had conversed with Doug McKeever online several years ago. Plans for a
hike never worked out. Now he contacted me and Kim with an idea for a
hike. I have been exploring the trails on Chuckanut Mountain and
Blanchard Hill south of Bellingham the past 7 or 8 years. Doug had been
up Anderson Mountain just to the east across I-5. We were interested.
We were all free for Saturday though the forecast was for rain with
snow above 2500'. The summit is at 3364'. The trailhead is at about
500'. Okay, so we would get rained on for the first 2000' of gain then
snowed on up above. I was on Tiger Mountain on Wednesday and there was
zero snow at 2750'. I threw in some gaiters in case we had a few inches
up top. We met at the Alger Park & Ride right off exit 240 on
I-5 at 8:00 am. It was only 65 miles from Kim's place in Shoreline,
just north of Seattle. Karl and his friend David also came along. We
continued on the road through "downtown" Alger, across Old 99 and a
mile or so the the signed right turn for the Alger CCC Road. A short
way on the right is the gated road. We managed to fit three cars
without blocking the gate.
At was 8:27 when we headed up the road/trail. The Pacific Northwest
Trail (PNT) goes over Anderson Mountain. One can go to the summit from
the west side or the east side on Highway 9. There is also a road up
the south side to near the summit. It is only open from September to
year end. Right now, it is washed out. No driving up for now. The PNT
is a work in progress. In this area part of it is on road and part on
trail. Our route had some of each. There are not a lot of reports on
this route. The trail portions seem to be fairly new. There has been
logging along the current route fairly recently. The peak does have a
significant elevation from bottom to top, especially for such a low
summit. It is the 50th most prominent peak in Washington state. For
that reason, peakbaggers have been going for the summit by whatever
route they can. Hikers don't seem to be discovering this road and trail
route with clear cuts along the way. Well, I have never let a few roads
stop me from a hike.
At about one mile up the road switches back to the right and a road
goes off to the left. We went left and quickly reached the trail
heading uphill right on our right. There is a tree a short way up seen
from the main road with white rectangles. That is the sign for the PNT.
We had to jump fast flowing water in a ditch to get on the trail. The
trail segments of the route are very nice. A relatively gentle grade on
well built tread. Even on a wet day after lots of recent wet days it
was not very muddy. The low usage helps too. We had a switchback or two
with a long traverse before a final switchback to the left and the
trail reached the end of an old logging road. We followed the road to a
"T" junction and turned right. More big white rectangles on trees to
signify the PNT. Within a few minutes the we turned left on another
road. We followed this a few more minutes until the trial heads off to
the right. There is a very big old stump at this 1630' junction.
We soon entered a dark forest. There are a few boardwalks that are very
slick. We managed to pass without any falls. The trail hits one old
road and goes right across back onto trail. We left forest into a clear
cut. Trees were still fairly small though brush has grown back. We came
to an unsigned junction. There was a little bit of fresh snow here.
Doug had found through trail and error that the trail to the right
shortly reaches a road. We needed to go left. Coming back, straight
ahead goes to the road. You need to turn right and up a small rise to
be on the correct trail. The trade though the clear cut was still
pretty gentle. Parts of the trail were a creek along here. I had my
heavier leather boots and keep mostly dry feet. We climbed back up to
forest on the edge of the clear cut. On a clear day there are views of
Lake Whatcom I'm told. No views on this day.
We stopped at about 11:05 for a food and water break. So far it had
drizzled but not rained hard. I was fairly dry with an umbrella. The
trail was not brushy at all. No concerns about soaking wet brush.
Someone has done a good job of brushing the clear cut sections of
trail. We were soon back on our way. The trail reached a flat area we
had a little downhill too as we reached the main road which leads
almost to the summit. Coming out of the forest the road was completely
covered with a thin coating of fresh snow. It was very scenic. We had
covered 4 miles and were at 2600'. I have not seen any mileage records
for our route. Doug had estimated it at about 5 or so miles each way.
With 765' to go on a road it was going to be more than one more mile.
It was only 11:30 pm so we had five full hours of daylight left. How
long could it take to hike up a smooth road?
There were no markers I saw but a map would tell you to turn left on
the road. It soon switches back and begins one very long traverse. As
we hiked along the snow began to get deeper. At first we walked side by
side. That gave way to single file as the leader was sinking 3-6" deep
in fresh snow. Not hard but tiring and not very fast. With no recent
snow seen at these elevations and a forecast for an inch or so this day
we did not bring snowshoes. At about 4.5 miles Kim's knee was hurting.
She chose to head down. The long traverse kept on going. When we
reached a clear cut the snow became deeper. Never deep enough to
require snowshoes but it became more and more work. Snow started
lightly when we started up the road but it grew harder and never
stopped. It was very beautiful. Bare ground a few days earlier and full
on winter now.
We finally reached the junction where the road from the south comes in.
Now we were heading north towards the summit. Several of us stopped to
but on gaiters and adjust clothing. Our steady pace was still pretty
slow. We had the road junction at 12:30 pm. Four hours of daylight used
and four hours left. We reached the end of the road and
continued on another closed road. With the snow it was hard to tell the
difference. A few old roads went off but we continued straight ahead.
Finally, Doug pointed out the "tunnel" where branches were cut out
providing an entry to the forest. Just ahead is a big pond I had seen
in every trip report. It was white with snow. The last climb was only
about 75'. Gentle at first then much steeper for the last bit. The
route went up the south nose of the ridge. I had seen photos of rock
with lots of moss on it. The snow was not consolidated but did provide
reasonable steps up to the top. We arrived at the forested summit at
1:19 pm. One big window for views but all we saw were clouds.
A little food and water and we were ready to head down. Doug brought
along a hand line and we put it to use. It as only about 40' or so to
reach gentler terrain but a slip on the loose snow near the top could
be problematic. It took longer but was safer getting off the summit. We
regrouped on the road and headed down. It was now. It was now 1:40 pm.
We had 3:15 of daylight left. It was a little easier slogging down in
our footprints but not a lot faster. That road seemed endless. I was
glad when we reached the spot where we exited the road for the
trail. It was 3:06. Two miles of road walking took 1:26. Four miles to
go and 1:30 of daylight. On the positive side once off snow the trail
and roads are easy headlamp hiking.
We made good time on the trail. Wet took one break where the wrong
trail goes out to a road. I was surprised that we still had a little
light when we reached that last 1.2 miles of road. It was almost dark
when we reached the cars at 4:45 pm. I first checked Kim's car and
found... no Kim. Uh oh. I had put my phone in airplane mode to save
battery power. Kim took a wrong turn and left me a message. I found it
and called her immediately. She had found the right route and was
coming down. When she took out her headlight it worked then it fell and
hit the ground and stopped working. She was able to tell us exactly
where she was. Doug and I needed to head back up to deliver light.
After 12 miles with 2900' of gain, partly on snow, we were not feeling
great but need to go back up. A fog settled in and we could barely see
the sides of the road. I walked off it a few times. We went up to the
start of the trail then on trail to where it turned to road. Kim was
waiting. The walk on down went fine.
This was a fun trip. A "little" mountain not far from salt water
provided a long 12 round trip route with 2900' of gain. As it turned
out Doug and I upped that to 16 miles with 4000' of gain. The snowy
road was deep enough to add a lot of effort and slow us down
significantly. The summit scramble was short but fun. There are some
great views along the way on a sunny day. I'll have to come back to see
those. I'll add this to my close to Puget Sound winter hiking trips. It
will be a long time before this hike becomes crowded. It was neat to
meet Doug, Karl, and David. We all had a good time.