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Kendall Peak - Photosynths

Jer's PhotoTo remind everyone of sunnier days, I saved a photosynth that I put together this summer from the vista of Kendall Peak. I took the photos for this synth as we walked north along the ridge to try an capture what it's like to traverse the peak. To the east, the mountain drops into Commonwealth Basin and rises to Snoqualmie Mountain and Guye Peak. To the west is Rampart Ridge and Alta Mountain. Snoqualmie Pass ski area, and Mt. Rainer are visible to the south, and Red Mountain and the horn of the Mt. Thompson cut the sky to the north.

The second synth is of the unofficially named Kendall Peak Falls. We happened upon these falls in late October when we were taking an alternate route back from Commonwealth Basin along the Pacific Crest Trail. We missed these falls the first time we hiked the trail during the summer because they were obscured behind heavy underbrush. With autumn in full swing, there were fewer leaves, and more rainfall which made it easy to spy these falls on the cliffs above. Unable to resist the allure of clambering to a waterfall, we scrambled through the devils club and up the rocky stream bed for a closer look. - Jer

Barclay Lake Trail #1055

Our Hiking Time: 2h
Total Ascent: 225ft
Highest Point: 2500ft
Total Distance: 4.4 miles
Location: N 47° 47.0400, W 121° 25.5000
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's PhotoAlthough we’re still not completely done with everything we want to do in the I-90 corridor, our focus is slowly shifting northward. Our hike this week was another tentative foray down Highway 2 in search of a new swath of forest to explore. We found exactly what we were looking for in a short hike out to Barclay Lake and an official introduction to the Wild Sky Wilderness.

The 106,577-acre Wild Sky Wilderness is less than two years old, barclay creek hikingwithmybrotherand parts of it are still winding through the bureaucratic process of being turned over to the Forest Service. Some portions of the Wild Sky are still old growth and truly wild, while others have been logged as recently as the late-60s. In doing a little research, we found that Barclay Lake was not our first time in the Wild Sky Wilderness, which evidently also encompasses Lake Isabel as well.

The Barclay Creek Trail #1055 sits at the end of Forest Road 6024, and is a largely flat, simple trail that follows Barclay Creek for a little over 2 miles to its source, Barclay Lake. Wide and well groomed, the trail wanders past root-wrapped rocks, venerable hemlocks, and moss carpeted undergrowth. Cedar boardwalks occasionally keep boots out of marshy stretches in the trail, and a sturdy log bridge spans Barclay Creek as you approach the lake. Gunn Peak flanks the trail to the north, eventually giving rise to Merchant Peak as you near Barclay Lake. Occasionally Baring Mountain can be seen through the trees, waiting to reveal its craggy features once you reach the lakeside.

barclay lake baring mountain hikingwithmybrotherBarclay Lake lies in a quiet bowl between Merchant Peak and Baring Mountain, somehow giving one the feeling of being deep in the wilderness. Between the well-maintained trail and abundance of campsites – not to mention two pit toilets – it’s clear that Barclay Lake gets a lot of visitors in the warmer months. Standing on the lakeshore it is not hard to understand why. Not only is it peaceful, but the dramatic spire of Baring dominates the scene. Moreover, a short trail capable of transporting the whole family into the wilderness with the minimum of effort adds to the allure. For those looking to climb Baring or continue on to bigger adventures, Barclay Lake makes for a great base camp. For our part, this little trail exposed us to the Wild Sky Wilderness and the potential for dozens of hikes in the immediate vicinity, many of which are sure to be challenging and a bit off the beaten path.

To get there, take Highway 2 to Baring. Near milepost 41 and across from a store, turn left onto 635th up and over the railroad tracks. Asphalt will quickly turn to gravel before shortly coming to a junction. Turn left up Forest Road 6024 and proceed for 4.2 miles to the trailhead at roads end. -Nathan

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Rainy Lake Trail

Our Hiking Time: 6h 30m
Total Ascent: 2700ft
Highest Point: 3900ft
Total Distance: 9 miles
Location: N 47° 30.6900, W 121° 32.0220
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Hard

Nathan's PhotoThe holidays firmly behind us, we were anxious to get back out into the woods and on the trail. We wanted something with a bit of grit to it, something that might require a little bushwhacking to complete. Rainy Lake seemed the right fit – an abandoned trail deep in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley sounded perfect.

Evidently, Rainy Lake was literally named for the abnormal amount garfield rainy lake hikingwithmybrotherof rain that falls in the general area. While we were unable to dig up precisely who christened the lake, it was probably someone that was nearing the end of their ability to creatively name bodies of water. The same difficulties in accessing Rainy Lake that made it appealing also means information is scarce. While the Forest Service has abandoned the trail, it is clear that it is at least partially maintained – brush is recently cleared in many places, and a good portion of the trail is tagged with ribbon. There is some talk that keeping this trail maintained is a lone crusade by someone that wants the trail to remain open; if this is the case, the amount of work that is being done by a single individual is impressive.

Depending on the time of year, finding the trail can be tricky. The trail begins at the Middle Fork Trailhead, crosses the Gateway Bridge and then heads to the right following the river downstream toward Stegosaurus Butte. You’ll continue hugging the riverside for about a half a mile, passing over remnants of the steps and bridges that once graced the trail, until you rainy lake hikingwithmybrotherencounter Rainy Creek. Keep an eye out for some orange tags leading towards a trail on the other side. This is your turnoff, and it can be easy to miss. Note that the trail continues onward to a log that has been converted into a makeshift bridge – if you’ve reached this point you’ve gone too far.

Depending on the time of year, crossing Rainy Creek may be difficult, but once across, the trail is lovely. Follow the narrow bootpath through lush forest and mossy undergrowth. Rainy Creek is your constant companion as you follow it ever upward toward the lake. The path alternates between brutal inclines and occasional plateaus, over occasional blowdowns and straight up talus fields. Still, for about three-quarters of the journey, friendly tags help guide the way when the trail disappears. The occasional views of Mt. Garfield are excellent and the faint trail lends a pleasant feeling of seclusion. Eventually, however, the tags stop appearing. For us, this happened above the snow level, leaving us to follow the creek and the path of least resistance straight up the mountainside. Likely, given the route of the trail until that point, when the snow has melted, there is something of a path that can be followed to the lake.

Rainy Lake lies beneath the exposed rock face of Preacher rainy lake hikingwithmybrotherMountain. For the adventurous, there is a scramble route that can be followed around the east side of the lake to the top of the mountain, but it’s reportedly very overgrown and something of a struggle to navigate. Overall, the route is hard and not for everyone, but the reward may be worth it. Certainly, Rainy Lake would be a great base camp for those that want to summit Preacher or the Pulpit, but it is also a lovely and peaceful destination in itself. If you’re looking for some solitude, Rainy Lake might be a great choice.

To get there, take Exit 34 off I-90 and take a left on 468th Ave. Follow the road past the truck stop for about a half-mile until you reach SE Middle Fork Road, also known as Forest Road 56. Continue to follow the twists in the road until the pavement runs out. From here it’s almost 11 miles on a gravel road to the Middle Fork Trail head parking lot. The trailhead and Gateway Bridge are at the north end of the lot. -Nathan

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Coal Creek Falls - De Leo Wall Loop - Cougar Mountain

Our Hiking Time: 2h 30m
Total Ascent: 800ft
Highest Point: 1100ft
Total Distance: 5.5 miles
Location: N 47° 32.0760, W 122° 7.7220
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's PhotoLingering holiday obligations kept us from venturing too far from home this week. Instead, we headed out to Cougar Mountain and the Red Town Trailhead to tour a different portion of the sprawling park.

cougar mountain cold creek falls hikingwithmybrotherCougar Mountain’s friendly greenery gives little indication of the industrial history of the area. Back in 1863, coal was discovered on Cougar Mountain. Over the next 100 years, miners would pull 11 million tons of coal from the mountain before finally sealing the mines in 1963. All that coal prompted folks to dub the area "Newcastle Hills," after England's coal-rich city of Newcastle. Soon, Newcastle Hills coal drove the the creation of Seattle's first railroad, which hauled coal from Cougar Mountain out to Lake Washington and eventually Elliot Bay. Mining towns cropped up around shafts bored into the mountain. One of those settlements was Red Town, named for the color most of the buildings were painted. The current Red Town Trail largely follows what was then Hill Street, the town's main thoroughfare running past houses, schools and businesses. Most of these settlements faded away as the coal industry declined in the 1920s, and by the time World War II was over, neighbors sought to move beyond the area's mining past, and renamed it Cougar Mountain. Today, with a little effort, one can still find the rusting artifacts, lingering cement foundations, and abandoned equipment of those bygone industries. More likely than not, a friendly interpretative sign will be nearby to lend historical context to many of the lingering traces of Cougar Mountain's past.

With 36 miles of official trails and many more miles of “unofficial” or abandoned trails, there is a lot to see on Cougar Mountain. We mapped out a rough route taking us up to the De Leo Wall and past Coal Creek Falls, though it required hop-scotching between a surprising number of cougar mountain cold creek falls hikingwithmybrothertrails. Fortunately, trails are coded and well signed, keeping confusion down to a minimum.

We took the Wildside Trail towards De Leo Wall, a rocky outcropping that affords something of a view of the surrounding housing developments. Trails are well maintained by thousands of booted feet and an army of volunteers. Alders and hemlocks dominate the low forest riddled with streamlets and occasional bogs. On our way back down from the wall we hooked over to see the underwhelming Far Country Falls before pushing on to Coal Creek Falls. The Coal Creek Falls Trail is mild and contains few ups and downs, making it a perfect trail for the kids or trail running, both of which were in attendance on a rainy Sunday morning. The 25’ falls can make a good rest stop along the route or are a popular destination in and of themselves.

While not our usual high-adventure, Cougar Mountain does manage to have a little something tcougar mountain cold creek falls hikingwithmybrothero offer everyone – history, waterfalls, miles of trail, and accessibility for the whole family. Heck, there’s even a zoo. Proximity to the city means there will be a lot of folks to share the trail with, though it isn’t too difficult to head out to more remote parts of the park to find some peace and quiet.

To get there, take I-90 to Exit 13. Head right up the hill on Lakemont Boulevard just over three miles. Look for the entrance to the Red Town Trailhead on the left side of the road. - Nathan

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Otter Falls, Lipsy Lake, and Big Creek Falls

Our Hiking Time: 5h
Total Ascent: 700ft
Highest Point: 1800ft
Total Distance: 9.5 miles
Location: N 47° 35.2200, W 121° 28.0560
Required Permit: Northwest Forest Pass
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's PhotoThe Middle Fork Snoqualmie is once again open and after our trip up to Tin Cup Joe Falls, we were itching to do some more exploring in the area. One never knows when the road will wash out again, and we want to get as many hikes in while we can. Before we knew it, we were trekking down a former logging road in search of Otter Falls.

The hike begins at the Taylor River Bridge at the end of Forest Road 56, sometimes also called the Lake Dorothy Road, or Lake Dorothy Highway. Back in the 1950sotter falls taylor river hikingwithmybrother, there was an effort to ram a road up through the river valley to connect North Bend to Skykomish. The route was to follow the old Taylor River Road, built by loggers to truck lumber back to Seattle. Evidently, some work was done to facilitate the project – mostly bridgework and some dirt roads cut – but it was ultimately blocked by the creation of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Today the Taylor River Road is but a whisper of the logging road it once was and might have remained had the construction continued; instead it feels like the quiet footpath many people hoped it would become.

After you park and gear up, cross the bridge and keep to the right at the Y in the trail. Enjoy a stroll next to the alder-lined Taylor River. Craggy Mt. Garfield makes an early appearance on the other side of the river, eventually yielding the stage to Treen Peak. After three leisurely miles, you’ll hit Marten Creek and what is known as Martin Falls. Small but pretty - note the greens and oranges of the rocks that can be seen in the pool below the falls. If you have adventure on your mind, there is an old bootpath on the far side of the bridge leading up to Marten Lake, a little over a mile upstream.

Pushing past, we made for Otter Creek is a little over a mile up the trail. Keep an eye for the otter falls taylor river hikingwithmybrother“Otter Falls” sign, or for a cairn letting you know to head up. There isn’t much of a formal trail, it’s a short uphill battle to get to the falls, so just chose the path of least resistance. Otter Falls can be seen once you reach the top – it’s tempting to head straight for them, but resist the urge and instead veer toward the right of the falls for an easy place to cross the creek and avoid the brambles.

As impressive as the falls are from here, you can really only see about half of it. Otter Creek slides almost half a mile down the exposed granite to fall into Lipsy Lake below. Linger here for lunch or, if you haven’t had your fill of waterfalls just yet, head back down to the main trail and push onward. About a half-mile ahead you’ll reach a sturdy concrete bridge, perhaps a remnant of the Lake Dorothy Highway project that never was. The bridge spans the very cleverly named Big Creek and showcases Big Creek Falls. Although it lacks the serenity of Otter Falls, in some ways Big Creek Falls is a little more engaging. The angle of the rock is a bit steeper, increasing the speed of the water and making things more dramatic. Check them both out and let us know which one you like better.

The trail is not too long, and there isn’t much in the way of elevation, otter falls lipsy lake hikingwithmybrothermaking it an easy hike without too much company. Despite being relatively close to Seattle, the Taylor River Road feels remote and much further from civilization. This is one to take some less experienced hikers on to give them a whiff of the wilderness. It is also easy to extend your hike beyond Big Creek Falls by pushing on to Snoqualmie Lake, though be warned that it is only a few miles, the lake is roughly 1500ft higher in elevation.

To get there, take Exit 34 off I-90 and take a left on 468th Ave. Follow the road past the truck stop for about a half-mile until you reach SE Middle Fork Road, also known as Forest Road 56. Turn right onto the Middle Fork Road and follow the twists in the road until the pavement runs out. Continue on FR 56 for 12 miles, crossing the Taylor River. Once across, keep to the left for another quarter mile to the end of the road and the trailhead. -Nathan

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