Monday, July 3, 2017

Hiking to the top of Mount Si

We had admired the rocky face of Mount Si--looming large over the valley below. So of course, we decided to just climb to the top of it. It was cloudy when we woke up, and we couldn't even see the mountains. So we waited until the morning clouds lifted, and headed up the steep trail. It's a beautiful sea of green, with tall trees covering the sky and green ferns covering the ground. We felt small in this big forest.

Denisa knew she was going to like this hike as soon as she saw the first colored berries on the bushes. We had read about salmonberries, and they are now beginning to ripen. A cousin of the raspberry, they are ripe at that yellowish-pink color. They are filled with little seeds, and they are rather tart, but the good news is they don't taste like salmon.

The trail description listed this as a 4.3 mile hike to the summit with over 3,000 feet in elevation gain. That didn't mean much to us several years ago. But now we recognize that as a leg-burning climb to the top.

After 2.5 hours, we found ourselves at the top. Mark had great views all around him from his perch on that mountain ledge.

We were blessed with a clear view of Mount Rainier today. We just saw this snow-covered 14,000-foot peak up close not long ago, so it seems like a good friend.

We talked to a local hiker that has been on this mountain many times, but had never seen Mount Rainier because of the usual clouds. Today the clouds were confined to the base of this giant peak.

Sitting at the top of Mount Si, we are about 50 miles away from Mount Rainier. The two pictures above were zoomed versions of our view. You'll have to look harder to see the glacier-covered-peak in the center of the picture below.

Looking in another direction, we could even see the Olympic Mountains on the other side of Seattle and the Puget Sound far away.

With all the glorious views, Denisa also found some flowers she had never seen before. We discovered this bear grass, that starts out as a stalk with a few blooms.

The blooms unfurl from the bottom, leaving odd-shaped flowers . . .

until they finally open up completely into a rounded globe. Perhaps the reason we have never seen this plant is because it only blooms with ideal conditions, and is found only in the mountains of the northwest.

After using all that energy to hike to the top, we fully explored the summit of Mount Si. If you look carefully, you can see Denisa standing on top of the boulder that is dwarfed by the rocky peak behind her.

At the very top is a rocky haystack. We talked to other hikers who started up, but didn't go far when they considered how they would have to get back down. Likewise, Denisa started up. But this picture shows about as far as she got.

On the other hand, Mark made it to the top for some great views of the mountains around us. If you look carefully, you can see a little purple dot straight down on the rocky mountain face. That's where Denisa stopped, and shows a little bit of the steep climb that Mark made.

After we crab-crawled down off the haystack peak, we were still above most of the trees. The sunshine in this area meant that the valley was filled with wildflowers.

With one more glimpse of Mount Rainier, we realized that we had once more wandered into another of God's wonders.

This is the area that most hikers will pause to rest and take in the views. The local chipmunks have also learned that this is also the place where most hikers bring out their snacks and picnics.

They sure are cute, but they were a nuisance as we were eating our picnic. One of the hikers was breaking the rules and feeding the wildlife.

As we headed down the mountain, we were behind that same hiker. He also took a cut-through in the woods, breaking another rule about staying on the trail. But the most obnoxious part was when he lit up and smoked a marijuana joint on the trail. Washington is our third state in a row that has legalized recreational marijuana, but it still surprises us in an uncomfortable kind of way.

This isn't a loop trail, but there is an additional section that we decided to hike that would give us a little change of scenery. This is called the "Tallus Trail" because we had to cross these land-slides of rocks coming off the side of the mountains in several places.

Even though most of this forest has been logged, there is still evidence of the giant ancient trees that used to cover Mount Si. We took a picture of this fallen giant mostly because of the bright green coating of moss.

That extra spur hike meant some added steps as we made our way down Mount Si. By the end of the hike, Denisa had over 11 miles on her Garmin for the day. That would be a long hike anywhere, but adding the 3,000 feet in elevation made it a leg-burner. By the time we got back to the motor home, facing those six steps to get inside took a lot of effort. But this is our last hike for a while, and we enjoyed the views from the top of Mount Si.

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