Hiking season failed kickoff

The 2022 hiking season is off to a rough start: out of two hikes we attempted as a family, one ended with an impassable road about two miles prior to the trailhead, and the second one… well, let’s just say that we had to turn back sooner than expected.

May 22, 2022 3 min read
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So, it’s finally and officially 2022 hiking season. As soon as Snohomish county reopens the Mountain Loop Highway (or rather its section between roughly Silverton and Old Monte Cristo road), I consider the season to be open. Many of my favorite hikes are somewhere along this highway, including the one we’ve attempted yesterday.

I’ve already hiked this particular trail a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. It’s fairly flat and level with only about 700 ft of elevation over its 9-mile out-and-back course.

It’s worth noting that the last time I hiked there, it was mid-July. And let me tell you, late May is not mid-July in the mountains. I know this, you know this. But with some upfront research, I decided to give it a shot.

Driving there from our new house is a breezy ~1 hour and some change. Our initial plan to get there sometime around noon didn’t materialize, and we left home after 3 pm. We stopped in Granite Falls for some food and then headed directly to the trailhead.

I must say that in two years I haven’t been there, Mountain Loop highway got so much better. It got some care and maintenance it badly needed, and it’s a pleasure to drive these days.

Anywho, we arrived at the trailhead at around 5 pm, which is most certainly not what we wanted. Given that the trail is roughly 9 miles roundtrip, in the best of circumstances it would’ve taken us 3 to 4 hours to finish. Which put us returning to the car after dark. So, even before we started, we knew that we were probably not going to finish the trail. But wait, it gets worse.

Crossing South Fork Sauk river

The first obstacle was The Log. This trail is known for this fairly prominent feature: to get to the actual trail, you need to cross South Fork Sauk river via an old fallen tree. This time around, a lot of other dead trees were laying on top of The Log, which made it somewhat more difficult to cross. But wait, it gets worse.

The feature of this trail is that it’s easy. It’s not even a trail, it’s a path. It’s wide, mostly flat, with just a few segments where you go over some rocks and such. From what I’ve learned, historically, by the end of May there are still some sno patches on the trail but it’s totally passable. Well, not this year.

Walking on a snow path on the Old Monte Cristo road

This year, it’s a snow trail with very rare patches of land mostly on its sides. Hiking in the snow is not as fun as it may sound; it requires a lot more effort and poses some additional risks. So we hiked for about an hour and decided to turn back. At least it wasn’t raining anymore!

All in all, we got ourselves some ~3 hours of hiking, with a fancy river crossing and a bunch of snow. It wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.

It is safe to say that due to the unusually cold spring, we’re probably going to have a slower season start. Double-checking some of my other planned trails looks like pretty much all of them are still covered with snow, and those I planned to take in July when they usually have little to no snow are likely to still have a bunch of it.

Anyway, happy hiking 2022!