This has become my favorite way up a very overcrowded peak. A bit steeper (some reports say a mile shorter, but all the elevation gain!), but in much better shape, and if you see a half dozen folks along the way, that's a crowd. The downside is that the trail leaves from near Little Si, so you need to find parking at an area that's frequently full. If, however,there is room in the parking area, start walking up the Little Si trail. Once you get to the top of the first really steep part, instead of going left towards Little Si, continue straight ahead. The trail forms kind of a "U" - at the top of the "U" take the obvious trail to the right (I beleive it's the third right, but don't count on it). From here the was is mostly straightforward, with one place where the trail crosses and old, overgrown road that might be confusing. The road departs first to teh left, then the right, so you need to, obviously, stay right, and then left. I'm not sure where the old road goes - if you try to follow these directions and get lost, drop me a line and let me know where you ended up! The trail is mostly on old forest duff and pine needles, with none of the mud pits plaguing the new trail. There are places where you step up roots androcks, but nothing near as bad as most North Cascades trails. You approach the new trail high up on a bench, and I suppose you could rejoin it at that spot. The actual trail, however, veers right here, and works its way up top the top of a ridge line and follows it. Eventually, you will meet up with the current trail. When you do, it's important to look around so you'll know where you're supposed to turn back off of the new trail on the way down! If you're not watching for it, it might not be obvious, and it'd be a real drag to end up at the new parking lot, and have a 4 or 5 mile road walk back to your car!
Anyway, Rob James and I were going to do this as a conditioning hike after work. Rob gets out at least once a week during the long daylight months to "try to get into shape", doing things like Granite Mountain, McClellan's Butte and Mt. Si, eachin well under 3 hours. It'll be amazing to see what he can to if he ever feels like he gets into shape! I trailed along with him this time to slow him down a bit, and to see if I was in any kind of decent condition. My previous two Intermediate Class outings had caused me to feel like some kind of 85 year old sluggard, and, while not in excellent shape, I thought that I was probably in at least mediocre condition. Rob was kind and walked with me for proably the first two thirds of the trail, but since he was really trying to get a work out, and I wasn't pushing his speed, he took off from there to wait for me at the base of the Haystack. He managed to gain almost 10 minutes on me in that final third of the trail, but I showed up at the base in what I thought was a respectible 1:48. No speed records there, but not bad. We had walked up into the clouds shortly before reaching the Haystack, so since there were no views to enjoy, we decided to put on a layer of clothing and head down. I popped a couple of Nuprin to help protect my knees on the way down, and we were off, not really jogging down, but not quite walking, either. Though I was trying for a car to car time of under three hours, my stop watch said 3:03 when we touched the car doors, and we hadn't really spent that much time at the top. Sigh. Still, just barely over 3 hours made me feel like I was doing okay inthe conditioning department, but certainly with room to improve!