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Monday, January 4, 2010

The Low Country News

A series of short low-country hikes in the "off season" really helped relieve a bit of the Holiday stress last week. Some of my personal favorites are the Old Sauk, Frog Lake, Beaver Pond and White Chuck Bench trails, all a short drive up the Mountain Loop Highway from Darrington. This time I did part of Old Sauk, to have a look at the river with a dusting of snow, and the White Chuck Bench. Clouds were low and flurries had turned to drizzle, but it was good to go out in the deep green forest and have a look at the dramatic river channels.

With all the washouts up the White Chuck Road, we're limited to hiking the valley's lower reaches, but they have their own charm. The Bench trail traverses along the rim of a scarp left by the river as it cut a small canyon through what were probably a combination of glacial moraines and deposits left by ice-dammed periglacial lakes, typical of the lower reaches of the west-side Cascade Rivers at the end of the Pliestocene. The Bench trail in places also follows the remains of a typical logging railroad-bed from the early 1900s.

Low-elevation hikes are easily accessible in all but the worst winter weather, and are thus and important component to year-round recreation. Trails like these are planned for the lower-elevation portions of an expanded North Cascades National Park under the American Alps initiative, in places like the Skagit valley between Marblemount and Newhalem.

White Chuck River (click for full-sized image)

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