It's been an extra cool and rainy spring in Seattle. Luckily, late this week the sun broke through the clouds and today was predicted to be near perfect. No clouds with a high in the mid-60's. To celebrate I headed out towards North Bend very early to hike the Rattlesnake Ledge trail and if I had any steam left, the Cedar Butte trail in Iron Horse State Park too. Luckily they are located right next to each other off I-90 at exit 32. Rattlesnake Mountain is on the right hand side of the road and Iron Horse is on the left.
As I drove out I-90 I snapped a picture of the cool clear morning. I knew the forecasters were right and I was excited. I arrived at the parking area next to Rattlesnake Lake a little before 7 AM and took a couple of pictures before heading up the 2 mile trail to Rattlesnake Ledge. The trail to the ledge is extremely popular and on a beautiful day like today I knew it would be jam packed. For me, having a lot of other people around kind of defeats one of the purposes of hiking, which is to get away. So I was glad that I got up early and found a nearly empty parking lot. From the parking lot Rattlesnake Mountain looked awesome in the clear sky.
There isn't too much to say about the Rattlesnake Trail itself. It's a two-mile trail that climbs about 1,100 feet up. That's a healthy elevation gain and my legs knew what I was doing. A couple of times I questioned my earlier decision to load up my back with extra weight for a more strenuous leg workout. There was a tree down over the trail at one point but nothing impassable. The trail was in great shape and luckily I just saw a handful of people on my way up (less than 10). Approaching the ledge there is one break in the trees where I got a shot of Rattlesnake Lake with the mountains behind it. Very near the ledge is a sign directing you left to go up the very steep trail to the East Summit or right up the final scramble to the ledge.
At the ledge I was giddy with excitement when I saw the view. I had the entire viewpoint to myself for the better part of five minutes before I was joined by two solo hikers (one carrying his 2 1/2 month old baby in a baby bjorn). We exchanged pleasantries and pictures before they headed back down and I was once again left alone for a few minutes. The view from the ledge is spectacular. You can see Mount Si across I-90 and some other mountains to the northeast and east (I don't know their names). I could see my car in the parking area and it seemed a lot farther than 1,100 ft down. I can certainly understand why the trail is so popular. Extreme caution is warranted on the ledge. It is a very long fall and I would have been very nervous if there had been a lot of people up there crowding me. Unfortunately the sun was still rising just easy of Mount Si so some of the pictures are a little washed out. I might have to climb up the trail in the dark sometime. The ledge would be a fantastic place to watch a sunrise.
As I headed back down I passed a steady stream of people going up. I was glad to have gotten there early. It seemed as if within a few hours the trail would be almost too crowed to hike. I took a few pictures of a more clear sky above the lake, ate my breakfast as I looked back on the mountain and contemplated where I had just been, and then drove a few hundred feet south down the road to Iron Horse State Park.
From the parking lot at Iron Horse I hiked up to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail which I think is about 100 miles long and was once home to railroad tracks. There is a 2 mile long very dark tunnel 18 miles to the east (or so I've read) but the sign at Iron Horse indicates it's closed for some reason. I hiked east along the trail (staying out of the Cedar River Watershed, of course) for about a half mile. Just after crossing Boxley Creek I turned right at the trail towards Cedar Butte which was marked by a small sign and steep terrain. As it turns out the trail wasn't all that steep past the initial portion (it climbs 950 feet over two miles). About 0.7 miles from the JWPT is a little sign pointing you to the right (though there is a trail to the left) which takes you on a trail past the Boxley Blowout. Supposedly there are views but I saw nothing. The coolest part of the Blowout trail as an extremely calm and quiet section of deep forest where I could sleep for days. I got a rough video with my phone (my camera battery had died at that point) to show others how quiet it was. I saw an odd tree covered in moss. Beyond that I reached Saddle Junction where the Blowout trail, the summit trail to the butte, the southside trail, and another trial (unknown name) all merge. The unknown trail was difficult to discern but on the way down I found it. I explored the unknown trail and it turned out to join up with the main trail at the small marker I'd seen at 0.7 miles from the JWPT. Also, I explored the southside trail a little bit (few hundred yards) but it was very overgrown and I didn't want to risk getting lost. Others I spoke to on the trail had no information about this trail.
The Cedar Butte trail obviously doesn't get as much foot traffic as some other trails and can be overgrown in spots. It is, however, very quiet and I was very alone. At the top of the butte trees obscured most of the view and I was only able to get one decent shot. One funny note is that the marker from 1937 is misspelled twice and has denoted the spot "Ceder Butt". On the way back to the car I noticed an obnoxious sign for Cedar Falls on the JWPT. I must have had my head down on the way in. I'm not sure what the purpose is, however a trail does seem to go into the Cedar River Watershed at that point but a sign very clearly tells you to keep out.
All in all it was a good morning. In four hours I climbed to both Rattlesnake Ledge and Cedar Butte. I covered a total of 8 miles and climbed over 2000 vertically. I had run into very few people. As I was leaving however it was as if the whole of Seattle was descending upon Rattlesnake Mountain. The once empty parking lot was jam packed and people were parked all up and down the road for a good distance. I took one final shot out the back window as I was getting out of dodge.