Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Northwest Hike #4: Poo Poo Point

The hike to Poo Poo Point (let’s just get this out of the way now – hahahahahaha.  Hahah.  Ha.  Oooh haha.  There.)  via the Chirico Trail is part of the Tiger Mountain trail system.  Unlike my previous hike up Tiger Mountain, this one comes with a well-marked trailhead complete with unmistakable parking lot.  You’re driving up the road and then on the left (as you’re headed away from I 90, it’s your left) there is a big field with a big parking lot.  The field is a landing strip for para-gliders so there is some signage for the para-gliding company marking the spot (and warning you to watch your head lest you get landed upon).  The lot is big but on the weekends often full (hiker beware).  There's also Honey Bucket in case you need one per- or post-hike (further warning: when we hiked this trail, no one had emptied the ‘honey’ out of the ‘bucket’ in quite a while, so maybe try to use the loo elsewhere before you arrive).

There’s an archway on the parking lot side of the field that points you directly across to where the path disappears into the forest, which is hard to miss.  The first part of the hike is partially-paved with rugged stones in the path and forming some stairs, giving the mossy, dappled forest trail a very Lothlorien feel.  

As you go up (and up and up – this trail is quite steep and at a near-constant incline) the rocks taper off into a more standard path.  There are lots of switchbacks and small viewpoints over the valley, and one of a small picturesque waterfall.  

Very near the top the path splits off into lots of little paths that appear to all lead to the first overlook.  This offers a wonderful view of the valley below and Mount Rainer in the distance (if you’re lucky and its not covered by clouds like it is in the picture below).  

But if you keep going, across the field and back into the woods and further up the mountain, you can get to the real top, which not only offers an even more spectacular view of the valley below (including the city of Issaquah), but also serves as weather tower station and the jumping off point for the para-gliders, which is an additional fun thing to watch.  If you were wondering why some hikers were carrying enormous packs up the trail, it's because they contain the glider and seat which the person can use to fly off the mountain top. It’s exciting to see them take off into the wind and begin their decent into the valley below. 

There are not always gliders waiting at the tip top, but a few minutes after this photo was taken there were about 15 queued up to jump off this very spot, so hang out and rest and wait a little bit and you might see one or two.  Talk to some gliders hiking up the path near you along the way if you want – most were amenable to answering questions I had of them, which also offered both of us a chance to rest and catch our breath (how long do you glide? Where do you land?  Why do you hike up here instead of taking the bus that magically appeared at the top? Do you own your own equipment?  etc.). 

The hike down is much quicker and easier.  At the bottom you might have to make a dash across the field to get to your car and not get landed upon by the gliders who are still slowly descending.  Turn back and look to the top and you might see a sky dotted with a rainbow of gliders.  

This is a popular path for hikers with dogs, most of whom were off-leash (the dogs and the hikers).  I think mine and one other was on leash out of 40 or so that were on the trail – all of whom were well behaved, leashed or not.    Also the trail is doubly popular for humans due to its dual hiking and paragliding potentials, so prepare to get to meet a lot of people along the way, with and without dogs and packs.  With the beauty and excitement, and being only 30 minutes from Seattle, it’s easy to see why.

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