Starting in Darrington, I walked a loop of about 20 miles over Squire Creek Pass. I road-walked about 3.7 miles to the Squire Creek trailhead and hammock-camped near the creek. The next morning I hiked up to the pass, which gets very overgrown and rocky toward the top. The pass area is a large flat rock surface good for camping, with spectacular views of the nearby peaks. I hiked down the other side via Eight-mile Trail, which is very rocky and steep in places (poles are helpful). Then I walked five miles on forest road 2060, connected to the Frog Lake Trail down to Mountain Loop Highway, cooled off in Clear Creek, and walked the highway back to Darrington.
This was a surprisingly tough hike! You have to tread carefully over rocky slopes while bushwhacking and looking for the trail, and your knees will take a pounding going down Eight-mile trail. Don’t expect a mild, well-groomed, easy to follow trail. But the reward is a very nice wilderness area featuring rugged mountains, clear creeks and old-growth trees that you will probably have all to yourself (I didn’t see a soul). You are only a few miles from Darrington, but it feels much more remote.
One of my ongoing missions is scouting sections of the Pacific Northwest Trail near me. For this trip I hiked over Anderson Mountain from Highway 9 to Alger, then did a loop from Alger along the PNT through Squires Lake.
The trail begins at a gated forest road several miles south of Wickersham. It was a bit of a grind switchbacking up the mountain on a hot day, but several cold streams helped. After about 5 miles the road opens up to spectacular views of Mt. Baker and the surrounding peaks to the north and along the Skagit Valley. Near the summit I left the forest road and walked a nice section of trail marked with a PNT sign. I rejoined a forest road and got some nice views west to the Chuckanuts and the San Juans. At some point, due to the GPS track I was following, I got on an overgrown forest road that looks like it was abandoned 15 or 20 years ago. There were huge piles of logs on the trail and I finally ended up in deep bush with no sign of the trail. I pushed straight through the bush and finally connected to another section of the PNT foot trail, which took me the rest of the way down the mountain. Road-walking along narrow-shouldered Alger Cain Lake Road got me to Alger and the Shell station for refreshments. I hiked about 15 miles from Highway 9 to Alger and ninja-camped in the woods near I-5.
The next morning, fueled with a coffee, muffin and breakfast sandwich from the Shell station, I rejoined the PNT at the gated forest road just outside of town. This was an easy walk toward Squires Lake, with a side trip up Alger Alp, which has a nice vantage point over Alger. I followed the South Ridge trail to the Squires Lake Trail around the lake and back down to the highway. Several miles of road-walking got me across I-5 and back to Alger for more refreshments.
This was a fun little PNT scouting mission, but the trail toward the top of Anderson Mountain was confusing; you might have to do some serious bushwhacking to get back on trail. The mountain was surprisingly scenic, I had the trail all to myself, and Alger is a nice re-supply point that thru-hikers will welcome.
As part of my ongoing mission to scout sections of the Pacific Northwest Trail, I decided to hike over Lyman Hill (really a massive mountain) from Highway 9 then walk down into Lyman.
Starting from the gated forest road off Wickersham Road, the ascent was pretty relentless: nine miles and 4000 feet of switchbacks, the last part exposed to the afternoon sun. Fresh bear scat on the road, a bobcat and some circling hawks kept things interesting on the way up. The views west over Anderson and Blanchard Mountains, Lake Whatcom and the San Juans became more expansive as I ascended.
At the summit the forest road connected to the Gurdjieff Connector Trail (love the name), a shady, grassy ridge walk that was a relief after climbing a hot dirt road all afternoon. Then things got confusing as I entered an active logging area, where large tractors and piles of felled trees obscured the trail. I walked a little ways up the clear-cut to a high point, and suddenly I got a spectacular view north to Mt. Baker and the surrounding peaks. This was the best view of the hike, thanks to the loggers. In fact all the views on this hike were made possible by clear-cuts.
As I descended the east side of the mountain I got nice views of the Skagit River valley and the North Cascades in the distance. I hammock-camped on a piece of DNR land above a trickle of water and went to bed early so I could exfiltrate the mountain before any loggers arrived.
To my surprise, one or two trucks rolled up the mountain around 4 am, so I decided to pack up before dawn and hit the trail. I walked forest roads down the mountain for several miles, connected to Pipeline Road and walked a couple of miles into Lyman for breakfast. As a final challenge, two rather aggressive dogs approached me and made it clear they didn’t want me passing by their house. I quickly found a large stick and prepared to do battle, but fortunately their owner came out just in time and called them home.
All in all, a fun scouting trip of around 21 miles from Wickersham Road to Lyman. I didn’t see anyone on the trail, though I did hide from a couple of pickup trucks in the morning because that’s how a Shadow Scout operates.