GRANITE FALLS — Hornets have harassed hikers on at least two trails in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in recent weeks, with many getting stung multiple times.
The confirmed hornet nests are about 2 miles away from the Perry Creek-Mount Dickerman trailhead, near Perry Creek Falls, and about a half-mile up the Mount Dickerman trail, said Jeff Clark, a spokesperson for the National Forest.
Both trails start from the same parking lot, on opposite sides.
The hikes are popular in late summer and early fall, when autumn foliage carpeting their alpine meadows turns to a rainbow of oranges, reds and yellows.
One hiker got stung over 10 times on the Mount Dickerman trail, according to a Washington Trails Association report from Sept. 12.
“You cannot out run the stings,” the hiker wrote in the report.
Several others described seeing one nest on the Mount Dickerman trail near a rock with a blue shirt on it and a cairn, or a human-made pile of stones. Many also reported seeing a second nest about three-quarters of a mile away from Mount Dickerman’s summit at 5,760 feet, though the Forest Service was not aware of this one. The trail is about 4 miles each way.
Even when hikers tried detouring through the woods, they said they still got stung.
On the 5-mile trail along Perry Creek to Mount Forgotten, a hiker wore layered clothing and tried to walk past the nest undetected, according to a Washington Trails Association report.
“Alas, I was the one who was snuck up on,” the hiker wrote, “with a total of three stings through my double-layered socks, thick fall gloves and long pants.”
On Friday morning, a hiker heading for the Perry Creek trail said he was aware of hornets in the area, but said he had Benadryl with him and wasn’t too concerned.
Some said waterproof jackets and pants were the only articles of clothing that protected them from injury. Other hikers noticed hornets clinging to their clothes, long after encountering the nest.
The earliest known report of hornet attacks on the Mount Dickerman trail was from Aug. 11. On the Perry Creek trail, it was Sept. 2.
Rangers heard about the nests through trip reports and calls from visitors. About a week ago, rangers posted signs at the trailheads to warn hikers about the nests, Clark said. Hikers will have to decide if they’re willing to take the risk, he said.
“We’re not going to impact the hives,” Clark said.
Despite their nuisance to hikers, hornets and other wasps can be “highly beneficial,” according to a report from Washington State University. Hornets eat insects that typically damage trees and crops. They also kill houseflies.
The Washington Trails Association advises people to hike during cooler times of the day, and avoid perfume and other scented items. Wearing dull clothing and tucking your pants into your shoes can also help prevent hornet encounters.
Experts recommend applying an antihistamine ointment, or taking Benedryl, to reduce the physical reaction to stings.