They say 100,000 people climb Mt. Si each year. That's a lot of boots on the trail. It shouldn't be a surprise. It's only 30 miles east of Seattle, the trail is well maintained, the grade is perfect for hikers graduating from easy hikes to something harder, and the views from the summit are pretty darn good.
But that 100,000 number is an awful big number and it makes some of us shy away from the mountain. I rarely think of Mt. Si as a worthy destination. It's just too common. In fact, the only reason I chose it for this trip was that avalanche danger elsewhere was sketchy and Mailbox Peak was closed due to a road washout. I resigned myself to dealing with the crowds.
Of course, very few start climbing at 6am on a Sunday. In January. On the Old Trail. So it was like I had the mountain to myself for about an hour and a half.
Unlike the maintained trail, the old trail is a narrow trail, muddy and rocky in places. It's steep and certainly not maintained. It's nowhere near as rough as Mailbox, but it's also a lot more scenic. It has very few of the "dead zones" that Mailbox has so there's green pretty much everywhere. This generally put me in a happy place as I climbed, even in the dark.
The old trail joins the maintained trail just below summit plateau. This is where the trees fall away and a jumble of rocks provide scrambling opportunities. The true summit requires a true scramble up "The Haystack." I've done that once. Once was enough for me. Truly.
On this January Sunday the sun was shining and there wasn't a hint of snow anywhere. It was yet another reminder of the disappointing and worrisome winter we're having. I should have been in snow for the last quarter of the climb at least and for months to come. Instead... t-shirt, shorts, and trail runners. More like May or June. But putting aside my longing for snow it was very pleasant.
There were plenty of other people already tucked into spots on the rocks watching the sunrise. They must have come up the maintained trail because none of them had cars at the old trail parking lot. Treen stayed on leash, much to her disappointment.
We climbed only high enough to get a clear view of Rainier before turning to head down. The old trail was surprisingly crowded, relatively speaking. I ran into four parties of people over three miles. The final half mile, shared with Little Mt. Si, was packed with families heading to the easier summit.
The lesson? Too often we listen to our preconceived notions and rule out what would be enjoyable experiences. We'd benefit from just being open and having fun.