Friday, September 29Rain was forecast for much of today, so we decided to do a drive-and-walk kind of thing, and perhaps check out another possible campground in Newhalem about 30 miles into the park. Mary found a Scenic Byway to drive and we set off for the day. We eventually stopped at an entrance to the Old Sauk Trail that runs along the river here.At this entrance, there also begins a 1.2 mile nature trail that we decided to walk a little into another deep rain forest. I am really enjoying these forest walks. There is so much happening in the foliage I find myself getting lost in the possibilities. While I was really enjoying the walk, Mary was feeling a bit less inspired. She turned back, while I walked the rest of the loop. About halfway through, it began to rain lightly. The falling rain on the leaves was the only sound to be heard. My rain gear kept me dry enough and it soon stopped. After finishing the loop, we drove to Newhalem in the actual Cascades National Park. Most everything we’ve done so far has been outside the park. The Goodell Campground is the one campground still open that would accommodate our 26’ LD and we were concerned about it’s location. As feared, it is in a heavily forested spot. No hook-up here and not much sun in the forecast. Most of the hiking here and around the visitor center are just short local walks around the grounds. None more than a mile, and all flat. We eventually decided to stay on another day at Howard Miller, and do a hike closer to us.We also briefly visited the Gorge Creek Falls and powerhouse that sits on it. They boast a manicured garden leading to a waterfall. We took the sort walk across a suspension bridge to the grounds and found several maples trees in nice color. The waterfall is disappointing and the forest around seems to have been the victim of fire in the past. Rain sent us back to the car and finished our day.
Sauk Mountain TrailSaturday morning we woke to heavy fog wafting around the valley. We were going to get an early start to our next hike up the Sauk Mountain Trail but it is a view hike, and with the fog so thick, we decided to delay our start in hope it would clear. Instead, we found a trail near the river next to the County Park. The trail was all grass and very wet with dew and rain. I expected a regular dirt trail and just had on running shoes. It wasn’t long before I felt the squish squish of waterlogged shoes and socks. It was well worth it though as the fog began to rise and shift, and light began filtering through more. Back to the LD for breakfast and then, with the lifting of fog, we were off to our hike.This trail is just 13 miles from our camp, but also includes a 7 mile Forrest Service road that is very narrow and twisting and rose steeply and continuously over those 7 miles. The hike itself is another 1,000’ rise in 1.4 miles, and then there were the 30 switchbacks.
As we rounded one bend in the FS road, we caught a quick look at the trail up on the face of a steep open slope. Thick waist high vegetation covered the entire slope and all the 30 switchbacks were visible. They tell me in spring this area is covered in wildflowers. It would be something to see.In the parking area, we got ready to go, making good use of the chalet-like outhouse.
After walking through a brief wooded area, we began a gradual rise that soon turned up. The views got better and better. The trail was constructed so that that the start and finish of each switchback were steep, while the middle section was less so – giving us a little rest between ends. Also, several of the ends of the switchback moved through a forested area giving us a little shade in the now very clear skies around us. It wasn’t a great photography day with so much haze, but the hike – especially once past the switchbacks – was pretty great. Another huge set of views all along the ridge, and once we climbed over the final ridge, we were treated to still another angle of Mt. Baker. Unfortunately a heavy cap of clouds remained over the top, obscuring the view. We lingered on top for a while, then made a much quicker return trip back down the mountain. This was another surprisingly heavily trafficked trail. We saw the very young as well as older hikers – and lots of dogs. I’d like to do this trail again in the spring for the wildflowers, but the views alone are certainly worth the trip up.