17 September 2015
Little Si Trail, North Bend
4.4 miles, 1100 ft. climb to 1585 ft. max. elevation
My 3-month summer membership to a local fitness center expired today. (Disclaimer: I initially joined to gain pool access for my kids.) In celebration of no longer feeling compelled to repeatedly run around a spinning wheel like a gym rat, I opted to treat myself to a quick and easy hike not too far from home. Given my short time frame of 3 hours door-to-door between preschool drop-off and pick-up, I chose Little Si in the neighboring town of North Bend. This is a very popular trail, particularly on weekends; one that can feel more claustrophobic than offer any form of freedom. However, with today being a typically rainy Thursday in the Pacific Northwest, there were barely any hikers out on this trail. As I pulled into the lot just after 9:20am, I noted only 4-5 other cars parked at the trailhead. With that, I quickly geared up and headed out.
Little Si is the mini summit just below the famous Mount Si, whose Haystack peak is visible as far west as Lake Washington. With a respectable climb of just over 1000 feet in about 2 miles, the Little Si trail offered me exactly what I needed today – a fast and fun workout in the quiet, lonesome forest. The first of part of the trail took me on a quick ascent up a rocky ridge, which offered a splendid panorama of North Bend and the Cascades at lookout point not too far from the start.
After switching back into the forest, the option to take an easier Boulder Loop Trail presented itself. While the thought appealed to me, I chose instead to come back at a later date with Little Hiking Buddy to explore together. From there, I went deeper into a thick forest filled with over-sized, moss-covered boulders under the protection of large old growth trees. I reached a crossroads of sorts, where one direction led to World Wall, a challenging sport climbing face, and the other towards more switchbacks up to the peak. I hope to one day have a reason to head in the opposite direction I chose today. I would love to someday climb one of those routes – hopefully sooner than later!
Following my initial crossing of three hikers on their way down from an early morning trek, I was alone for the remainder of my ascent to the summit. Having first and last been on this trail during a weekend day in late May with Big Hiking Buddy and LHB, I didn’t realized how much solitude this hike offers one when not accompanied by happy voices and a thousand of my best hiking buddies. The fog dampened any ambient noise and sun exposure, making every little audible and visual detail all that more clearer and crisper. I heard little birds singing, their predatory cousins squawking, water trickling through creeks, and leaves rustling from raindrops overhead. I even saw minor variations in changing leaf colors, the thickness of moss on both small and large rocks, broken new growth trees dried brittle from the drought, and old trunks forlornly waiting from years gone by. The sensory stimulation was epic, giving me more strength and energy to keep going.
I continued up the last leg of this trail to its rocky bluff at a pace far more brisk than my usual speed, which is often determined by LHB or my desire to conserve energy on a more challenging solo adventure. Today was about the oxymoronic freedom of speed and the shortness of time! I made it up 2.2 miles and over 1100 ft. in just under 50 minutes. Yay me! At the top was a visiting couple from the San Francisco Bay Area wondering whether or not they had chosen the right trail, as they disappointingly looked up to Mt. Si and Mt. Washington peeking down from above. A brief chat had me suggesting to them a variety of hikes out east in the Snoqualmie Pass region for peaks and lakes, further up north towards Stevens Pass for spectacular waterfalls, as well as my favorite resource: the Washington Trails Association website. They left in search of more altitude. After this interaction, I spent a few more minutes in solitude wondering around the top and taking in the views before me. Even on a cloudy and rainy day like today, there was so much beauty to be seen from the Cascades.
As much as I longed to be up there forever reveling in my peaceful surrounding, I had a happy and livelier reality to get back to. I ended up making a very awkward attempt at trail running, but came back injury free. I made it down in less than 40 minutes, with enough time to make a stop at Jamba Juice for a liquid lunch before picking up LHB from school. All-in-all, I would say I won’t be missing having that gym membership. Today was a great conditioning workout in a beautiful setting!