I first hiked to the top of Sauk Mountain solo back in 2013 as part of my quest to climb 30 peaks before I turned 30 years old. It quickly became one of my favorite hikes, so when I was thinking of places to take my book club group, this one was on the top of the list and I couldn’t wait to share it with them.
The road to the trailhead is 8 miles of rough, steep gravel. It seemed we were driving all the way to the summit when we finally broke out of the trees to meadows and the trailhead. We craned our necks up to see the summit towering above. I pointed out the zig zag of a trail scrawled on the steep mountainside. I promised it wasn’t nearly as bad or scary as it looked from there.
Just a few steps down the trail we stopped at possibly the cutest outhouse on the planet. The little brown wooden A-frame is trimmed in white scallops and the best part of all- it was stocked with toilet paper!
We continued onto the famous switchbacks which start out from the beginning and cut back and forth through a steep blossoming meadow. White and purple dominated for a few switchbacks until the other colors of the rainbow emerged as we climbed higher and higher. We stopped to capture the colors and watch the butterflies and bees collecting pollen.
As the trail nears the upper portion of the mountain you really feel a sense of accomplishment as you look down to the trailhead below. For such a steep mountain, the switchbacks really take the pain out of the climb and are much appreciated. At one particular switchback I turned back to chat with the others and stopped in my tracks with a “whoa!” as Mt Baker came into view rising like Mt Fuji above the hazy valley below.
My favorite part, though, is when the trail swings around at the top. All at once the North Cascades come into view in all their glory. On this side, the mountain plunges again into a valley, this one full of open green meadow and wildness. Climbing a bit more, we were led to a small campsite in the trees overlooking Sauk Lake far below.
The trail then enters some talus and from here it’s a short steep climb to the summit. We spun around to identify all the mountains we could see- Glacier Peak, Mt Rainier, Mt Baker, Sloan Peak, Three Fingers and finally settled down for lunch. We discussed The Summer Book and picked out our favorite stories from it as I read out loud some of my favorite parts. We laughed at how funny and sweet six-year-old Sophia and her grandmother are in this book. I passed out homemade Lingonberry muffins to go along with the Finnish theme.
As we returned down the trail, we reveled in the views and the much welcomed sun. I thought about Sophia and those formative summers of my own childhood and the memories that I still cling to from my hometown back in PA. I thought of summers so hot and humid that we spent entire days and nights splashing in the pool. I thought of exploring the woods in our backyard and climbing trees and building treehouses. I thought about how my daughter’s formative years will be. Her playground will be quite different than mine and for that I am a little sad. But better yet, she will have these spectacular views.