2500 Feet Elevation Gain
30 lb backpack
Yesterday, I felt recovered enough from The Sick to go on a hike. I’ve been on some easy walks around Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood to test the waters, and I felt ready. I was originally planning a more ambitious hike, but after checking the avalanche forecast I decided to stick with something at a lower elevation.
Tiger Mountain is located just east of Seattle in an area affectionately known as “The Issaquah Alps” by local hikers. A network of trails criss-cross the mountain, enabling hikers and trail runners to tailor a course that suits their needs for the day. I’ve been to Tiger Mountain lots of times but had previously focused on two of the most well-known trails: Poo Poo Point Trail and West Tiger #3 Trail. The only time I had deviated from these trails was a trip with hiking buddy David Edge in which we explored the West Tiger Railroad Grade trail for a few miles.
I decided it was time to check out the Tiger Mountain Trail. The entire trail stretches for 15 miles from one side of the mountain to the other, and is on my list of trails to thru-hike someday. However, hiking the entire trail involves coordinating transportation to one trailhead or another, so I decided to hike the first 6 miles of the TMT and then to loop back via the Poo Poo Point trail.
I can’t believe that I’ve never been on the TMT before. It is hands down my new favorite hike on Tiger Mountain. The trail begins at the High Point Trailhead and branches off of the West Tiger #3 trail near the trailhead. It is a much more scenic hike than West Tiger #3, with a gradual elevation gain that meanders through moss-covered trees and over picturesque streams. I only passed a handful of other hikers on the TMT trail and drank in the solitude. What a pleasant contrast to the deathmarch of switchbacks that comprises West Tiger #3!
After climbing a thousand feet, the trail loses elevation as it heads down a ravine and crosses over several streams. I had already crossed a couple of bridges when I rounded a corner and gasped. Murat’s bridge is the longest bridge I’ve seen on Tiger Mountain so far. I hadn’t expected to find such a cool bridge out here. A shrine is located at the head of the bridge and is hung with Christmas ornaments. It felt like a sacred place.
After Murat’s Bridge, the trail heads uphill towards Fred’s Corner where it intersects with the West Tiger Railroad Grade Trail. Rusty detritus from days gone past can be found alongside the trail. Shortly afterwards, I came to a junction where the trail was re-routed in 2014 due to a washed out bridge. This wasn’t on my map, but the trail was clearly marked and easy to follow.
Around 1:00 pm, I reached the summit of West Tiger #2. I was looking forward to checking it out as I hadn’t been there before. As I approached the top, an eery groaning and whistling sound reached my ears. After summiting, I found that the sounds emanated from the wind rustling through a radio tower. It was cold and windy at the top, so I quickly ate lunch and continued on my way.
I had detoured off of the TMT Trail to summit West Tiger #2. However, according to the map, the trail reconnected with the TMT in .2 miles so I continued along with the intention of picking it up again shortly. All of a sudden, I found myself climbing to the top of another summit. Confused, I looked around and found I was at the top of West Tiger #3. I’d been here tons of times before, but I had approached it from a new angle and didn’t recognize it at first. So where was the TMT? After backtracking, I realized that I had already passed it. The trail markers were located alongside of the path and easy to miss.
Back on the TMT, I picked up speed as it was getting later in the afternoon than I had intended. After a mile and a half, I split off of the TMT for the last time and turned onto the One View Trail. I passed the 15 Mile Gap shortly thereafter, a saddle deep in the woods that was blanketed with misty fog. Afterwards, I continued on to the junction with the Poo Poo Point Trail and the West Tiger Railroad Grade Trail. I stopped for a snack and ran into two different hiking parties at the same time – that’s more people than I’d seen all day. I missed the TMT already.
I descended the Poo Poo Point Trail for 2.8 miles to the Tradition Plateau area. I had originally intended to loop back to the High Point Trailhead on the Adventure Trail because – well, it has BEST TRAIL NAME EVER! But, alas, I was running out of time, and so decided to save the Adventure Trail for another trip. I turned under the power lines on the Bonneville Trail instead, which connects to the Bus Trail. The Bus Trail is a well-groomed wheelchair accessible nature trail near the High Point Trailhead, so I knew I was getting close. And before I knew it, I was back at my car.
All in all, a lovely day. I feel like my strength is returning and I’m ready for a more challenging hike next time. I fly to San Diego in exactly 2 weeks (squee!) so my training window is rapidly coming to a close. PCT here I come!