My adventures and mis-adventures as I travel here and there

Hike up Sauk Mountain, Northwestern Washington

Twenty-seven switchbacks, a 1040 ft. elevation gain, and 2.1 miles and… I was on top of Sauk Mountain taking in one of the most breathtaking 360 degree view I have ever been privileged enough to see!
mt. sauk 2
Hold on a minute. Back right up. Before we get to the good stuff, we have to talk about the getting-there part, which was excruciating! It was hot, for one thing. The never-ending switchbacks had me facing the sun first on the right side of my face… then on the left side of my face… then on the right… then on the left, right, left, right, left… I could feel my skin scorching (sorry, mom, I forgot my sunscreen). The only thing that kept me going was the counting the switchbacks to twenty-seven… that and the line of people backed up behind me as far as the eye could see! The “green meadow” I was told we would be hiking up is-firstly-more like a green vertical wall and-secondly-almost as tall as me in some places, which makes it scratchy and liable to hit you in the head. It’s actually full of wildflowers, though, in all colors imaginable, which makes the scratchy, hitting part completely manageable. mt sauk flowersUnfortunately I didn’t take as much time as I’d have liked to actually look at the flowers- partly because if I stopped I’d, well, I’d probably never get going again and secondly because every time I glanced toward the downward side of the mountain a wave of dizziness would come over me and I would nearly lose my footing, toppling into the abyss of “green meadow”. I just kept going. There are some, er, shortcuts up the mountain (the operative word being up- straight up). I tried a couple of these and, yes, it did put me ahead of that aforementioned never-ending line of hikers, but it also wore me out considerably. I didn’t try many of those. Besides, shortcuts cause erosion.

Ok, so the good news is that once you get through with those grueling twenty-seven switchbacks, the worst is behind you! In my case, I was then on the eastern side of the mountain and able to find a little protection from the sun, for which my face thanked me. There are also likely to be some wonderful patches of snow! These are great for both cooling off and ambushing unsuspecting hikers, preferably in that order. Three hikers cross a snowfield on Sauk Mountain in view of GlaciIf you pay attention, you may see a few marmots out sunning themselves. mt sauk marmotLooking to your right, you will see Sauk Lake 1000 feet down below. It is a 1.5 mile hike from here (a trail veers off to the right, apparently). Now the hike is easy except for one very short steep part which takes you back around the other side and up to the summit where you can see a few remains of the fire tower that used to perch there. Workers used to live in the tower until about 1981. I’ll admit that I kind of wish for a job like that! The view here is breathtaking. Stand on the highest point and turn in a circle. Facing north you can see Mt. Baker and Shuksan, and facing south you may behold Glacier Peak, Pugh, Whitehorse and White Chuck mountains. If the day is clear enough, you may spot Mt. Rainier and the Puget Sound with the Olympic Mountains in the distance. There was some fog lingering when I was there, but the view only looked more mystical because of it.

Downsides to this majestic view? The bugs. There were a lot of flies and mosquitoes. Just keep moving, though, and they might not be so bad. It might be fun to hike this in the cool of the day or try it in the fall. It’s a great place to bring your dog or out-of-town friends you’d like to impress.

Where is Sauk Mountain?
From I-5 north of Mt. Vernon, WA, at exit 230 go 40 miles east on Hwy 20 (North Cascades Highway). 10 miles after Concrete and just before Rockport State Park, turn left onto Forest Road 1030 (also known as the Sauk Mountain Rd.). Follow this gravel road 8 (dusty, bumpy) miles to the trailhead parking lot. Once you reach the trailhead, you’ve already done a lot of the climbing thanks to your vehicle. There is a cute, A-frame style outhouse stocked with toilet paper. There’s no trash service, though, so plan to take your trash back down the mountain with you.

mt sauk
mt. sauk outhouse

August 5, 2009 - Posted by | Puget Sound, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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