After discovering that I only had two major named peaks left on the South Side of I-90.. I made it a point to complete them as soon as possible.
On Wednesday, I made my second attempt at Mount Kent (I fell ill to the point of not continuing last time). Starting fairly late in the day (about 11am) I started from NF9020 as I had already done the lower portion of the McClellan Butte Trail. Besides the old mining equipment up there, I really didn’t find that section very interesting.
The Mount Kent trail follows the McClellan Butte trail rather nicely and then branches off right before the trail veers to the North. This is where the fun begins. Walking along the signs that clearly state that you will be fined, shot, killed, and fined again if you trespass, it is a balancing act along some rather large (and loose) boulders. Too many feet to the South, and you will be shot and fined, too many feet to the North and you risk falling off a cliff and being eaten by bunnies. Yes… I have seen Monty Python- they are deadly. This hike requires quite a bit of GPS checking, as you are really close to many bad outcomes if you lose track of your route.
It is at this point that I should point out that there is a nice road that goes right to the Alice Lakes trail and would be an easy walk- but that isn’t an option due to the closure for the Seattle water supply.
My maps showed that I could walk along the road below for about 30ft before I had to dive into the woods again… I took advantage of it, and even managed one skip and a jump before the dreaded forest of doom had to be entered.
Queue the mosquito noises. The blurriness in the photo above was due to the vibrations caused by the 1.4 billion mosquitoes that were in pursuit. The trail stays looking like this until the lakes, except for the small portions that were open fields of small rocks (I fell a few times). It was steep but I figured that I would suffer more blood loss from the mosquitoes if I took more time.
At this point, I was asking myself why I ever go outside. Couches are nice, iced coffee on demand is fantastic. I quickly forgot my pain (and bleeding legs/hands) when I fell down a ravine and into the opening to the lower Alice Lake area.
If I was not sick, I would have loved to swim in this lake. It was a good temperature, and at this point I could have used a bath, but I did not want to contaminate the water. This place only gets visited 1-2 times a year according to the log, and it has a splendidly pristine and untouched quality to it. Water tasted good also- I was banking on the availability of water on this hike as I didn’t want to carry more than I had to.
I continued up to a spine which eventually led to to summit, some minor scrambling was involved and lots of beargrass pollen coated everything. I was having a blast- being alone out here is quite calming and the beauty is superb. I brought my mp3 player but did not use it once, the only motivation that I needed was the promise of new experiences… and a large army of deer flies + mosquitos. On my way back, I stopped at the upper lake and I would highly recommend checking it out if possible- there are good swimming areas and some large trout live in there. The lakes feel as though they were once a destination but have been long forgotten, the fish have grown large and nature has reclaimed the land once again.
I walked back through the brush, fell a couple more times for good measure and back to the McClellan Butte trail. I took a break on a rock; sweating, panting, and covered in pollen. I was partially hoping that someone would see me there, bleeding and covered in brush thinking that I was just trying for McClellan Butte. I started laughing. Maybe I am finally losing it, but it would have been marvelous.
The trail up McClellan Butte is in excellent condition, and had been maintained rather well since my last visit. Right as I turned around the final switchback- a snarling dog came at me. Great… I had made it this far only to be eaten by an annoying dog. The all-to-common words were heard above the commotion: “Maneater is normally really good! I don’t know what is up with him!!!!!”, I have heard these same words from numerous people as their dogs chase me (off leash) and try to bite me or just be annoying. This area is especially dangerous as there are cliffs on both sides, and the outcome of jumping away could be a rather painful one.
The top was quite beautiful and the fires burning off in the distance made for a scene that looked like a war zone. Alpine Lakes Nuclear Testing Ground just doesn’t sound very appealing.
I was quite happy with doing two peaks in one day, and managed a faster than 3mph pace on the way down (without killing my knees). For anyone that is interested, the gps log can be seen here:
The part that I entered the watershed is actually open to day use- but there are signs 2ft off trail that warn of the future bloodshed and fines that you will incur if you pass them.
Tomorrow will hopefully bring on a new hike that I have never done before (but is an incredibly popular one!) Oyster Dome.