Thursday, March 30, 2017

Where are we? Hike of the week : Otter Falls? Taylor River? Quartz Creek?

I'll just start off by saying that this wasn't the most satisfying weekend for hiking. On Saturday we only managed a short hike after backing out of both our first AND our second choice hikes. And on Sunday, well, we got a little lost.

We headed out early to get out past North Bend and into the Snoqualmie National Forest. It's a huge area, and we're looking forward to spending more time exploring some of the 1500 miles of hiking trails over the next few months.

We were aiming for the trail variously named Otter Falls / Big Creek Falls / Taylor River Trail, but even getting there was challenging. The last 12 miles is along Middle Fork Road.

Much of Middle Fork Road is amazing -- the USDOT has spent the last 3 summers working extensively to repair and improve the road. But some of it is as yet unimproved, or has been damaged by landslides and storms. And that part of the road is pretty hairy. Nothing life-threatening, just axle-shaking potholes that go on in stretches of 50 feet at a time.

Middle Fork Road potholes, posted on WTA.org by strideon
We went past the Middle Fork Trailhead (large, beautiful, and a definite future hike for us!) and continued bumping along the road to the Taylor River trailhead. 

Until we got here and decided that this was more than a pothole ...


For scale, here's Wil standing by one of the two washouts:


Somehow that doesn't look intimidating... but after we parked and decided we could just walk the last 0.4 miles to the trailhead, we watched a guy in a high-clearance roughy-toughy Ford pickup make the same decision. "I'm not that intrepid!" he said when we said hello.

The road to the trailhead had a bit of snow, which made us giggle a bit about how we brought our microspikes. Note that some people CLEARLY had driven through those washouts.


We made it to the trailhead and dutifully took a picture of the trail map.


We soon crossed a large bridge -- a remnant of logging days, apparently -- over the rushing Taylor River.


And then there was more snow...


... and some glimpses of the river.


But we followed the trail and kept going. The trail started to head uphill, so we put on our microspikes for some added traction -- even though the real problem was that we kept breaking through the crust on the snow.


And then, oddly enough, as we climbed, the path cleared of snow, and we were deep in a silent forest.


SASQUATCH! Oh, no, just Wil again.


Until it filled up with snow again...


Seriously, these two photos were taken only 4 minutes apart.

This snow was deeper, and more than a few times we found ourselves "post-holing" to our knees. We had been hiking for over an hour, and decided that we'd had enough and just wanted to turn back.

So we marked our farthest point with the obligatory hike photo:


Then we headed down the trail, admiring some lovely, mossy rocks:


... and a pretty little waterfall:


... and then discovering that, actually, we had taken a wrong turn by going up the wide path, 0.3 miles past the trailhead and that we should have taken a small path off to our right that would follow the Taylor River (hence the name...). However, even looking at it made us think it might not have been a great experience for us; the trail was super narrow and very snowy. In fact, when we got home I read a trip report from the previous day where the phrase "I sank crotch-deep in snow on a few occasions" was used, and felt glad we had accidentally followed the wrong trail and only sank to our knees.

For what it's worth, the Department of Natural Resources lists the trail we went up as a bike trail, and describes it as "steep and rocky so be prepared for a workout."

Eventually we got back to our car and steeled ourselves for the trek back across the potholes.

While we enjoyed our hike, and were out on a trail for about 2 hours, it wasn't really successful. (Given that we took the wrong trail...). But we got some fresh air, used our microspikes for the first time, and still got some hiking in.

Quartz Creek Trail, sorta

4.8 miles
300 feet elevation gain

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