Mt. Pilchuck

I managed to get out of town early mid week and headed to Mt. Pilchuck. I was there last November when the whole route was under fresh snow. The year before there were puddles all along the upper trail and they were frozen solid. Ice skates might have helped. It had been years since I had hiked the trail on bare dirt. I worked until 1:15 pm then headed north. It took me 1 1/2 hours to drive to the trailhead arriving at 2:45. The 7 miles of mostly gravel road is in very good shape. Much better than most times I have driven it.

There were 15 cars in the lot so mid week will not get you much solitude. I was on the trail at 2:55. I hoped that I could get up to the lookout, spend an hour and get back before pitch black. I could headlamp down but the trail is rocky and muddy and not the easiest in the dark. The first part of this trail is prone to mud and all the trail work done helps but there is no way to have a dry trail. At one mile the trail switchbacks left on rock. Some very nice fall color here.

I began to pass groups coming down and one heading up. Views opened up to Mt. Baker and Three Fingers. The steps up blasted rocks made it tough to go fast. There was a lot more water than I expected all along the trail. Slick wet rocks and some mud slowed me down. The lowlands around Puget Sound were under low clouds when I headed out but from Granite Falls on I was in glorious sunshine. That alone made the trip worth it.

The sun was dropping and even when I broke out of the forest I was mostly in shade. All the peaks to the north of me were bathed in sunshine. The route switchbacks up the open sub alpine slopes to the ridge. I reached that point in 63 minutes. Mt. Pilchuck is renowned for the number of rescues needed every year. Folks get off track and head down the wrong way. To combat that the state parks folks have put up a dozen or more signs pointing the correct way to go. It looks kind of silly in some places but based on all the lost folks it is a good idea.

Once on the ridge I walked into the sunshine. It was humid and now sunny and sweat rolled off my face. It was not too hot just humid. I passed several more groups along here and soon the lookout came into view. Through the boulders and up the steps I went, arriving at 4:20. It took me 1:25 to hike up the three miles. It was still crystal clear to the north and completely covered in low clouds to the west. I could see a little strip of Puget Sound though it was blindingly bright in the low late afternoon sun. The Olympic Mountains were in the clear.

Two groups were in the lookout and I chose to go around to the west side, out of the wind but in the sunshine. The boulders next to the lookout were the home of a few dozen lady bugs. I see them on summits in the spring but not in the fall, at least until now. The clouds were so low that sunlight danced along their tops. There was a great contrast between the bright white spots and some very dark spots. Lots of fun to photograph. As the sun dropped lower the bright and dark on the clouds changed. Photos a few minutes apart looked much different.

I had my dinner and just enjoyed sitting in the sunshine. No jacket required. There will be precious few warm sunny days between now and next June. I hung out until 5:10 when I packed up to head down. I figured it would take just as long to descend the wet rocks as it did to come up. I was right. It only took 18 minutes to reach the ridge and drop onto the shady north side. I passed one more group heading up here. They were the last ones of the day.

Fog began to climb up the SF Stillaguamish Valley as I descended. The way was easy enough coming down but I was glad to sill have light. For fun I snapped photos of most of the signs directing people to stay on the trail. It was a little dark in the forest but not bad. I made it back to the trailhead at 6:38. It took me 1:26 minutes to come down. My crazy 18x zoom camera showed a pop top van in the lot while I was at the lookout. There it was along with two other cars. I took a max zoom shot back up to the lookout from the van.

The drive home went quickly as I was well after rush hour. It's fun to get in an after work hike and especially so when I get away from the I-90 area. Looking down on the cloudy cities while sitting in the sunshine was doubly good. In another month it will be dark at 5:00 pm and it will be just weekends for hiking but this day was one I'll remember.

Parking Lot
Nice Fall Color
Sun On Granite
Blasted Trail
Pilchuck Summit
Shaded Color
Shaded Trail
Mt. Shuksan
Dome Peak
Colorful Edge
Below Lookout
Glacier Peak
Sloan & Big Four
Eldorado Area
Pilchuck Benchmark
Sun On Clouds
Puffy Clouds Below
Interesting Clouds
Mt. Baker
Clouds & Olympics
A Little Snow Survives
Sun On Granite
Cars In Lot
Trail Markers
More Warning Signs
Even More Signs
Whitechuck Mountain
Lookout Zoomed In
Muted Color
Last Fall Color
Parking Lot Sunset
Sunset Colors
Islands In The Mist
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2010