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John Guilford's Hikes

Sauk Mountain on 2008-08-09

Date: 2008-08-09

Location: Sauk Mountain

People: (including myself): Jay Wardle, Brian Barton, Krista Hasling, Walt Wyman, Andrew Yuan, Evan Gander, Caleb Dougherty

			    	Alt.	Miles
Left Smokey Point:	9:15
Start Trail:		11:00	4300	0
Trail Junction:		12:00	5300	1.5
Summit:			12:20	5537	2.1
Leave Summit:		12:40	
Trail Junction:		12:50	5300	2.7
Sauk Lake:		1:20	4100	4.2	
Leave Lake:		1:40
Trail Junction:		2:30	5300	5.7
Trailhead:		3:00	4300	7.2		
Smokey Point:		5:00
This is a relatively short and easy hike (up to the top and back) though it can be extended by a visit to Sauk lake, an option that approximately doubles the length.  Note: the lake is lower than the trailhead. 

The weather wasn't typical August weather.  It rained the night before and we were expecting 60% chance of showers with some sun breaks in the afternoon. 

On the drive up from Smokey Point to Rockport, we stopped at the Darrington ranger station for a trail parking pass.  There we found out that we didn't need one for Sauk Mountain.  I'm not sure of the rationale, but we didn't argue and continued on to the trailhead.  To get there, take the well marked road just west of Rockport State park and head north.  The road is called Sauk Mountain road (or alternately National Forest 1030). The road is pot holey at times but not really too bad.  Follow the main road till it ends at the trailhead in 7-1/2 miles (gaining 3800 feet). 

[ PIX1 ] At the trailhead a light drizzle was falling.  We donned rain gear and started up.  Due to the low clouds/fog, there wasn't much of a view.  After passing a rather unique A-framed outhouse, the trail immediately begans switchbacking up the hillside.  With the limited visibility it was hard to get a good grasp on the terrain, but the trail is in good condition and was easy to follow.  The precipitation, by itself wasn't bad, but we found that the wet vegetation boarding the trail was a bigger issue.  You couldn't help but to brush against it, getting your pants/legs wet in the process.  In hindsight, gaiters would have been a good thing. 

[ PIX2 ] In an hour, we climbed to the top of the ridge and passed onto the other side.  Wild flowers were abundant and looked to be about at their peak.  I wish the day had nicer weather with some sun which would have made for better pictures.  Shortly thereafter there is a junction for a side trail down to Sauk Lake.  Be aware that this side trail is as long as the trail you just climbed, and goes down even lower than the trailhead.  We bypassed this trail to continue on to the top, where there used to be a lookout.  All that remains is a relatively flat area in the rocks. 

[ PIX3 ] It was about here that we started crossed patches of hard, consolidated snow.  Soon the trail ended at the old lookout site.  The drizzle had been intermittent and had died down by the time we reached the top.  We had a quick snack there, before the drizzle/wind came back up and we decided to head down.  I was slower packing up my stuff and was the last to leave.  I caught up with Jay not too far from the trail junction.  He waited for me to let me know that half the group decided to take the side trip to Sauk lake while the other half were going straight down. 

[ PIX4 ] I decided to head for the lake and try and catch up with the group headed that way.  The trail switchbacks down the hillside before crossing a little ridge.  It was there that I caught my first views of the lake through the clouds.  I also spied my friends down below.  The trail continues to switchback down to the lake.  Nearer the lake the trail narrows a bit.  In some places the going is a bit tricky.  The vegetation makes you want to stay on the downhill side of the trail, but just beyond the visible edge of the trail, the terrain drops away.  The downhill vegetation hides this so it isn't obvious until you try stepping there that there really isn't any trail there.  I had been half jogging down the better parts of the trail in order to catch up, but after one spill I moderated my pace a bit, preferring to get down in one piece.  Along the way the trail passes through yet more wild flower patches. 

[ PIX5 ] I caught up with them a little ways above the lake.  Where the trail meets the lake, the ground was pretty wet, almost boggy.  We stopped for some pictures and even got a break in the clouds and a small piece of blue sky.  Then we set off, back up the switchbacks.  We set a fast pace, in part to try to minimize the waiting for the half of our group who would be waiting for us back at the trailhead.  The trail down to the lake is more overgrown than the more popular main trail.  This led to my pants being soaked and water running down into my boots.  Half way up to the trail junction, I got tired of my foot sloshing in my boot and stopped to take off my boot and wring the water out of my socks. 

During the hike we heard pika on numerous occasions.  We ran into a marmot somewhat off the trail on a rock as we neared the junction with the main trail.  There, we also ran into people.  Prior to this, we had only met a pair of people coming down soon after we first started the hike.  I figured with the marginal weather, not many people would be out.  Apparently they just came later in the day.  Given the weather and the number of people we now saw, it must be really crowded during nice weather. 

[ PIX6 ] We did a rapid descent down the switchbacks, occasionally getting held up behind slower moving people.  The clouds were lifting by now and we started getting some views of the valley, the Skagit river, and the hillside.  From most of the descent down the switchbacks, you can see (weather permitting) the trailhead parking lot.  In short order we were all down with the rest of our party.  Then it was time to change into dry cloths/shoes, take a final group photo, and head home. 


[ PIX1 ] The "before" picture (l-r): Caleb, John, Brian, Jay, Evan, Andrew, Krista, Walt

[ PIX2 ] Wild flowers alongside the trail. 

[ PIX3 ] Crossing a snow patch. 

[ PIX4 ] Sauk Lake from the trail. 

[ PIX5 ] Sauk Lake and a little patch of blue sky. 

[ PIX6 ] Skagit River valley. 

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Last updated on: Mon Jun 8 16:50:16 PDT 2015