Mt. Higgins had been on my hiking
"to do" list for years. When a group of friends suggested it I was more
than happy to come along. Higgins is northwest of Whitehorse Mt. and just
above the N F Stillaguamish River. We met in Arlington at 7:00 am for breakfast
before heading on to the trailhead. The road up was in better shape than
I expected. We were on the trail by 8:45. The morning was cool with the feel
of fall in the air. After just a short way we were ready to strip down as
the grade is steep enough to build up a good sweat. The cool morning was
great for the hike up. The trail is mostly in great shape. It is definitely
not a 10% grade and has few switchbacks but the tread is quite good. After
an opening walk through forest we broke out into a clearcut. The trail here
is on a steep hillside and the views are very good. Whitehorse and Three
Fingers were in sight. I had read where this section was a mess just after
the logging but now it is in very good shape. The trail shortly reenters
forest. Now the route travels through lush mossy terrain. The only obstacles
are here. There are a number of wooden boardwalks which are sorely in need
of replacement. They are rotten and moss covered making them very slick.
Some are tilting to add to the fun. Once past these the way resumes on good
We dropped down and crossed a creek with a surprising
amount of water considering the long dry summer we have had. It might be
a bit of a challenge with spring snow melt. Beyond the creek is more steep
climbing. The trail finally relents and the deep forest gives way to a more
open and meadowlike feel. Huckleberries began here and hindered our progress
a little. They were much more of an impediment on the way down. An open meadow
on the right looked like it had once been a small tarn. Before long the trail
turned back up hill to grind out the final distance to the summit. The forest
was thick enough to keep us from getting a good look at our objective on
the way up. The route wound around the edge of a talus field. Above that
the way opened up into high heather and huckleberry filled slopes. That signaled
we were close and in fact we were on top soon after. The sun was out and
the wind was very faint. Even so it was a little cool on the 4849' summit.
There are still some remains of the old lookout cabin.
Views are superb. Like Si and Pilchuck it is far enough west to see Puget
Sound. Whitehorse and Three Fingers dominate to the southeast. Darrington
is visible with Glacier Peak behind it. Pugh and Whitechuck flank Glacier.
To the north was a very clear view of Mt. Shucksan. When we ambled east
along the summit ridge Mt. Baker came out as well. The drop on the south
side is truly impressive. The Stilliguamish is right below. The middle and
east peaks of Higgins were not too far away but it looked like it would
take lots of time to bushwack over to them. Perhaps for another day. From
the trailhead to the top we had seen nobody. Soon we met the first hiker
of the day. She was the first of about 5 other groups on the mountain this
day. Suzanne had been up once before on snowshoes although it was to a sightly
eastern point. For John, Emory, and I it was the first time up. After a
leisurely lunch we headed down. Poles were helpful on the descent as
there were a number of big steps. As mentioned earlier the berries made
forward progress a real chore.
Upon reaching the meadow we took an unmarked trail
overgrown with berry bushes. It descended gently through forest to Myrtle
Lake. The lake was bigger than I was expecting. We saw no good beach and
the our end of the lake looked a little muddy. Sadie the dog enjoyed a swim
but the rest of us passed on the idea. As is usually the case the trip out
seemed to be longer than the way in. When we reached the clearcut the views
were better. The sun no longer washed out the surrounding mountains. Photos
here were among the best of the day, at least regarding the lighting. This
proved to be an excellent trip. The route is not finely graded and groomed
but was in much better shape than I was expecting. The 8 miles and 3300'
gained are nearly the same as Mt. Si but the trail is more of a challenge.
I expect that I will return to Higgins many times in the years to come.
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.
Suzanne & Sadie
Baker & Shuksan
Emory On Summit
John On Summit
Jim On Summit
Photo Page 2