Monday, April 22 promised to be a beautiful day, sunny and warm, and my wife and I decided to forsake our duties and do some hiking. We had heard that the Fairy Slippers were blooming on the Old Mount Si trail and decided to investigate.
Mount Si is 4,167 feet (1,270 m), a part of the North Cascades range, but standing alone and towering over the nearby city of North Bend as one passes the town going up into Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90. We had seen it many times but had never hiked in the area.
There are two trails to the top of Mount Si, a new trail which is very heavily used, and the old trail which is steeper (very steep in places) and much quieter. For that reason and because the Fairy Slippers were supposed to be on that trail, we did the old trail.
The trail is about four miles and begins at around 500 feet of elevation, leaving around 3500 feet to be climbed, just under 1000 feet per mile. We were at the trailhead before 8:00 am, after leaving home at 5:00 am. It was sunny but cool when we started.
The trail begins in what is called "The Boulder Garden," a very rugged area of cliffs and boulders and we had trouble figuring out the trails in spite of the fact that I had along a new GPS that I was trying to use. Once we had our bearings and found the Old Si trail we began the ascent.
The one disadvantage of the old trail is that there are almost no viewpoints and thus very little opportunity for photos until one reaches the top, but the views at the top more than make up for the long climb through the trees. We did find some jelly fungi and a coral fungus to photograph.
Along the last mile of the trail we came into snow and had to take special care not to slip and fall. Later, coming down across the snow was even more difficult, especially because I had not thought to bring hiking poles for the snow and we had no micro-spikes either.
From the top of Mount Si the whole of the Snoqualmie Valley, the Snoqualmie River, the cities of Bellevue and Seattle, the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier are all visible, along with much of the Cascade Range. We took endless pictures, or so it seemed.
The top is quite rugged and includes a huge formation known as the Haystack which is climbable but which we did not attempt, having been told that the views were just as good from below. There was also a lot of know at the top and one had to be very careful among the rocks.
At the top after taking photos we sat to enjoy the sunshine and have our lunch in a snow-free area that had a couple of benches. I'd brought a freeze-dried meal along and we boiled water for it and for coffee or tea, while we sat and relaxed and enjoyed the scenery.
While eating the Gray Jays or Camp Robbers came to see what they could forage and we entertained ourselves by giving them tidbits of food and letting them perch on our hands. We later saw one bathing in water that collected in a hollow on top of a boulder.
When we finally started back down we made very good progress, not stopping very often for photos and it was on the other end of the Boulder Garden Loop that we found the only Fairy Slippers of the day which were just starting to bloom. We found a few Stream Violets as well.
When we finally arrived back at our vehicle we had done nearly 10 miles and 3500 feet of elevation, a pretty good day's work, and we were tired. It was good day, with good weather, good company and good hiking, and the trip home went quickly enough.