White Pass & Pilot Ridge

Day 1

We left Vancouver after morning rush hour and headed to Washington State. We had lunch in the good (if gluten free) 5 b’s bakery in Concrete before heading to the North Arm Sauk River trailhead at Sloan Creek campground. We set out at about 3pm and spent a couple of hours walking through beautiful old growth forest to the first campsite at Red Creek. We decided to carry on past the first campsite to Mackinaw Shelter as it was still fairly early and the hiking was easy. We managed to walk right past it and began switchbacking up to White Pass. We turned around after about 20 mins. The campsite is right beside the river and was very pleasant. Turns out the shelter has collapsed!

Day 2

Scrambling to Portal Peak

The next morning we headed out around 9am and started up the switchbacks (again). We got out of the trees after about an hour and a half, joined the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and enjoyed a couple of kms through huge meadows filled with butterflies, bees and flowers. And no mosquitoes!! We got to White Pass campsite at about 11.30am, pitched the tent, and packed a few things for a day hike. We retraced our steps back along the PCT and followed it to Red Pass. From here we scrambled up to the top of Portal Peak, with its 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains including amazing views of Glacier Peak. We got back to camp mid afternoon and had a coffee and a break. In the late afternoon we followed the Foam Creek trail from White Pass through the more amazing meadows. Apparently this trail is used by mountaineers accessing Glacier Peak: there’s a small cairn marking the trail up to a col where you get a view of the peak: you could continue along a trail to Glacier Peak from here, or just to the next col which would also give amazing views of the Peak. We met a group of climbers who had done the summit starting at 4 am from a base camp that morning!

Day 3

Glacier Peak

We set out for the hike round to Blue Lake at around 9am. The first part of the trail was through masses of lupins, all in flower, and full of bees and butterflies. The trail is rolling and drops in and out of the trees with great views of the surrounding mountains. There are quite a few campsites along the way. After Indian Pass and Dishpan Gap, we took the Blue Lake High route trail which is steep and rough in places but it still easy to follow. On the summit up above the col we had an eagle eye view of Blue Lake and great views of Glacier Peak northeast, Mount Rainier south, Monte Cristo west. So many other mountains it was mind boggling. There were also thousands of ladybirds flying round at the top: all different sizes and number of spots! We dropped to Blue lake for a swim and a relaxing evening (in a breeze as this was the most mosquitoes we’d seen on the trip!).

Day 4

We made an early start for the long hike out along Pilot Ridge from Blue Lake to the trailhead. The climb up to Pilot Ridge is easy and we should have taken the small detour up to Johnson Mountain, but were too keen to keep moving. Pilot Ridge offers some great views south west and northwest, with regular views of Glacier Peak. After a few ups and downs along the ridge we eventually started the plunge down through the forest to the North Fork Sauk River. We hiked along the pleasant river path with a mission to get on our way for a nice late lunch. We stopped in the lovely historic town of Arlington, before heading to Trader Joe’s and Kulshan Brewing in Bellingham.

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