To the bat cave(s)!

They say that bats live in caves among the grey-green boulders on Tiger Mountain’s Nook Trail. Maybe they do. We didn’t see any bats, but then again the entrance to the caves was blocked by a sturdy wooden barricade — certainly not an insurmountable hurdle, more like an actual hurdle, but a roadblock obviously enough intentional that it would be hard to claim you didn’t realize &c. if the Sierra Club had a rope around your neck and was asking whether you cared to explain yourself. 

Sunlight and moss -- the peanut butter and jelly of woodland experiences.

It’s been a long, cold, cooped-up winter, and my friend Scott and I have both been feeling like it’s time to get some trail under our feet. He has two twin boys, almost three years old (each). Mara is almost six. Not the ideal playdate, but we decided that Scott would bring one of his laddies and I’d bring my eldest daughter (wow! that still sounds like such a strange thing to say) and we’d assay a northwestern assault on what is surely the Issaquah Alps‘ most popular representative.

Bridge on the Bus Trail.

An old rusty bus lying on its side. Perfect for little imaginations, but watch out for sharp metal edges.

In my youth, I used to drive past Tiger Mountain and sneer. Actually, I think I sneered a lot in those days, maybe even continually, so it would be more apt to say I increased my sneer when I drove past High Point Way and saw all the Subarus and Explorers lined up and people heading into the woods with baby strollers. My imagination of the place was that it must certainly have only flat, blacktopped trails lined with benches and drinking fountains. I and my friends eschewed such low-level non-hikes for the calf-mashing adventures awaiting further up Snoqualmie Pass — Snow, Melakwa, Mason, Gem and Annette lakes up the west slope of the Cascades, Joe and Alaska lakes up Gold Creek at the top, and Rampart Ridge and its lakes and tarns further on. 

Scott, whom I have known since 1989, accompanied me to some of those lofty locales. Now that we’re dads, the whole paradigm is different. The ideer now is to get outside, to expose the kids to the wonders o’ Nater, and get good blogging material enjoy what little adult conversation we can weave into it. We chose Tiger because its network of  trails offers something for everyone, from stroller pushers to no-rush hikers on up to the rare-air maniacs (like I was). We took the flat Bus Trail only far enough to explore the old rusted bus, then turned around and came back to the Nook Trail trailhead and started up that.

Along the Bus Trail.

I had mentioned days earlier to Mara that we might go to the bat caves, and she was very excited and actually cried when I later told her that we were simply going to “hike around in the woods” on Tiger Mountain. I was still hoping we might make it to the place called Talus Rocks, where the bat caves are, but in case it turned out to be too far or too steep for Zander to walk or Scott to carry him I didn’t tell Mara that the bat caves were on Tiger Mountain. I think she had put the caves out of her mind by the time last Saturday came. Which was perfect. We just took a long steep walk in the woods, and Mara was not burdened with a fun-crushing desire to “get there.”

A bouquet of ferns growing from a tree trunk.

After seeing the way Mara pushed herself to the top of Squak Mountain when she was only four, I was not at all surprised at how well she did, but I was surprised that Scott needed to carry Zander only once, and that was before the trail, which is 2.5 miles round trip, even got steep. With Mara picking out the increasingly difficult and hazardous path ahead, the microdude marched up even the very steep last 3/4 mile on his own steam. I think the Older Kid Charm factor was working on the little Z-man.

After less than an hour and a half on the Nook Trail rising on the mountain’s wooded shoulders next to very busy streams, we rounded a bend and there they were — massive moss-covered boulders in the darkness of the fir and hemlock understory, lying hard by the foot of the wet cliffs that rose up through the tops of the trees. I announced that it seemed we had arrived at the bat caves. Mara was ecstatic.

At dad's recommendation, Zander circumscribes a muddy patch he dearly wishes to engage.

Hamming among the Talus Rocks.

Talus rocks are boulders large or small that have broken off and fallen from cliffs. The “caves” here are actually spaces between and under the largest four or five boulders, at least that’s what I assume. The path that led directly into the central space among these rocks was blocked by wooden fences. We didn’t go past these barricades, as I’m sure many do, so we didn’t even get to see whatever kind of “entrance” to the caves there might be, if any, but there are other paths among the rocks where you can peer into cracks that open back into dark holes full of absolute blackness. I got a little spooked, if truth be told, because I felt that something dark and wingéd might flap out of there at any moment.

We went around the bend to see the waterfall that we could hear from the rocks, and then headed back down.

Let’s tally: besides the boulders, our outing yielded an old rusty bus, several wooden bridges, a waterfall and the hollowed out, closet sized stump of a cedar trunk that we could walk through. We heard a woodpecker loudly pummeling a tall snag, and a few minutes later we saw some kind of woodpecker, like a flicker only black instead of brown and maybe a touch smaller. Not sure if that’s who was making the noise, but it was fun to see. Mara came home with a piece of sword fern, a salal leaf, a sprig of hemlock and one of Western Red Cedar and one of Douglas fir, some alder cones and a tuft of lychen. And wonderfully muddy boots. 

It was a great day out, and we’ll be back on Tiger Mountain soon, I think.


4 Responses to “To the bat cave(s)!”

  1. 1 kiwidutch March 22, 2011 at 23:05

    LOL.. “twin” already means “two” so your sentence: “He has two twin boys, almost three years old (each)” actually reads that he had two *sets* of three year old twin boys 🙂
    “he has three year old twin boys” would have done the trick better.

    I only made the comment because as a twin myself, I’ve probably heard every possible way to describe twins… even stuff like “they are twins because the girls are the same, but they don’t look alike” or ” twins but not real twins because they don’t look the same”, “or we’d like to invite both the twins but just one of them”.

    I love how you and Scott are exposing your kids to real nature, the rough stuff where they have to walk long, bumpy, slidey, muddy or wet… so many city kids don’t get any “nature” past the grass in the playground.

    Getting acquainted with real trees and trails and dirt now WILL be a seed of appreciation of wild places, the stillness (or not) of nature, confidence to “rough it” that will stay with them their whole lives, and help them to know that survival can depend on their knowledge, wits, attitude, equipment, and the hard work of their physically healthy bodies and *not* just on if the next food joint is directly around the corner.

    Food on a campfire, the pleasure of having tramped (hiked) a tough climb to an amazing view / destination are brilliant physical, mental and emotional achievements that many city kids will never know.

    I’m delighted that it looks like your girls will know different.

    • 2 Matt March 23, 2011 at 08:25

      Thanks Kiwidutch,
      I’m very grateful we have such great access to woods and mountains in this area, and like our previous Decider here in the U.S., my opinion of Nature is that “we should have more of it.”

      I’m going to stet my phrasing of the twins sentence — I see that “two twin boys” is incorrect and redundant, and I appreciate your schooling me but I thought my way of saying it had a certain je ne sais quoi. 🙂

  2. 3 Invisible Mikey March 24, 2011 at 01:09

    I so enjoyed this well-illustrated true life fairytale adventure. Speaking as an ex-farmland, ex-city boy, forests hold power I’m just beginning to discover.

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