Our friend Michael introduced us to this lesser-known approach to Mount Si, known perhaps to some as the Terrible Traverse (wait – isn’t the Terrible Traverse somewhere in the Alps?). Another fond name for the traverse is the Perverse Traverse, though we think the traverse is peachy-keen and we’ll certainly use it again.

We liked it – the traverse gives you some breathing room, avoids the crowds and the embarrassment of every other hiker and his brother passing you on the regular Mount Si trail (heck, even when we were young other hikers passed us). Since many hikers hate hiking roads, that’s to our advantage. I’ve never been a fast hiker though I’ve been called a “relentless” hiker, a description which describes my partner, Bob, as it does Michael.

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Beginning the adventure

We parked at the School Bus Turnaround on SE Mount Si Road (past the regular Mount Si trailhead – and don’t forget your Discovery Pass). It’s OK to park there when school’s out as long as you don’t block the gate for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In what felt like a short distance we passed the infamous “This is not a trail” trail, an unofficial route hikers once used to reach a waterfall we shall not name (despite the efforts of DNR hikers use another route to approach this waterfall). The original name of the waterfall translates to “divine wind” but that approach can be hazardous and is not recommended for novice hikers or small children.

We soldiered on – Michael with five additional gallons of water (totaling about 31 pounds). He’s training for a strenuous backpack later this summer but said he’d dump some of it out when the going got too tough. When we weren’t chatting we could hear Michael’s pack sloshing. We won’t tell how far he carried that water before dumping most of it out but it was impressive.

Though steep, the Mount Teneriffe Road Trail is a pleasant walk and in winter also provides a safe snowshoeing approach to Mount Teneriffe. Much of the road is in the forest, bordered by a variety of ferns, salmonberry (yum!), young alder trees and in mid-July, goatsbeard. With a cool breeze the hike wasn’t as brutal as we’d feared, plus Michael set a good pace. Michael led the way to the beginning of the traverse at an unsigned junction (3,812 feet elevation).

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Goatsbeard

Here we stopped for a break, surprised to hear a vehicle coming up the road. It turned out to be DNR employees who were scoping out the road over to Teneriffe. One of them recognized me so we chatted before going our separate ways. That’s the reason you don’t want to block the gate below – DNR does use this road. Though the thought of asking for a lift over to Teneriffe was tempting, we didn’t ask!

The traverse is easy to spot, it’s another old road turned trail – I recognized it from years ago when it was still a road. The traverse is about a mile in length and is pleasant as the road skirts small open areas with beargrass and lupine in bloom. There is also a sneak preview of Mount Si before the trail ducks back into deep, cool forest before coming out into the open again with an amazing view of Mount Si, its towers and pinnacles.

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Beargrass

The traverse ends at the base of Mount Si where a handy bench awaits tired, thirsty hikers (or at least those hikers who will admit to be tired or thirsty). Here we stopped briefly to take in the display of wildflowers and fresh, green foliage growing right up to the base of the peak. This is also the takeoff point for climbing the Haystack (climbing the Haystack involves a potentially dangerous scramble on steep, exposed terrain – it’s best left to those who have the experience and skills to do so). Below the bench is Haystack Basin where most hikers are glad to call it a day.

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Rest break at the base of Mt Si

Never have we seen so many wildflowers in Haystack Basin – Indian paintbrush, pastel sprinkles of phlox, columbine, lupine, cow parsley. Mount Si is always a good hike but if you want to see the wildflowers go soon. If the bench hadn’t been in the hot sun we might have lingered but lunch was becoming a priority so we descended into the basin where we found a scrap of shade for a well-earned break.

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Mostly Indian Paintbrush below Mt Si

After a leisurely lunch and taking in the spectacular scenery we knew we had another big stretch of the hike ahead of us – the descent (with the crowds) to the Mount Si trailhead where we’d left a car. One aspect of hiking the regular Mount Si trail is that you’ll almost certainly run into someone you know (depending on your disposition, that can be a plus or a minus).

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Columbine

Even if you don’t run into someone you know it’s guaranteed you will see hikers that will make you scratch your head and wonder. Like the older gent who looked to be on the verge of a stroke trying to keep pace with his (pick one – daughter, trophy wife), two older gents (in other words, our age) who were resting beside the trail who didn’t look very happy, a cheerful trio of three gorgeous Asian gals (two of them carrying purses), wearing little but skin and sunny smiles (they weren’t even sweating) and as always a few sullen, skinny what appeared to be the “regulars” who avert their eyes so as not to acknowledge your existence as they pound up the trail intent on breaking previous personal records.

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Hikers ponder map below Mt Si

I tried to talk the guys into taking the Old Si Trail down to the point where it meets the regular Si Trail but that had no appeal; neither did my suggestion of the Talus Loop – the guys were focused on “CAR! Must get to CAR!” I was running out of energy, too, but I have a tendency to extend hikes as long as possible, so when I saw a clump of Indian Pipe I braked for photographs. Indian Pipe is not common and I’d never seen it on Mount Si. It had not completely emerged from the duff; in retrospect, after looking at the photos the plant resembled those Styrofoam pellets used in packing crates more than the graceful, unworldly white flower that glows in the shade.

Incidentally there are unwritten rules for hiking the regular Mount Si trail. If you’re really serious about setting a personal record keep your eyes on the trail, not faces. If you don’t you might run into someone you know who will ask “How’s it going” or “How long did it take you” and don’t roll your eyes at the first-timer half-way up the trail who may ask “how much further is it?” Remember, you were once a novice hiker too.

Then there are the runners. What can we say about hikers who run the trail except to fight down feelings of envy, give them space, and give them a friendly smile (you’ll almost always get one in return). Mount Si truly has something for everyone (even solitude).

We stopped at Scotty’s in North Bend for ice cream and root beer floats (still the best root beer floats in the region) and given the number of customers, plenty of other folks think so, too.

Details, details – for the traverse, you’ll need to do a car shuttle (you’ll need at least one friend to do that). Leave a car at the Mount Si trailhead, then drive the second car to the School Bus Turnaround, don’t forget your Discovery Pass, don’t block the gate and hit the road.

We’re old, so the hike took us 7.5 hours with 9.43 miles and 3,500 feet of gain.

 

Map: Green Trails Mount Si NRCA, Snoqualmie Pass Gateway Peaks, Map 206S, side A. Note: The Teneriffe Road is not designated as such on the Green Trails map but shows as a dotted line, as does the “traverse.”

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