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The Wilderness Creek Trail at Cougar Mountain — April 2010

"... in Just/-spring when the world is mud/-luscious", and the high mountain trails are covered in snow...head down to the Wilderness Creek Trail at Cougar Mountain for a lovely early season hike. Take a right at the first Y towards the Wilderness Cliffs Trail and you'll circle in an aproximately 2 mile loop that offers some great views on a sunny day. The host of native flora is sure to quicken your heart even if the 1200 foot elevation gain does not.

At the start of the trail, if you are civic-minded, you can pick up a soap container filled with gravel to fill the muddy ruts of winter as you hike. The trail heads up hill immediately, past Oemlaria cerasiformis smothered in white, ruffled blossoms and impossibly green leaves. You can still hear a lot of sound from the road at this point, but you'll be aptly distracted by charming Thuja plicata, their reddish-bark glowing in the sunlit gloam of the woods. Don't miss the freshly unfurled Polypodium glycyrrhiza skirting the base of Acer macrophyllum and downed logs. Urtica dioica are springing from the ground, just begging to be boiled and mashed into pesto.

We were arrested by several large boulders positively draped in licorice fern, like a waving green toupee. Also growing there, large, dreamy, dark-gray swaths of Peltigera neopolydacyla. The edges were tipped with orangey-brown highlights. Rhizines grew from the creamy undersides ending in hair-like filaments. It seemed as though the boulders were home to a colony of flattened sea cucumbers. As we moved up the trail we were lucky enough to sight several Prunus emarginata in full bloom. The blossoms shone brightly as soft, bursts of white in the spareness of a spring forest. Their delectable fragrance were well worth a short, if thorny, departure from the trail.

Directions: Take Exit 15 from I-90E and drive south on Hwy 900 (17th Ave NW and then Renton-Issaquah Road SE) for 3.3. miles. Look for the trailhead sign and an asphalt driveway that goes uphill to the right.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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