On Martin Luther King Jr. day, I quashed some mom-guilt, put on my hiking boots and drove to the trailhead for Dirty Harry’s Balcony. The trail, located in the lovely town of North Bend, is a 40 minute drive from Seattle and is popular because it offers a quick way to escape the city and experience the mountains. At 4.4 miles out and back distance and 1,300 feet elevation gain, this hike seemed like an easy way to get a view of snowy peaks of the Cascades mountain range, and still be back home in under 4 hours.
All the details of the hike can be found at this link on the Washington Hikers and Climbers (WTA) website. When I reached the trailhead, all the “official” parking spots were taken, so I settled on what looked like the least sketchy parking. I grabbed my backpack, mask and hiking poles and ventured into the forest, hoping that there were some views to be had, even though the day had dawned more cloudy and less sunny than I had hoped for.
The woods were shady and dark, but soon sunlight started dappling through the branches. When I looked through the first few viewpoints, all I saw was a thick blanket of fog. I was disheartened and started thinking that turning back might make more sense if this was a precursor to the views (or lack thereof) from the actual Balcony.
I decided I would only hike up to the next viewpoint and then turn back. And lo and behold, at the next ledge, the views were brilliant! The fog had parted to reveal the mountains in all their verdant glory.
This gave me a big adrenaline rush and I decided to sprint my way to the Balcony after all, which is so named because of the spectacular views of the surrounding mountain peaks that you can enjoy from there.
Alas, the fog rolled back when I finally reached the real Balcony. I could only see the very top of the snowy peaks, and the rest of that promised view was hidden behind a curtain of low laying clouds.
There is not a whole lot of space to linger at the Balcony, which is really more of a rocky ledge. But some folks were doing just that, clustered in small groups, snacking and resting, while waiting patiently for the clouds to move or part. I would have happily joined their ranks but I was scarce on time, and decided to hike back down.
The clouds move so fast in the mountains. When I reached another view point on my way down not too far from the Balcony, the view was expansive and spectacular. The clouds had moved yet again! I could see the mountain peaks and the inter-state highway (I-90) traversing through like a meandering river.
When I finally reached the trailhead again, I took time to click some photos of the ever-so-lovely Snoqualmie River, looking in turns blue and green in the winter sun.
While I did not get the best views and the clouds had accompanied me throughout the hike, I was happy that my hiking season for 2021 had begun!