My Wednesday day off really felt like a Saturday. So it really felt strange to be in the office on Thursday and it was pretty painful to look out the window from my desk and see warm sunshine. The mountains were calling. Since I'm ahead of schedule on my project at work I decided to take a vacation day on Friday to hike and luckily it didn't take too much peer pressure to convince my hiking buddy to do the same.
Very early Friday morning we headed up to Snoqualmie Pass to climb Mt. Washington. You can get there by taking Exit 38 off of I-90 and then a couple of quick right hand turns into Olallie State Park. Once again we were first to the parking area and first on the trail.
We hit the trail at about 6:40 AM. From the parking area there is a short climb up to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail and then a short hoof to the beginning of the unmarked Mt. Washington trail. We carried Green Trails map #206S and I recommend that others do the same. From there we began climbing in earnest. In the 2 miles from the car to the split between the Great Wall and Mt. Washington trails we climbed 1700 feet. This was the most difficult part of the route we took to the top. We did have an opportunity for some early views. In the 6th picture below you can see in the foreground Cedar Butte and behind that the very popular Rattlesnake Ledge, both of which I hiked last year.
From the split you have two choices. You can continue up the main trail climbing the final 1300 feet in 2 1/2 miles or take a left and follow the Great Wall trail over a series of old logging roads. The latter route climbs the final 1300 feet in 4 miles and contains a lot of pretty flat hiking. We went left and took the Great Wall Trail.
The start of the Great Wall Trail begins with more climbing but before long we found ourselves on old logging roads. We consulted our map extensively on this trail to ensure that we didn't make any wrong turns. This trail was very cool because it started out giving us views of North Bend and Mt. Si (5th picture below) and then eventually hooked us around so that we could see all the way down the eastbound I-90 corrider (9th picture below). Most of this portion of the trail is exposed so we busted out the sunscreen to keep us safe. As we continued down the road we could eventually see our destination, the summit of Mt. Washington itself (last picture below). This was really cool because we could see the ridge we'd be climbing up and we could also see a bit of the main trail upon which we would later descend.
After making all of the correct turns on the trails and logging roads we found ourselves in a small meadow that appears to be a truck turnaround. We began to climb the ridge towards the summit. We were mostly bathed in sunshine as we climbed up through fields of wildflowers. We were pleasantly surprised after a bit of climbing to turn around and see Mt. Rainier in full view behind us. I must have a thousand pictures of Mt. Rainier but I just can't stop myself from taking more. Honestly I just love that mountain so much and it's always a treat to see it from up high on a sunny day.
Eventually the trail up the ridge merges with the main Mt. Washington trail. Just above this is a rock which is the perfect lunch spot with a fantastic view of Mt. Rainier (6th picture below). Just above that is the summit which is mostly in the trees. From there we could see North Bend, Mt. Si, Mt. Teneriffe, Mailbox Peak, and even Glacier Peak (7th picture below). Below the saddle between Si and Teneriffe we could just make out Mt. Baker but it was too faint to photograph. We spent just a few minutes on the summit before we returned back down to the lunch spot. Below us was Chester Morse Lake and all of Seattle's drinking water from the Cedar River Watershed (4th picture below). At the top of the opposite ridge we could see the trail/logging road we had followed earlier in the morning (5th picture below) .
Eventually we reluctantly headed down. We took the main Mt. Washington trail to the cars and it took us less than half the time to return as it had to get to the summit (6 miles and 3000 feet up, 4.5 miles and 3000 feet down). Just a few pictures from this trail are shown below. In the end we were on the trail for 6 hours 20 minutes total. Our mood was only slightly soured by the ticket on my buddy's car for not displaying his Discover Pass (he had accidentally left it at home in his other car).