Monday, May 2, 2011

Sauk River Mines 04-20-11

Darrington, WA

After a couple days of lowland hikes involving snow, it was time to find a lowland hike that WOULDN'T involve snow.

Uninspired as to a destination, memories of a recent trip report from Gil surfaced in my mind. A river, a logging town, the promise of washed out roads, easy access mines and in-your-face mountain views became the perfect ingredients for s sunny Wednesday afternoon of carefree exploring.

The North Fork of the Sauk River used to have a road that followed alongside it. Until Mother Nature stepped in, a few times, to reclaim what was once hers.

There are three main roads leading to Darrington and the Sauk River. These are the routes used by the 'average bear'.

Believing myself to be smarter than the average bear on this particular day, I decided to take the shortcut to Darrington from Mt. Vernon. such a shortcut would turn a 90 degree route into a straight 'hypotenuse' route. This shortcut leads directly from Lake Cavanaugh to Oso along the Lake Cavanaugh Road, from Hwy 9 to Hwy 530.

Well, that's what the map led me to believe.

A little online research would have been a good idea before I departed. Actually, it would have been a GREAT idea.

I was excited to go visit Lake Cavanaugh on my way to Darrington. All my years here have never provided me an opportunity to visit. Well, it wasn't too exciting in all honesty. A nice little out of the way community with a road that goes all the way around the lake. I drove it. Much of the lake loop is a narrow, 1 lane road with huge cliffs above and a huge drop to the lake below. Water seeping everywhere - just waiting for the right moment for a landslide event - IMO.

At the furthest end of the lake, I do recall an even more narrow road that appeared to go up into the logged hills. Not a friendly destination for a solo hiker in an aging Camry. This MUST have been the shortcut - but it wasn't marked and it didn't matter because I wouldn't have driven it anyway.

Decided that my shortcut either didn't exist or that the shortcut did exist and was either this logging type road and deemed it likely to be gated. So, I had to backtrack all the way to Hwy 9. A 45 minute detour. DOH!

Finally, after passing through Arlington and eventually reaching Oso, what do I find? The Lake Cavanaugh Road! Maybe it is a legitimate shortcut! Maybe it isn't. Now that I was short on time I decided to leave that mystery for Mary Kat and Ashley to solve. Or I'll do it next time I'm in the neighborhood.

Shortly after Oso, the scenery gets quite impressive.

Shortly thereafter you'll find yourself in Darrington. Head to the north on the Mountain Loop Highway a very short distance then turn East to cross the river. Park at the quarry and start hiking.

It's all views and mines and river.

I think the blue blobs in this next picture must be drops of water that are falling off the ceiling and plopping into the pool of water at the bottom. Either that or ghosts, like from Ghostbusters.

Looking up from the entrance to the third mine shows a nice moss carpet hidden by ferns dangling toward you.

Less than 3.5 miles of hiking (round trip) if you go to where the road disappears. At that point, if you want to continue you'll need to climb down to the rivers edge and do your own exploring from there.

All three mines I photographed were right alongside the road. Somewhat hard to see in the spring growth, but all were flagged. You won't miss them if you pay attention, but I do not recommend going inside the mines.

A perfect destination for an easy day hike, if you don't mind the drive.

Locals promised me that from this point, driving back to Mt. Vernon takes about the same amount of time if you head up to Hwy 20/Rockport or return via Arlington. I chose the Rockport route to complete the loop, but I'm sure curious about that shortcut.

One more trip report to go... coming soon: Whistle Lake and Sugarloaf Mtn in the ACFL.

Happy Trails!


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