Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Short Hikes: Rattlesnake Ridge

It's officially summer in Seattle. The rain and clouds and cold have receded northward to cooler climates, so now when I look up, all I see is blue. We had to wait until after the 4th of July, but it finally arrived: Warmth. The good kind of warmth that lingers in the walls, and makes a cold breeze stop you in your tracks. The kind that makes dogs pant, and means sleeping under nothing but a cool bed sheet.

This may not be the reason I moved to Seattle, but it's the reason that I stayed.

The weather this holiday weekend was depressing, and while it was entertaining to watching neighbors battle with the rain to get their mini-grills lit, I have to admit that I've been chomping at the bit to pull out my summer dresses and flip flops. It was worth the wait. To celebrate, instead of throwing on a skirt and traipsing down Broadway, Jon and I jumped in the car with the doggies in tow, and heave-hoed-it out of Seattle to tackle Rattlesnake Ridge.

Okay, it wasn't that far outside the city—just an hour east, past North Bend. This is a hike that came highly recommended from an old co-worker of mine, and I knew that when the weather was right, and we had the time, this would be our first out-of-town hike of the summer.

I've never seen the dogs so happy. As usual, Ennis rode on my lap, watching the other cars and trees whoosh by, as Jon drove us east on I-90, past Mercer Island and Issaquah... This is the furthest east I've been since moving to Seattle, so I was excited in my own right. (If coming from Seattle, get off at Exit 32, turn right, and drive 3 miles until you get to the parking lot near the lake.) While Ennis was panting with excitement, Peekay lounged in the back like the zen-dog he is—happy and contented. We were all stoked to get out of town. Cabin fever makes us all unpleasant.

Hiking is something I've always loved, and despite looking like an epileptic with anything attached to my feet (don't ever try and trick me into a pair of skis—water or otherwise), I consider myself to be well-balanced and reliable when it comes to the strength of my own legs. I'm moderately experienced as a hiker. Next to Jon, however, I look like fish attempting to climb a tightrope. He is fast and skilled, and wouldn't blink an eye in a stand-off with Half Dome. The man owns two levels of hiking boots and three sizes of backpacking gear! Needless to say, I have a lot to prove.

I was in luck. For our first time out, hiking on a wilderness trail as a couple, I managed to pick one that ensured my dignity stayed intact. Definitely easy-to-moderate, as far as hikes go, and you'll find that Rattlesnake Ridge is quite popular, and as Jon puts it, "the definition of a well-maintained trail." There is a steady incline for 2 miles, with an elevation gain of just over 1,000 feet. Depending on your speed, it'll take you around 45 minutes to an hour, each way. Absolutely perfect for those spontaneous urges to get out of the city.

Having been cooped up for what's felt like weeks, with nothing but infrequent dog park trips to sate them, Ennis and Peekay were on Cloud Nine as we winded through the trees to get to the top of the ridge. In order to mask how oh-so-much slower I walk than Jon does, I held onto Peekay's leash so he could assist in pulling me up the hill, and while I wasn't fooling anyone, it made the hike more pleasurable and less strenuous by the time we made it to the top.

If you're a runner, this is the hike for you. The incline makes you work hard, but the dense trees give you the necessary shade to keep you cool. Running makes me tired just by thinking about it, but I acknowledge that many of you out there love doing it, and may even enjoy a sweat-inducing challenge. To each their own.

Upon reaching the top, you have two options. Three options, if you're feeling hyper-active. Four options, if you're insane. Take a moment to catch a breather and enjoy the picturesque view in front of you. Give your dog some water, 'cause he deserves it by now. (There is a little stump straight ahead, past the signs, that has a jagged piece of wood sticking straight up—perfect for attaching your dog's leash to.)

1. Go right and walk .1 miles to Rattlesnake Ledge, which gives you sweeping views of the tree-covered mountains, valley and lakes below. You'll hardly believe that you're a measly 45 minutes from a sprawling city. (We did this option, 'cause we wuz tiredz.)

2. Take a left, and continue for another 2.5 miles to East Peak. Along the way, you'll get a great view of Rattlesnake Ledge and the Lake.

3. Continue past East Peak to Grand Prospect—4.3 miles from the "fork" in the trail. By now, you might as well continue through to...

Insane option 4. Snoqualmie Point and Winery—8.5 miles from where Jon and I turned around at Rattlesnake Ledge. It is recommended, if you attempt this hike, that you park one car at the end point in Snoqualmie, and then drive to the starting point at Rattlesnake Lake. This hike would be an all-day affair, totaling over 10 miles. Someday soon, Jon and I will be insane and make a day of it.

Until then, Rattlesnake Ridge Trail served to get us out of our cabin fever funk without having to miss a meal. I'm also one step closer to proving to Jon that I can be pretty and get dirty simultaneously. More importantly, it's a day later and Ennis and Peekay still haven't woken up.

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