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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ketchup ~ Final Mountain Hike

Today, all the weather gurus tell us, is the last sunny, warm, get-out-and-enjoy-it day.

Then our long gray dreary season begins.  November is often exciting with high winds and even a chance of lowland snows.

A month ago I hiked one last time at elevation.  I knew that the season of snow at elevation was already here and I missed getting up to the Esmeralda Basin or back to the North Cascades.  I decided to finally get to the Kendall Katwalk once and for all.

Previously I have been turned back by very high winds or snows that persisted into late July.  This year the trail was closed much of the season due to downed trees.  So many trees down and roads washed out that the Forest Service was having a hard time getting everything open in a timely fashion.  The added restrictions against using gas powered equipment in the environment (why I am not sure) made for some delay.

But the way was now clear , the snows not predicted at this level for another week and the day...

Glorious Blue.  Way up there is Mt Kendall looking down at me in a large avalanche area.  All of the red is Blueberry and Huckleberry along with some Mountain Ash.  I picked berries, an interesting mix of sweet, tart and some even had a bit of fermented taste.  I made scones and they are tucked in the freezer to enjoy in the deep gloom of winter.

I roused plenty of Robins, Flickers and Varied Thrush gorging on these berries.  Many of them could barely fly a straight line as these late berries often make the birds a bit drunk. 

This is a great trail.  Much of it switchbacks out of the Snoqualmie Pass ski area and you stay in the woods until you cross this open area.  Back into the woods on the right, the next time you emerge from the woods you are way up and cross the foot of Mt Kendall in the rocky, stony meadows.  It is here you might meet some Mountain Goat or Pika.  Today there were a few Pika whistling but no large critters.

Gray Jays are always fun to encounter and I cannot resist giving into their cheeky nature.

You offer

they accept

The apple, we all aGREED, was very tasty.

I love getting on the trail early.  I can stop and enjoy the peace and not feel that I am blocking the progress of others as I poke and snoop and listen.

Plus early dew makes everything prettier

In the silence of the upper woods I heard some small toots and stopped.  I called, it called.  It has been a fantastic year and these toots were not one but two Saw-whet Owls.  I think I have heard and encountered more owls this year than many years combined.  I only had a fleeting glimpse of one of the birds flying.  They are only five inches long, shaped like a big pine cone.

I also found  where dynamite was used to clear the downed trees.  They were piled like pick-up-stix.  I suspect it would have been very dangerous for someone to try to saw these apart.  It is hard to appreciate how large these trunks are, some easily three feet across.

In the upper part of the trail, you pass through an area commonly called the Kendall Garden.  Wildflowers love these open slopes and there were still a few Harebells and paintbrush blooming.

  Red Mountain fills your eye as you make your way to the north side of Mt Kendall.

Today there was already a well trod layer of snow on the north slope of Kendall.  Last year this slope had packed snow three feet deep at the end of July which turned me back.  Nothing held me back this day.

The Kendall Katwalk was blasted out of solid granite and the legend of this path reads more exciting than the reality.  They talk about how narrow it is, but really it isn't.  There is a sign that requests people riding horses dismount and lead their horse across, once establishing that no one was on the walk.  Most of the guidebooks advise you should not cross the Katwalk if there is ice or snow.  This I certainly agree with.

Red Mountain framed by a granite window at the south entrance to the walk

Looking north on the walk

and looking back to the south from a vantage along the way.  You can appreciate the slope down from the walk.  Can you see the hiker in the red coat?

It was a glorious place for a sit down and lunch.  No wind, perfect view.  No bugs this late in the season.  My mind was filled with thinking about my berry spot.  I had sampled berries all along the way and felt the effort would be worth a slow trip down.

There were good berries here and sprinkly patches of snow.  Further down in elevation the sun had warmed everything perfectly I no longer needed gloves and hat.

This was the perfect end of season hike.  Now I must content myself with local hikes near sea level.  The Issaquah Alps permit a bit of snowy season hiking without encountering dangerous footing.  I hope my cold, which is now been with me 2 weeks is on its way to being gone and I can get back into the swing of things.

It is 5pm and the sun is officially down.  I am not use to this part of our yearly cycle yet.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your comments and advice regarding Soldier. I am just not strong enough to pull him up with a towel or anything else you put around him, but miraculously a slight tug on the harness handle makes him get up and stand in perfect alignment. Amazing! This post is just beautiful. Those rugged mountains, the birds, the berries and that harebell, which looks so much like our Swedish bluebells. I also love the bookshelf gadget you have and will check out how it works. It's really neat! Have a nice weekend. It is raining here this morning.