Scorpion Mountain

Last weekend to Hidden Lake Lookout for only the second time. In 2001 the biting flies were about as bad as I have ever encountered. This weekend I went back to Scorpion Mountain for only the second time. The first visit was more than 15 years ago. Horrible flies and mosquitoes on that trip. I seem to be setting a pattern. I need to be back early on Sunday of this Fourth of July weekend and I joined Gwen for an overnight trip. It's only about 8.5 miles round trip to Scorpion Mountain and most folks do it as a day trip. We hoped to enjoy the wildflowers, camp on the summit or at Joan Lake, and see the sunset from the top either way. Gwen is working as a volunteer with the Skykomish Ranger District so we stopped at the ranger station to pick up tools and check in.

From there we headed up the Beckler River Road to the end of pavement. Right after that we turned right onto the Rapid River Road and right again immediately. That road switchbacks higher and higher up to the road end trailhead at 3600'. There is active logging along the road. It may be closed at some times this summer. On the weekend there was no work being done. The small trailhead parking lot was nearly full when we arrived. Four other vehicles and another arrived as we were getting ready to go. The high in Skykomish was forecast to be in the mid 90s. Most folks had a very early start. We were on our way at 9:15 am.

After nearly two decades, my memory of the early part of the hike was minimal. The way starts on an old logging road. It is steep and rocky and very warm on this day. I was glad when we reached the end of the road and the start of good tread in deep forest. The trail gains elevation at a moderate rate for much of the way. There are a few short steep sections. There were half a dozen good sized trees down. Only a few required climbing over. The trail is not heavily used and the tread is in excellent shape after that first road part.

We came to a small meadow where someone had decided to have a fire. Ranger Gwen removed the pit and contents and left it looking much better. At about 2.25 miles we reached the top of Sunrise Mountain. We took a short break. It is mostly forested but we had views north to Glacier Peak. Next comes a very steep 300' drop. Lots of fun to reclimb this on a hot afternoon coming back. Most of the trail is right on the ridge top. After dropping the route has a few more small ups and downs. The ridge had been heading east but now turns to the northeast. There are a number of small meadows after Sunrise Mountain. There were a number of varieties of wildflowers in bloom here. Some of the lupine had already gone to seed.

We started meeting folks heading back after we crossed Sunrise Mountain. I believe we saw six parties on day one and only one more on day two. Considering how crowded nearby Blanca Lake is we had a great deal of solitude. The trail climbs more steeply to the ridge top as the ridge now turns to the east. We started to get views out from more meadows. The ridge becomes very narrow as the trail drops down into a very large hillside meadow. This is where the really great wildflower show is. Well, good but not great at this time. We were just a little past the peak show. A few Indian paintbrush but mostly white and blue colors.

The route crosses under the summit and reaches the far ridge. The trail drops down to Joan Lake from here or heads up to the summit of Scorpion Mountain. We headed uphill to the summit. The views are very good from on top. Mt. Fernow is just to the south. We could see Mt. Stuart, Daniel, Hinman, and the peaks north of Snoqualmie Passs. Baring and many more Wild Sky peaks are in site too. To the north were Sloan, Pugh, Columbia, Kyes, and Glacier Peak. I could not identify a number more peaks to the northeast. Evergreen Mountain Lookout is just to the northwest across the valley. After a good long break on top we headed down.

Along the way we visited big flatter meadows just off the trail. We did not find any good campsites and continued on down to Joan Lake. On my first visit the bugs were so bad Gary and I did not bother dropping to the lake. On Gwen's visits the lake was still under snow. On most July 4ths it is. Not this year. we did not see a drop of snow anywhere on the route. Down at the lake we dropped packs and hiked a loop around the lake. There is a campsite on a bluff above the lake. A fairly new toilet is there. The cover/seat back needs some repair. We headed up the narrow valley above the lake and found another good campsite. This one we chose to use. It was in the shade. It might not have been 95 degrees at 5030' Joan Lake but it was very warm.

We had dinner closer to the lake. As early evening bug population picked up over the lake we saw many small fish leaping out of the water after their dinner. After we ate we set up camp and then headed back up to the summit of Scorpion. It is nearly 500' up from the lake to the 5540' summit. The bugs were more annoying and much to our surprise it was getting cool. My thermometer read about 52 degrees cool. The chill was not unappreciated after a week in the 80s and 90s in Seattle. The morning was pretty clear but forest fire smoke was moving in. The sunset was okay but not as good as we had hoped. We managed to get down to camp without needing headlamps.

I experimented with no sleeping bag on this trip. I had a tarptent, an insulated sleeping pad and a puffy jacket. It was definitely colder than I was expecting. I did fine though some gloves and better foot insulation would have helped. We slept in until 7:40 am on Sunday. After packing up we removed two more fire pits. One was right in the grassy meadow. Neither were close to being approved. We headed out at 9:30 am. One steep climb up from the lake and then mostly downhill. The smoke made all the peaks hazy. We took far fewer photos on the way back. It was much warmer when we had the steep climb back up to Sunrise Mountain. After that we met the only group of the day.

With stops and trail work we took four hours to hike up. It took us only 2.5 hours to hike down. Then we just had to sign out at the ranger station and brave the holiday weekend traffic on Highway 2. It was bad as expected but not nearly as bad as I feared. We made almost into Gold Bar before we came to a total stop. After Sultan it was smooth sailing once again. I was glad to finally hike this trail once again. The wildflower show was good but we were beyond the peak. The sky was much clearer on Saturday then Sunday. We did have some great views from atop Scorpion Mountain. After a week of trying to get to sleep in an 80 degree house the overnight chill was great. The bugs are starting to get bad. Still just annoying but not far from awful. Much more mosquitoes than biting flies. We had total solitude on the summit and at the lake. All in all, it turned out to be a fun overnight backpacking trip.

Evergreen Lookout
Ranger Gwen
Sloan Peak
Kyes Peak
Glacier Peak
Mts. Daniel & Hinman
Chimney Rock
Upper Meadow
Under Summit
Joan Lake View
Mt. Fernow
Gwen On Summit
Kyes Close Up
Mt. David
Big Meadow
Meadow View
Lit Up Lupine
More Wildflowers
Tarn & Joan Lake
Old Fire Ring
Joan Lake
Jumping Fish
Gwen & Flowers
Heading To Summit
Dark & Light
Wildflowers Along Trail
Mt. Stuart
Crest At Dusk
Another Aster
Evening Light
Long Shadows
In Shade
Sunset II
Daniel At Sunset
Crest At Sunset
Darkness On Fernow
Morning At Camp
Leaving Lake Joan
Gwen Near Junction
Traversing Open Slope
More Flowers
Lone Paintbrush
Lupine Meadow
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2015