A thick fog engulfed the trail and there was a definite chill in the air as we set off from the trailhead for Mount Pilchuck.
We hoped that upon reaching the summit of the mountain at 5,324 feet we would find ourselves above the fog with glorious views of mountains floating above the clouds.
We began the trek up the 2200 feet of elevation gain in just under 3 miles and were soon huffing and puffing. We had gotten a late start to the day and didn’t reach the trailhead until a little after 11:00. Though foggy and rainy the parking area at the trailhead was still full. This was, in part, due to the Search and Rescue crews from several different districts who were training there.
As we hiked we couldn’t tell if we were being rained on or not. We finally figured out that it was water droplets falling from the trees and that when we were in a clear area there was no perception. I was glad we had brought along all of our rain gear. We wore our gaiters and while not strictly necessary they did keep our calves completely dry. There was quite a bit of water on the trail at several points. Nearer the top there was a little bit of snow that had mostly turned into a muddy slush. No special snow equipment was required to reach the summit successfully.
The trail was very rocky and required lots of concentration to prevent yourself from slipping and tripping along it. I would have to stop and remind myself to look around or else the scenery would’ve passed me by.
The dense fog did prevent us from most of the views as we made our way up but we kept up our optimism in the hopes of getting above it or hitting one of the scattered clear blue sky moments that were gracing the skies occasionally throughout the day.
We stopped for lunch about a mile short of the summit and supped on tuna fish sandwiches. We had, at first, found ourselves pretty secluded on the trail but as we ate lunch we began to hear the echoes of the numerous groups that were behind and ahead of us. For the rest of the day we would find ourselves sandwiched between groups that were also braving the cold and the fog in hopes of getting a glimpse of the magnificent views that are possible from this summit hike.
We passed the remnants of an old cable car shortly after lunch. This car was how they used to transport supplies up to the lookout. We also passed the timber rubble from an old lodge that had at one time stood on the mountainside.
The trek became steadily steeper and rockier as we continued our ascent. After 1:00 we reached the summit point. It is a large boulder field that involves some tricky scrambling to make it to the ladder that leads to the lookout building. We had Latigo with us and he gets pretty freaked out by boulder fields so I opted to stay back with him just missing the summit while Bobby made the trek up.
The building was full of hikers seeking shelter from the cold and the wind that greeted them at the summit and Bobby snapped some quick pics. This lookout cannot be slept in and is more of a visitors center with information on the surrounding mountains.
This is definitely a bottleneck on the trail and the traffic going up and down to and from the lookout was pretty intense. Only a few people could go at a time which caused significant traffic jams.
People were pleasant and excited to have reached the top! Many were sadly disappointed that the views weren’t better. We lingered near the top enjoying our reward of a Hershey Bar and as we waited we were lucky enough to catch a rare break in the wall of clouds. We climbed a small rock outcropping near the lookout and were rewarded with some unique views of the mountains peeking out from behind the clouds and fog. It was cold up there and the wind was blowing pretty fiercely.
We began the trek down and as we went were rewarded with several peekaboo views of the mountains as the fog and cloud cover continued its cat and mouse game with the mountains.
Overall this was a great hike. Very popular, pretty rocky, but we can only imagine what the views would be like on a clear day! I would recommend leaving the dog at home for this one.
Water along the trail was scarce and the summit is basically inaccessible to any dog that can’t be secured in a pack or passed up to reach the very top. I guess if you have a savvy rock/ladder climbing dog then they would succeed in reaching the summit!