I was in Seattle for a visit to the University of Washington, and decided to extend the trip for a day so I could take advantage of the wonderful hiking opportunities nearby. Overwhelmed by the number and variety of hikes in range of Seattle, I settled on a classic choice: Mount Si. According to the statistics on that site, I was probably the 99,999th person to hike the trail this year. Still, on a drizzly Friday in the off season, I figured it couldn’t be too crowded.
I left Seattle before sunrise, drove through a light drizzle (which, I gather, is the norm for Seattle) and reached the trailhead around 8am. With 3,100′ of gain in four miles, this is no little walk in the woods – but it’s actually comparable to my benchmark, the Glencliff trail on Mount Moosilauke. In fact, Mount Si barely tops 4,000′, shorter than Moosilauke.
In the mist and drizzle, the low-elevation forest was was verdant. Moss and epiphytes covered every branch, and trapped the mist so it could drip on me as I made my way up the trail. The trail is well-built and well-maintained, generally steady going. Numerous switchbacks meant the trail was never very steep.
The air cooled as I climbed and I finally started seeing patches of fresh (though wet) snow at around 3,800′. I popped out into a clearing, where a large black Raven awaited me. Clearly he had been there earlier, when today’s three early hikers paused to snack and turn around, and he was hopeful that I brought more goodies.
Four or five Gray Jays quickly detected my presence and snuggled together on snow-covered branches, ready at a moment’s notice for a dropped raisin or bagel crumb.
Here there was consistent snow cover, just an inch or two, and rather slushy. In the clouds now, the viewpoint offered me nothing – but at least the precipitation stopped. I pressed on, up and over a rocky outcrop, toward the true summit – a sheer cap called the “haystack” (shown above). Remarkably, though I climbed only another hundred feet, the snow became deeper and more firm, as much as 6-18″ deep in the sheltered spots. The snow line from recent weather must have been close to this elevation.
I followed old tracks, covered in this morning’s snow, around the base of the Haystack. The footsteps disappeared at the base of a steep gully, where tiny avalanches caused golf-balls of snow to roll down toward me. Gosh, this gully is steep, and extremely exposed. I picked a line and tentatively began to climb, but thought better of it after a dozen yards. I retreated and picked another line. Going upward was easy, kicking steps in the wet snowpack. About halfway up, though, I reconsidered the exposure. A slip here would mean a long slide down the gully, ricocheting off the boulders. Hiking solo, and with few other hikers visiting the Haystack today, I decided it’d be best left for another day.
The trip down was a cruise, back and forth on the switchbacks. I quickly left winter behind, and emerged again into a verdant rain forest, pausing often to attempt to capture this magical place in photographs. I can see why this mountain is so popular, and really need to return when the sky is clear.
Check out the full photo album.