Bobby and I have both been antsy for a more difficult hike. At 33 weeks pregnant I am limited as to what I can do safely and comfortably, but we decided to embark on a longer hike. We chose Denny Creek, a 4 mile hike, which is touted as one of the most family friendly hikes in WA. Arthur A. Denny was the leader of the Denny Party who were some of the original settlers in Seattle. Denny Creek was named for the family because they had mining claims in the area.
We packed lots of snacks, a lunch, and a full sized backpacking sleeping pad. We figured I could lay down for awhile on the trail if need be and the sleeping pad would keep me nice and comfy! We left just after 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, arriving at the trailhead just after 8:00. The trailhead has two privies, informative/interpretive signage, a picnic table, 2 wilderness sign in stations, and garbage cans. The privy was out of toilet paper, so as always, it’s a good idea to keep a roll in the car for such occasions.
There were only a few other cars at the trailhead lot and the other hikers that were gearing up were obviously embarking on longer journeys than we were hoping to accomplish that day. This trailhead is the jumping off point for several longer treks that you can do. The hikers around us were equipped with ice axes, gaiters, and large packs. Bobby and I felt a little silly in our shorts/capris, hiking shoes, and one small pack. But we knew we weren’t planning on going as far and deep into the wilderness as those hikers were.
As you embark on the forested Denny Creek Trail you find yourself suddenly immersed in an old growth, jurassic-esque forest. Various coniferous trees provide a magnificent canopy under which you will walk along a 2-3 foot wide, somewhat rocky and rooty trail. A thick understory of ferns, salmonberry, skunk cabbage, grouseberry, and numerous wildflower species surrounds you. Watch out for the rather unpleasant devil’s club that is frequently found along the side of the trail!
Drainage along the trail seems to be a constant issue that WTA has been working hard to improve with crews working at this trail in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Boardwalks, crib walls, culverts, drainage ditches, and rock walls be-speckle the trail. These structures are doing their utmost to keep the trail free of water and mud. Overall, the improvements are working and the trail was generally free of mud and/or water. A few soggy patches here and there are to be expected at this time of year seeing as there are still small patches of snow along the trail. The small snowy patches you will encounter are just before reaching the second Denny Creek crossing.
After .5 mile you reach the first crossing of Denny Creek of the day. A large, tall, well-built bridge allows you safe passage over the waters below.
A further .2 miles up the trail and you cross under the staggeringly tall viaduct that allows traffic along I-90 to pass. We’d never really realized just how high up that viaduct was until we were standing below it!
Walk another .5 mile at which point you will enter the Alpine Lakes Wilderness!
Only .6 miles to go until you reach the next crossing of Denny Creek and the ever popular waterside rocks! The bridge that was once here was washed out in 2009 by avalanche debris making it’s way down the creek during the seasons melt out.
The water was fairly high, up to our knees, and while the current was strong it wasn’t too scary. We took off our shoes and socks and prepared to ford the river. Bobby went ahead of me, testing the waters and the crossing to make sure it wasn’t too difficult for me to pass. He came back over and got me after plotting out a passable route. He held one of my hands tightly and we each had a trekking pole in the other. We passed without incident and without much fear! Fording rivers at 8 months pregnant, no big deal! There are several possible routes to take across the waters and we watched, while waiting for our feet to dry off a bit, as several other hikers took more bold and direct routes across. Many, not bothering to remove their shoes/socks and relying on their waterproofness.
There are signs prior to the crossing warning of the dangers of the swift and ever-changing current as well as the frigid temperatures. Be sure to assess the current conditions you are faced with before deciding whether or not to cross. Water levels can rise quickly and this can be a dangerous crossing.
The water was really cold and it was hard to believe that this runoff-fed stream was so popular with families for afternoon dips. The rocks above the crossing are slippery and in the hotter, summer months this place is swarming with kiddos in swimsuits slipping and sliding along the rocks. The water levels are less high then but the water is still really cold! While the slides are very fun for kids, keep a close eye because there are some deeper pools at the ends of the slides. When we were headed back down there were a few families already there, though nobody seemed to be braving the icy waters…
We continued along the trail, clearly marked by a trail sign nailed to a tree indicating the “main trail”. Our goal for the day was to reach Snowshoe Falls, but we weren’t sure how far I would be able to make it. The trail continues through the forest, with a few snowy spots and one large blowdown that has been cleared enough that it’s easily passable. You encounter a few switchbacks before you emerge into a clearing.
This section of trail was the most scenic section we had been on all day, or for many months for the matter! We were walking through a clearing, with spectacular mountain views all around us as the sun shone down in all it’s glorious splendor!
.7 miles after the Denny Creek slide area you reach Keekwulee Falls.
This is by far the most scenic waterfall along the trail. It was named in 1916 by a party of mountaineers, Keekwulee is a Chinook Jargon word meaning “to fall down”. The falls has two drops, totaling 125 feet. The taller of the two drops is 90 feet. It is fueled by runoff and has its peak flow season April to July. Due to hazardous conditions this trail isn’t always accessible during its peak season. Watch weather and snow reports to ensure you and your party will be safe along the trail.
There was a small outcropping of rocks just off the trail being shaded by some large cedar trees. I knew I had gone far enough in for the day. Bobby wanted to keep going and make it all the way to Snowshoe falls. So, Bobby got out the sleeping pad we had brought along, inflated it, and we were able to make a pretty comfy outdoor recliner in the rocks for me to sit and relax on while Bobby went ahead. He tied Latigo to a nearby tree, ensuring he wouldn’t be blocking the trail. I settled myself in with half an egg salad sandwich, a Hershey bar, and a fresh and still ice cold bottle of water. I had brought along my rite in the rain notebook and began journaling about the day.
The trail that Bobby continued to follow up towards Snowshoe Falls quickly became more snow covered, steeper, and rockier. After an additional .5 miles along the trail he came to Snowshoe falls. While Snowshoe falls is taller than Keekwulee Falls at 150 feet. It isn’t as popular or as hyped because of its location. It is difficult to get to and difficult to view. It is best viewed from May to July and is also fueled by runoff.
As I sat waiting for Bobby a group of hikers passed and then a trio of Forest Rangers. They looked at me a bit oddly but greeted me warmly and thanked me for having Latigo on a leash. I’m sure I must have looked odd, a very pregnant woman sitting alone on a sleeping pad with only a dog for company at 2.5 miles into the wilderness. They didn’t question me further and went along their way. Bobby passed them as he descended and made his way back to me. They looked at him a bit oddly, as he only had a camera with him and no other gear. He explained to them that he had left all his gear with me down below. I’m sure that answered many of the questions they had.
I had about an hour of sitting and resting and was grateful for the time to recuperate before beginning our descent. As I sat in my cushy outdoor recliner I listened to the roar of Keekwulee Falls. The magnificent waterfall cascaded down the rocky backdrop and I found myself overcome with emotion. Knowing we will be bringing a child into a world with such immense beauty and so much for him to explore and discover made my heart sing with joy.
Bobby returned safely, we ate the other halves of our egg salad sandwiches, and we shot some 33 week baby bump pics in front of the unbelievably beautiful Keekwulee Falls.
We made our way back down and out to the car much faster than we had ascended. Crossing Denny Creek was once again, thankfully, uneventful and successful. I really didn’t think I’d be able to hike 5 miles with 790 feet of elevation gain this far into my pregnancy but I did it and I couldn’t believe how amazing I felt after accomplishing it! The parking lot that had been virtually empty when we set off for the day was now overflowing with cars and more people were arriving and circling in search of spots! It made me grateful we had gotten such an early start!
A few tips I have for you pregnant ladies out there hoping to hike throughout pregnancy. First off, take lots of breaks. When a nice sittin’ log presents itself on the side of the trail, don’t pass it up, just sit for five minutes. At your halfway point, or whenever you feel you may need it, take a long extended break. Take the opportunity of quiet and stillness to listen and take in the amazing world around you. You will remember the day more if you take the time to do this. Don’t let yourself get hungry. Always stay ahead of the hunger by snacking every time you stop to rest. Drink ridiculous amounts of water. Seriously, even if you aren’t thirsty, just keep drinking. I have a tendency to not drink as much when descending, luckily Bobby makes an outstanding partner and will stop me and have me drink. Going down is so much easier that you may not feel that you need a break. You should still take breaks. Pee often, don’t let yourself get uncomfortable. We made a ridiculous number of bathroom stops. Pretty much whenever I saw a convenient and secluded place I’d stop, you don’t know when the next opportunity may present itself. Keep a ridiculously slow pace. I did my best and pretty much succeeded, at not letting myself get winded. Just happily let others pass you and thank your hiking companion/s for putting up with your slowness! Even once we were back at the car, and I knew I’d be sitting for an hour, I laid down in the back of the Explorer and allowed my muscles to relax. I drank lots of water and had a snack before we even started the car. I am so grateful that I am still able to do so much, so late in pregnancy! I think I am a bit of an oddity, but I have really felt as if I’ve had the most amount of energy and have felt the best during my third trimester!