Tiger - Middle East Loop

     I wanted to get out on a close in hike without any snow. I have been hiking the west and north side of Tiger Mountain this winter but not the east side. I had hiked all but the first mile of this loop but never the whole loop. It was raining all morning but the Doppler showed it had almost stopped by late morning. I headed out at about 11:00 am. By 11:50 I had parked at Tiger Summit, along Highway 18, and was on the way. The East Side Road is gated at the start. In a short 1/4 mile I reached the summer parking lot. The Iverson railroad trail roughly parallels the road and leaves out of the parking lot. The trail is closed from October 15th to April 15th. I jumped the gun a little by hiking it 2 days before it officially reopens. The trail is quite nice. One tree was down across the trail but was easy to get around. There is a new bridge in place. The trail beyond is under construction. I followed the red flags which showed where the trail is going and in a short distance I met up with the old trail. On one earlier loop trip Gary and I dropped from the road up East Tiger to the Iverson trail. That was all cross country and came out near the end of the trail. I soon reached that point and a few minutes later I was back on the East Side Road. Another .3 miles and I was up to the Tiger Mountain Trail.

     The TMT is the premier trail on the mountain. As I started up the trail a light rain began. I took out my umbrella and in a few minutes it succeeded in stopping the rain. The TMT section went on for 1.6 miles. At the turn off for Middle Tiger I headed up hill. The trail switchbacks up 400 feet in .3 miles to the top on Middle Tiger. To this point I had hiked a little more than 4 miles in 1:50. The next section is downhill on trail to a logging road. The road continues down and usually provides some of the best views on the mountain. Today the clouds blocked nearly all the views. Breaks in the clouds did give me hope for a nice afternoon. The rest of the day was on roads. Still this is not all that bad. I saw two people near right near the start and nobody else until I was almost back down.

     After reaching the gate at the end of the road, I intersected the main road from Tiger Summit to the summits of Tiger 1 and 2. The road heads up hill towards East Tiger. I soon saw the towers on East Tiger. Just before reaching the trail along the west side of East Tiger I passed 5 vehicles. They had opened the locked gate at the start of the trail. That trail too will be opened on April 15th so perhaps they were doing some last minute maintenance. The shortest route to the top of East Tiger is to take this trail a short distance and then head straight up the slope. This is the "Hubcap Trail" that used to have a hubcap marking the starting place on top. Since I was alone it was much safer to take the longer road route to the top. The road soon met up with the road back to the trailhead. I went left instead and continued towards the top of East Tiger. It was getting much warmer by now. It was 42 degrees on top of Middle Tiger. With a few sun breaks it seemed much warmer on the climb up to the top. I finally reached the top to find it was now up to 46 degrees. I took the my longest break of the day here as I sat at the picnic table for about 15 minutes. My gaiters came off and I headed on down. It started to rain a little so I took out the umbrella. Once again the rain stopped in just a few minutes. Almost 7 miles in the book and about 4 more to go.

     I quickly dropped to the road intersection and turned left for the final section of road walking. There are mile markers every half mile beginning with 1.5 miles. I was moving at about a 17 minute pace per mile. With 2 1/2 miles to go it began to darken substantially and I heard thunder behind me and ahead of me. Not a great time to be walking down a road with metal poles. Inside of the 2 mile marker it got really dark and began to hail. The hail fell harder and harder. This was still better than rain. By the 1 1/2 mile marker it was as dark as at sunset. I didn't need a headlight but it was really dark. As I continued to descend the thunder became louder and the hail turned to rain. This was not Seattle drizzle. This was serious rain. The tire grooves in the road turned into creeks. I was mentally counting down the time to the end of the road. Within the last mile I passed the only people I saw all day since near the start. Two separate bikers were riding up the road in the pouring rain. I smiled from under my umbrella. Speaking of my umbrella, the last time I hiked Tiger in the rain it was useless. This time it helped.

     When I started the parking lot was a dirt lot with a number of puddles. When I returned it was a lake with a few small areas of dirt. I threw my pack into the back of the car and dove in myself. I managed to change in the drivers seat. I'm not much of a contortionist and it was not easy. Overall this was a very nice hike. I reached the summits of Middle and East Tiger, enjoyed the TMT, and hiked the Iverson Trail for the first time. Thankfully the rain held off for most of the day.