Smoke from Sauk Mountain
Yesterday I was invited on a hike up to Sauk Mountain in the North Cascades. I had heard of this hike earlier in the year via a friend's Facebook page - the views looked stunning and I knew I wanted to go, I just didn't know if or when it would happen. After being invited, I looked it up and realized that was the hike I wanted to do! Naturally I agreed to join; beautiful views, fresh (smokey) air, some exercise - why not go?
The drive is up a dirt road off of the main highway. It's long and windy, but you can easily do it in a standard car. Upon arriving in the parking area, it's a pretty straight forward explanation of where the trail is - there's only one-way and you can see it twist and turn it's way up the relatively steep mountainside.
It's a rather narrow trail that weaves it's way through bushes and flowers, and when I say narrow, I do mean narrow - if two people were to try and pass on this trail, you wouldn't be able to do so in most areas and would likely have to work your way to a slightly wider section to allow for a pass. Each switchback takes you higher up the mountain, but with each one you pass you feel like you're still in the same spot as before...until you look up and realize the saddle is in fact getting closer.
Along the way you are greeted with spectacular views of the valley below where you will see Sauk and Skagit rivers. In addition, you have amazing views of the Cascade mountains - as you climb, more peaks become visible including Glacier Peak and Mt Baker. I absolutely loved the view of Baker as we climbed the trail - it was a perspective of Baker I have not seen before this hike, and it was truly wonderful.
Upon arriving at the summit of the saddle, there are astonishing views of the North Cascades. It was smokey while we were up there, but you could still make out many of the rugged, glacial capped peaks of the mountains in the distance. We hiked back further, following the trail that heads to the true summit. Once you make your way behind the rocks, there is a remarkable view of a lake that lies below the steep sides of the mountain. It's an alpine lake, so naturally it is turquoise in color - simply stunning. You can also view the south face of Mt Shuksan from up here - a marvelous look perspective of one of the North Cascades truly iconic peaks.
The hike down is far quicker as gravity is working in your favor. You can also keep your eye on your objective as you can see your car sitting in the parking lot with every other turn of a switchback. After arriving back at our cars, the mountains started to glow orange. The smoke from the fires was giving off unimaginable light! I'm not kidding - this was by far some of the best light I have ever seen in all of my years outdoors. We stayed at the parking area and watched the sunset - definitely one of the best sunsets I have seen.
This is a wonderful hike for anyone finding themselves in this part of Washington. It's not too demanding and the reward of mind-blowing views is worth it.
On a personal note: I've been getting vertigo on hikes lately. To combat this I tried a few things this time: I took some ibuprofen and kept my eyes focused on what was in front of me and kept myself moving. The less time I had to stop and think, the better it was for me. The moments I needed to stop and catch a breath or grab a drink, I would take in the views. Much of it is a mind game for me, so the more I can keep myself thinking positive and excited for the goal, the less I focus on the "what if" scenarios.