Taylor Mountain

We started the day at Testy Chef, with twin mugs of coffee and corned beef hash and eggs. Then we moved up the road to the Taylor Mountain trailhead, packed tight with trucks and horse trailers, and a few hikers like us.

We plan to spend most of the day here, hiking and geocaching. We've never explored Taylor Mountain, and there's lots to see. We ended up walking more than 13 miles, and picked up 16 caches along the way. We talked to women on horseback, and petted dogs, and for the most part, enjoyed the trails.

Except for the 1.6 mile slog uphill on a gravel road, to reach the first summit. 

At the top of that first climb was our first cache, and DW was a bit nervous about bears up on the mountain, because of all the fresh bear scat on the gravel road. So when a woman on horseback came down the hill, we chatted with her for a while. She's ridden here for years, and usually does see at least one bear (and had seen one 3 miles up the road). But except for one who had a cub with her, the bears usually just head the other direction when they see her.

We stopped just downhill from the first trail crossing, and a couple of mountain bikers crossed the road there. We took the downhill trail, through a beautiful wooded hillside. We picked up a few geocaches along the way, crossed a couple of braided creekbeds (easily forded, after our hot summer), and found this amazing tree.

I am not a tree climber, but this one was calling my name. It practically had a staircase going up from the trail side, and handholds to let me ease down into the slot for a picture. My feet dangled six feet off the ground, and getting back up was harder than sitting down. I really wanted to get out on the far seat, but chickened out. My feet would have dangled ten feet off the ground!

We criss-crossed the mountain, hiking trails, then gravel roads, and back to trails again. We didn't see any more mountain bikers, but this would be a great place to ride. 

My favorite trail led us uphill on a newly routed trail (we could see remnants of the old trail as we hiked) that led through some old growth forest.

There were many of these enormous Sitka Spruce trees scattered along the hillside, impossible to photograph and so impressive. The hill was steep so I couldn't stand against the tree for scale, but those ferns came up to my waist. And this picture shows only half of the tree's height. 

The trail traversed the hillside, then gradually switchbacked down to a creek. It's popular with horseback riders, and the trail builders did a great job of making the trail horse friendly. I loved the wide and shallow stairs in one place, framed with timbers and filled with gravel, to help horses (and hikers) get down a steep hill to a ford across the creek. We didn't follow it to the end, but climbed over a stack of logs to the old trail, so we could find a geocache near the creek. We took a water break there, found a few pieces of bright red jasper in the creek, and climbed back out on the old trail.

When we traversed the hillside of the huge old growth trees, we probably came the closest to seeing a bear. We definitely heard one, a huge animal crashing through the brush on the hillside above us. We stopped and looked at each other, then kept walking, loudly... and talking loudly, and tapping our hiking poles on rocks to make noise. DW even found a bear bell app for his smart phone, but it was really annoying.

We talked to a couple of women on horseback, with a beautiful white German Shepherd along for the ride. Then we headed higher up on the mountain, in search of more caches and trails. We raided the blackberry bushes along the way; that's where we found the most bear scat. And huge areas where the bushes were smashed flat, where bears had been. Hmmm...

I came home with a new nickname today: Bear Bait. Anytime I fell behind, usually when I stopped to take pictures, Dave would call out "come on, Bear Bait." 

We ended our day (after a quick dusting off at the car) at the Issaquah Brew Pub.

Today was a good day. 

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