[Tweeters] Bus and Birds: Cougar Mt!!!

Mark Vernon ma_vern at yahoo.com
Fri Sep 5 18:49:38 PDT 2008

Warning: This is quite a hike, which is why I like it. It is best to devote the whole day, and carry extra clothes and plenty of water! This is not the Montlake Fill!!!
Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park by bus? Yes, I have actually been doing this for a few years. My goal was to find the easiest way up starting by bus. Yesterday I attempted to find a trail I saw in passing last year, one very close to the #240 bus stop on Coal Creek Pkwy. I failed to find this again, but hit upon another very useful trail accessable from Newcastle. Road construction on Coal Creek Parkway was almost a big setback yesterday's expedition.
For this trip I get off the 240 bus in Newcastle, anywhere near the QFC/Bartell's/Starbucks general vicinity. This can be done either going to or coming from Bellevue. I always like to start by having coffee. Yesterday I didn't do my homework or I would have come from Bellevue. The bus from Renton had to go on a detour and then ran into a bad traffic jam getting back onto the Coal Creek Parkway. Then to my horror I saw that the construction had obliterated the trailhead area I was looking for!!! I assume that when they are done in July of 2009 this will be restored, then again did I imagine this trailhead?
I had two possible routes then. First I could continue on the 240 to the bottom of Coal Creek and walk back up to Cougar Mountain. This is actually a wonderful walk I have been doing for years and will be the subject of a future posting. Second, I could walk to Cougar Mountain from Newcastle, which I have done before. I settled on the latter, though SE Newcastle Coal Creek RD has some bad spots for walking. This is the road you take to go to the Newcastle Golf Club.
To do this from downtown Newcastle you walk east on SE 72nd PL, which isn't very far. then turn left on the above mentioned SE Newcastle RD. When I did this in the past I followed the road until I came to a place where I could jump onto the Coal Creek Trail. Alas, this time there was more road work in my way. I really thought that my trip was over before it began. That is when I stumbled on a trail head I didn't know about. This was at 136th Ave SE. This trail ran parallel to the road to the golf club and went all the way to Cougar Mt and the Redtown trail head and parking lot. The trail was interupted by 155 Ave SE to Newcastle Golf Club but I just walked up this a short ways and the trail resumed and right into the park! Considering my slow start I arrived at 9 am. Not bad.
I had the whole day so I did my favorite loop, starting from Redtown to the Far Country Lookout. At the Meadow Restoration project I found a Warbling Vireo and Cedar Waxwings eating wild bitter cherries. I then headed to Shy Bear Pass on the way encountering two Fox Sparrows. Next I went north on Fred's Railroad Trail. I ran into all kinds of Warblers, Yellow, Townsend's, Orange-crowned and Wilson's. They were hanging out with Chestnut-backed Chickadees. I turned on the East Fork Trail to get a glimpse of the Clay Pit and the view east to the mountains. In the past the Clay Pit has attracted Shorebirds and once I found a Say's Phoebe and another time a Black Bear!!!  Sadly the Clay Pit is currently private property which must be respected. Overhead I heard the croaking of a Raven. Evening Grosbeaks were also flying all over the place. Then it was back down the Clay Pit Road. This eventually lead back to Redtown where I retraced my steps.
Besides great wildlife and birds there is fabulous history here as well. I am very intererested in Coal Mines and old Newcastle had many. At Cougar Mt. and Coal Creek you can see many ruins of old industrial structures, railroads and abandoned mine shafts. The latter require a lot of caution from the visitor's part. Most of these are fenced off....
Whew! Writing this has worn me out more than the hike.
Mark Vernon
Renton, WA
mailto ma_vern at yahoo.com

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