Date: July 6, 2019
Place: Sauk Mountain, Snoqualmie National Forest, Concrete, Washington
Coordinates: 48.521581, -121.607271
Length: 5.6 miles round trip
Sometimes I go hiking outside of California. This post is about an awesome hike I did with my family in Washington State.
It was almost on an impulse that we decided to go to Washington for our 4th of July family vacation. We did very little homework and relied heavily on information given to us at the North Cascades National Park visitor centers, both in Sedro-Woolley and in Newhalem. We hiked many beautiful trails that week, many of which I'll post here at some point. But it was this trail I write about here - climbing up (and down) Sauk Mountain, that was the big wow for me.
|Our hike as captured by Pappa Quail's GPS|
|Slender Bog Orchid, Platanthera stricta|
|Bracted Lousewort, Pedicularis bracteosa|
|White Marshmarigold, Caltha leptosepala|
|Tiger Lily, Lilium columbianum|
|The trail up Sauk Mountain|
|At the Trailhead|
So, led by our younger chika, we started uphill. Up the mountain, that is.
|Sauk Mountain shrouded in fog|
|Sitka Valerian, Valeriana sitchensis|
|View of the Skagit River|
It was impossible for me however, to keep a steady pace upwards. Not with all the lovely wildflowers in bloom. I saw new species as we got higher in elevation. And that's on top of all the new species I was seeing for the first time simply because we were not in California.
|Nootka Rose, Rosa nutkana|
|Orange agoseris, Agoseris aurantiaca|
When would it be enough? Were not even half way uphill, but we got up and continued on, and I kept at the rear, giving attention to the wildflowers.
|Red Columbine, Aquilegia formosa|
|Prickly Currant, Ribes lacustre|
|Lupine, Lupinus sp.|
We kept walking up the trail turning corners at the tight switchbacks, and none of us mentioned again stopping and turning around. I certainly didn't want to turn around. The switchbacks mellowed the slope enough to render it moderate and I enjoyed the new colors I saw in every step.
|Subalpine Fleabane, Erigeron peregrinus|
Once again I focused my attention on the wildflowers around. The people at the visitor center we checked with the day before had told us that the wildflowers season was still at its beginning and that within a month it would peak. It was hard to believe, seeing all the splendor displayed pin the mountainside.
|Harch Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja hispida|
We were getting close to the cloud that rested on the mountain top. My younger chika got excited about touching the cloud and pushed forward with renewed energy.
The vegetation kept changing as we gained altitude. Different wildflowers adorned the higher stories of Sauk Mountain, and we were still on the rise.
|Trail in the clouds|
Between the phlox I detected a different kind of purple - violets! I'm not used to seeing them so purple. Most violets I see are yellow.
|Hookedspur Violet, Viola adunca|
|Fan-leaf Cinquefoil, Potentilla flabellifolia|
|Partridgefoot, Luetkea pectinata|
|Mountain Heath, Phyllodoce empetriformis|
We peered over the edge. The cloud obscured the lake but higher up a big rock was protruding from the slope side. The elder chika noticed a marmot sitting on top of that rock, looking a bit bored.
Pappa Quail described the pika to the chikas and sure enough, a few moments later the younger chika who was in the lead at the time had indeed spotted one. We all got very excited abut it. The pika, well aware of us looking at it, was posing perfectly on a rock just above the trail.
In between the snow patches we crossed bloomed many small wildflowers. I tried giving each its due attention.
|Buttercup, Ranunculus sp.|
|Western Moss Heather, Cassiope mertensiana|
|Yellow Coralbells, Elmera racemosa|
|Fleabane, Erigeron sp.|
The last bit to the summit involved some hands-on rock scrambling. When we got to the top the main challenge was to find an empty square foot to sit on, that wasn't already populated by fellow hikers. The large group with the noisy youth had all gathered by the top rocks and people kept leaping around from rock to rock and over stayed backpacks and sitting people's legs, stretched or not. We huddled in a small corner we found and sat down to rest and eat our lunch. We had reached the summit in our T shirts but sitting still we now got cold and had to don our sweaters.
|The Sauk Ridge, view from the summit|
Soon, the entire big group moved ahead and we were left behind to hike at our slow, wildflower-spotting pace, down the rocky trail to the ridge line and the snow patches.
|Fleabane, Erigeron sp.|
Usually when it's possible I prefer to hike a loop trail over an in-and-out one. But heading down the same path we had hiked up on gave me a second opportunity to look at flowers I couldn't give enough attention to on our way up.
|Yellow Fawn Lily, Erythronium grandiflorum|
We were going down the same path we came up on, but the view point was now different. Not only the weather and lighting had changed but, looking down the path I could see things I had missed before.
Some of the wildflowers, for example, were still closed when we were going up and were now open and pretty as the afternoon hours progressed.
We came down to where we spotted the marmot and to my surprise it was still there, and still chewing nonchalantly at some vegetation. We didn't stop there again, just pointed it out to other hikers who were turning that corner as we walked by. I did stop however, to look closer at a pretty moth that was perched in on a cow parsnip leaf.
Down, down, down we go. And there's a lot of down to go. My knees are already complaining but we're not even half way down the mountain. I slow down (yes, I used that word again) once more, taking photos as an excuse to ease my knees.
|Fendler's Waterleaf, Hydrophyllum fendleri|
|Broadleaf Lupine, Lupinus latifolius|
|Western Serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia|
For a good distance it was impossible to see any wide view nor the trail ahead. I could barely see the rest of my family as they glided away on the switchbacks below me.
The cloud, thankfully, didn't obscure the blossoms near me.
|Western Meadow-rue (male), Thalictrum occidentale|
|Dwarf Bramble, Bubus lasiococcus|
|Small-flowered Penstemon, Penstemon procerus|
We reached the little trailhead parking lot that was now completely full. Our rented sedan wasn't there - we had parked it further down the dirt road past a ditch we didn't want to risk crossing. It was a short distance to walk but as we walked down we had to squeeze to the side of the road because more cars were going up or down to the trailhead.
|Sylvan's Goat's Beard|