Friday, November 21, 2014

Rattlesnake Mountain -- Stan's Overlook

Monday was going to be the best day of the week for a hike so plans were made to go to Stan’s Overlook on Rattlesnake Mountain near North Bend on the west side of Snoqualmie Pass.  It was cold with some breeze making it feel every bit of the 35 degrees F.  We were bundled up and after walking for a little while got comfortably warm.  This is a very popular destination so even though it was a weekday we did encounter several people on the trail and a few had dogs. This hike is classified as “moderate” not so much due to the length, the sign is misleading as it is actually more than 2 miles to the overlook and approximately 5 miles round trip, but because it gains 1100 feet of elevation.  The most I have attempted in the two years of resumed hiking activity. 

The trail is very nice, wide in most places, even surfaced without too many rocks or roots, and is a steady climb with switchbacks but not horribly steep.  We encountered a lot of frost heave, which I had never seen before.  Water under the trail had frozen and formed crystals that pushed the ground up.  In some places a hiker’s foot had broken through the thin layer of frozen ground and the crystals were exposed.  If it had been warmer the ice would have melted and made mud but as it was the trail remained dry with strange and rather pretty ice patches.

This trail is part of the “Greenway” and was in a logging area.  The land was purchased and set aside to become a natural forest again.  

There are plenty of big stumps left from the logging days to remind us how huge the trees were and how different the forest is today from what it was yesterday.

Many of the trees along the trail were alder and had already lost all their leaves as seen in the picture below. 

There are a few evergreen trees, mostly cedar, mixed in with the alders and I think the bark on some of the trunks is very pretty.

Most of the plants had shriveled in the cold and were already in their winter mode but we did see some interesting lichen, berries, and Oregon grape leaves turning purple.

When we reached the overlook we found a table and a couple of benches plus a lovely view of the surroundings.  It was a good place to have our lunch before returning to the trailhead.

There was also a small marker that unfortunately did not have the elevation noted but it was fun to find anyway.

The return trip was no less cold but it was all downhill with a more or less gentle grade lined with trees, ferns and this arch of mossy vine maple trunks that had been bent over, probably in a storm or heavy snow. 

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