There aren’t always full days available to go adventuring. What I love about the Pacific Northwest is how many places are available to explore no matter where you are or what your timeframe is. Most of our cities have parks and areas for urban outdoor adventures, the mountains and sound are always in the background enticing you to come out and play, and there’s plenty of accessible options right in the middle. Thursday provided an excellent opportunity to reacquaint with one of these middle options.
Having several hours to use between the end of work and meeting up with my sister, the easy availability of places like Squak and Cougar mountains in the Issaquah Alps seemed perfect for a quick stroll. These are places my family explored many times when we children were wee and cutting our alpine teeth in the foothills. With no expectations or route plans other than a brief stroll through the trails, Josh A. and I met at the TH and began walking.
The trail was well maintained and there were surprisingly few people. In fact, we only ran into other hikers at the TH at the beginning and end. The switchbacks and elevation gain surprised me–this was a real hike, not the walk in the park that one might expect from somewhere so close to town! The area was so inviting and the presence of huckleberries and salmon berries so enticing that the quick stroll turned into a full 5.48 miles (WTA says it’s 4 miles RT, but we wandered a bit more as we are prone to do) as we followed the trail named in honor of renowned Everest climber Jim Whittaker, found our way to the summit of Cougar Mountain (Wilderness Peak, a summit without views but a lovely wooden bench that invites one to sit back and admire the beauty of the trees) and made it back at a fast clip with a total time under two hours.
We had not planned to summit Cougar or be out for more than an hour max, which is another reminder as to why one should always carry the very basics on any hike and plan for the unexpected. Being able to adventure further was a treat! For anyone looking for a shorter hike a little bit closer than the distant peaks, the Issaquah Alps have an abundance of offerings worth taking the time to visit. Just pack some essentials and remember that these are mountains, not city parks–something even I am guilty of not remembering from time to time.
To follow our trail…