on the subject of Noble Blob and knobby tires
Adam and I did the easy (7 miles, 800 feet elevation gain after you factor in ups and downs) hike up Noble Knob this afternoon. I say easy, but the challenge factor was ratcheted up due to the fact it was 85 degrees and I carried Adam for at least a few miles to avoid him getting overheated. Locally, Noble Knob is a pretty well-known hike close to the boundary of Mount Rainier National Park. It’s a hike considered classic by many for it’s front porch views of Mt. Rainier and impressive wildflowers (depending on your timing, of course). Still, I would only recommend this hike to the curious, and with some reservations:
- For starters, you have to drive up a steep forest service road that’s rocky as heck: We’re talking sharp, pointy rocks coming out of the roadbed like little icebergs. It took us more than 30 minutes to go six miles. FS 7174 was so rough I worried I goofed and went the wrong way. Could there be two FS 7174s? Our Volvo is a good mountain car that has seen it’s share of nasty logging roads but I couldn’t shake the feeling we were perilously close to a punctured tire……
- It turns out Noble Knob is very popular with mountain bikers. I didn’t know this ahead of time. Adam and I made a game out of counting them: Count’em 15. Most were extremely polite and kindly would tell us if there were more riders behind them to come. We had one near-miss when someone came barreling down a steep part of the trail, he skidded 30 feet and barely came to a stop right next to us. Adam was freaked out a little but not too scared: For the rest of the day he talked excitedly about how he wants to come back to Noble Knob with his bike. It was enough to give me a complex, but I couldn’t really blame him. It was hot and I wished we had a tandem so we could zip back to the trailhead.
- Noble Knob’s local views to Mt. Rainier are indeed, fabulous. My favorite looks were of the forested nearby ridges silhouetted dark against the icy-mass of The Mountain floating moon-like in the southwestern sky. But be prepared for the infinite mange of agricultural clearcuts that have infamously stranded Mt. Rainier on its own island. To the northwest lies the Weyerhaeuser White River Tree Farm (despite the name on my Benchmark map I believe it’s owned by Hancock…..who knows what kind of incestuous corporate arrangements they made). To the northeast is one of the less interesting parts of the Cascades, relatively-speaking.
- The hike to Noble Knob is dusty: It’s so dusty, even the stinking chipmunks were leaving clouds of dust behind them.
Again, some people sure wax poetic about their Noble Knob. If the road wasn’t such a horror show and the trail wasn’t crawling with mountain bikers I could be tempted to return for the real flower show. The walking to Noble Knob is pleasantly open with changing views of Mt. Rainier. My verdict: If I go back, it will be because I’m not the one driving!
At any rate, it was a grueling hike and not the Sunday walk I envisioned. It seemed relatively easy on paper but the heat changed everything. If I could change one thing, it would be that we somehow had the energy to side-trip down to Lake George, underneath the shadow of Noble Blob. I wanted to take Adam swimming so bad but it was too hot to bother: The lake is a mere stone’s throw away (if you use the little shortcut between Mini-Me Knob and Noble Blob as opposed to the official trail which makes it’s way around the west side of Noble Blob and then drops down via sidetrail) but it’s 500 feet down. There was no point cooling off in the water in exchange for a scorching 500 foot climb back up in the blistering sun.
Noble Blob and Mini-Me Blob don’t exactly cut an imposing picture when you saunter down from the forest for the final inspiring switchbacking to the top, but the open meadowland is pretty and the views from above to Mt. Rainier are outstanding. It’s unfortunate we missed the flower show: Don’t be like us, come earlier in the summertime! Lake George is on the other side of Noble Blob. The prominent horn to the right of the Noble Blob’s summit is a fun-looking, easy side-trip, obvious footpaths lead you to what I keep calling Mini-Me Blob. Maybe it should be called Noble Knob’s Court Jester? I wanted to explore it but having Adam with me on such a hot day ruled that idea out.
The actual summit of Noble Blob isn’t necessarily the best place for rejoicing in the beautiful surroundings of this pretty subalpine place. Instead, just before the summit I recommend branching off right to the obvious columnar pile of rock. GREAT views from this little perch along with some lovely shade on the back (north-facing side). We were so grateful for shade! We were also extremely grateful to Diana for packing Adam a truly magnificent lunch. There was so much food:
- strawberrries, grapes, bananas
- chocolate pudding, fruit-roll ups
- salami and cheese on wheat bread
- vanilla yogurt
- banana bran muffins
Here’s a warm and pooped Adam shortly before we reached the summit of Noble Blob. In the distance you can see where we’ve come from, on the way down we took an efficient shortcut descending from that smaller, middle outcropping of rocks on the ridge:
The hike back was blistering hot. I was sweating like a donkey wearing a rubber suit. But I felt fine so I carried Adam as much as I could so he would enjoy himself more. Practically the entire way back while I was wheezing for oxygen through the dusty ups-and-downs and feeling my neck and shoulders cramp I listened to Adam propose the great Noble Knob mountain bike adventure.
A look down at tiny Twentyeightmile Lake, which lies at the western foot of Noble Knob. We had a nice view of this lake as we ate lunch:
He was being such a little faker, but the day was entirely worth it back at the trailhead when Adam told me how much fun he’d had, hahaha! On our way home we rewarded ourselves with medium-sized chocolate milkshakes from the Enumclaw McDonald’s. I was surprised Adam had so much energy on the way home, I’d carried him in his pajamas out to the car at 6:00 that morning. But he was going strong….