Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are just beginning to emerge from the Coronavirus lockdown. Like a lot of people, I’ve been going stir-crazy from being largely home-bound. One way we’ve been passing the time is raising our own farm-fresh eggs. I assembled a little chicken coop and surrounded it in a (let’s be honest, make-shift) chicken run from wire and tomato stakes. It’s not professional quality but it keeps the chickens safe and happy, and we have been getting about two eggs a day from Opal (the black one) and Amber (the brown one).
But once the lockdown lifted a bit, and the state parks opened, I decided to get out with a friend from work. Technically, we’re only supposed to recreate with people in our family units (groups all living in the same home), so Aaron and I drove separately to the trail head and stayed six feet apart the entire time. It was the same as if we’d happened to go to the same trail independently. No high fives, masks when in proximity to others, the works.
Change Peak is a lesser-known mountain in Olallie State Park, a small park on the I90 Snoqualmie corridor which is famous for much more imposing mountains and entrances to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, which is still closed. The famous peak in Olallie State Park is Mt. Washington, which we’ve climbed before. This time Aaron and I started up the Mt. Washington Trail, and then took the “Great Wall Trail” spur. It’s called that because of this rock-formation, I presume.
After the Great Wall, there was a long, modestly inclined forest road covered in several feet of grainy, heavy, wet snow. It was soggy, sloggy, and slow-going. Normally by mid-May these peaks would only have patchy snow left, but this year we got some good dumpings later than recent year’s “normal” and had a bit of a cool spring. So the snowpack is in good shape. But as we rounded to the west and south side of the mountain, which get all the sun, the snow melted away and we were rewarded with some spectacular views:
It’s hard to convey just how awesome Mt. Rainier is from the Snoqualmie area peaks. Get much further south, and it’s so dominating that you can’t even grasp the whole scope of it at once. But from the top of Change Peak, at 4300′, with 10,000′ of the volcano towering above you only 50 miles away? It’s staggering and awesome on a clear day.
The nice thing about Change Peak too is that it isn’t a great PEAK, it’s still forested, and the views that you see here are from the final approach, about 50-100′ from the top. So, a lot of people don’t climb it, because Mt. Washington, on the same trail with the same gain and no scrambling (We had a couple dozen yards of class 3 scrambling to get to the top of Change)? That’s where the crowds go. There was only one other person on top of Change Peak, but the Mt. Washington trail was getting pretty heavy traffic by the time we headed down.
All in all, it was a great day. Round trip was 9.5 miles or so, 3200′ of gain, and four and a half hours, which would be a lot less later in the season with no snow. No bugs, only a couple blowdowns to climb over. And no major wildlife. Just a few birds.
If your goal is to hit the famous peaks with great summits? This one probably isn’t for you. But if you want to hike an accessible mountain without a lot of traffic and see some epic panoramas without anything more challenging than an easily-scrambled small boulderfield? Change Peak is definitely worth a trip.