Before anyone gets mad, let me first say I confirmed this trail was open before I went. I’m trying hard to “stay home and stay safe,” but sometimes you really need a little outdoor therapy when facing a pandemic. Five years ago, when dealing with the much more common winter blues, I noticed a sign across the road from Rockport State Park after finishing the loop there. I determined I needed to come back someday to check out this mysterious “Skagit Sauk-Reach Trail” — and yesterday was the day.
Except when I looked up “Skagit Sauk-Reach Trail” I found it was at the Howard Miller Steelhead Park instead of Rockport. Weird…but knowing the parks are only a few miles apart, I figured it must be one and the same with different access points.
After parking at the open to the public day use area, I walked all the way through the currently closed Howard Miller Steelhead campground to the very far end where the obviously signed start of the trail was. The sun was beginning to poke out, so even the “recent cougar sighting” sign couldn’t keep me from getting my trail therapy in. Though I did worry my current “sitting on the couch most the day watching EVERYTHING on Netflix” athletic shape would keep me from getting in the supposed eight mile loop in…but still, I was determined to try.
What I discovered is, first of all, this is not exactly a loop–and second of all, it’s not eight miles. Of course, I probably did it wrong (no surprise there) but I’ll tell you what I observed.
You start with a pleasant mowed path that leads you to the river. There are several of these paths, meandering and intersecting through the open area, none of which I explored much because it was obvious they would not add up to anything close to eight miles. I needed to focus on finding the “real” trail. It wasn’t hard to find the more road-like walkway (quite mushy at this time) which quickly morphed into a much more intimate feeling path right along the river. This section feels almost magical, with the trees dripping of witches’ hair moss and making it seem as if fairies have decorated everything with nature’s tinsel. Sadly, it doesn’t last long.
The river is trying hard to claim the trail back for itself, and the couple hiking ahead of me turned back when it became too thin. I forged ahead, but the magic ended when the trail finally intersects again with the boring road-like walkway. I suppose you could keep going if you wanted to get in eight miles, but my Netflix body was fine with turning around. (Maybe five-ish miles total? You can continue on the road-like path all the way back to the entrance of the park, which would make sort of a lollypop loop I guess, but I would for sure never call this hike a loop.)
I stopped at Rockport to look again at the sign I saw five years ago and found this:
Am I losing my mind? Maybe they changed it. Either way, now I have to come back again and check this one out. Maybe during the next pandemic. Happy trails!