Cougar Mountain Loop

I seldom write trip reports for Cougar, Squak, and Tiger Mountains. Nice trails with lots of mileage and elevation gain but few memorable places. Occasionally, the weather makes it special. Rime ice coating everything on a bluebird day is one example. A number of days of sub freezing cold is another. This time it was just the coming of spring. This has been the wettest March on record in Seattle. It poured all day on Saturday. Sunday I headed for Cougar Mountain. Dark sky, glistening water, and spring color were perfect conditions to try out my new Olympus E-PM2 . At 13.7 oz for both the camera body and one zoom lens it should be excellent for backpacking. The sensor is much larger than my point and shoot camera.

I arrived at the Red Town trailhead at 9:10 am. There were a lot of cars but it was far from full. I guess a month of rain can keep down the crowds. I was on my way a few minutes later with a gentle drizzle falling. It was raining harder when I left the highway. The rain soon stopped and it was dry for the rest of the hike. I chose to do a clockwise loop starting with Anti Aircraft Peak. Up the Cave Hole Road gaining a good part of the day's elevation at the start. I saw a few folks already heading back. While I saw folks on many parts of the mountain it was never crowded.

After crossing the road to the Clay Pit I began to find more signs of spring. Salmonberry flowers were blooming along the trail. I found a few yellow violets. Lots of bleeding heart leaves but not a single flower yet in bloom. At the top of Anti Aircraft Peak I detoured to where I saw many logs being fashioned into boards and bridges on a recent winter hike. Now the wood is enclosed by a chain link fence. A bulletin board explained why the wood is there. I'll include a photo. I took a break at the first covered picnic building for food and water. It was only about 41 degrees and quite chilly. With all the photo stops I took 70 minutes to hike an easy 2.5 miles. This would not be a fast hike.

Views were minimal at the pergola and I was soon back on the trail heading for the Clay Pit. More salmonberry blooms and lots of gleaming moss well soaking by the recent rains. Tibbets Creek had more water than I have seen in a long time. At the junction with the trail to Cougar Pass I turned off. I seldom hike this short trail but on a trip a year or so back in the spring I found it had an patch of skunk cabbage. In fact, they are right at their peak. More photos ensued. I soon headed back to the junction and continued the short distance to the Clay Pit. The pit has grown significantly since my first visit some 31 years ago. Now that the Mutual Materials Newcastle brick plant has closed that might be the end of the clay mining. I had a view out to Tiger Mountain though the top was in the clouds.

I took the East Fork trail down to Fred's Railroad. Several lake sized puddles along the route. A few spots have seen some helpful maintenance that has dried up some of the usual lakes. For the first time ever, I saw skunk cabbage here too. At Fred's Railroad I turned left and headed for Shy Bear Pass. Most of the rest of the trails were not very muddy. At Shy Bear Pass I turned left for the short steep climb to the top of Wilderness Peak. At the summit there was a big puddle between the summit register and the bench. I've never seen that before either. Nearly 10 inches of rain in one month will do that.

I soon headed back and this time I turned left on the Shy Bear Trail. The trail is in good shape and it passes several of my favorite skunk cabbage swamps. The first one was right at the peak. Lots of good photo opportunities. There clouds were thinning but it was not bright enough to ruin the photos. The next patch is smaller but it too had lots of skunk cabbage in bloom. Well, they are spathes not flowers but they sure are bright yellow.

The rest of the way back was fast and easy. A brief stop at Far Country Lookout then down to the Indian Trail. I did make one short detour over to Far Country Falls. There was more water than normal though this is never a big falls. On my way back I spied a blooming trillium. A quick look showed two more below the trail. My photo ended up being blurry but since it is the first trillium I've seen this year it is included in the photos below.

Even with all the photos I was back at my car by 1:45 pm. A slow pace for Cougar but a fun day of hiking. For the day I hiked just under 10 miles with about 1700' of elevation gain. It has been a damp month on the trail but it ended with a mostly dry day.

Mossy Greenery
New Signs
Leaves Unfurling
Salmonberry Flowers
Rain Forest
More Leaves
Close Up Leaves
Forest Floor Color
Colorful Moss
Mini Saw Mill Info
Log Yard
Picnic Building
Brief Sunshine
Mossy Bridge
Yellow Violet
Skunk Cabbage
Swamp Lantern
Clay Pit
Mine Air Vent
Duck Pond Reflection
Mossy Arch
Peaking Skunk Cabbage
Lots Of Swamp Lanterns
Yellow Perfection
First Trillium Of Year
Far Country Falls
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2014