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Coal Creek Falls
posted by John : April 15, 2008


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A troop of monkeys


My good friend from high school, Rob, and his wife, Beth, had a son, Ben, about two weeks before Henry was born. Rather than having either one of them home full time they decided to split the school year up. Beth stayed home for the first half and Rob is staying home until the year ends.

That meant Rob was a prime candidate for doing something this week when I'm a stay-at-home dad, too. Sweet!

We met at the Redtown trailhead on the side of Cougar Mountain. Cougar is the westmost of the Issaquah Alps (a rather grandiose term) and although there is development all over it there's a big swath that is a park. Our plan was to hike about 1.1 miles to Coal Creek Falls before any of the four kids got too fussy. (Yeah, good luck, I know.)

It wasn't actively raining when we arrived, but did promise we'd get wet before it was all done. The girls were dressed in all their rain gear and I had Henry's rain shelter on the backpack. Rob's pack didn't have a shelter (or whatever it's actually called) so he brought an umbrella along. (Hiking with an umbrella? Unheard of! Not so. It's actually a lot more common than you'd think. I've even hiked with other umbrella toting folks.)

The trail is an old mining road. Apparently, the area was mined extensively for coal (well, duh) and there are semi-open pits all over the place. We found several entertaining signs showing various bad things that could happen near the pits all involving skulls. We also saw a pair of deer wander by very close to a pit so it clearly wasn't dangerous to anyone except the stick figures and the skulls. We steered clear anyway.

As we climbed the road my phone started ringing. Strange, it never rings when I'm in the real mountains. Papa was back in town and wanted to check in. He was one of a multitude that was fearful for either my safety or that of the children (more likely the latter). I'm unsure if Amy put all these folks on notice to ensure she'd have a family to come home to.

After we finished talking we continued up. There were no views and the road was even less inviting than the Squak Mountain trails from a few days earlier. Still, hiking with new folks was fun for the girls. Lilly continually referred to Rob as Robin, though Clara had Rob and Ben's names straight.

When we turned onto a spur that would take us to the waterfall the trail got considerably better. It narrowed and twisted and turned unlike the wide vehicle road we were on. Clara held Tokul and hiked mostly with Rob and Ben while I encouraged Lilly to keep up with her pokes (my poles) and new boots. (The boots she wore on Squak have been retired or at least put into storage for Henry.) For the final downhill to the waterfall Lilly took the lead and made very good time.

There was a bridge across Coal Creek just below the falls, but we opted to make our way through the mud to a little rocky beach where we could have lunch and be off the trail. Rob was far smarter and used the bridge and then crossed the shallow stream to the same area.

Coal Creek Falls are actually quite pretty even if they're not very big. They are the largest falls on Cougar Mountain and a very popular destination for a quick hike. (Of course, for us nothing is quick.)

When we headed out we opted to not retrace our steps, but to complete the loop by continuing along the trail. We climbed a little ridge and then had a long downhill including several switchbacks that Clara enjoyed counting. At the bottom we stopped for yet another potty break and Ben started getting antsy.

Rob and Clara headed out while I finished up with Lilly. Trying to hurry Lilly took a dive on the trail, but was rejuvenated when we took a tiny detour to get her under a massive boulder arching over a side trail. Never fear, the boulder looks like it's been there for a long time and even with Lilly poking at it it was unlikely to fall.

When we caught up Rob said he was going to hike fast to near the end so he could get Ben out for a bit before the ride home. Along the way he'd put arrows made of sticks to show us where to go. Clara took great delight finding the arrows at each trail intersection and showing us the way.

When we caught up with Rob and Ben he (Ben) was sitting in the dirt looking for lapses in Rob's supervision to stick random things into his mouth. Lucky for Rob, and Beth, too, he was largely unsuccessful (Ben, that is).

On the way home Clara asked when we were going to hike with the boys again. I guess it was a success, huh?

Totals: 2.2 miles and 400 feet of gain.

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