Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Issaquah Alps: Meandering through the Rainforest
For you hard core hikers who think a hike isn’t a hike without crossing a glacier or a steep talus slope, think again next time you zip past the foothills on your way to higher elevations.
With gas prices shooting up again, I often don’t go all the way into the Cascades for a day hike anymore. The last 2 years I head almost as much to the Issaquah Alps (about 20 miles east of Seattle) for a workout on the trails. Hike through a lush temperate rainforest to get a taste of the forests that used to mantle most of the Puget Sound region.
On a recent Sunday I join Anita for 3 hours of silent hiking on Cougar and Squak Mountains. We start by heading uphill at a moderate but still sweat-inducing pace through the second-growth alder and big-leaf maple forest. Not far along we pass an oddly placed, rusting, moss-covered old car. Hmmm.
As we meander through the forest, we pass sword ferns on steroids, towering Devil’s Club with their elephant-ear sized leaves, and happy nettles that reach as high as my head. Higher up we pass groves of gorgeous western red cedar trees—much used and revered by the Northwest Coast Indians for thousand of years and my favorite tree.
For a few hours we walk up and down through the forest, with few stops. The mosquitoes are out in full force and they are a little too happy to see us. As we get toward the top of the mountain, Anita notices “It’s so quiet up here, I don’t hear any birds.” I suggest it’s because we’re above any streams or water.
Hi!”…solo trail runner with a friendly big dog. “How ya doin’?”…middle aged couple. “Hey.”…three teenaged guys in long baggy shorts. (How do they walk so fast with their pants crotch hovering around their knees?)
We pass a few people over the 3 hours we’re out, but compared to more popular trails in the Cascades like Rattlesnake Ledge, Mt. Si, or the trail to the top of Multnomah Falls, this is sparse. And lovely. We get plenty of the silence we were seeking and a lot of verdant green native plant life.
When You Go
Click here for a map of the Cougar-Squak Mountain corridor. Click here for a trail running map of the Issaquah Alps. For directions, click here and scroll down to find directions. From my home in Crown Hill/north Ballard in Seattle, it takes about 30 minutes to get to Issaquah on a weekend day. Beware of the I-90 closure in July 2009 if you're coming from Seattle! Maybe postpone your trip until August or go early on a weekend morning.