A panoramic view at 7,200 feet
Since moving out to the Northwest 3 years ago, I've done countless hikes along Mountain Loop Highway, which runs west to east through the Cascades. Earlier in the summer, my friend Chad Finni, a cityscape photographer from Cincinnati (his site, fittingly named: Fincinnati) came out to visit and we did a sunset hike up Mount Pilchuck. Chad was amazed at the mere proximity of Pilchuck to the city, he said on his blog, "You can hike to the top of mountains after a day of work! I was sold after this one, I knew from that moment that I would have to go back out and visit again". It's so easy to get away from the city and get lost in the mountains, Mountain Loop Highway is my favorite for quick escapes and ego checks.
For the longest time I've wanted to hike to the summit of Mount Pugh. It's not a tough hike, relative to other hikes in the area it's pretty moderate but the summit rises to 7,200 feet, which is a decent size mountain compared to other surrounding peaks. My friend, Dan, and I decided to tackle it on a Sunday and with the weather forecast looking sketchy, we chanced it anyways and left from the trailhead. Starting off in the forest made for a relaxing start to an 11 mile round trip hike. Once we hit the boulder field under Stujack Pass, the views opened up and we could see west across the valley floor towards Three Fingers and White Horse Mountain, both impressive peaks on their own.
Continuing beyond Stujack Pass is where the fun started for me. The trail became rocky and more exposed, the views more immersive and the elevation evermore gaining. Never topping out more than a Class 2 scramble, I would look over the edge once we hit the ridgeline with Dan nervously laughing hoping I don't act too stupid and slip. With the skies turning grayer and the horizons more hazy, we started to feel the time crunch to reach the summit safely. Rain drops started falling, temperature started dropping; we had to make a decision whether to push for the summit and risk a descent on wet rock or call it quits and head back down.
WE FORGED ON!
And I'm glad we did! The weather stayed pretty consistent with minor rain and the horizon only stayed hazy and gray. Although we were cold, we finally made it to the summit with an immersive 360° view of the Cascades. Glacier Peak decided to stay out from the clouds and greeted us with its many glaciers. We could barely make out Baker in the distance, which is pretty much Canada but not quite. After quickly refueling on some Pop-Tarts and energy bars, we braved the descent to the car. Since it had been slightly raining, the rocks were slick so steady footing was essential!