Sunday, November 21, 2010

Howard Miller Steelhead Park

With the day off from work but limited time and a high likelihood of rain, this was a great opportunity to visit Howard Miller Steelhead Park (HMSP). This park is a Skagit County Park.

HMSP is located about 67 miles up the Skagit River, at the confluence of the Skagit and Sauk Rivers... and where the small town of Rockport is situated.

This is a popular fishing and eagle watching spot, so I hear. This trip was my first visit to this park. There are a lot of sites for camping - mostly geared toward those with RV's it seemed - but the grass was a healthy, vibrant green and the river is really only a stone's throw away.

As far as hiking goes, there are a few trails meandering along the river, but ultimately you'll end up on the old Sauk Road which will head west along the river for a few scenic miles.

The trail head is located at the west end of the park and is clearly marked, although it's not the typical trail head marker.

The first part of the trail meanders through some open meadows where quite a bit of planting has been performed in order to reclaim the shore and to encourage a vibrant, native, ecosystem. A number of signs provide some interesting reading about the local ecosystems.

Turning around presents you with a view of the lower flanks of Sauk Mountain.

Numerous short trail spurs lead you down to the river's edge, and hilly terrain beyond.

A short while later, the meadow trail connects with the Old Sauk Road, making for a nice quiet (and flat) walk through the forest.

Due to it's proximity to the river, there are a number of areas where the road has been washed out, but this is passable by most hikers who take their time and exercise necessary caution. In some cases, a side trail is being created up the hill to avoid the actual washout areas.

In addition to the beauty of the river and the forest, there were also eagles in the trees (but they'd fly away before I could capture an image of them) and the fish were literally jumping out of the water. Again, my best video and photo efforts failed to provide anything really useful to portray this experience.

A unique form of hanging moss could be seen hanging from the tree branches. These shots were all taken from the same location:

As you reach the western end of the road, a number of residential houses begin to appear above the road. At least one of these houses seems to have an aggressive dog who isn't kept chained up or in a fenced area. He quite surprised me with a charge and a barrage of vicious barks, but then retreated when I continued onward (not that he really gave me much choice at the moment).

Upon reaching a yellow gate I decided to turn around. It seems that, according to the map, there may have been an old cemetery a short ways beyond that gate. With the proximity to other houses, there is probably an alternative (and shorter) way to access the cemetery.

As I walked by the neighborhood of aggressive dogs, two more dogs began to head down the trail toward me while barking. They remained about 50 yards away, thank goodness, and didn't get a chance to experience a dose of pepper spray.

Here is an unusual piece of construction up near some of the houses. Not sure if it's a left over elaborate Halloween decoration or just some eccentric backwoods artwork.

The return trek was uneventful.

Instead of returning via the meadows, I remained on the road/trail which finally looped back to the campsites at the park.

Only encountered one other person on the trail on this wet day, but this place is probably a zoo in the summer.

All in all, it was about 7.5 miles round trip with almost zero elevation gain.

Truly a beautiful area for a dark, dreary and wet day.


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