Pratt Lake Basin

Finally, an honest-to-goodness trail run! Many of my hikes have been too steep or slippery to run, but Pratt Lake was almost entirely runnable. Which is good, because if it wasn’t, I’d probably have turned back out of misery.

  • Distance: 11 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 2300ft gain
  • Weather: 40’s and rainy (and windy!)
  • Commute from Seattle: 45 minutes
  • Did I Trip: Ugh. Awkwardly stumbled and twisted my ankle. See below for details.


DSC00527Probably due to the weather, it was kind of a miserable hike. The type you do because you know you’ll be glad when you’re done with it. I had been sitting in my apartment for the past four days (okay, I went to work some of those days but the wanderlust was kicking in) so I figured I’d go anyway. Plus, it was a lake, so it couldn’t be that bad right? Lakes are pretty in crappy weather. Starting off it wasn’t that bad. The trail was in good shape, drained very efficiently so no muddy patches or swampy areas or rivers coming down the trail, and the mist was pretty cool at some points. I can definitely see why trail runners like this one, since the path is a wide, soft dirt path without many roots or rocks to navigate. There were a couple pretty waterfalls coming towards the trail as well.

DSC00528There were a couple bridges that were a little slippery, but that was it until the trail splits and gives you the option of continuing to lake Talapus (.2 miles away) or Pratt Lake, another 3 miles away. After that junction, it got progressively worse. There were more muddy patches and more sections of the trail covered by small rivers. Two miles past that, along a ridge, there was another junction, this time with the left path heading to Island Lake and the right continuing on to Pratt. After this junction, the trail became nearly unrunnable. You lose a bunch of altitude heading down to Pratt Lake and the trail is steep, lots of big rocks and roots, crossing talus fields, and eventually winding its way though the basin, where everything was a swamp. The talus fields are pretty exposed – the wta description says bring sunscreen, I say bring a damn hat and gloves and windproof jacket. At this point, you can see the lake, so there’s no point in turning around. You skirt the slope above the lake for a while (runnable, thank god) and eventually drop down to the basin.

DSC00537This is where my misery kicked in. It was pouring rain, windy, cold, my gloves were soaked through, and I was six miles from the trailhead. And the lake was just a lake. No amazingly clear glacial water, no turquoise color, just a blue lake. I’m spoiled. Ugh. So I snapped just a few pictures to document it, turned around, and ran back. For a brief moment I had contemplated going to Island Lake, but after reaching Pratt, hell no. I was cold, impatient, and it wasn’t as much “yay running!” as it was a “just let me teleport to my car/apartment/shower/hawaii” type of run.

I made it back in good time, with only one situation: my shoe came untied. Great. I tied it, and with my first step back on the trail (not even running) I twisted my ankle. Stepped weirdly on a rock I guess, I don’t even know. All I know is it hurt. But I was two miles from the trailhead and not about to walk through the pouring rain, so I kept running. The pain faded until I got home, which is when it decided to come back twice as bad. Luckily it only lasted a few days. To be fair I’ve been laying off it lately, so we’ll see this weekend how much better it actually is. When I got back to the trailhead, there were four other cars, but I hadn’t seen anyone besides one person. The rest must have gone up to Granite Mountain, which is a steep (1000ft/mile ish) hike with great views that shares a parking area with the Pratt Lake trail. Well, great views on a sunny day. Not sure they saw anything this time around.

As much as I disliked this run, it’s probably a pretty cool summer backpacking trip if you’re into lakes. From this trail you can also reach Lakes Talapus and Ollalie, Island Lake, Rainbow Lake, Melakwa Lake, and Lake Tuscohatchie. In the summer, on sunny days, it’d be pretty nice to hit all those lakes and go for a couple swims. So I’ll give it a chance to redeem itself in a few months.

Rachel Lake/Alta Mountain

This hike is a double win. Beautiful lake and beautiful peak all in one trip, though I’ll admit the effort to scenery ratio was pretty high in the beginning. Hiked 10/13/2014, definitely a good fall hike.

  • Distance: 12 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 3300ft gain
  • Weather: 50’s and sunny at the bottom, way colder at the top
  • Commute from Seattle: 1:20 without traffic
  • Did I Trip: Yes, and slid five feet down a muddy rock like a pro
View down the ride, plus Rainier

View down the ridge, plus Rainier

Somehow, I severely miscalculated time and ended up power-hiking/running this entire trail to avoid being late for work. I debated turning around at the lake, but figured I didn’t get all the way out there to not make it to the peak, so I pushed on and figured I’d just go straight to work with the help of baby wipes and perfume and a change of clothes. The first mile or two were flat, so those were a piece of cake. But after that, it’s up, up, up. There are a few waterfalls along the way, but nothing really spectacular until the lake itself. At one point, I realized I smelled burning, and suddenly was surrounded by a smokey haze. I freaked out, and worried that I was in an area where the underbrush was burning and I just hadn’t realized it (okay, I had been reading forest fire survival stories the night before). Turned out someone left a campfire going (I yelled around for people) that I took the liberty of putting out. I didn’t see anyone for hours, so I’m assuming they left and didn’t put it out all the way and it reignited and started spreading. Guys, that’s how forest fires can start. Come on.

Rachel Lake

Rachel Lake

Anyway, after lots of steep switchbacks (several of which I hiked right past – pay attention! I space out too much sometimes), some slick rock to scramble over, and a few small waterfalls, you arrive at Lake Rachel. Which is beautiful. It looks like a Carribbean coast. Talapus and Olallie were cool, but this was unbelievable. I’d have been perfectly happy turning around here and having time to take pictures and just take in the scenery, but of course my pride forced me along the side trail going up to the ridge.

The trail up to the ridge was much narrower and just as steep. There were a few areas where you had to scramble over some rocks, one of which was in the middle of a switchback. Took me a while to figure that one out, since it looked like there was a stick blocking it (the WTA volunteers will usually put branches across paths that are out of commission or just the wrong direction) but I think the branch just fell and rolled that way, because the only path nearby was the one that continued a few feet up the boulder. But after fifteen or 20 minutes of that trail, I popped out along a ridge and the trail came to a T. To the left is Rampart Lakes, to the right are Alta and Lila Lake, which (I think) is in the basin below Alta. Go right, until the trail splits again, and then bear left, which goes up to Alta.

Rachel Lake down below

Rachel Lake down below

The ridge is very exposed, and it was crazy windy and quite cold. I unpacked all of my layers and put them on (gloves!), and wished I had brought light pants. But the views were worth it, not to mention the Vitamin D that Seattle so frequently lacks. Here’s Rachel Lake from above, just before I started running along the ridge. “Hauled Ass” I believe is the correct phrase for what I was doing. Didn’t have much time to enjoy views, but that ended up being okay since it was freaking freezing anyway. The foliage was still pretty bright, which was a pleasant surprise since I thought fall was nearing an end.

Rocky peaks over Alta tarns

Rocky peaks over Alta tarns

The higher up I went, the rockier it got. Most of the surrounding peaks were craggy, which I imagine will look cooler with a dusting of snow. I could see down into the basin, where Lila lake was. If you look closely, there are some snow capped peaks peeking over the closest ridge. No idea what those are. If anyone knows, comment. Next time I go back, I’ll hopefully have more time to explore Lila and the Ramparts, which I hear are beautiful. But like I said, I was busy trucking it trying to get back down in time, so I turned around pretty quickly. But not before snagging a picture of me pointing at Rainier. Too windy for ten second timers, so I had to settle for an actual selfie.

Hi Rainier!

Hi Rainier!

Going back down was brutal. Plenty of pounding on the knees, knowing I had to go fast to make it back in time, trying to regain feeling in my frozen fingers. Running down the ridge warmed everything up quickly, but once it got too steep to run that’s when I started getting (this is shocking) bored. I’m an impatient person, and going down all of those switchbacks with no views or time to just enjoy where I was led to boredom and impatience. I wiped out and slid down a rock, covered in mud, so that was cool. A second later, I heard a bunch of clapping. Though someone saw my slip, but it was actually a hiker who thought I was a bear until he saw the neon pink jacket. He was clapping to scare me off, and when he saw me he just said “holy SHIT Ithoughtyouwereabear” with a huge look of relief on his face. Glad I sound like a bear. I’ll take it as a… compliment…? He had a fishing pole, so I guess there’s some life in Rachel Lake! I wonder what lives up there. And if it freezes over. My questions are getting redundant. I need answers.

One last view of the basin

One last view of the basin

I ran into a few others on the way down (a tourist family shocked they had another half hour of vertical before the lake). It warmed up as I was going down, the campfire had not reignited, and I ran the last two miles and made it back to the car in time to stop at home. I double-parked, threw on the hazards (hazards = free parking), spent 5 minutes in my apartment grabbing food (thank god), hopped back in my car and was off to work. When I walked in the door, my boss asked if I wanted to go on early. I thought he meant 10 minutes early, since it was 2:50, and I said yes. Turned out, I didn’t have to be there until 4. And I woke up the next morning more sore from Alta than I had been for my 18 miler a few days prior. But you know what? It was worth it. My real regret? Not jumping into Rachel Lake. Oh, the things I could have done if I had known I had that extra hour.

Trail going through fall foliage along the ridge

Trail going through fall foliage along the ridge

Lakes Talapus and Olallie

Well I slacked off for a solid five days last week. Thought I’d have a sunset hike on Friday but that fell through (thank you clouds) and I had a streak of 8 hour work days (god forbid I get a real job) that kept me stir crazy in Seattle and not in the mountains. The eventual goal is to update this three or four days a week, but of course that requires me to actually hike three or four days a week. The rain is coming, which hopefully means snow in the mountains. Snow is way better than rain.


Anyway, this hike was actually from last Tuesday (yeah I’m a whole week late) which was a beautiful day. I got two hikes done, these lakes and Mount Catherine, which will be the next post. But here are Talapus and Ollalie!

  • Distance:6.2 miles
  • Elevation: 1220ft gain (felt pretty flat)
  • Weather: 60’s and sunny
  • Commute from Seattle: about an hour
  • Did I Trip: No (okay, maybe once, but it was more of a stumble)

That top pic is one of my favorites. I did manage to get a blue sky in there, but I can’t figure out how to make the clouds look even remotely real (I’m trying to show how the water caught the reflection of the sky) so I uploaded the original. Someday when I’m a photo editing pro.. they’ll all be beautiful.

DSC00188The original plan was to run to Rainbow and Island Lakes, which are a few miles beyond Talapus and Ollalie. But I wanted to get in a sunset hike after the lakes since who knows how many clear days we have left. I realized I didn’t have nearly enough time to do the 10-12 miles that Rainbow would require, so I turned around at Talapus. Also, I got lazy and this turned into a stroll through the woods. A few too many roots and mud patches to run some sections, and I never got into the groove, so I just chilled and counted it as an off day. I saw a few people heading back down on my way up, but it was late afternoon so I’m guessing it was busy earlier in the day. Talapus was the first lake I came across, and it was calm enough that I had the opportunity to get some cool reflection pictures since the sun was behind me. If only my camera didn’t blow out the damn sky every time, it’d be so much easier to get nice pictures.

DSC00193 Olallie was a little bit rougher, so the reflections weren’t quite as smooth, but it was still beautiful. It was unbelievable quiet on this hike. Usually you can hear the commotion of I90, but not in this area. Maybe because there were so many streams, but I remember being surprised at the silence. I could hear two voices coming from somewhere, and finally figured out that they were on the opposite side of the lake (to the left, outside of the picture). There was a sandy spit over there where a couple was relaxing in the sun. All in all, this was definitely just a quick casual day hike. Perfect for anyone who isn’t a fan of exposure, heights, or steep climbs, but still wants a wilderness experience.

I do wonder if they’re high enough to freeze over in the winter. I haven’t figured out the whole freezing level/snow level/etc deal as temperatures drop. The lakes are just above 3,000ft, so my guess is no, but it looks like the cascades get pretty snowy, so we’ll find out! I’m already excited for the snow to hit – snow levels are dropping to around 5,500ft this week in some areas, so some of the higher hikes might get a little bit! And if snow level is 5,500 this week, they must be lower in December/January. The only thing I haven’t considered yet is how to get to some of these trail heads, assuming they don’t plow the gravel roads, with my tiny manual front wheel drive car. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

DSC00189 Bonus cool mushrooms and a selfie. I’m still very unfamiliar with mushrooms, so everything is new and exciting. I’m sure I’ll run into these on other trails, but they were growing on the side of a wooden bridge and I thought they looked neat. DSC00195The selfie was tougher to get but as usual I like to try and document myself there somehow. And just for kicks, I’m going to add a picture of a bridge (walkway?) going through the forest i the beginning of the trail. No one ever shows pictures of what the forest before the destinations look like, even on the WTA trip reports. I’m sure part of that is because they all offer similar things (mushrooms, trees, rocks, maybe some hanging moss) but sometimes they deserve to be documented. After all, the majority of every hike is spent in the woods, so you might as well appreciate it while you’re there!


Mount McCausland

Mount McCausland… unbelievable fall hike. Great colors, great views, even I had to sit back and spend a few minutes just taking it all in. I never do that, I’m usually too impatient.


  • Distance: 9 miles according to the WTA, I’m convinced it’s like 7
  • Elevation: 1900ft gain, almost all of which is in the last half mile
  • Weather: 60’s and sunny
  • Commute from Seattle: Just under 2 hours
  • Did I trip: NOPE

Starts out with some mild climbing switchbacks until it intersects with the PCT about a mile and a half in. I wasn’t originally going to run it, but once it joined the PCT, it was completely flat until you reach Lake Valhalla (or the base of McCausland if the peak is your goal). I couldn’t resist. There were a couple of through hikers and a few people heading to Leavenworth Oktoberfest later that day, which was my eventual destination as well. Except for the fact I had to drive all the way back to Seattle to pick up my roommate, turn around, and head back east. Worth it? Absolutely. The views were incredible and the mountain was covered in brilliant fall foliage.

McCauslandFoliage1The PCT/main trail heads down to the lake, which was also beautiful. The trail going up to the peak itself is a small social trail that veers right just before the lake, which I blew past at first (okay, maybe I’m oblivious). So if you reach the lake, you’ve gone too far. The peak trail is a bit overgrown, pretty narrow, and very, very steep. There are rocks that help, like steps, but it’s like the tough part of Bandera. A reality check for my glutes. Luckily, you have a good excuse to turn around every few steps, because the views are insane in the beginning and just keep getting better. I lucked out with timing since the fall colors were (I think) at their peak. I have no idea how foliage works out here yet, but I haven’t had any problems finding pretty hikes.

Once I was at the top, I met an older couple who were picnicking. Turned out they were hard of hearing (I stood there talking awkwardly to their backs until their dog noticed me) but they were mountain pros. I asked if they knew any of the surrounding peaks, and the wife knew the names of every prominent peak within view. She also told me that if I didn’t mind some scrambling, there were great views of Glacier Peak on the side opposite the lake. I didn’t think much of it at the time because I had never heard of Glacier Peak (Seattle newbie) but I figured hey, maybe it had glaciers, and snow capped mountains are pretty cool. So I winged it over the rocks and trees and popped out on a rocky ledge with absolutely stunning views. I think the unexpectedness is what made it so incredible. Having no idea it was there, and going from “standard” lake and foliage to popping out of the trees and seeing such a huge mountain.

mccauslandfallingThank god for that couple, because I never would have found it if they hadn’t told me. After sitting in silence and drinking it all in for a few minutes, I realized I had the perfect opportunity to finally get one of those pretend falling pictures thanks to a small ledge below the rock I’m clinging to. Of course, that’s Glacier Peak in the background. There was a summit register there as well that I signed. The signature before mine was by Jeff, who just said “I PEED HERE.” Thanks, Jeff. Hope it was epic.

That couple had the right idea, I should have brought picnic snacks. When I drag people back there to hike, we’re bringing food. There was even space for tents up top, and I bet sunrise and sunset would be amazing. Climbing that last mile with a 50lb pack would be an adventure in itself, but if the payoff is sunset views, I’ll do it.

On the way back down before the trail got too steep, I snagged one of those pictures that I think encompasses why I love trail running. My favorite trail pictures are the ones with the trails going off into the distance through some sort of scenery, and this one nailed it. Running through fall colors towards awesome views.

McCauslandtrailSomeday, when I’m done catching up on blog entries and I finally take the time to learn how to edit images, I’ll make that sky look blue. Because it was spectacularly blue, and the contrast with the foliage was too perfect. Guess my camera just can’t handle that many colors at once. Also, you can just barely make out the top of some snowy mountains way south of where you’re standing. The couple told me the names of them, but I can’t remember. Wish I did. If anyone has any idea, let me know.

Definitely going back someday. Looks like a few people have snowshoed it up there in December, so that’s a hike to add to my list of reasons to find a pair of snowshoes. Seattle itself doesn’t get much snow, and what’s winter without snow? How can I watch hockey without snow and ice on the ground? I’ll have to go find it in the mountains. Already looking forward to it, I’ll report back about McCausland in a few months!

Bandera Mountain

A hidden gem in my (limited) Cascades experience. Just off I90 but with great views, especially if you can ignore the fact that you’re looking across I90.

  • Distance: 8 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 3400ft gain, most of which is in the last mile
  • Weather: 60’s, sunny
  • Commute from Seattle: just under an hour
  • Did I trip: Nope! (playing it safe after Annette Lake)

banderaforestI had no idea how beautiful this hike was going to be. I went before work, so I knew I’d be in a bit of a time crunch, but I didn’t realize how much I’d regret not being able to spend more time at the top. It was well worth the miles of abuse my poor Honda Accord endured on the terrible potholed road. Bandera is right off I90 which means you do have to listen to the highway for a lot of the hike, but that’s a fair trade for the views that you get, which start about halfway up the trail.

The first two or so miles are completely runnable, on a wide foresty trail with a slow uphill. Eventually, it turns into switchbacks, which are where you’ll get your first glimpse of the views to come. banderarainierAfter a smoother stony section, part of which is a good looking set of stone steps, the trail will split into Bandera and Mason Lake. DSC00083

The Mason Lake trail heads down, whereas the Bandera trail does just the opposite: straight up the side of the mountain. Switchbacks are a luxury this part of the trail just can’t afford, and you end up gaining something like 500ft in altitude in just a fifth of a mile. But you reach the ridge quickly, and follow that east to the false summit. There are a few boulder fields that require some scrambling, but nothing too difficult. It’s easy to lose the trail as well, but if you stay along the sides of the fields, it’ll turn up. Views from the top are incredible. 360 degree panoramas. Mason Lake is down below if you look behind you, and you’re surrounded by peaks on all sides with Rainier looming in the distance. Don’t worry, I took another mountaintop selfie just to make sure I was there.

banderaselfieOne thing to note is that the views at the false summit are actually better than views at the real summit, which is mostly covered in trees. The real summit is only around a hundred feet taller anyway. It’s about a half mile past the false summit, so if you have time, it’s worth going just to say you did it, but I preferred the views from the rockier, lower peak. What I regret is not bringing a picnic for the top. When I ran Kendall Katwalk, I was so absorbed in the views that I forgot to eat the pork taco I had brought, so I’m telling myself that’s what would have happened again. If I’m forgetting food because of views, you know the views are insane.

I’m just waiting for an excuse to do this hike again. Worst case scenario, I’ll wait until the spring, because I think the alpine meadows (the incredible steep part) would be beautiful when the spring flowers are in bloom. Everything was dying when I was there, which meant some fall foliage but also lots of brown. Spring wildflowers with Rainier in the background… yeah, I’ll be there.

Annette Lake (and a Deception Creek failure)

I had my first failure of a trail run on September 30th. Long story short, I drove two hours to Deception Creek, it ended up raining when I arrived, trailhead was deserted, trail itself was overgrown, and that’s not even the worst of it. The trail was COVERED in spiderwebs. Every few feet. Thick, stringy, spiderwebs that I swear were all at my face height. And so I gave up after about a mile of bushwacking, slipping, dripping wet, and eating spiderwebs. But there was a neat log bridge, which was cool. Pic to come late. And to be fair, old growth forests do usually look pretty cool on rainy days. But an un-runnable trail paired with my biggest fear (spiderwebs) was enough to turn me around.

Luckily, the next day was more successful. Annette Lake, a short foggy lake trail just a short drive from Seattle.

  • Distance: 7.5 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 1400ft elevation gain, steady, pretty flat
  • Weather: 50’s and cloudy
  • Commute from Seattle: 50 minutes
  • Did I trip: Yes (and I’m still recovering from it a week later)

Solid rainy day run! Elevation gain was slow enough that I could run most of it. A little more technical than I expected since there were lots of roots and rocks, which get pretty slippery after a night of rain. But the lake was a beautiful clear turquoise color, even in the clouds, and there was a small pretty waterfall across the water. I’m sure it’s even better on a sunny day.

Annette Lake

I ran into a few people backpack-hitchhiking from Seattle back to their home somewhere in Montana, and we were equally shocked to see each other. They scared the crap out of me coming around a corner, since I didn’t expect to see anyone up there on a rainy Wednesday morning. They were relieved to see a person, though. Turned out they were told to “go over the mountain” instead of walking down I90 through a construction zone, but they had no maps, no cell service, and no idea if they were headed towards I90 or just lost on a mountain. I wish I had had food or anything to offer, but all I had was pepperoni and peanut butter back in my car. Next time.

The downside of this hike? I absolutely ate it on my way back down. No idea what I tripped over, but I tumbled pretty hard off the side of the trail. No one saw, so I lay there face down in defeat for a few seconds before determining if I broke anything. The answer seemed to be no, just some blood and pain and a little nausea, so I kept running.


Who needs knees anyway? I figured I might as well get back to the car as fast as possible. I had no first aid equipment with me but I had towels in the car, so that was the goal. I stopped every hundred feet or so to try and sop up what I could with leaves. Couldn’t ruin my feetures elite socks, they were white! I spent the rest of the day at work while my coworkers mocked me for hobbling down stairs and not being able to kneel. Or squat. Or do anything involving my right leg. I tipped over helping my first customer. Just fell sideways in slow motion while trying to kneel. Bruised patellas suck. Worth it? Probably yes. The next morning I got a mass email from Fleet Feet Seattle with the owner (Brian Morrison!) saying he broke his foot on a trail run the previous weekend. It’s all part of the sport. I was more embarrassed than injured, but if a seasoned ultrarunner like Brian can break something on a run, then I’m lucky I haven’t just straight up died yet.

Here’s one last picture to make up for the legs. It’s just a bridge towards the beginning of the trail, but it’s actually more scenic than most of the hike was. Might as well leave on a good note!

Annette Bridge

Kendall Katwalk

  • Distance: 11 miles round trip (~15 if you continue on to the lakes)
  • Elevation: 2600ft gain in altitude, very gradual along the trail
  • Weather: 40’s and cloudy at start, 60’s and sunny by the end
  • Commute from Seattle: About an hour
  • Did I trip: Yes, twice.

Ran September 27th, 2014. Started out on the chilly side, which was concerning. Not to mention I was completely unprepared. It didn’t occur to me that if it was 60 in Seattle, it could be 20 degrees colder in the mountains, so I showed up with just shorts and a tank top and my hydration pack, because who would ever need a sweater in 60’s? I left before sunrise, driving through patches of intense for on I90, but I got to watch the sun rise above the valley once I started running and it ended up being 60’s and sunny by the time I reached the top.

Sun lighting up half of Red Mountain

Sun lighting up Red Mountain

The first four miles are mostly through the forest, with occasional glimpses of the views to come. Elevation gain is very gradual, and the path is wide and mostly clear of rocks and roots, which means perfect for trail running! I’m out of shape (or lazy?) so I did hike some sections on the way up. The sun rises on the opposite side of the mountain, so you’ll be in the shade if you’re there early, but that means you get to see the sun light up Red Mountain.

Eventually, you pop out of the forest and run on a narrow trail on the side of the mountain. If you turn around and look behind you, Rainier will be peaking out on a clear day. I think I almost cried when I saw it, some weird combination of runner’s high and beauty and unexpectedness, I don’t know. No one was there to see it, which is good, because I also tripped and fell flat on my face like a champ.

Rainier over the clouds

Rainier over the clouds

I had passed a few hikers on the way up, one of whom was a PCTA volunteer on his way to clear the trail towards the top. I offered to help, but he was aiming to chop up a fallen tree that was lying across the path. The log was almost two feet in diameter, so I figured I’d be better off helping cut back brush and move small rocks than trying to hone my lumberjack skills.

The “katwalk” itself is along the eastern side of the peak, meaning I got full sunlight. It made pictures tough to take, but it was gorgeous running along the ledge.


I turned around at the katwalk since I had to be back in Seattle, showered and ready for work by 3pm. The path continues another few miles, so if you’re up for a ~15 mile hike or run, by all means keep going to the lakes beyond the katwalk! I’d save this hike for a sunny day, I can’t imagine it’s that great in clouds or rain. You’re also stuck listening to the shitty serenade music of I90 for most of the hike until you cross over to the east side of the ridge, when suddenly it’s peaceful and sunlit, and I was lucky enough to have the katwalk all to myself since I was there so early. Here’s a bonus selfie.

10 second self timers exist for a reason

10 second self timers exist for a reason.

On the way back down, I ran into probably 20 parties hiking up, including another trail runner. I only tripped in front of one pair of hikers, but the 7 year old made sure I knew he saw. Parking lot was completely full when I got back to the trailhead at 10:30am, so definitely show up early. It’s a favorite for a reason!

Johnson Ridge

  • Distance: 9 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 2650ft gain in altitude, alternates between very flat and very steep
  • Weather: Low 60’s, foggy, rainy
  • Commute from Seattle: About two hours
  • Did I trip: Surprisingly, no

Technically I ran this way back on September 24th, 2014. It was low 60’s and very foggy with occasional bursts of rain. Decent rainy day run, though I expect it’d be much better in the sun and in mid October when fall colors would be in their full splendor. It’s about two hours from Seattle and if you want to avoid tolls, stay on I5 N instead of taking 520. Being new to the area, I didn’t realize this until it was too late, and sometime real soon my home back on the east coast should be getting a toll bill. Oops.

The other part no one mentioned was that getting to the trailhead meant spending 40 minutes on a gravel, switchback logging road. Not too many potholes, but there were a few big rocks, some of which I had to actually get out of my car and move aside so I could drive past. But if my Honda Accord can handle it, pretty much anything can. I was the only car at the trailhead, and was a little concerned I had driven to a crappy trail in the middle of nowhere on a shitty day. Packed my bear spray just in case, to fend off bears and potential mountain hermits and even filled out one of those little hiking waivers so if I died on my first solo trail run, they’d have some clues to help find my neon-outfitted body. Anyway, turns out it’s a great trail for running: wide, soft dirt, and straight along a ridge. Unfortunately, when it goes up, it goes straight up. It’s mostly flat aside from those few sections of intense elevation gain, which I had to hike. There are two summits, the first of which is Sunrise Mountain.

Foggy view from Sunrise Mountain

Foggy view from Sunrise Mountain

You lose 300ft of elevation pretty steeply after that peak, and then start climbing again to Scorpion Mountain. Don’t be misled by pictures on the WTA website, either – the first 4 miles of the trail are mostly in the woods with few views. Scorpion mountain is about a half mile away once you finally break out onto the meadowy ridge. If it’s nice, continue an extra half mile down to Joan Lake.

Joan Lake from Scorpion Mountain

Joan Lake from Scorpion Mountain

Worth it on a foggy day, but I have to wonder what the views are like on a clear day when you can actually see surrounding ridges and peaks. When I got back down to the trailhead, clouds had completely taken over the valley, visibility was about 30 feet, and I was staring off a cliff at a wall of white.

I think part of why I liked this one so much was just that it was my first trail run out here, I had a new hydration pack, a new camera, and my pride ensured that I had a great time. In retrospect, it was pouring rain for half of the run, my goretex trail shoes (Nike Wildhorse) filled with water and never quite drained, it was cold, and I nearly tore the arm of my new extra-lightweight water resistant jacket when I got stuck on a tree. So on future rainy runs, I’m wearing a tougher jacket, thinner socks, and running more than 9 miles to compensate for a two hour drive. And bringing better snacks. Seriously, pepperoni didn’t cut it.

Edit: Just saw pics of Johnson Ridge on a sunny day. Views of surrounding mountains, even Glacier Peak. I had no idea. Just re-added this to my future hikes list, except under the condition that it be sunny when I go back.