Dirty Harry's Peak & Truck

"Dirty Harry's Peak" and "fun" do not go together in the same sentence. This is a trip that is saved for the worst weather. When tons on new snow raise the avalanche danger there is Dirty Harry. When I'm just tired of Tiger and Rattlesnake and Si but want a close in hike with lots of elevation gain there is Dirty Harry. Trips are known for the wet lose rocks, the creek running down the trail, and the overgrown sections you battle through in snowshoes. This is never a good hike. Until today. Needing lots of elevation gain and a close in hike I fell back on Dirty Harry's Peak. I wasn't on the road until 8:00 am. Off I-90 at exit 38 then along old Highway 10 to the gate leading to the fire fighting training center. It was no surprise to see zero cars in the nice paved lot at 1300'. This lot now requires a Discovery Pass. There is also a sign warning that parking beyond the gate is no longer allowed. I was packed up and on my way just after 9:00 am.

The road walk is .64 miles per my GPS. The trail is unsigned though there is a small sign showing hikers only a short way up. Not knowing if anyone had been up the peak recently I took snowshoes and microspikes. I used neither. The first part of the old road/trail was just as slick and rocky as I remembered it. Add some wet leaves to the off and on running water. No problem with my heavier boots. Just beyond 2 miles from the gate I reached the unsigned turn off to Dirty Harry's Balcony. There were footprints going that way in the snow and others going my way. Snow began before the junction then it was off and on to Museum Creek. Most of the way beyond the creek was snow covered.

The lowlands were shrouded in morning fog but the sky was clear up here. Nice views out to Mt. Washington and McClellan's Butte from one spot. Most of the route is in forest all the way up. It was cold at the start with the paved road walk slick and icy. Now it was almost warm in the sunshine. Crossing Museum Creek means walking up the creek a bit before getting back on dry road bed. The creek is not deep enough to have caused me any problems. The snow was not deep here and very easy to walk on. Hard but not icy. No traction problems. After the next switchback the trail becomes a creek again. Not nearly as bad as most times along here.

When the route began a gentle descent I saw the smaller route heading uphill. There is a cairn here and that's where the footprints went. Up I went. In just a few minutes I reached the spot where the route switchbacks left beneath a boulder field. There can be some avalanche danger here but this day the boulders were half bare. More overgrown trail and trail/creek before the going improved. I reached the point where Suzanne and I gave up on my one failed summit attempt. That day it was 2 feet of wet heavy snow hanging on the brush, 33 degrees with heavy sleet coming down. We both soaked two pairs of gloves just to this point. Oh, and 30 mph winds. That's a winter day on Dirty Harry's Peak.

This day it was just more consolidated snow, good footing, and comfortable temperatures. I had to fight through one more overgrown switchback then it was all good. There were only a couple of folks leaving prints and in the open they were half filled in but they led higher and higher as I neared the summit. On my first visit, 25 years ago, the mountain had been recently scalped. Views began early and never let up. The summit was bare and peaks stood out all around. After a quarter century the route is all in trees and even the summit is mostly encased in green. After 2:40 minutes of slogging I topped out on the 4650' summit.

Granite Lakes are right below the peak but there is a bit of cornice and I did not get close enough to look down. The peaks to the north are mostly visible. I could see Mt. Rainier through the trees to the south. Web Mountain is mostly visible to the east. I was in the sunshine at the top and did not want to drop back into the forest again. There was no wind and it was very comfortable. I spent 45 minutes on top. Far and away the best trip up Dirty Harry's and the best views. Well, except for 1986 when there were no trees.

The trip down went much faster on the snow. Just as slow on the slick gravel and rocky parts. I had plenty of daylight left when I reached Museum Creek. Back in 1986 my route took me right by Dirty Harry's old truck. It was completely in the open since there were no trees left. Since then other folks have found the truck and posted photos. I knew roughly where it was but had not taken the time to search for it. This day I took the time.

Most of the way along the creek there is a very tall cut bank on the other side. I knew there was an old road that went to the truck. A road I had walked as the main route 25 years earlier. I noticed one spot where their did not seem to be a high bank. I plowed through some small trees and brush to the creek and saw what looked to be an overgrown logging road on the other side. Lots of ice along the creek but I managed to get across and soon found boot prints. Aha! This looked promising. They went away from the creek at a gentle uphill grade and soon switched backed to the left. The road soon became a good sized creek. In places I walked above on the side and in others I walked up the creek. A few minutes later there it was. The old truck was partly snow covered. A bit worse for wear but mostly still intact. I tried to take a timed photo of myself at the same place as the one I have from 1986. Unfortunately with the sun behind me it came out pretty dark. I definitely need to return for a better photo.

With this mystery now solved I headed down. I met two folks also heading down at about the one mile mark from the road. That was it for the day. Two more than I was expecting but a whole lot of solitude, especially for a hike right off I-90 on a sunny day. With my detour I took just as long coming down. It was about 3:00 pm. Still time to drive home before dark.

This turned out to be an Anti-Dirty Harry's hike. nothing went wrong. The conditions were great. The sun shone. The sky was blue. I really don't expect to have a day like this on this trail again. I guess even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day and even Dirty Harry's Peak can be a great hike on rare occasions. The books say it is 11 miles to the summit and back. That's what I have used in the past. The GPS told a different story. It logged a little over 8 miles RT plus a little more for the truck detour. I believe this is about correct. All in all, a great hike for mid December.

Parking Lot
Leaf Covered Trail
Snowy Border
McClellan Butte
McClellan Close Up
Boulder Field
Bushwhack Ahead
Solid Snow
Brush Near The Top
Far Off Peaks
Sunshine On A Peak
Russian Butte
Revolution Peak
Near Mailbox Peak
Upper Granite Lake
Cabin Close Up
View To The North
Web Mountain?
Cascade Crest Peaks
Silver Peak?
Solid Ice
More Ice
Me @ Dirty Harry's Truck
Dirty Harry's Truck
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2011