We did this hike to get a look at Glacier Peak. We left Seattle at around 9 in the morning and stopped at Darrington on the way to pick up sandwiches.
Darrington. Sandwiches. Mountain. I do not know what that sculpture signifies.
The road to the trailhead, 530-E is a beautiful road and at Barlow Pass we turned onto a newly laid NF 23 or 27 or 25 (one of those, I forget which). This was a one lane road, with twists and turns and a little bit of loose gravel on top which caused the 2-ton Ford SUV/truck/big-ass-car that we were in to skid a little when the brakes were applied in force. We crossed a beautiful creek with white surf and what looked like deliciously cold water. There were people camping by the creek.
The trailhead is easy to miss. The sign is very small and set into the side.
There was a register that had a few signatures but by and large this trail doesn’t seem to attract many people. We pondered on that for a moment and put it down to the fact that the road to this trail had been washed away and was newly re-laid.
The trail starts off with an uphill climb and is well wooded and the trees provide nice cover and safety from the sun.
We saw poop (bear-poop?) in the first few hundred feet and were cautious then onwards. The trail keeps going steadily upwards except for a slight downward portion (which becomes uphill on the way back and is a bitch :P). At about 1.5 miles into the trail it splits into two, the right fork goes towards Meadow Mountain and the left fork towards Crystal Lake.
there was varying levels of enthusiasm on seeing the sign.
The next 4-4.5 miles are what used to be a road but is being reclaimed by the forest. There are white mushrooms and brown mushrooms.
a natural love seat 🙂
savour the clearings – they provide spectacular views of mountains
yellow flowers – this picture came out much better – perhaps because I bent down to click
What I said about the clearings and stopping is fairly important. The road follows a ridge along a set of hills and every so often you get a glimpse at Glacier Peak
Five or 5.5 miles into the trail is a clearing where we found a campsite. This is where the switchbacks begin and the old trail actually starts. So far, the going is easy, the climb is consistent and not very steep and it took us about two-two-and-a-half hours to get here. These switchbacks are long and painful and make you think about infinity. We soldiered on and twice gave up the temptation to turn back. Eventually they yielded (there are 6 of them) and we stepped out of forest cover./ The trees thinned and we saw meadows.
There were maroons and purples and reds and yellows mixed in with the greens. There was a hillside full of these. It wasn’t a hillside on the scale of the ones found in Lord of the Rings. It was small. Gentle. Ambling. We thought at this time that the mountain had given up and we were through. We kept at it, trodding through the path, in the hope of finding a lake or a clearing from where we could sit and enjoy our sandwiches.
the first glimpse of meadows
The path through
Eventually we came upon a split. The left took us to Meadow Lake and straight on towards Fire Creek.
We turned left and started going downhill towards the lake. we’d now done about 6-7 miles and weren’t certain of how much further to the lake and whether it was a complete loop or we’d need to turn back the way we came. (PROTIP: Next time, come better prepared). At seven and a half mile we gave up and turned back. The mountain had defeated us and we weren’t able to finish the trail.
After coming back, I read that someone in 2003 had posted a trip report where he had continued onto Meadow Lake and then found a way back via the Crystal Lake trail. So, it is do-able.
Finally, this was the longest hike we’d done. Fifteen miles round trip – we started at 11:30 and reached back at 6. It was grueling and left incomplete. There are smaller, shorter hikes with far greater rewards … though the drive up here, the breaking out into the meadows after the switchbacks and the tiredness afterwards does make this one unique.