Benchmark Mountain (July 28, 2012)

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benchmark_mtn_coverConditions: overnight backpack
Gear: overnight gear
Map: USGS Blanca Lake, USGS Benchmark Mountain
Area: Skykomish
Reference: 100 Hikes in Washington's Glacier Peak Region: The North Cascades
Stats: 16mi, 4372' gain

West Cady Ridge and Benchmark...I first got interested in this area over 10 years ago. Why did it take me so long to do this hike? I dunno but boy is this a gem!

I'd last been to this TH some 10+ years ago. Well actually, the old TH was down the road a bit. Kim reminded me...about a mile. With Wild Sky...that last bit of road is closed. We were prepared for bugs. Bad bugs. Turned out not to be so bad. It was a bit overcast when we first started up the trail in the deep forest. The clouds slowly lifted and temps rose as we climbed up the ridge. The TH is at about 2500' and the trail efficiently gains elevation up the ridge through along series of swithbacks. The trail only lays back a bit at about 4200' about the same time the dense trees open up to smaller scrubby trees and our first views of Kyes Pk and Glacier Pk to the north and northwest and northeast. Wow. Nice to see Glacier Peak again.

Once on top the ridge the trail is a bit of up and a bit of down and all that over and over again as it runs the ridge to the east. Our plan was to crop overnight packs early and then head over to Benchmark. We found a site (they are sparse along the ridge) and then after lunch headed towards Benchmark.

The patchy snow starts just east of Pt 4761 at the low point in the trail between the bumps. It's really patchy and easy to follow find the trail over the small sections of snow.

The trail pretty much stays on or very close to the top of the ridge. I absolutely love these ridge runs. The flowers got a little sparse, but picked up again after the trail turns a bit more NE-erly. It's also about here that the snow patches get a little bigger, still easy to navigate though.

About 5400' came the real reward for the weekend. Huge meadows colored solid yellow with glacier lilies. I'm not kidding. I've never seen hillsides so dense like this. Solid yellow next to white snow patches, next to the blue sky. It just doesn't get any better than this!

I got to the top of Benchmark about 4:40pm but didn't stay long. Just long enough to sign the register, snap a few photos and then head back down. I met back up with Kim just west of Pt 5375, we filtered a bit of water of a melting snow patch and then back to camp for dinner.

Evening views of the setting sun on Glacier Pk and Kyes were scrubbed when the mist moved in. Gave the ridge quite the eerie feel. Nice that the temps dropped, it was actually a bit chilly.

Up early in the morning, we made a quick breakfast and then hiked back out to the car. A great group of Backcountry Horseman was also spending the weekend working the lower stretches of trail. Thanks guys!

Bugs weren't bad at all on Saturday but the mozies were out Sunday.

More information on the lookout: This is a former lookout site. The structure was a 11'x11' frame cabin and had a 6'x6' second floor observation cupola. The structure was built in 1929 and destroyed in 1965.
Benchmark Mountain Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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