I only have evening duties at the monastery on Mondays so I often try to get out for most of the day. Primarily I have been doing day hikes on Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands, but every so often, if I leave early enough, I drive to the edge of the North Cascades. On this Monday I did a popular hike up Sauk Mountain which is pretty much the Westernmost peak of the North Cascades.
Getting to the trailhead is a long jaunt up Highway 20 and then onto a forest road for eight miles of switchbacks to the parking lot. I was dismayed to see so many cars in the parking lot, but I couldn’t really do anything else at this point. So mask at the ready I set out. The views from the parking lot are pretty great in and of themselves. You are right below Sauk Mountain and the whole Skagit Valley opens up to the south. Views of various peaks all around. The winding trail up a chute makes it clear that you are about to do an all uphill climb.
The hike is only about two miles long, uphill the entire way. It was a warm sunny day and I kept a steady pace so that I could maximize my time on the summit. I passed several groups coming back, almost always at a switchback where I could get off the trail a bit. Nearly everyone masked up as we passed which was good to see.
With a short distance and steady pace it wasn’t too long until I came to this ridge that was the final stretch before a near scramble up to the rocky summit. There was snow up here, heavy and wet and a beautiful alpine lake. At the summit there were two couples but we all spread out very well. I edged around the western side–where incredible views of Mount Baker were to be had–and coming around on the northern side I found a place to sit.
Just stunning here, right above the alpine lake with an 180+ degree view of the North Cascades. The view from the very peak is a full 360 degree view of the North Cascade Wilderness, the Skagit Valley and Mount Baker. This hike has perhaps the best bang for the buck of any dayhike I’ve done; no wonder its a popular hike.
While I sat there the two other couples left and i was all along. I sat there in Mountain Samadhi just taking it all in. So incredible to just be right in the mountains like this. So many of the North Cascade hikes, even the fairly easy ones, are like this. The North Cascades is my mountain refuge that I’ve been coming to since I was a child. Here you can let go of yourself and just be in the mountains.
See all my pictures from this hike: Sauk Mountain Dayhike.