By Rebecca Gourley
Covington/Maple Valley reporter
Not everyone’s idea of a perfect day off is waking up at 5 a.m. and hiking for six hours. Usually it involves shutting off all alarms, sleeping in, enjoying a nice cup of coffee at your leisure and planning out the rest of your day.
But, when you want to do a hike and avoid heat and crowds, waking up at 5 a.m. on your day off is really the only way to get the job done.
Mount Si is known in this area for the spectacular view at the top and possibly one of the longest day hikes.
In the early morning, the trail is entirely shaded by the mountain itself and the thick canopy of trees. This obviously makes for an easier ascent. It’s still not an easy hike, especially for a pair of amateur hikers, but it is certainly better than leaving the bottom mid-day and arriving back at your car when it’s been in the mid 90s for several hours.
The hike itself is about 8 miles roundtrip and about a 3,000-foot elevation gain.
My first word of advice for anyone wanting to try to tackle this beastly hike is… take is sloooooow. Take it very slow. Especially if you’re new to big hikes.
I had a goal of making it up to the base of Haystack, which is the name of the last climb (literally a climb) to the very tippy top, in less than 3 hours. I made it, with two minutes to spare. Climbing Haystack took another 40 minutes or so.
We encountered a man who passed us on the trail five times. Yes, that means he ran up and down Mount Si three times in the time it took us to do it once. That should give you an indication of how slow we were going. The man said he does it almost every weekend. So don’t go trying to run Mount Si even once unless you’re an advanced runner/hiker (crazy person).
During the course of our adventure going up and down the mountain, I took note of a few things that may be helpful to the amateur hiker that wants to challenge themselves with a trip up Mount Si.
First, items that you cannot forget: sunscreen, chap stick, bug spray, self-adhesive gauze wrap, bandaids, at least two liters of water per person, high-protein energy bar (we brought Clif Builder’s bars and zucchini chips), an extra pair of socks and of course your camera or phone for a picture of the view from the top. We also saw people with walking sticks who looked like they made the climb a bit easier, whole picnic lunches and their dogs. I don’t think our cat, Gary, would have liked the hike too much so we left him at home.
The first few minutes of the hike are very deceiving. It starts out very flat and then quickly becomes very steep. If you can make it to the 15-minute mark without turning around and stopping for a while, you’re probably good to go the rest of the way.
At a certain point, pain and being out of breath all becomes very relative. What was painful to you at the beginning of the hike becomes a piece of cake about an hour into it.
Still take breaks whenever necessary because all that matters is that you make it up, not that you can do it in an hour.
In the words of my boyfriend, “I’d rather take more breaks and have it take longer, than quit.”
Climbing the last part can be very challenging, especially for those of us that are terrified of falling to our death (me). If you’re not very balanced, I would just pick a nice spot at the top of Mount Si and call it good. The view is still pretty good from here. But, if you’re up for the challenge and for the ego-building ability to say you got to the top of Haystack, by all means keep going.
Once you get to the top of Mount Si (before Haystack), the path will be over some rocks and then make a nice little turn to the back of the stack. Climbing it is easier if you stick to the left side of the slope, where there are more rocks and therefore more footholds. But, keep in mind that you will have to come back down this steep slope, which, for some people, is a lot harder and scarier than going up. The trick to going down is simple: genetics and having a low center of gravity. Or, just sit down and drag your behind along the rocks until you reach the bottom. Either way gets the job done.
Again, take Haystack slow. There’s no need to rush it, the top is so close, and the fall is quite far.
Note: A Discover Pass is required to park at the trailhead.