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Family Friendly Outing: High Point - Tiger / Talus Rocks
By Courtenay Schurman, MS, CSCS May 26, 2008
Tiger Mountain offers a wide variety of hiking trails from the popular West Tiger 3 (roughly 5-6 miles round trip and 2,000 feet of elevation gain) to the steep Cable Line trail (also 2,000 feet but a good quadriceps challenge on the way down) to lesser traveled routes such as the Talus Rocks loop that gains 600 feet of elevation in 2.5 miles round trip. To get there, follow I-90 east out of Seattle to Exit 20, then turn right at the bottom of the exit ramp and another immediate right. Follow the gravel road to the parking area for access to plenty of hiking and nature trails of all lengths and levels of difficulty. (For another family-friendly hike on Tiger, please visit the trip report for Around Lake Tradition trail at www.bodyresults.com/A2carcamp_tinkham.asp: 1 mile and minimum gain.)
On May 26 (Memorial Day) after a fun car camping trip at Tinkham Campground, we decided to try the “bat caves” loop on Tiger Mountain to Talus Rocks with our four-year-old. We had expected to see tons of people since the parking lot was nearly full when we arrived, but on our chosen trail we only encountered 6 other people, a nice change of pace from the hordes that frequent the trails closest to Seattle. We kept our daughter interested by looking for slugs, talking about the mole who was no longer moving, counting bridges (3) and benches (2), watching water flowing, commenting on the thorny Devil’s Club that appeared to be everywhere, marveling at large tree stump caves, and stopping periodically for sips of drink and snacks. By the time we were only about 50 feet of elevation shy of our final destination, Brooke asked for a ride on dad’s shoulders.
We reached the loop around Talus Rocks shortly thereafter, a mossy group of boulders with a locked gate across the entrance to the caves that prohibits people from going in and disturbing what must be real live bats. We could also see beyond to a fenced area on the other side. I reassured our daughter that bats only come out at night, and we could look into the cave area but not enter. The backside of the round-about had more nooks and crannies to explore, but no flying mammals to speak of. As soon as we had satisfied our curiosity we turned around and retraced our steps, practically running back to the car to keep up with our four-year-old who had no trouble going downhill. Two sweating men who were closing in on the caves were surprised to hear that she had made it all on her own.
This hike is a good distance for children 3-6 years old who have had some previous hiking experience. The elevation gain is mostly in the last ¾ of a mile and during wetter weather the tree routs, terrain and vegetation could make this a rather slick hike; proper footwear with good traction and ankle support is advised. You can preface the family hike by either a) reading about bats and where they live, emphasizing that during the day these nocturnal animals are asleep; or b) making it a good scavenger hunt or map-reading experience for children, marking rest spots or features such as bridges, benches, and the caves so they can be fully engaged looking for landmarks as they hike. Great one to do either on an ascent or loop descent of Tiger if you prefer to avoid crowds!