Benchmark Mountain
Day 2

Gary woke me up at about 6:40 am. He was just about to head to the summit for sunrise. I took a few minutes to get dressed and wake up. I headed out alone. It was much easier hiking up without a backpack. I stopped to get photos of the not yet lit up peaks. I arrived on top a few minutes after posted sunrise but it was still not above the horizon. When it did emerge the lighting change was amazing. First light on the east side of Mt. Baker was beautiful. The same with Mt. Rainier. The red leaves on the east side of Benchmark really began to blow. It was one of the best sunrises I have seen. The wind was calm and the views were superb. Instead of heading down for breakfast, we decided to just sit down and enjoy the views. We headed down at 8:27 am. Gary spent 1:35 on the summit and I spent a few minutes less. Heck of a way to start a day.

We headed back to camp and had breakfast. By the time we were packed up and ready to start down it was nearly 10:00 am. We had 6.5 miles to go and a whole day to get there. We were planning on lots of breaks and photos. We succeeded at that. The nice thing about an overnight hike is that we had morning light heading down and afternoon light nearing our campsite. Quite different for views and photos. We dropped down to the two small tarns and climbed up to the wilderness border. By the time we had traveled a mile and a half, we found a great viewpoint of the Monte Cristo Peaks and Sloan Peak. A few minutes earlier we had a look at Glacier Peak. Some sun, some shade, and few bugs made for a great break spot. A short break turned into 32 minutes.

We saw a big meadow east of the trail on our way up. Back at that point, we figured where to leave the trail to get there. It was a short detour. The open hillside dropped off to the south. Lots of backlit colorful leaves. Back on trail, the route had more ups and downs. In this direction the ups were less than the downs as we gradually descended West Cady Ridge. More huckleberry stops were necessary too. The bright red, orange, and yellow leaf colors were as good as the day before. Just past halfway down we took a short path to another small meadow with a bit of a view. Time for our real lunch. We stopped at 12:32 pm. I ate and then just laid down. Before we knew it 53 minutes had gone by. At 1:25 pm we were on our way again. We took a detour to the south and found more meadows and a nice view to the south.

When we were back on the trail it was for good. The last 3+ miles we hiked straight out. On our hike out we saw two guys hiking fast to Benchmark. We were surprised that they did not pass us again coming out. A couple passed us heading up. They did not make it to the summit and did pass us again. We saw three other people as well. That added up to 10 people seen in two days. Not bad at all. With a little more than two miles to go, we dropped off the ridge and back into forest. No more views. On the plus side, it was getting toasty in the open meadows and the forest was nice and cool. Now we were back to the mushroom show. There was quite a variety.

The forest seemed to go on for much more than a couple miles. I think we were both about ready to reach the end. Back across the bridge over the NF Skykomish and out to the parking lot. There were more cars now than when we arrived. Still, there were a number of open parking spots. On the drive home there were quite a few cars parked along the road where the spur road turns off for Blanca Lake. Not much of a surprise. The drive was fine out to Highway 2 and beyond. We stopped for dinner at Zeke's Once on the road we reached Gold Bar where the traffic speed dropped to a crawl. It stayed that way all the way to the far end of Sultan where it picked up again We are used to long backups on Sundays but not on Saturdays. The sunny Saturday turning to rain must have contributed. As it turned out many fall color hikes had crazy big turnouts and long lines of parked cars all along the roads. The slow drive home was not a bad price for a lonesome trip with spectacular colors and no crowds. I finally managed to get in a backpacking trip this year and it was a terrific one.

Early Morning
Pre Sunrise Monte Cristos
No Light On Sloan
Daniel & Hinman
First Light On Baker
First Light On Rainier
Light On Sloan
Great Summit Color
Light On Summit Ridge
Fantastic Lighting!
Jim On Summit
Gary On Summit
View South
Glacier Again
Lookout Remains
Evergreen Mt. Lookout
Getting Lighter
Hazy To The East
Horizontal Shroom
Head To Camp
Our Campsite
Big Meadow
Benchmark Summit
More Super Colors
Many Colors
Gary On Trail
Heading For Meadow
Muted Leaves
Yellow Ash
Big Mushroom
Gary & More Red
Into The Forest
Big Cedar
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

<< Day 1

Benchmark Mountain Report

Trips - 2021