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A Hike up Mount Si

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The book we used to help plan out trip was:
100 Hikes in Washington's Alpine Lakes
by Vicky Spring, Ira Spring, Harvy Manning
March 1993, Mountaineers Books, 2nd edition, Paperback, 240 pages, (non-fiction)
Order now...

Hiking the forested trail up Mount Si = sitrail.jpg (13880 bytes)
A busy trail up Mount Si. Note the use of poles to take some of the weight off knees.

The Haystack at the summit of Mount Si = sihaystack.jpg (18063 bytes)
The Haystack - the summit of Mount Si. Look closely to spot the "sunbathers" below.

Haystack Basin on Mount Si = sihaystack2.jpg (10642 bytes)
This is giving away all of Mount Si's secrets! A view seen by those who make it to the top of the Haystack overlooking the Basin to the south.

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Cle Elum
North Bend

Travel Article
A Hike Up Mount Si

by Anne Maxwell

On the 5th of July, our party of four tackled Mount Si (pronounced "sigh"). The mountain rises sharply above the Snoqualmie River valley and the township of North Bend to the south.

Much of the mountain is in a state preserve and no camping is allowed, so the trail is a popular day hike. Mount Si sees about 10,000 hikers a year, and there were probably a couple of hundred people on the mountain this day. The phrase "every man and his dog" comes to mind when I remember all the four-legged hikers. The trail's popularity is partly due to its proximity to Seattle and the heavily populated Puget Sound area, and partly to its being clear of snow relatively early in the season, and partly to the physical challenge it offers.

Si is the local workout trail, providing an elevation gain of 3100 feet over a fairly steep 4 miles of switchbacks. The number of young people in fitness as well as mountain gear, certainly gives the impression of being in an outdoor gym. I guessed a lot of people were not intending to go to the top, but had other turn-arounds as part of personal training programs. We came across one fellow (or should I say, he came across us?!) carrying 5 gallons of water at a great pace. A few hours later he came racing back past us, having dumped his burden at the top. For out-of-condition types like myself, Mount Si is the kind of physical challenge that will leave you easing yourself gently along on stiff legs and eyeing stairs with trepidation for the next day or two. Even taking the mountain at my own pace, I must admit I would have been happy to forgo the last mile of the trip. But I know I earned my sense of self-satisfaction at making it up and back.

Most of the trail is in trees. A point of interest is the change of vegetation with elevation, including alders and second-growth firs, 60-70 years old. Once at the top, the lack of trees combine with the steep drops below, to afford the type of panoramic views you could almost step into. Snow was long gone, but the ground was fairly waterlogged, especially the first half mile where half an inch of running water was using the trail to find its own level. There were enough muddy sections to make me wonder how the people in runners were faring. The ground was often rocky enough to require some attention be kept on where you were placing your feet.

View from the trail on Mount Si = siviewse.jpg (22958 bytes)If, like us, you are in need of a break or three on the way up, there are a couple of places which stand out. Between the 1.5 and 2 mile markers is an information spot at "snag flat" complete with boardwalk and benches. Further, at about twenty yards past the 2.5 mile marker you will get your first clear view to the southeast (see photo left), after catching tantalizing glimpses through the trees. A nice spot at which to munch on a handful of trail mix.

Close to the top the trail suddenly breaks out into the open after being in the forest shade. This new terrain of boulders, loose rock and magnificent views to the southeast, can cause a premature sense of triumph at having reached the top, however it is not the 4-mile mark, nor the summit. Dozens of people were resting on the rocks and taking in the view of Rainier and the Cascades. Careful not to send rocks down on these folks, we continued on around the corner to Haystack Basin, where we did reach the 4-mile mark. Here the purple, white and cream flowers bedecking the grey rocks seemed to suggest we had found a place of ease and tranquility for our lunch. The vista to the west was uplifting on this hot, clear day. We could make out Seattle, the waters of Puget Sound, and the Olympic Mountains in the distance. Closer up the township of North Bend makes its mark upon the landscape, and it is intriguing to watch I-90 wind its way past.

The Haystack is a distinctive rock formation about 400 feet high and is the summit of Mount Si. It beckons climbers and scramblers to make another extra effort to experience the mountain. The call was answered by the two men in our party. They reported the scramble was steep enough to get the adrenaline going, and not for the easily panicked. They also confirmed there is not a lot more to be gained in terms of the view. Marcia and I were content to rest and soak up the sun. Hats and sunburn screen are essentials if you are going to spend more than 15 minutes in this exposed area.

"Pace" is an interesting aspect of a Mount Si hike. It wasn't unusual to see people pounding their way down the mountain. In my post-lunch revival period, I discovered for myself the easy, floating feeling, of allowing gravity to help you along down the mountain. Another aspect of pace is the amount of stopping and starting to let others by, when it is a busy day like the one we had chosen. I didn't begrudge any of these little "rests".

In all we spent about 9 hours on the mountain, time easily accommodated by the long sunny summer day. Driving away through North Bend, it was fun to look back and travel the steep sides of the mountain with the eye and pick out our "lunch spot".

I have since thought about whether Mount Si is likely to feature in the itinerary of any interstate or overseas visitors. For those unused to hiking, the view-to-exertion ratio is probably too great, and most will stick with the Seattle Space Needle for elevation gain and views. For those who enjoy outdoor activity as part of their vacation, Mount Si is an easily accessed, moderate to strenuous hike. You might want to save it for a clear day to be fully rewarded by the views. If you are in this part of the Northwest for a while, Si is a way to "go native", and do like the locals do. And you might even meet a few, especially in the 20-30 year age group.

(c) Go Northwest! Photos by Brian High

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