July 23, 2020
Sauk Mountain is in the Mount Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest which is on the western flank of North Cascades National Park. We heard this was an awesome trail and added it to our hike list. This trail is still on our list. We hiked it, but we couldn’t see it.
We knew the cloud cover was going to be heavy in the morning so we skipped our normal early hike start time and headed into the town of Concrete for a nice breakfast first. Then we headed up Sauk Mountain Road. This is a mostly decent gravel road that switchbacks up the mountain so that your car does most of the climbing for you. The only bad spot for us was the last curve before the parking lot. With the overnight rain and mist, the road was wet and our all-wheel drive Subaru had problems with a couple of monster pot holes. We should have turned off the traction control system. If you have that on your car, make sure you know where the button is to turn it off for situations like this. It is better to have a few tires gripping the road instead of all four locking up as you slide back down the mountain. We did finally make it all the way up. A friend went up later in a van and parked on the gravel pull-off just before the bad spot and hiked up the last bit so you don’t need a four-wheel drive vehicle to do this hike.
Once we got that drive out of the way, we hit the trail. We were hiking in the clouds – literally. Holly is afraid of heights… or “edges” to be more exact so she was a bit concerned about the drop offs on the side of the trail as we climbed 25 easy switchbacks up a fairly steep slope. The fact we were hiking in those clouds all the way up helped as she usually couldn’t see much more than ten feet away.
We were also distracted by all those beautiful wildflowers blanketing the slope.
Once we rounded the backside of the mountain we had a long section of snow to traverse (yay, trekking poles rock!) and we were able to make it all the way to the top where the fire tower used to stand.
We were still totally clouded in so there wasn’t much to see past our little rock fortress. The forecast for Concrete said the cloud cover was supposed to ease up by 11:00 so we watched and waited. We got little glimpses as the clouds swirled, lifted and fell. At one point the clouds swirled and “Look, there’s a lake right there! Oh, it’s gone.”
We had phone signal at the top of the mountain and our check on weather said Concrete was now supposed to clear up to about 40% cloud cover by 2:00 pm. Hmmm, another three hours. It wasn’t a very long hike up but we were there and had food so we hunkered down, had lunch, watched a marmot argument on the next rock outcropping, guarded our snacks from the chipmunks and bonded with a friendly marmot. Holly asked him to pose and he DID! What an awesome photo.
Well, 2:00 came and went and we were still in the clouds. We’d had a few glimpses of the valley, rivers, snow-capped mountains and the beautiful glacial lake but those promised views out to Mount Baker and across the ridges of the Cascades never showed. We finally decided to head out. What a surprise to find that we hiked down OUT of the clouds and there, below us, the river valley and town of Concrete WERE experiencing 40% cloud cover. One of those clouds just happened to be sitting smack dab on the top of Sauk Mountain.
Ah well, nature will do what nature wants to do. We are simply observers. Sauk Mountain promises awesome views. We will be back!
H & J