Forum Index > Trip Reports > Defiance & Bandera 7/5/09
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Euler
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PostTue Jul 07, 2009 1:11 am 
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I think this is my first NW Hikers Forum trip report.  Please be nice.

The plan for July 5 was to get up to Mt. Defiance, then go over to Bandera, and then head down.  Having day-hiked Mt. Adams the previous Sunday, I figured that this would be not all that big of an effort.  But, just like two weeks earlier when I got snowed on on Granite Mountain (the one just a few miles up the road on I90), I was in for a rude awakening.  It is nice when the mountains attempt to teach you things without making you pay too high a price.

I started hiking bright and early, at the crack of 12:26 pm.

Having read here about the road damage on the way to the trailhead, not wanting to damage my car, and not wanting to add 6 flat miles to what was already going to be a lot of miles, I decided to try the bushwhack from exit 42 off I90, a route that I had also read about here.  Since I was alone, I was leery of hiking off-trail, but the route turned out to be ok for me.

Here are directions for how to avoid a lot of flat hiking - at least, in certain conditions.  Just off exit 42, there is a little area that looks like a parking area.  I don't know if you need a forest pass to park there.  I did use a forest pass, and didn't get a ticket.  If you walk a few yards following the obvious way, you'll quickly find an area with a lot of shotgun shells and other lovely debris, including a shot-up vehicle.  How wonderful a situation it is to have people shooting in this area near where people are walking, I remain to be convinced.  Anyway, for the bushwhack, don't head through the shooting gallery.  Instead, head left as you are facing upslope.  Within a few minutes you'll come to a stream (Mason Creek, I believe).  You can cross the stream a little above the big concrete barrier.  Depending where you cross, you might encounter more than one stream braid.  After crossing, head upslope, remaining to the left of the stream.  In most places the best route is 10-20 yards from the stream.  If you go near the stream, you may end up in some terrain that's kind of hard to get through.  After 500-600 feet of elevation gain you'll hit the road in a spot that's about 200 yards before where the road meets the Mason Lake / Bandera trailhead.  This spot on the road is right where the road is blocked by a log or two.  You'll probably see some cars parked here.  Obviously, this is off-trail travel, so consider your capabilities and risk tolerance accordingly.

Next, you can avoid the trailhead hubbub and a long flat section of trail by using the road to cross over to climber's right side of the stream, and then heading up until you meet the main trail.  Be sure to stay a safe distance from the stream, as the gully the stream is in has some steep dropoffs.  It might also be a good idea to not stray too far from the stream, as it looks like there are some cliffy areas farther up and to the right (although I am not sure if you can actually run into the cliffs before hitting the main trail).

So, up I went.  After some time on the main trail, I was really hot.  Crikey, was it hot.  I felt like I was barely moving.  I found myself wishing it would rain.  My plan had been to make it to Mason Lake without stopping, but I ended up stopping at a point that's a couple of switchbacks before the boulder field.  There is a nice shaded area there where the wind is noticeably stronger than in other nearby spots.  I spent about 20 minutes there and felt much better.

I started up to Mason Lake again.  My plan was now to get through the boulder area quickly and try to get up to the lake before I got hot again.  My thinking was that by going faster, I'd be exposing myself to less heat, so I'd get less hot than if I plodded along.  I'm not sure this is a great strategy in general, but in this case it worked out really well.  The lake side of the mountain was quite a bit cooler than the boulder area, and I was feeling not hot at all by the time I got to the lake.

I walked along the lake on the main trail for a while, and didn't see the Mt. Defiance trail, so I walked back to the head of the lake.  Still no trail.  Back near the head of the lake, I consulted with two nice people, one of whom showed me a map in a book (50 Hikes Near Snoqualmie Pass?) that had the main trail being on the other side of the lake.  This didn't seem right, and I ignored it.  I left as the couple continued their discussion about how one of their moms had dated JFK.

Once again I started walking along the lake, where I had just been, and this time I noticed a small trail going off to the left.  I followed this for a while through a swampy area with quite a few bugs and some snow.  The trail petered out.  I kept going in this direction, figuring that I'd hit where I remembered the trail being from the other time I had been up Mt. Defiance.  But, there was no trail.  Just a lot of forest.  After a while I came to another lake, which I walked mostly around, and still couldn't find the trail.  I walked over to an outlook for a nice view over a valley.  My map didn't have enough detail.  I knew where I was, but I wasn't where I wanted to be.  I walked back up a ridge, after some false starts through gnarly areas of vegetation, and had been walking around in this area for something like 1.5 hours when all of a sudden I came upon an obvious trail.  I was really hot and tired again, but wanted to get up Defiance, so, figuring this was the trail up Defiance, I headed up (left).  Sure enough, a few minutes later I came upon two guys who were descending and confirmed that this was indeed the Mt. Defiance trail.  YEE HA.

These two guys would be the last people I saw, other than two people descending far below.  It seemed like I had the whole area to myself.

Putting some snow in my cap to cool down, I headed up to the Defiance summit (which I really like), and rested there for a little while, taking in the views and cooling down after the climb.  I then headed down to Mason Lake, happy to still be on a real trail and happy to be going downhill.  The trail met the main trail near Mason Lake, confirming that earlier I merely had to go maybe 100 more yards to meet up with the Mt. Defiance trail.  I headed down to the Bandera junction, figuring I probably wouldn't have enough time for Bandera since it was starting to get late.

But, I got to the Bandera junction earlier than expected.  I set myself a turnaround time of 7:30 and started heading up.  I resolved not to look up very often, and made it up to the first Bandera in 40-45 minutes.  Mt. Rainier looked huge from there.  That spot has a surprisingly impressive view of Mt. Rainier, given the distance.  The Mountain was doing that surreal thing where the bottom is invisible, so the mountaintop looks like it's hovering.  I love that.

After sitting on the snow at the top of Bandera, and applying more snow to my cap, shirt, neck arteries, and whatever else I could think of, I was cooled down again, and headed back down.  I stopped a few times to take in the massive quantities of flowers that are now populating Bandera's slopes.  If you put your head down near the top of the vegetation and look up, you get a really cool view.

On the way down from the Bandera/Mason Lake junction, it occurred to me that the trail seems to be built in three sections.  The grade in each section is very consistent, but the grade of the three sections is different.  I also got to thinking that people around here complain about bugs, and maybe the bugs get much worse than what I've experienced here, but it really does not seem that bad.  I guess it depends what you're used to.  The bug situations in Alaska and Minnesota seem much worse.  In Denali they have a term: "bugging".  It's like "raining."

I got to the bushwhack spot near the trailhead at 9:10.  I turned on the headlamp and started down.  Thank you to whoever put the pink-orange ribbons up.  On the way down, if you run into really dense vegetation near the bottom, you probably have gone too far.  This is close to I90, so you should be able to identify this area pretty easily.  You can head back up a little, and cross the stream there.

Around 100 yards from the bottom, my 3 liter hydration pack gave its last water.  I was surprised that it lasted that long - I had been drinking quite a bit of water.  I also had drank a liter from another bottle before I started.  Still, when I got down to the bottom, I hadn't peed in about 6 hours, and when I did go earlier in the day, it was about as yellow as it gets without a vitamin supplement.  Pretty clearly, I was dehydrated.  Next time when it's this hot, I'll take another liter of water.  I'd also like to find a good electrolyte replacement solution.  Maybe I'll make my own.

With the hours of off-trail hiking, the heat, and the miles, I can't say that it was pleasant most of the time, but sometimes it was nice, I did get to where I wanted to go, and I learned a few things.

Stats estimates: 5500 feet of elevation gain, 13 miles round trip.

Sorry, no photos.  On the night before the hike, my camera docking station reported "battery trouble" when I tried to charge.
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The Angry Hiker
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PostTue Jul 07, 2009 8:35 am 
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The following is an automated message programmed to be posted whenever someone summits Bandera:

Are you sure you were actually on the Bandera summit? There's a false summit, you know.
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solohiker
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PostTue Jul 07, 2009 10:21 am 
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It's odd to me that you took the faint trail from exit 42 over gingerly driving past the washouts, and then bushwacked up from the creek at the road (which I can't imagine saves much time - the easy forested walk on the trail up there goes very quickly) but then opted to take the regular trail with its hot southern-exposure to get to Mason Lake/Defiance, rather than using the old trail whch stays close to the creek and is almost entirely forested, especially since you were there during the hottest time of an extremely hot day.

The Bandera section is lovely with the flowers blooming and all, and you would have seen it on your way out while summiting Bandera anyway. But since you were heading to Defiance first, wanting to stay cool as well as set mimimizing your mileage to the extent of taking a far lesser traveled short-cut at the beginning, it would seem like taking the old trail would have been the obvious choice. Course maybe that's just me.
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tigermn
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PostTue Jul 07, 2009 10:33 am 
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I guess my question is how long did it take to bushwhack up to where you joined the road vs how long would it have taken to just walk the road to the same spot?

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Euler
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PostTue Jul 07, 2009 10:52 am 
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Yah, I knew there were two Bandera summits.  I had planned only to go to the first (the false summit).

I was tempted to take the old route, but being alone I figured that it was better to stay on-trail at least when it was convenient, if not more than that.  (I didn't intend to get off-trail for so long up above Mason Lake.)

The exit 42 bushwhacking probably took me about half an hour each way.  I could have gone much faster, but I was being very careful.  There are a few reasons why I chose to go that way.  I did not know exactly how long it would take when I started, but I figured it had to be quite a bit less time than it'd take to walk 3 miles.  I go slowly on flat ground and I think it would be at least an hour each way to go 3 miles with a pack on.  I generally dislike walking on flat ground for long sections like that anyway.  Also, going the flat way would have turned the trip into almost a 20 mile hike, which was more than I wanted.  And finally, I was just curious about the route.  Of course, going off-trail uses more energy per unit distance, and going the way I did turned out to not save a huge amount of time and energy, but it definitely saved some, especially on the way down.  My guess is that it saved me about an hour.
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