Hiking the Northern Cascades, Washington, Sauk Mountain

Sauk Mountain (part of the Northern Cascades) lies about 1½-2 hours south of Bellingham, Washington. When I had visited my friends Laurie and Kevin in 2013, it was time for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival  (the link will take you to that post). This time, we traveled in the opposite direction of the tulip fields to the intersection of the Skagit and Sauk Rivers. Off the main highway, a dirt road started having switchbacks taking us seven miles up the mountain to the parking lot. This post is photo heavy, there were too many beautiful views to leave them out.

Sauk Mtn outhouse This (according to hikers we talked to) was the prettiest outhouse he’d ever seen. It was photogenic on the outside anyway. 😉

As we started up the cloud surrounded mountain, Laurie suggested counting the switchbacks up the mountain (hard to keep track while gaping at the beauty and gasping for breath), we switched 25 times back and forth across the mountain. Each switchback was probably 50-75 yards long (longer than switchbacks I’ve found in the Sierras so far), shortening a bit near the top; the trail was very narrow, definitely single file only. If you meet someone on the trail, trail etiquette suggests you step aside for the hikers ascending. Sometimes there was barely enough room to do that! Looking up the mountain, you could see the people as specks on the top switches of the trail. A hiking club (The Washington Trails Association) was having an outing that day, so the trail was busy.

Imagine if you were part of a clock and you were standing at 12 o’clock, the mountain was so steep from the trailhead it was about 10:30 on the clock. Because we’d traveled by car so far up the mountain, the elevation gain of the hike was only 1,560’ during the 4 miles round-trip. Because we HAD to stop and admire the view so often, although we were on the mountain for 4 hours, we really only moved on the trail for 1 hour and 50 minutes.

You can see how steep the ascent is.
You can see how steep the ascent is.
Can you see the people?
Can you see the people? They really don’t show up on this photo, but we are about halfway up the switchbacks.
This was one part of the trail near the top.
This was one part of the trail near the top. You can see the clouds closing in.
Can you see a little furry creature?
Can you see a little furry creature?
He sat long enough to allow several different people to get photos.
He sat long enough to allow several different people to get photos. I believe it is a yellow-bellied marmot.
He was whistling his warning sound over and over.
He was whistling his warning sound over and over – he sounds just like a groundhog.
The clouds are just beginning to break up.
The clouds are beginning to break up. Sauk Lake lies to the right of the snow below.
When the sun came through the clouds, the hills turned to emeralds.
When the sun came through the clouds, the mountainsides turned to emeralds.
Looking back to where we had lunch, forging on to the top.
Looking back to where we had lunch, forging on to the top. I probably have 10 photos of this beautiful shot.
The last steep ascent, look how high Laurie is placing her right pole - that's steep.
The last steep ascent, look how high Laurie is placing her right pole – that’s steep.
The Sauk is very grey, minerals and glacier melt. The Skagit is blue because the sediment has settled behind a dam.
The Sauk River is very gray with minerals and glacier melt. The Skagit (you can almost see it to the left of the evergreens) is blue because the sediment has settled behind a dam further up the river.
The view from the top.
The view from the top.
Interesting that iPhone photos like this can't be edited in Lightroom. Apple sometimes makes things harder than they need to be.
This cairn was at the top of the mountain we were on, I wonder if the wind toppled it later? There was another slightly higher peak, but this was high enough for me.
This butterfly was near the end of its life, a little raggedy around the edges.
This butterfly was near the end of its life, a little ragged around the edges. There were so many wildflowers that there were also many bees and butterflies.
Yes, there were thistles too.
Yes, there were thistles too.
Kevin is way ahead of us, near the end of the trail at the parking lot.
Kevin is way ahead of us, near the end of the trail at the parking lot. Can you see the small speck near the evergreens? Clicking on the photo will bring him a little closer.
I debated putting this photo in, but it was part of the day. Hikers told us that it had been there for over a month. This was on the corner of a switchback. I spotted it on the way up and asked Kevin to stop to make sure all was ok.
I debated putting this photo in, but it was part of the day. Hikers told us that it had been there for over a month on the corner of a switchback. I spotted it on the way up and asked Kevin to stop to make sure all was ok.
Looking up from the road on the way home. We were at the top! A wonderful hike.
Looking up from the road on the way home through the car window. We were just up there at the top (the peak right in the middle)! A wonderful hike.

 

 

6 Comments

    1. Roxie, I think of you often while I’m out and about. I am thankful for my health, even when the muscles are screaming and the hands are sore. I’m glad you can enjoy the pics remotely – know that you’re there with me!

      Like

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