Mt. Higgins

     Mt. Higgins had been on my hiking "to do" list for years. When a group of friends suggested it I was more than happy to come along. Higgins is northwest of Whitehorse Mt. and just above the N F Stillaguamish River. We met in Arlington at 7:00 am for breakfast before heading on to the trailhead. The road up was in better shape than I expected. We were on the trail by 8:45. The morning was cool with the feel of fall in the air. After just a short way we were ready to strip down as the grade is steep enough to build up a good sweat. The cool morning was great for the hike up. The trail is mostly in great shape. It is definitely not a 10% grade and has few switchbacks but the tread is quite good. After an opening walk through forest we broke out into a clearcut. The trail here is on a steep hillside and the views are very good. Whitehorse and Three Fingers were in sight. I had read where this section was a mess just after the logging but now it is in very good shape. The trail shortly reenters forest. Now the route travels through lush mossy terrain. The only obstacles are here. There are a number of wooden boardwalks which are sorely in need of replacement. They are rotten and moss covered making them very slick. Some are tilting to add to the fun. Once past these the way resumes on good tread.

     We dropped down and crossed a creek with a surprising amount of water considering the long dry summer we have had. It might be a bit of a challenge with spring snow melt. Beyond the creek is more steep climbing. The trail finally relents and the deep forest gives way to a more open and meadowlike feel. Huckleberries began here and hindered our progress a little. They were much more of an impediment on the way down. An open meadow on the right looked like it had once been a small tarn. Before long the trail turned back up hill to grind out the final distance to the summit. The forest was thick enough to keep us from getting a good look at our objective on the way up. The route wound around the edge of a talus field. Above that the way opened up into high heather and huckleberry filled slopes. That signaled we were close and in fact we were on top soon after. The sun was out and the wind was very faint. Even so it was a little cool on the 4849' summit.

     There are still some remains of the old lookout cabin. Views are superb. Like Si and Pilchuck it is far enough west to see Puget Sound. Whitehorse and Three Fingers dominate to the southeast. Darrington is visible with Glacier Peak behind it. Pugh and Whitechuck flank Glacier. To the north was a very clear view of Mt. Shucksan. When we ambled east along the summit ridge Mt. Baker came out as well. The drop on the south side is truly impressive. The Stilliguamish is right below. The middle and east peaks of Higgins were not too far away but it looked like it would take lots of time to bushwack over to them. Perhaps for another day. From the trailhead to the top we had seen nobody. Soon we met the first hiker of the day. She was the first of about 5 other groups on the mountain this day. Suzanne had been up once before on snowshoes although it was to a sightly eastern point. For John, Emory, and I it was the first time up. After a leisurely lunch we headed down.  Poles were helpful on the descent as there were a number of big steps. As mentioned earlier the berries made forward progress a real chore.

     Upon reaching the meadow we took an unmarked trail overgrown with berry bushes. It descended gently through forest to Myrtle Lake. The lake was bigger than I was expecting. We saw no good beach and the our end of the lake looked a little muddy. Sadie the dog enjoyed a swim but the rest of us passed on the idea. As is usually the case the trip out seemed to be longer than the way in. When we reached the clearcut the views were better. The sun no longer washed out the surrounding mountains. Photos here were among the best of the day, at least regarding the lighting. This proved to be an excellent trip. The route is not finely graded and groomed but was in much better shape than I was expecting. The 8 miles and 3300' gained are nearly the same as Mt. Si but the trail is more of a challenge. I expect that I will return to Higgins many times in the years to come.

Orange Fungus
Higgins Peaks
Suzanne & Sadie
Baker & Shuksan
Emory On Summit

John On Summit
Jim On Summit
Summit Slab
Glacier Peak
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

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