Monday after work I strapped all my gear to the motorcycle, printed a map and rode fast through Everett and Darrington to the north end of the Mountain Loop Highway
. I passed the Mount Pugh trailhead and turned left on road #49 avoiding frequent of potholes. No work on Tuesday means it's time to hike and possibly bag a new summit.
|It was early evening when I set out on the trail. The first several miles were sort of boring. I'm not a tree expert. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice forest and all ascending up to Lost Ridge, but who likes monotonous switchbacks? At the top of the ridge I soon had my first view of Mount Pugh and White Chuck Mountain to the north east. It was nearing dusk and they were mostly silhouetted. I decided I would bivouac at Round Lake and make for the summit in the AM. Now the views to the south and west were really starting to open up. From this aspect Sloan Peak looks like a monster looming over the valley. And further off I saw the familiar faces of Del Campo, Morning Star, Sperry, Vesper, and Big Four.|
|Near the lake overlook I came to another fork. Studying the map I decided this (right) was the way to the hot springs. I kept to the left and within moments I was looking at Breccia awash in sunset colors and Round Lake down below. I decided not to descend the 500 feet to the lake which would add to my gain in the morning. Instead I would sleep at Sunup Lake, smaller but closer to the route.|
|From the overlook I continued east along the ridge top and here the trail began to peter out. I started noticing big fresh piles of blueberry bear dung. I thought to myself “there must be one nearby mopping up the slopes before winter”. Then it got dark. Logically I know it's more dangerous to ride in a car than hike past a black bear, but it still makes me nervous at times. Using a headlamp now, I studied the map trying to figure out how the hell to get to Sunup Lake. I was nearly out of water at this point and the trail had faded into nothing. I thought I saw something dark down on the other side of the ridge and that could be the lake, but there seemed to be a cliff between me and the lake.|
I decided to camp on the ridge top and review the landscape in the morning. I found a nice flat spot and then hung up all my good-smelling treats at a distance in a tree. Earplugs were cheap insurance against an overactive imagination. If I was to become bear poop, at least I wouldn't hear it coming.
|In the morning I snapped a few shots of Glacier Peak and got moving. After a short bushwhack I was at the lake. I could see that from the saddle between the false summit and the summit it would be easy, but getting to the saddle from Sunup Lake would be steep in spots. I made quick work of it and soon I was jumping up and down and shouting and generally being a goof ball on the summit. This is the kind of unreserved silliness I won’t display when hiking with others.|
It was 9 AM and I spent an hour or more rolling around on the grass and eating pastries while soaking up the views. I signed the summit register, which is nothing more than a few slips of paper in a pill bottle in a cairn. It looks like the last person to sign it was in 2007 and only one or two a year before that going back to 1993.
|On the way down, when I dropped below the saddle I turned around and there was the bear watching me. He was up near the ridge. I must have passed very close to him without knowing it. This was my fourth sighting within a few months. I’ve never had a bad encounter. The only two responses I’ve received from black bears over the years has been general disinterest or apparent fear of me. Usually they are trying to get away. I filtered some water at Sunup Lake, watching the black spot move around on the slopes above and from there it was a long walk out. I decided to ride home through Barlow Pass to Granite Falls since I had never seen that stretch of the road, having only recently been repaired.|
Breccia Peak and Round Lake