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Keechelus Ridge Snowshoe

Our Hiking Time: 4h 15m
Total Ascent: 2500ft
Highest Point: 5000ft
Total Distance: 8 miles
Location: N 47° 20.8500, W 121° 18.4380
Required Permit: Sno-Park Permit
Difficulty: Moderate

Nathan's PhotoWhile there is plenty of good snowshoeing left this season, weather and timing sometimes makes the trek out to the back country a challenge. Since we had the right amount of time and what we thought was a favorable forecast, we headed out over Snoqualmie Pass to a snowshoe route with a little elevation gain and the promise of some views: Keechelus Ridge.

keechelus ridge hikingwithmybrotherThe ridge overlooks the eastern end of nearby Keechelus Lake. “Keechelus” is a Native word meaning “few fish” or “less fish” in contrast to neighboring Kachess Lake which means “more fish.” Although portions of the ridge are privately owned, national forest roads provide a public route to the summit. In 2007, the Cascade Land Conservancy acquired 320 acres of wildlife habitat on Keechelus Ridge, further expanding the area that you can explore with a sturdy pair of snowshoes.

The trail begins at the Price Creek Sno-Park, cutting up a few hundred feet through second generation firs and cedar to FR 4832. Head left down the wide road and you will soon encounter Price Creek. If you’re already itching for the back country, leave the road here and head uphill parallel to the water, staying high on the bench above the creek. This will shave some distance off the road route. Alternatively continue a short distance to FR 124, which swings wide around Price Creek and slowly switchbacks up the mountainside.

keechelus ridge hikingwithmybrotherThe road route passes a number of small roads, some private. Stick to the larger, wider FR 124 until you reach a major intersection, likely filled with snowmobile tracks in the winter. The back country route will land you at this same intersection as well. This is FR 4934, and you should expect some company. It is a popular road for snowmobilers, and it’s likely they’ll buzz by you if you stick to the road. Back country folks can walk straight across FR 4934 and continue the charge straight up the ridgeline to the radio tower at the summit. If you prefer the road, angle to the right and uphill on FR 126 and continue to the tower.

While the radio tower is fun for some, most will find bigger rewards from the views here on a clear day. Don’t expect 360-degree views, and do expect to tromp around a bit to get views in different directions. Still, it should be easy to pick out Mt. Rainier in the panorama, seasoned hikers will be able to pick out Chair Peak, Kaleetan Peak, Bandera Mountain, Mt. Stuart, Mt. Defiance, and Granite Mountain. But everyone will be able to enjoy the expanse of snow-covered mountaintops and craggy ridges. Find a good spot sheltered from the snowmobilers and reap the rewards of your climb.

At almost 2,500’ of elevation gain, this is a challenging snowshoe. keechelus ridge hikingwithmybrotherMake sure you save this hike for a clear day, as the views really make this hike worth it. Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favor, and we were shrouded in low-hanging clouds. This limited visibility kept us on the roads rather than venturing into the back country, which not only prevented us from feeling like we’d gotten away from civilization, but also kept us in close contact with snowmobilers. While we went off road on our trek back down, we couldn’t quite escape the noise of the snowmobiles. We recommend tackling this hike on a sunny weekday to minimize the motorized company.

To get there, take I-90 over the Pass to the Kachess Lake Exit 62. Avoid the temptation to take Exit 61, with its alluring “Price Creek Sno-Park” sign, since there’s no way to cross I-90 to get to the trail. Instead, take Exit 62, head left across the overpass and get on I-90 heading west to Exit 61 and the side of Price Creek Snow Park you need. - Nathan
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Federation Forest State Park

Our Hiking Time: 2h 30m
Total Ascent: 150ft
Highest Point: 1750ft
Total Distance: 4 miles
Location: N 47° 9.1260, W 121° 41.3220
Required Permit: Discover Pass
Difficulty: Easy

Nathan's PhotoLooking for a change of pace and feeling a little nostalgic for an area we spent a lot of time tromping around in as kids, this week we wanted to visit Highway 410 and the banks of the White River. We’d been keeping an eye out for good low-land hikes for the winter months, and picked out a few options in the area. As the rain started up, we narrowed our choices down and headed out to an old favorite, Federation Forest State Park.

federation forest state park hikingwithmybrotherThe General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Washington is the “Federation” that worked to make Federation Forest State Park a reality. The organization traces its beginnings back to 1896, when women's groups from across Washington State came together and formed a statewide branch of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC). The GFWC is an organization dedicated to volunteer community involvement that formed in the early 1890s and was recognized by Congress. Today the international organization counts members in every state and in ten countries, and is among the world’s largest and oldest non-partisan, non-religious women’s volunteer service organizations. In 1925, the Washington Federation began raising funds for a park that would preserve forests that were rapidly disappearing in the face of unsustainable logging practices. By 1928 the federation forest state park hikingwithmybrotherFederation bought a plot of timber land, but due to nearby logging and storm damage, the park was closed in 1939, and the new, current location along the White River was purchased in 1941. Officially dedicated in 1949, the park grew over the next 30 years, acquiring more land and building an interpretive center largely from the generosity of Catherine Montgomery, who willed a substantial sum to the expansion of the park. Today, the park covers 619 acres with miles of hiking trails winding through mossy old growth forest.

The network of trails is largely composed of a large loop that spans the length of the park. A series of trails bisect the loop, allowing for shorter walks. While most of the trails are on the south side of Highway 410, the loop crosses the highway to explore the less-traveled northern half of the park. Trails dotted with interpretive signs wander over small creeks and through quiet groves. The riverside park is flat, with almost no hills, making it ideal for young families introducing little ones to the forest.

Unfortunately for us, our soggy experience down Federation Forest’s trails was a little more challenging than we were anticipating. We expected a stroll, but recent storms had filled the trail with large ponds of water and transformed paths into streambeds. Large blowdowns were also common, often requiring some careful consideration to figure out how to get around them. While we’re sure the trails will be cleared as springtime comes along, currently most of the trails more than a half-mile beyond the interpretive center need maintenance. This makes the park’s biggest oddity – a large and elaborate “gnome city” in the western portion of the loop, complete with figurines, tiny doors, and miniature vehicles - a little more remote. federation forest state park hikingwithmybrotherAppearing suddenly and unexpectedly, the “city” makes a fun destination on an otherwise tame hike.

Federation Forest is geared towards families and the goal of experiencing the diverse nature of Washington’s forests with young and old alike. Heavy on picnic tables and fire pits, it is light on interesting hiking. Still, the free interpretive center is open from April to September, making it a nice stop on your way to further adventures down 410.

To get there, take I-5 South to I-405 North, merging onto SR 167 after 2 miles. Follow 167 a little less than 20 miles to Highway 410 East. Follow 410 through Enumclaw for just over 23 miles. Around milepost 41, find well-signed Federation Forest State Park on the right-hand side of the highway. -Nathan
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