Cougar Mountain Spring Loop

A wet and stormy weekend was coming so I took off on Friday afternoon. A short drive over to Cougar Mountain was in order. It has rained off and on in the morning so I brought an umbrella just in case. Safe to say, I was the only person with an umbrella on my backpack. The day turned out much better than forecast. I started off at 2:35 pm. I started at Red Town and headed up the Cave Hole Road. By the time I reached the turn off for Coal Creek Falls I had to switch to a short sleeve shirt. It was now well over 60 degrees and completely sunny. I have been in short sleeves only once or twice since late fall. I continued on to Anti-Aircraft Peak via Cougar Pass. I hoped to see spring wildflowers as others have been reporting them this week. So far no spring color.

At AA Peak I took a short break and zipped off my pant legs. I definitely had not hiked in shorts in many months. I still had not settled on the exact loop I would be hiking. I needed to be back to Seattle by 7:30 pm. I did not want to finish too early or risk a very long wait in traffic. I left AA Peak and headed for the Clay Pit. Earlier in the winter a huge puddle filled the trail. It was so wide a new trail cit into the brush to get by. Though we had lots of rain this week, Upper Anti-Aircraft Lake was noticeably smaller. I dropped to cross Tibbetts Creek and climbed towards the Clay Pit. I took a short side trip on the trail over to Cougar Pass to check out the skunk cabbage. There were some that had sprung up but it is still well before they peak. I took a few photos and continued on.

Each of my winter hikes on Cougar had zero views from the Clay Pit. I could not even see as far as Tiger Mountain. This day it was very clear. I had almost forgotten what the view was like. Next I planned to hike by Jerry's Duck Pond and down to Fred's Railroad. Unfortunately, the trail was closed for repair. Instead, I had to hike down the Clay Pit Road to Fred's Railroad. Not as scenic but an easy detour. The parking lot was 80% full but I had not seen many folks so far. It stayed that way. I did start to see trillium. Just one or two at first but before the hike was over I saw a whole lot of them in bloom.

I passed the Quarry Trail and the Shy Bear Trail continuing on to Shy Bear Pass. Now for a steep climb to the top of Wilderness Peak. It was plenty warm on the short climb. Leaving the summit I met two hikers. The first in quite a while. Checking the time, I figured the long loop via Long View Peak and Deceiver Ridge would take too long. Instead, I headed back to the Shy Bear Trail. I had thought about going down the Quarry Trail with a detour to Coal Creek Falls but chose a different route. The Shy Bear Trail is a mile longer than the Quarry route and a mile shorter than via Deceiver Ridge. It also goes by a big skunk cabbage swamp. I made good time down to the first swamp. There were skunk cabbage in bloom but they were well short of peak. Up and over a ridge and down to the next swamp. This one has several longer boardwalks. They go right through the skunk cabbage.

There were some blooming cabbage but again more to come. I did take some time for  photos here. The trail soon meets the Deceiver Ridge trail and then goes on to Far Country Lookout. Now I had just a couple miles to go. The trillium show was just beginning. I had seen a couple over the first 8 miles. I saw many dozens in the last 2 miles. The began along the Indian Trail. I passed the Quarry Trail and at the meadow I turned left. The last mile was awash in blooming trillium. Some small patches and a few of a dozen or more. The best wildflower display of the whole trip. More photo stops along the way. I made it back to the trailhead at 6:35 pm. There were still quite a few cars in the lot. I was late enough that the drive home was fine.

The weekend was one long rainstorm so I was glad for the Friday out. It was the best spring day of the year so far. The spring wildflower show is just getting started. I saw bleeding heart leaves but no buds. No yellow violets yet. I did see a couple salmonberry flowers. The best is coming but we do have a start now. The next few weeks should be even better at low elevations on the west side of the mountains.

Sunshine On The Trail
Anti-Aircraft Summit
Upper AA Lake
Tibbetts Creek Bridge
Year's 1st Skunk Cabbage
Another Skunk Cabbage
Clay Pit Viewpoint
First Trillium
Another Trillium
Salmonberry Flower
Shy Bear Trail
Lots Of Skunk Cabbage
Bog Lanterns
A Few More
Glare On Boardwalk
Sunshine & Shade
Last Trillium
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2018