Saturday, December 10, 2011

Washington Vacation: West Tiger #3

Distance: 5 miles round trip
Elevation: 422 ft - 2,522 ft (summit of West Tiger)
Elevation Gain: 2,100 ft
Bathrooms at the trailhead: Yes
Dogs: Leash only

A walk through the Tiger Mountain State Forest
is a unique treat for a Coloradoan
Tiger Mountain is a Washington State Forest near the town of Issaquah.  It is covered with trees and just happened to be a few miles from our vacation house.  One day after a nice run in the rain I was approaching the couch for a snooze when my significant other announced that they needed some exercise and could we please go for a hike.  It took some effort to drag my eyelids open, let alone get in the car but the promise of only easy stroll through the trees, just something to move a little, got me throwing on my hiking gear.

We decided to head for a 4-mile loop off of I-90 (exit 20), since there was a map to the area in our house.  Once you exit the freeway, the trailhead is a short distance up a dirt road on the south side of the highway.

When we arrived there were only two cars in the parking lot.  Given this area's reputation for over crowding, we were quite surprised.  Perhaps the steady down pour was deterring the hardy locals or perhaps [hee hee] they were all working.  There were signs all over saying you needed a Discovery Pass to park there.  There were no kiosks to purchase any parking so I decided to ask two gals who suddenly appeared from the woods what this Discovery thing was.  They told me it was a new thing that Washington was instigating and that you had to buy the pass at select stores in town but that no one was getting thrown in jail just yet for not having one.   They told that a week long pass was almost as much as a yearly pass. Washington is definitely targeting tourists there.

Since these gals seemed to be in the know, I also asked them what the best trail in the park was.  They said that Tiger Mountain #3 would take us to the summit but that it was over 2,000 feet elevation gain.   2,000 feet in Colorado is a borderline death march but these gals were smiling and happy so I really thought I had misheard them.   Turns out I had not.  Armed with this info, and daring the parking patrol to nab us, we set out to see what Tiger Mountain was like.

The signage in the park was decent.  Some signs were missing, however and there were a few unmarked trails.
The park is shrouded in a temperate rain forest with ferns, mosses, and huge trees dripping with moisture.  We had no idea how to dress for this climate and did not do a very good job of it.  When standing still the damp seeped into our bones and we were glad for our down coats, but the moment we started moving, the humidity created a force field around our bodies, locking in moisture.  I felt like I was swimming.  Water congealed on every part of my body and poured off my head and into my eyes.  None of this was caused by the rain.  That was completely blocked by the canopy above.  This was sheer sweat and condensation.  I would have been more comfortable hiking naked but they have draconian rules about that in Washington State, so I plodded upwards with my clothes clinging to my body.

The lower part of the trail is hardwoods and underbrush.
We reached the intersection of the "easy hike" we were supposed to do when my under-exercised hiking buddy exclaimed that the hike was too easy and we should just continue ascending on Tiger Mountain #3 to get as much exercise as possible.  Since we had brought along only one small water bottle and a Cliff Bar I was not too happy about this change in plans but I did agree that the going had been rather easy and doing more would help work off mother's pot roast.  So up we went.  I tried to be a trooper not to whine that I had already run 4 miles that morning and really did not need summit this hill we were on, but occasional mumblings of hogies, scones, and leftover lasagna did periodically passed my lips.  These subtle hints were ignored.

As we headed up the trail, we heard the sound of Paul Bunyon thudding through the forest.  Behold a minute later we came across these four trees that had all fallen across the trail.  Talk about a close call. Was this a hint that we needed to go back and get our Discovery Pass?
Tiger Mountain #3 continues up in a long series of switch backs on a very wide and rarely rocky trail.  It was dark, damp, and the view was unchanging...trees, ferns, trees, ferns.   Still for someone use to tundra and mountain views this was actually really cool.  It was so different from what I am used to that I did not notice the passing of the miles.  At 2 miles we came to a sign that indicated the view point was still 0.6 miles ahead.  Hunger overcame me at this point and a tussle ensued over who's half of the Cliff Bar was the largest.  I shoved my half in my mouth in one giant bite and growled.   Was it really worth continuing upwards when we knew the summit was shrouded in the clouds?  I pulled out the GPS and my eyes bulged.  We had climbed over 2,000 feet.  Elevation really does make a difference folks.  We barely felt it.  Despite the glob of Cliff Bar congealing in my mouth I was still plagued by visions of pot roast so I pointed back down the trail and put on a sad puppy look.  Blessedly, my buddy agreed and we cruised back down.

The upper portion of the trail is shrouded in dense Douglas Firs
Tiger Mountain is a popular trail and if you are visiting Seattle or the Issaquah Alps region, it is certainly worth checking out. 

Close up of a fern

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