Birds of Mount Si

I saw some birds while hiking atop Mount Si in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As usual, it was mostly Canada Jays (also known as Camp Robbers), which are a popular Si attraction because they will eat out of people’s hands without hesitation. I’m not endorsing the practice and don’t indulge in it myself, but the fact is that it’s a pretty regular thing up there for people to do.

Canada Jays no top of Mount Si
These Canada Jays, also called Camp Robbers, can be found all over the top of Mount Si. They will eat right out of your hand (literally).
Canada Jay eating on Mount Si.
Here’s a Canada Jay eating some crumbs on Mount Si. This particular one was on top of the Haystack.

This was the first time I ever saw a Blue Jay on top of Mount Si, which was a thrill. They’re beautiful, noble birds.

Blue Jay on top of Mount Si.
This blue was on the “false top” of Mount Si. Beautiful, regal animal.
Blue Jay on top of Mount Si.

Hiking Mount Si in the Time of COVID-19

Washington State parks reopened for hiking on May 5, 2020. Two days later I grabbed my trusty Discover Pass and headed for Mount Si in North Bend, Washington. 

I kick off every hiking season with a trek up Mount Si and have had many memorable climbs there, including the time I saw a guy carry a tuba all the way to the top. This year’s trip was unique, though, and I suspect I’ll never forget it. It came in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and was the first time I’d gotten out of house (other to walk down the street or grocery shop) in months.

Mount Rainier seen from top of Mount Si.
Mount Rainier as seen from atop Mount Si.

This hike will forever be burned into my psyche as the most life-affirming outdoor experience of my life. It was a reminder of everything I love about the Pacific Northwest, the outdoors, and just plain-old being alive. 

I went from top to bottom of Si without stopping to rest one time. At one point I even broke out in a run. I’ve kept myself in pretty good shape during this winter season, but the fuel that sent me to top of Si was pure elation at being free and outside in the sun on a beautiful day.

Not Nearly as Many People On Mount Si as I Usually See on a Beautiful Day

I didn’t know how many people to expect coming across on the trail. I counted them for the first leg of the hike but quickly lost that effort to the simple joy of being outdoors again.

All I can say is that I’ve done Mount Si dozens of times, and the crowd I saw there this time seemed far smaller than ever before. The weather was perfect, yet the parking lot was at only about 1/4 capacity when I pulled in at 8 am and at maybe 1/2 capacity when I left at about 1 pm. 

Smiling, Friendly People Hiking

Some folks on the mountain were understandably concerned about COVID-19 and wore face masks. They were the exception, but just about everyone was conscious of maintaining space.

Everyone kept at a distance from everyone else the best they could. It wasn’t like the usual Mount Si hike where I’d cross people on the trail and trade hearty “hellos” and jokes about how we don’t know why we subject ourselves to that ascent. People weren’t unfriendly. Just cautious.

Looking out from top of Mount Si
View from atop Mount Si.

The Haystack’s No Joke

This isn’t COVID-19 related, but I want to share something I was reminded of on this hike.

The spot that most hikers consider to be “the top” of Mount Si is not actually the top. If you climb up the boulders of that “false top,” you’ll link back onto a short trail that takes you to the bottom of a stony mound called the Haystack. 

The Haystack is not a hike. It requires actual climbing. The rocks are porous and give good grips, but the fall is no joke.

I think people underestimate the Haystack because there are no warning signs and because so many people hike Mount Si. Don’t be fooled, though, the Haystack is enough of a climb that many people find themselves terrified and clinging to the rocks wondering why the hell they went up there.

I know this for a fact. I’ve seen it a few times in the past, and I saw it again on this trip.

Northwest Nomad climbing up Mount Si's Haystack.
The Northwest Nomad climbs up the Haystack of Mount Si.

I love the Haystack climb, but partway up I looked down and realized that it’s really not something to take lightly. There was never a point where I felt like I was going to fall, but in several sections I looked down and knew that if I did fall I would be seriously injured.

One fellow who I ended up making friends with (shout out to Deepak) told me repeatedly that he couldn’t believe how shady that climb is, considering the fact that there are warning signs or guidelines about using any gear.

I laughed, but Deepak was right. I saw with my own eyes how often the Haystack catches casual outdoors-people off-guard and scares the beejezus out of them.

I love the Haystack climb. It’s my favorite part of Mount Si. If you’ve got the physical conditioning, dexterity, and desire, I fully recommend you go for it.

Just know that it might be above your comfort level once you get up on those rocks. Be mindful of your own limits and all that jazz.

Already Planning Mount Si Hike #2

Early on in the COVID-19 lockdown, I vowed to myself to spend as much time as possible outdoors this year, to really embrace the beautiful world around me and my precious freedom. I intend to uphold that vow.

I have many plans, but a second time on Si is a certainty, and probably sooner than later.

Tour of Washington State Movie and TV Locations Part 3–Twin Peaks at North Bend

Twin Peaks at North Bend: Go for the Novelty, Stay for the Si

North Bend and Twin Peaks will forever be entwined with each other, but even if there’d never been Twin Peaks at North Bend, the town (which is home to Mount Si) would be a fantastic destination.

Si is possibly the most popular mountain hike in the state of Washington. It affords incredible views and has a well-maintained, easy-to-follow trail. Don’t let that fool you, though.

The walk is pretty challenging physically, and I’ve seen a lot of people start it without understanding what they’re getting into.

By all means, do the Si hike before you die, just make sure you’re mentally prepared for it. Also, plan to hike early in the morning before the heat rises.

The fact that Twin Peaks was filmed in North Bend is just the dollop of ice cream atop the cherry pie (see what I did there?).

North Bend and Twin Peaks:

Twede’s Cafe is the Double R from the television show…you know, the one with damn good coffee. The interior is decorated exactly as it is in the series.

The cafe also happens to have some of the best burgers I’ve ever had, and a wide variety of them at that.

Perhaps the weird energy of the show rubbed off on the area, too, because I’ve seen some odd things there, including a man carrying a full-sized tuba up to the top of Mount Si and playing it there.

As noted in the Roslyn entry, you can hit up North Bend and Roslyn in one day. They’re only an hour apart from each other, and doing them both makes for a fun little road trip for television and entertainment buffs.

On the Eve of Twin Peaks’ Return, Year’s First Trek up Mount Si

Sun is Out and the Time is Right for Hiking Mount Si

I rarely have a hard time finding an excuse to hike Mount Si, but this year I have a particularly good one. Tomorrow, Twin Peaks will run again. That’s all I needed to know.

Mount Si, for those who are unaware, is the actual name of the Twin Peaks mountain, and town of North Bend is the real town in which the series was largely filmed.

Mount Si Gets a Lot of Love

Mount Si is one of the most hiked mountains in Washington State, and with good reason. The views are absolutely stunning, and it’s not a far drive from Seattle (about 40 minutes depending on where you start from in the city).

Don’t let the number of visitors fool you, however. Mount Si is NOT an easy hike. This is a bone of contention for me, to be honest, and I want to address it now. Far too many people I’ve seen online talk about Si from the perspective of experienced, in-shape hikers, but Si attracts people of all fitness levels. I’ve seen them, gasping and looking defeated on the trail, having no idea what the hell they got themselves into.

I encourage everyone to do this trail, but be aware of what you’re in store for. Si is not easy. It starts out tough and gets tougher. You get almost no warm up before the ascent begins. A couple miles up the trail it slightly levels out for a while, but then that last mile or so is brutal.

Again, I’m not talking anyone out of this! Do it! But prepare adequately. Bring a GOOD amount of water and trail snacks. Most of all, psychologically prepare yourself, especially in the heat.

With Si, like all mountains, heat is the main enemy. Try to get to Si as early as possible and beat the heat. Take your time. Take breaks when you need. Remember to drink your water. As long as you understand you’re going to put up with some suck, it will be a great experience. Things go bad when people go skipping up there assuming it’s got to be easy because so many people are doing it, bring inadequate water, and then give up before getting to the top….or worse, get their butts medevaced off.

Si is pretty tough, which of course is what makes the summit so fulfilling and satisfying. So, do it…just be forewarned and be smart about it.

On to better things: the flowers are blooming.

The Views

There’s little mystery here. The reward for the climb up Mount Si is the slate of views you get. They are truly awe inspiring.

The beauty is all the sweeter as you sit up top after your long climb and enjoy a well-earned meal and rest. This is the stuff of spiritual epiphanies…and selfies.

The Haystack

When you get to the end of the trail, you have a rocky spot full of incredible views. You can go further, though, fellow adventurer. You can go further.

A ways further up the trail, you come to a stark protrusion of metamorphic rock known as “the Haystack.” It looks somewhat like this (actually exactly like this because this is a photo of it as seen from below):

You have to climb the Haystack. It’s not something you can hike. I’m talking actual, hand-over-foot climbing. The slope is relatively mild for the most part and there are plenty of good handholds. Anyone feeling up for it should definitely give it a try as it’s a fun climb with the best views in town. Going down can be a bit sketchy for people unaccustomed to climbing.

These birds are all over the Haystack, and they are eager for your food. I’ve watched them eat food from people’s hands many times. This behavior of course is frowned upon, of course, but there’s no denying it’s fun to watch…and possibly do yourself.

It’s a Long Way to the Bottom if You Want to Eat at Twede’s

 There are many fine restaurants in the town of North Bend, but my personal ritual is to eat at Twede’s Cafe after the climb. I discovered the place on my first trip to the town because is the cafe called the Double R Diner on Twin Peaks.

I love Twede’s burgers, and I still get a kick out of eating inside a part of Twin Peaks lore.

This is a ritual I perform every year, at least twice. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Mount Si is popular for a reason…and so is Twede’s.

Enjoy!