Hmph. Tiger Mountain. When it comes to trails that keep you looking around and views that take your breath away Tiger ain't the trip that keeps me up at night. So it's no surprise it's been a couple of years since I've been on Tiger proper. (Yes, last Fall I took the girls to Tradition Lake, which is technically on the flanks of the mountain.)
However, one of TNAB's early season traditions is a tour of summits One, Two, and Three of West Tiger Mountain. So after sprinting home to grab Tokul I met up with 11 others at the High Point trailhead deafeningly close to I-90.
TNAB isn't known for taking the scenic or easy way up and this was no different. We followed the "Cable Line Trail," which is an almost perfectly straight line up to West Tiger Three along the route an old cable ran underground. (Heck, it might still be there for all I know.) The early going was slick with mud in spite of the mostly clear skies. In fact, I was hiking in shorts and a t-shirt without getting chilled.
The fastest of us made the summit in about half an hour. It took me and the rest of the next group about 15 minutes longer. The last of us made it about 15 minutes later. We chilled on the summit (the lowest of the three that make up West Tiger Mountain) for quite a while. Tons of other folks showed up and left while we made a nuisance of ourselves snacking and joking.
When the time came we streamed off the summit down a short connector trail heading to summit #2. The trail was much better than the cable's route, but very short. It took only a few minutes to ride the ridge between the two summits and pop out at a transission station bristling with antennas. There was little to keep us on the second summit so we headed off down the road to the third and final summit.
It was a simple road walk and mercifully short. We arrived at the fence that clearly told us that we weren't permitted to continue because (a) it wasn't safe and (b) they didn't want us screwing with their stuff. There was a convenient little hut that has been used as a shelter on past, rainy TNAB trips, but this night it was just a freaky little leftover from decades past.
After watching the sun drop a little closer to the horizon we started down. Rather than returning the rather boring and ugly route we chose up we dropped to the north side of the summit into a dark and nearly lifeless forest. The trees were thick enough that there was little light getting through. Happily, the route continued to descend and we got into a thinner canopy that allowed for some undergrowth to make it.
The trail dropped quickly and we jogged down parts. The group split in two as we kept descending. The north side of Tiger is laced with trails. Some are well signed and some not so much. We opted mostly for the lower trail at each intersection, but that proved to be a mistake while on the K-3 trail. (It was signed, but is officially unmaintained.) We'd dropped about 100 feet when we heard Don yelling at us from above. "Wrong... Way!" Dang. Back up we went and found Don on a bridge on the trail we wanted.
Now our lead group was split into two itself. Three of us continued ahead while the other three hung at the fork in the trail to ensure the rest of the party wouldn't make the same mistake we did.
At 9pm three of us (plus Tokul) were back at the Cable Line trail. 15 minutes later the rest of the first group arrived and we waited another 15 minutes. We were only a few minutes from the cars so we decided to head down figuring anybody who made it to where we were wouldn't have any trouble getting down.
Naturally, at the cars we found the second party. They'd taken a slightly different route down and passed us in the dark.
In the end I'd say West Tiger is still pretty lame. The trails on the north side from West Tiger One down to the trailhead were nice, but the summits were uninspiring and in fact you couldn't get to the actual summits on either One or Two because they were fenced off and occupied by transmission stations. Still, it was a good workout and TNAB is always a good outing.
Total distance was about six miles and 3,000 feet of gain.