Between Peaks: Bandera Mountain
The sound of a heavy rockfall echoes off Bandera Mountain. The sound of smashed rocks sends us a gentle reminder that we are not in charge here — we’re simply visitors — soaking wet and wobbly visitors. And our wobbly legs have nothing to do with the Peaks & Pints Campfire Crowler of Old Schoolhouse Brewery Between Peaks we have in our backpack. What begins as a gentle and well-groomed Ira Spring Memorial Trail turns into a rough and untamed rocky ridge up Bandera. A cold, wet training-less spring in Washington state didn’t help prepare our legs for the final push.
We battled a chatty couple for the lead on the first mile and a half of old roadbed before they chose the Mount Defiance turnoff. We continued up, and up, and up, in the pouring rain with the occasional break in the trees for views of white-out scenery.
Then came the switchbacks — long and wet with numerous rocks and roots.
We reach the meadow of bear grass and bleached stumps — remembering a fire long ago — before one of the steepest stretches of trail we’ve tackled. Boots, hands, and poles land with precision as we maneuver through the numerous rocks, boulders, and remaining snow. Dripping wet, cold, and burning, we finally enjoy the summit view of … white-out scenery. No view of glorious peaks along I-90. No view of Mount Rainier. No views of our path to 2850 feet. And no waiting around. The 8-mile roundtrip hike burned another set of muscles as we carefully headed down.
The top of Bandera Mountain doesn’t have beer taps, which means you’ll have to bring your own. There’s nothing better gazing at a white-out view after a 3,400-foot vertical hike than cracking open an Old Schoolhouse Brewery Between Peaks IPA with hiking companions. Flavors of pine and citrus took our minds off our legs.
Getting There: From Tacoma, take Highway 18 to I-90, then take exit 45 and turn north onto FR 9030. A little over three quarters of a mile from the exit, stay left onto FR 9031. Follow it to its end and the trailhead for the Ira Spring Trail #1038. Road is one-lane gravel and dirt.
LINK: Hiking With Beer