“This isn’t sustainable.” I glanced at Surafel through my tears as the wind sprayed snow in my face. It was September. And it was like 20 degrees with 25mph winds and snow. What. The. Hell. Washington. How DARE you skip fall. All we wanted was bright red and yellow and orange all over the ground and larches and crisp air and sunny blue skies AND BLOOBS and instead you give us high winds and a foot of snow and buried blueberries? Such a cruel mistress.
We were waiting for Amber, and of course I chose the spot with the best views. That means it was the most exposed spot. That means the wind was whipping and the snow was flying and my soft summer body had apparently forgotten how to circulate blood past my elbows and knees when challenged with below freezing temperatures. We ducked around the corner behind a small knoll instead and finally went to hike back down the trail, just as Amber comes around the corner grinning like a kid seeing their birthday cake for the first time. Yeah, okay, you’re right, is there anything I’d rather be doing?
- Distance: 7.5 miles round trip
- Elevation: 2550ft gain
- Weather: 20’s and “partly sunny”
- Commute from Seattle: 2 and a half hours
- Did I Trip: No, I’ve gotten really good at walking over a few decades of practice
- Past comparison: Mid October 2014
We met at 6:30am at the Lynnwood Park n Ride and headed north. I hadn’t been to Yellow Aster Butt(e) since October 2014(!), but we knew the fall foliage was supposed to be fantastic and better yet, the area had the highest chance of being sunny in all of western Washington (including the east side of the Cascades). So we figured we’d take our chances.
We immediately saw how low the snow level was. The fall foliage lasted maybe two switchbacks before being covered with snow, and suddenly we were back in the woods. I had blocked the woods from my memory, apparently. But it was a winter wonderland! Fresh snow on all of the trees! Amber wouldn’t stop smiling. I kept laughing every time I saw her face come around a corner just freaking glowing. And Surafel too, the night before I was like oh you’re welcome to join us if you want to come to which he immediately responded TAKE ME WITH YOU! We were all just happy to be out there. But we were missing Brad, who we thought had ditched us to go find larches on some crazy east side off trail adventure of his own. Well maybe he found sunshine and larches, but at least I have friends!*
The forest opens up into meadows, from where you can see the trail steadily rising across the bowl and actually the butt(e) itself (I think). So you think you’re close, but as you continue you realize you’re about to circumnavigate the butt(e), not go straight up. Also make sure you take the left for where the trail splits to YAB vs Tomyhoi Lake. I hear the lake is beautiful, but it’s 2 miles of mostly elevation loss you have to regain on the way up.
The wind started whipping as soon as we left tree line. Subalpine meadows are gorgeous, but damn was it cold. We crossed a neat outlet stream, some leftover snow from last winter, and finally broke out into blueberry heaven (bloobs, as Brad calls them). Except you had to dig through the snow to get to them. That didn’t stop us.
We continued to follow the trail wrapping beneath the butt(e), and finally came around a corner to views of the Yellow Aster Tarns and Tomyhoi, which had some cool cloud action along the ridge. The final push to the top was steep and slick with fresh snow, so Surafel and Amber chilled at the knoll while I went the rest of the way. I loaned a hiking pole to a new friend, and she and I had the summit all to ourselves. She had come from the San Juans to knock out a hike before work, so we snapped a few pics and hustled down to a point where she could give me back my pole and take off to get to work on time. That was where I met back up with Surafel and Amber, and we headed back to the trailhead ourselves, ready for bathroom and drinks and a warm car.
P.S. we placed bets on how many cars would be at the trailhead. I bet 17. Amber bet 22. Surafel bet 25. There were 27 when we got there, and 68 when we left. Get there early and hike fast!
*He found one larch, no sunshine, and had his girlfriend with him which counts as two friends