A Taste of Spring; and AK Mom Walks Memory Lane Near Seattle

Late-morning sun filters through trees at Tiger Mountain State Forest near issaquah, Washington

Green, green, and more green. That’s what we notice more than anything else. The green, cushy moss AK Kid likes to jump on in his grandparents’ front yard, the darker green of Red Cedar and Douglas Fir and Hemlock towering above us, and the itty bitty green leaves just making an appearance on the end of winter-brown branches. We can’t help it, this almost obsessive staring out the window at the emerald landscape spread before us in welcome.

AK Kid and I arrived in my home town of Issaquah, Washington yesterday amid sideways rain and blustery wind. No problem for my snow-weary son; he promptly demanded a walk around mom’s old neighborhood and had a ball dancing up and down the sidewalks, free from snowsuit, mittens, and/or heavy boots.

He woke up at 7 a.m. this morning excited to tell me that it 1) was not snowing, and 2) was light outside, two revelations for an Alaskan child who woke up the morning before to -10 and glittering stars dominating his outside view.

We rallied AK Grandpa, a retired forester, rather early in the day for a hike to Tiger Mountain State Forest, the stomping grounds of my youth since our access was, literally, right out the front door. Lake Tradition, Tiger Mountain Summit, and many other trails with no name other than our own dominate this close-in, easily accessible forest managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Long known as the locals’ choice for family hiking, Tiger Mountain has over the last 15 years become ultra-popular with nearby Seattleites as well, mostly for its multi-use status and varied ruggedness suitable for any ability.

As the crow flies or SUV drives, the easiest access to Tiger Mountain comes by taking I-90 east, past the main exits of Issaquah another two or three miles to High Point, veering right and following the signs to the parking lots. The first and original lot now has an access trail connecting hikers to the main lot another 1/4 mile further, and is a good option when weekend or holiday traffic has clogged the upper parking area. On other days, however, the main lot is easiest for families and boasts a restroom, interpretive sign, and easy entry into the forest. Oh, and it’s free. Nice.

The first “official” hike on the formally constructed Tiger Mountain Trail was in the late 1970’s (but families like mine hiked it regularly way before that; I was practically baptized in Lake Tradition and I know where the Caves are). Now, a plethora of trails, including the family-friendly Around the Lake and Zoe’s Swamp Monster routes offer a multi-aged group plenty to smile about.

AK Grandpa shows AK Kid how to determine the age of a tree.

Since AK Kid’s last visit occurred while he was still part of the diapered set, I decided to introduce him to the simple yet always interesting Around the Lake, where tread is level and filled with walkable packed gravel. Kids can follow the interpretive signs and accompanying brochure (although none were available on our visit), identifying plants and trees and taking a look at the animal life calling the area home. Squirrels chattered, birds twittered, and a warm (for us) wind blew high in the treetops, giving us a breath of springtime that was most welcome, indeed.

Investigating "The Bus" at Tiger Mountain State Forest

The hike total is around 1.5 miles, but we took a quick detour to the south about midway, leading us to the Bus Trail and one of the most popular “sneaky places” when I was a kid. There is indeed an old city-type bus, resting sadly on its side, in exactly the same spot it has been since the early 1970’s. Nobody really knows why the bus is there; the road was a logging access route and the bus could have been bringing workers up to a job site way back when. At any rate, the idea of a rusted old shell of a bus hanging around the woods was enough to pique AK Kid’s interest, and that of a generation of other kids, too. Just be wary of the rust and glass and other broken down remnants.

Back on Around the Lake, we continued to the western end of Lake Tradition, where my pals and I would build a campfire to roast hot dogs and marshmallows as kids in the darkish, spicy-smelling forest clubhouse created by Mother Nature. Now a platform stands at the site, affording a lovely view of the lake and flocks of birds who stop by for a visit, their quacks and honks and chirps always adding to the experience. Don’t miss the ancient Red Cedar tree just before the platform; kids adore hiding inside like a small forest creature. Take a peek at the bottom of craggy Douglas Fir trees, too, and check for signs of squirrel (hulls from cones piled up all around).

The last leg of our little hike into nostalgia brought us out of the forest and onto the Puget Power line road and where the sun appeared in its warm glory, allowing us to take off hats and revel in its springtime beauty. AK Kid skipped over and around puddles with his Grandpa-made hiking stick, not wanting to miss a moment of his non-snow day.

Tiger Mountain State Forest reviews can be read at the website for Washington Trails Association, who spent hundreds of hours working on the trails (and, by golly, I was a Crew Leader for the first ever maintenance trip in the mid 90’s). Get reviews on this and other trails within the popular I-90 corridor.

We arrived back at the car refreshed, and I, renewed, from an hour spent in a place like this. Like I used to. In Seattle and need a little fresh air and exercise? This is the perfect respite.

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