John Guilford's Hikes
Mt. Higgins on 1999-04-24
People: (including myself): Gene Obie, Joe Tarantino, Jay Wardle, Ginger
My Alt. Real Alt. Miles
Start: 9:30 1420 1460?
Clear cut: 9:50 2000
Out of clr cut: 10:10 2340
First snow: 10:30 2640
Dick's Creek: 10:45 2800 2800
Meadow: 12:15 3580 3600
Summit: 1:45 4720 4849 4 miles
Leave summit: 2:35 4740
Meadow: 3:10 3660
Dick's Creek: 4:10 2900
Clear cut: 4:40 2440
Out: 5:05 1520
Approach: Head east on 530 out of Arlington. About 16 miles after the
bridge (leading out of town), and 0.1 mile past mile post 38, turn left
(north) onto an unobvious DNR logging road. A half mile later the road
crosses the Stillaguamish river. Take a left at the "T" shortly
thereafter. Follow this road, bearing right at the forks, till the road
ends at the trailhead (the old road continued past this point, but it has
been cut across with a berm and is no longer open). The trail starts on
the right side of the road half way between the parking lot and the berm.
The trail wastes no time in gaining elevation. The first section starts
off somewhat steeply. Except for a respite at the meadow area, you pretty
much grind upwards the whole way.
The day was sunny and warm, with the forecast calling for the mid-to-upper
70's. It was a bit crisp at the trailhead and we started up with
sweatshirts that only lasted about ten minutes before they became too hot.
Shortly after the start, the trail crosses a clear cut that provides the
first views of the valley, with Whitehorse prominent further to the east.
As this is a south facing slope, the clear cut can also be rather warm,
particularly on the climbing traverse on the way up. About 3/4 of the way
across the clear cut, one can find a large rock with "S. Strom 8-1917"
scratched in it with "K. Neste" also engraved on the corner of the rock,
both of whom were early prospectors-settlers.
After the clear cut, the trail enters relatively cool forest. Up till
here, the trail had been remarkably dry and mud free. After entering the
forest after the clear cut, that changed. There were more muddy places and
several small creeks that had to be crossed. With waterproof shoes we just
walked across. It might have been hard to cross with non-waterproof shoes
w/out getting wet feet.
We had brought snow shoes in case of soft snow and initially I had wondered
whether I would be using them. Looking at the mountain from the approach
there didn't seem to be much snow. It turns out I needn't have worried.
Once the trail got off the exposed south face, we got plenty of snow.
A short ways after leaving the clear cut we started picking patches of snow
that quickly became constant snow. The trail crosses over several wooden
bridges over minor creeks. With in a half hour we came to Dick's Creek, a
relatively large creek that needed to be crossed. This is where Gene says
that the serious snow generally starts when he's been up here before. Gene
crossed over jumping on wet rocks in the stream bed. Joe didn't like the
looks of that and used a large tree that crossed the worst of the water.
The tree was a bit slick and both he and I found it best to crawl over on
hand and knees.
Shortly after the creek crossing we got tired of punching through the snow
and put on the snow shoes. I ate one of my two apples here. I can't
really say what the real trail does past the creek as we were in snow from
then on and kind of made it up ourselves, but I'm sure we basically
followed the trail. The trail bears left and roughly follows the creek
(staying up out of the little gorge the creek runs in). After another
steep ascent, the trail enters into a meadow whose relative flatness gives
the hiker a bit of a breather.
The meadow is a bit above Myrtle Lake (I think). The details of the meadow
were hard to see as it was laying under about 8-10' of snow (judging from
occasional holes in the snow caused by running water). It was good to get
out into the sun, as it was relatively cool in the forest. There were
times when we were stopped when I got a bit chilled but resisted putting on
heavier clothing as I knew I'd warm up as soon as I started moving again.
I brought my XC ski poles this time (having learned a lesson on my previous
hike) which made using the snow shoes much easier. My biggest difficulty
was that on the ascent my poles were about a foot too long. I ended up
having to grasp them a foot below their grip which was a pain as I had to
count on the friction between the poles and my hand. If I do this much,
I'll have to get adjustable poles.
At the far end of the meadow we paused for another food break where I ate
the first of my two bagels. The way through the meadow was very
picturesque, with the (relatively) untrodden snow, the blue sky, and the
green trees. Weather-wise, we had pretty much an ideal day.
Past the meadow the trail again relentlessly climbs. The forest was more
open here, with some long stretches through the sun. We started feeling
the sun more here and paused to put on sunscreen. Near the top, the trail
bears to the right just before a bowl and does the final ascent to the
summit, which was a rounded ball of snow. In places the snow was pretty
soft, and even the snow shoes tended to slip a bit, though they mostly
gripped pretty well. Someone had come up before us, without snow shoes,
each step punching a hole almost a foot deep in the snow. Gene's
thermometer read 60F though it felt warmer in the sun.
The day was pretty clear and we had good views from Puget Sound and the
Olympics, to Rainier (peeking over the top of Mt. Pilchuck), to Three
Fingers and Whitehorse, to Glacier Peak, to Mt. Baker and Shuksan in the
north, not to mention the valley below us from Darrington most of the way
to Arlington. The south side of Mt. Higgins is a pretty precipitous drop
off to the valley floor 4500 feet below.
Here I ate my second bagel and some very good cantaloupe that Pam had fixed
for me, took some pictures, and took in the sights.
I decided to leave the summit a bit early as I was hiking slower than Gene
and Joe, and Jay decided to accompany me down. Ginger (Gene's dog) decided
to come down with us and abandoned her master up on the summit. The way
down was faster and easier than the way up. This was much easier than the
descent into Lake 22 that I had done a couple weeks ago. The slope here
was such that I could just stride down with a little bit of slipping.
There were a few places where the trail traversed a slope where the going
wasn't as easy. With the soft snow, one would some times slide several
feet sideways. Down at the meadow, I ate my last apple, took some
pictures, and Joe and Gene caught up to us.
This is where we started meeting other people (coming up). Up till then we
had met no one. We never did meet whoever left the foot prints before us.
The way down from the meadows to Dick's Creek was relatively fast,
meandering through the trees. At Dick's Creek the others crossed wearing
their snow shoes. I wasn't comfortable with that and changed out of mine,
handing them to Jay before crossing on the same log I crossed over earlier
on. Jay was going to go on before changing his, but I ran into him 100'
down the trail, having just changed them.
From the start of the clear cut, the trail is just a pleasant down hill run
to the trailhead.
A few notes to myself: I brought 2L of water which was just about right
for this hike. I probably would have drank more if I had it, but I really
didn't need more. I tried my large internal frame pack with the snowshoes
hung on the side compression straps. While that seemed to work okay on the
way up, on the way down they refused to hang straight and were annoying.
Next time try hanging them on the back of the pack. The internal frame
pack is really too big for the amount of stuff I carry on a day hike, and
my normal day pack is a bit small for carrying snow shoes. I probably need
something in between for doing these kind of hikes. I got a bit of sun,
particularly on the ear lobes and lips. I'll have to watch those areas
Joe, Gene, and Ginger approaching summit.
Joe, Gene, and Ginger on summit.
View from summit towards Darrington. Whitehorse and Glacier Peak are
Jay, John, Gene, Joe, and Ginger on summit.
Jay and Ginger descending from summit.
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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015