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, at least we aren’t the only ones! While the views were not spectacular, all the play of the mist in the trees and surrounding peaks, the various flowers in bloom and the feel of a mossy forest floor made for a rewarding afternoon.
As we hiked further, the path took us through the forest, though the river was never out of earshot. All along the way, we passed through patches of salmon berries, which provided refreshing snacks. We also crossed a number of streams, where the winter run-off was making its way down to the river. A few miles in, we crossed a large creek, with great boulders and trees / branches strewn around the forest floor. It’s not hard to imagine the potential raging power of spring run off in full force. Eventually the trail returned to the rivers edge. By this time, we were thoroughly soaked – time for a new rain shell. Looking upstream, the destination bridge across to the Dingford trailhead was still not in sight, but given the wet conditions, we decided to make our way back to the truck.
For me, its one of the most appealing aspects of living in Seattle – just an hour from homeI can step into the forest, walk along a river, eat salmon berries fresh off the bush, or jump off a snowbank into an alpine lake. It’s a continuing testament to efforts of the people who provide us all with an incredible system of trails that let us wander around in our small corner of the world.
Life is good.