I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Not sure why, just have that ‘meh’ feeling about everything. I was hoping a Superbowl Sunday hike would clear my head and get me back to normal, but the best-laid plans of mice and hikers often go awry…My funk was not improved by the fact that Granite Creek wasn’t our first choice. Bored by the two teams in the Superbowl, I thought a nice snowhike for the boyfriendo and I to use our microspikes would be a great way to opt out of being slugs on the cough. However, the weather forecast that weekend said the Snoqualmie Pass area would be getting 4-5 inches of RAIN. A hike where we’d be mostly exposed to rain in slush sounded terrible, so we searched for Plan B. Granite Creek, near North Bend, seemed like a great backup option. Typically any river or creek hike will be mostly covered from trees, and with the sheer volume of rain, we thought the creek would be gushing. Granite Creek has two options for a trailhead–Granite Creek or the Granite Creek Connector.
Granite Creek, open since July 2017, had a spacious paved parking lot complete with pit toilet, and offers a steep 1.3 miles to go 880 feet in elevation before the junction with the connector. Granite Creek Connector spreads that 880 elevation gain over 2.8 miles. Some people opt to take two cars, parking one at each trailhead, to get the full experience. Be warned, the connector parking is small and close to Mailbox Peak’s parking lot, so might be far more difficult to park there.
Once we got started, the gravel trail immediately went up. 880 feet in 1.3 miles is punishing for those not in great shape, and I was grateful for the two benches along the way, even if the swirling clouds and mist made viewpoints dissappear. Once the gravel turned to dirt, the mud began. Both of us had a few narrow misses with slipping, and even with the tree cover we were happy to have waterproof gear. I started feeling a wonderful pinching feeling in my left hip/glute, and my plantar fasciitis (which has recently decided to attack my left foot instead of the right) was making every step hurt. Meanwhile I was gasping for oxygen the whole time. Why did we want the steeper option again?! Funk 2, Gabby 0.
We started to hear the roar of the creek go as the forest around us appeared to become more old-growth. Stumps the size of Smart Cars with springboard notches began dotting the trail. Every switchback gave me hope we were finally at the last one, until we finally reached the junction. The trail mercifully levels out a bit here, and as you head towards the rushing creek my excitement for the views grew. However, the dampness in my left rear and leg was also growing. Had I brushed against my wet car? It couldn’t possibly be from my water bladder as I checked the seal for tightness before I left! I finally gave in and saw that yes, my water bladder and leaked all over my dry clothes in my pack and all down my left leg. Funk, 10, Gabby 0.
My mood was getting foul at this point, but thankfully the rain ceased, the mist dissipated, the creek came into view, and I was calmed. Just as suspected, the water was enough to seem like a full river and not a creek. I can only imagine how water volume would compare by the end of summer! There is one little (like, 15 foot long) spur off the trail to get a little closer view, and further up a bit is a bench facing the water if you want a pretty–but loud–resting place. Upon the return trip I sat here eating my beloved salted caramel Honey Stinger to try to improve my funk–but more on that later. The Granite Creek eventually feeds into the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River, giving me new appreciation for that river when we drove along it after the hike.
Shortly after this spur is a large bridge taking you to the other side of the creek. At this point, you’re just under two miles in according to WTA (if you took the Granite Creek trail and not the connector). This bridge is also fairly new, having been brought in (by helicopter!) in 2015. WTA had warned us that after this crossing we’d see a series of streams to hop over in the next mile or so. My waterproof boots were already keeping me dry, so I wasn’t too concerned. We went past one area where that appeared to have either been a massive blowdown or clear cutting without hauling the logs, and to my delight we started seeing patches of snow! At first the size of hubcaps, but they’d continue to grow, making me eager to have brought my spikes along.
WTA said there’d be eight to ten tributary creek crossings, and I started counting them to keep track. I wasn’t sure what they counted as a crossing–any stream trickling towards the creek, or any crossing that couldn’t be jumped across in one go? Quite a few required my boyfriend’s hand for assistance, and I think if I had different shoes on I’d have been singing the blues. WTA warned that there would be one difficult one that could have waters up to ankle deep, and with each crossing I assumed we’d reached the difficult one. A gap without any crossings made me further think we were out of the woods (figuratively). This gap included increasing snow, and I got more and more excited for putting on my spikes and getting some snow in. However, the WTA description said there were 30-foot waterfalls after the hardest crossing. Surely the one where I needed to stop twice on not-tall-enough-rocks was the difficult one, so why hadn’t I seen the waterfall?
Because we hadn’t yet hit the most difficult crossing. The heavy rains and melting snow meant the ankle-deep crossing was really halfway up the shin. 6’2 boyfriendo had some difficulty making the crossing, but try as I might, I could not find a way to get myself across. The rocks were all too jagged for stepping on with confidence, or too far apart, or too underwater. I cursed my lack of poles, but had no choice but to turn around about a mile shy from the end. As bad as I felt, it wasn’t nearly as bad as falling in…right?
Once we made it home, my funk did improve a bit–the Taco Time in North Bend for lunch, pulled pork in the crockpot for dinner, and tuning in for the last 2:30 of the Superbowl to see Tom Brady lose all improved my mood, along with the knowledge that come summer, I should be able to cross that stream and finish this hike in its entirety. Still, throwing in the towel is no fun–anyone else ever had to do so?
Distance (if able to cross that stupid crossing): 7.0 miles (if taking the Granite Creek trail both ways; 10 if taking the Connector trail both ways, 8.5 if doing both)
Elevation Gain: 2270 feet
Parking: Discover Pass
Bathrooms: Pit toilets at Granite Creek trailhead