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TR: Koppen Mountain

Posted by gck Thursday, July 3, 2014

Distance: 7 miles
Elevation gain: 2300 feet
Trailhead directions and more on WTA.

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left: De Roux Creek
center: pika!
right: big snow wall

Yay for early season hiking! Seems like I’m starting earlier and earlier each year. Thanks to hiking in Utah and Hawaii in April and May, I’m actually starting out in decent shape for once! The downside to hiking earlier is that there aren’t many options that are snow free, and the popular options (like Lake Serene, Bandera, Heather Lake, etc.) tend to be very crowded. The Teanaway area turned out to be a good choice – lots of view-rich, snow free hikes, with the long drive keeping crowds away.

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left: penstamon, I think
right: some flower I can’t identify

This hike was surprisingly easy until the last half mile or so, when it started climbing with a vengeance up the mountain. Before that, there was plenty of time to enjoy De Roux Creek, the forest, and the varied wildflowers. We saw paintbrush, lupine, columbine, penstamon, and many others. As we got higher up, we started seeing snow. At one point, there was a snow wall right next to the trail that was taller than me! A few of the snowfields required some tricky snow maneuvering or had to be navigated around, but nothing too troublesome. We passed a boulder field and I was surprised to see a bold pika who kept appearing on rocks. Normally I don’t spot them until later in the summer when they’re busy gathering plants. It also seemed like there were a lot of brightly-colored birds on this hike, including a beautiful bird with bright turquoise markings that flew quickly by us before we could get a good look.

View from the pass

We passed Camp Wahoo/High Country Outfitters on the way to the trailhead, and the Koppen Mountain trail is frequented by horse riders. There was some “evidence of horse use” that was stepped carefully around, but it didn’t seem too heavy yet, and we passed a group of riders on the way back down. The pass at the shoulder of Koppen Mountain is the turnaround point for the riders. The views were very nice there, but it’s worth continuing further.

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left: dog party at Koppen Mountain!
right: horse party

As the trail guide puts it, “Since the trail was built for fire spotters rather than recreationists, it tends to be steep and straight – these men truly believed that the fastest way from point A to point B was a straight line, even if that line ran vertically!” I’ve definitely been on worse, but I took my sweet time up that last steep section. The top of the mountain was a beautiful 360 view, and one of the people up there had the Peakfinder app on his phone and was able to easily identify the surrounding peaks: Stuart, Esmerelda, Hawkings, Thorp, and many more. I had expected a sunny, brutally hot day, but instead we had cloudy, cool weather. This made the hiking much more pleasant, but the low clouds made it so we couldn’t see most of Stuart and some of the other mountains. We stayed for awhile, hoping that the clouds would lift, but no luck there – will have to come back! The dog to human ratio at the summit was almost 1:1, and I got to enjoy the company of three perky Golden Retrievers who really, really wanted a piece of my lunch.

View from Koppen Mountain (as a Photosynth)

We felt a few drops from the sky here and there, but fortunately it never developed into any actual rain. Easy hike back down, long drive out of the Teanaway, then sat in I-90 traffic as everyone made their Sunday journeys back over the pass to Seattle. Summer is here!


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