In what has to be the most disjointed outing this season, TNAB made a third trip to the Ira Spring trailhead to pay a visit to Mt Defiance. Our route was via the old Mason Lake trail, which only requires a few yards of bushwhacking to acquire (if you know where to find it). Despite the shortcut, Mt Defiance is still one long hike for a Thursday evening.
The weather was great, but traffic was bad, so the five of us that carpooled from Eastgate (Damon, Joseph, Kirk, Yet and Yours Truly) didn't start hiking until after 6:00 PM. Five others were already heading up by then, but not necessarily together: Alexei (Magellan), Carla (dicey), Chris M, Larry, and Steve (Yukon222). As it would turn out, we would never all be at the same place at once this night.
As soon as we were established on the old trail, Damon and Joseph took off ahead of Kirk, Yet and I. They were focused on taking a dip in Mason Lake. The old trail is still workable, although it is starting to blend in to the surroundings in some areas. We stuck to the lower route, which requires some "log limbo".
Spotted this little guy on the old Mason Lake trail
We finally caught up to Damon and Joseph at Mason Lake. They were drying off from a refreshing swim. It was tempting to jump in, too, but it was already past 7:30 PM and a lot of trail left to hike. As the clock ticked nearer to 8 PM, I felt the need to summit, so I bid Kirk and Yet adieu, and made a mad dash up the remaining switchbacks.
Fast forward thirty minutes, I was cresting the summit when I encountered Larry and Digger the Dog starting the head down. I then joined Alexei, Carla, and Steve at the summit as Larry returned for the brownies. The late sunset light made for some great views, especially of Mt Rainier.
Tahoma at Sunset
As I got there, I found out that Alexei had spotted a bear shortly before the turnoff to Mt Defiance. A bear! In all my hiking career, I had yet to spot a bear (although I'm sure there were plenty around). We left the summit shortly after 8:30 PM, passed Chris heading up, and I knew Kirk and Yet had turned around, so I wondered where Damon and Joseph were. Maybe the bear got them?
Back on the main trail, Alexei sighted the bear again, about fifty yards below in the open meadow. Yes! I could see him, too! I tried to take a picture, but in the fading light, he just looks like a brown stump. Still, it was quite a thrill for me to have finally seen a bear while hiking!
Because of the commotion (90% my fault), the bear took notice of us, stood up, then bolted for the woods. Smart bear. A short time later, Joseph and Damon arrived on the scene - they had taken a wrong turn out of Mason Lake and ended up at another lake, Kulla Kulla maybe? They pressed on for the summit despite the late hour while the rest of us continued our march into the night.
Descending the old trail can be an adventure. Larry tried to lose his headlamp on the talus route, but Alexei and Steve were able to help him fish it out of a rocky crevice. The lower route seemed much steeper on the descent, but despite a couple wrong turns, was fairly easy to navigate. The bulk of us exited by 10:30 PM to an awesomely starry night. And, to everyone's relief, Damon and Joseph came running out 15 minutes later. Whew! Good end to a long hike.
While I found the old Mason Lake trail a bit of a challenge on the way up, I really enjoyed the hike out. I don't know how to explain it, different hikes with their different components, personalities, moods...
Just like people, I guess. Always with redeeming qualities.
A large part of the lure of TNAB is the social aspect. There was not much socializing this night. As Mark stated, we were in different places at different times. This is a long one for six weeks after the summer solstice. Probably 9+ miles roundtrip, plus 3400' of gain. 2:30 up, 2:00 down.
This is a great hike, with a little bit of everything. I know why they are rebuilding some I90 trails, but I like the character of the old ones. Steep and then flat, none of this constant 12% grade. The old Mason Lake trail splits. The high route is dirty, but there is a lot of fun talus hopping. The low route touches the stream a couple of times, and big trees are seen.
I kept up with Dicey and Yukon222 for a while, but they have super powers, and all I had was a root beer belly. Caught them at the lake, and then watched 'em disappear on the steep ridge up to Defiance.
Yukon222 and Dicey
As I crossed the open meadow I wondered what I always wonder. "Is there a bear out there?" Alone, I stopped and listened. Hearing noises quickly focused my eyes in the right direction. There he was! A young black bear was about 200' below me, tearing up the bushes. I wasn't scared at all, just excited. I started shooting video. Even after the video, I watched him in awe. Even though I could see I90, I was in his territory.
I caught up with Larry and Digger, Dicey and Yukon222 on the summit. A few minutes later Mesachie showed up. We didn't stay long, as the sun was heading down. We departed at 8:30.
Larry and Digger
Yeah, the sun is going down
I was really happy for Mark to see his first wild bear from the trail. Mr. Bear was closer than he was earlier. Before I could power up the camera the bear noticed us and ran downhill. He stopped and stood up, sniffing the air. Not liking the smell of TNABers, he disappeared into the woods. So cool.
On the way out we did help Larry retrieve his light. Eventually I was by myself in the dark, heading down an indistinct trail. I thought I saw UFOs, but it was just trucks on I90. Somehow, we all made it back alive, just like every time.
It was kind of a odd TNAB event. I arrived a little later than normal at the trailhead (it always takes longer than I think to drive to that Ira Spring lot) and Alexei, Carla and Chris were ready and raring to go. Since it was only a couple minutes before 6:00pm, I assumed there were several groups ahead of us on the trail.
Quick work up to Mason Lake which wasn't too buggy. But no TNAB's in sight! Alexei took us on an "interesting" short cut which saved some distance to the Mt Defiance main trail. Didn't see the bear on the upper slopes of Defiance but I'm not surprised as I was just trying to hang onto Carla's vapor trail. BigFoot could have been holding up a sign on the edge of trail and I would have missed it.
A little steep rough trail put us up on top where we were greeted by Larry. Views were good, but not great due to a fair amount of haze. It was surprising to see how many lakes, big and small, were visible to the east of us. I think we saw 8 or 9.
Descent on the old primitive trail was a little slower than normal as the trail did have a tendency to disappear for a bit here and there. It did seem a little longer coming down on the main road/trail section than on the way up. Never have understood how that can be!
Great pix, people! Steve makes an interesting point. In his photo from the top, I can see at least six lakes for sure. I counted eight from the summit, but a trained eye may know where to look for more. The other thing that makes Defiance a really nice summit is you can see all five Washington volcanos! Better than I remember.
It was a great hike even though I didn't quite make it to the summit or see the bear. Personally I was too busy trying to catch up to everyone on the way up and down to do much talking. I do look forward to next week's hike and more socializing.
Cool report! I had my first bear sighting near Blanca Lake in May. It was far too close for comfort for me. A black bear sow and cub walked right up to my sister and me as we were eating dinner. I really hope next time I see a bear it is at a greater distance and that I can snap a cool photo.
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum You cannot attach files in this forum You can download files in this forum