Aug 29 – Sep 1, 2014

Labor Day Weekend Trip: Upper Skagit Mountains

Jack Mountain High Circuit:  Ross Lake to Canyon Creek

Bear Skull Peak (7330’)
Devils Dome (6982′)
Daemon Peak aka Cinnamon Peak (7514’)

——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–

Region: Northeastern Cascades

Starting Point: Ross Dam Trailhead (Highway 20)

Way Points: Ross Lake Landing (hike); Ross Lake & Devil’s Junction Landing (boat ride); Devil’s Ridge & Dry Creek Pass & Bear Skull Basin & Devil’s Dome & Devil’s Pass & North Fork Devil’s Creek & Jackita Basin & Devil’s Park & McMillan Park & Canyon Creek & Granite Creek (hike)

Ending Point: Canyon Creek Trailhead (Highway 20)

Campsites: Devil’s Junction Landing & Bear Skull Basin & Jackita Basin

Summit: Bear Skull Peak (hike via South Slope—East Ridge)

Summit: Devil’s Dome (hike via trail)

Summit: Daemon/Cinnamon Peak (hike & scramble via South Slope—Southeast Ridge)

Approximate Total Stats: 27 miles traveled and 8800 feet gained for the trail circuit alone; an additional 5 miles traveled and 2800 feet gained for our two summit side trips.

——————– Full Trip Report ——————–

For our Labor Day Weekend trip this year, Eileen and I did the classic high trail circuit around Jack Mountain, starting at Ross Lake and ending at Canyon Creek. We didn’t have time for the full 360-degree “high-and-low circuit” that begins and ends at the same place, so we chose this shorter “high circuit” to experience the scenic climaxes. Fay, Doug, and Tiffany eagerly joined us, although on slightly different schedules. We had plenty of company along the way—this is a very popular trek—but plenty of solitude too.

Day 0 – Ross Dam Trailhead to Devil’s Junction Camp:

This was primarily just a staging day for us. Eileen and I met Fay at the Ross Dam TH at 3:45pm and quickly shuttled Fay’s car up to the Canyon Creek TH. Then we hiked down to Ross Lake (carrying grocery sacks and a bundle of firewood in our arms) and rode a water taxi launch up to Devil’s Junction. Camp 0 was established on a rocky bench 100 feet above Ross Lake. Fay had gotten the last available permit for Devil’s Junction Camps, and it was a good thing she did; soon after our tents were pitched, a friendly park ranger stopped by to check our permit. The night was overcast but very warm…and pretty much bug free.

Camp 0 At Devils Junction Above Ross Lake

Day 1 – Devil’s Junction Camp to Bear Skull Basin:

We left camp at 8:30am and headed up the Devil’s Dome Trail. Aside from a few brief rain sprinkles in the morning, the day was mostly warm and sunny. Even Jack Mountain—always a cloud magnet—exposed itself for a short while.

The Skagit King From Devils Dome Trail

We crossed through Dry Creek Pass in the early afternoon and continued another mile to 6400-foot “Bear Skull Basin” (5.7 hours from Camp 0) on the western flank of Devil’s Dome. This multi-level basin provides nice camping and reliable water, as well as views out to the west. A party of four arrived about an hour later and made camp in the next level above us. We would spend the rest of the trip leap-frogging them.

Hiking Into Bear Skull Basin
Camp 1 In Bear Skull Basin

After setting up Camp 1 in the basin, Fay and Eileen and I headed up “Bear Skull Peak” (Point 7330) for afternoon views. It was cold, breezy, and mostly cloudy, but we managed to gain a good look at Devil’s Dome and Daemon Peak—our goals for the next day.

Devils Dome From Bear Skull Peak
Daemon Peak From Bear Skull Peak

Doug and Tiffany were waiting in camp when we returned to Bear Skull Basin. They had ridden the 11:00am water taxi to Devil’s Junction and had made good time hiking up the trail. Later that evening, as we were finishing dinner, a chilly fog wafted into camp. It was quite a change from the previous warm night at Ross Lake..

Day 2 – Bear Skull Basin to Jackita Basin:

A steady rain pelted our tents throughout the early morning hours, but as if right on queue, it stopped a few moments before we arose at 7:00am. Miraculously, we never had another drop of rain for the rest of our trip. The lingering morning fog added an eerie mood to the alpine tundra as we hiked over Devil’s Dome and down to Devil’s Pass.

Morning Fog Below Devils Dome

We arrived at Devil’s Pass in late morning (2.2 hours from Camp 1) and stashed backpacks in the trees, then hurried northeasterly on the trail leading toward Sky Pilot Pass.

Devils Pass Trail Sign

At an obvious basin due south of Daemon Peak, we headed up grassy slopes and brecciated talus toward the false summit. A fun little Class 2 ridgeline then led us to the summit of this rarely climbed peak.

Heading Up Daemon Peak On Day 2
Fay Parting Clouds On Daemon Peak Summit

Although Henry Custer climbed this prominent peak on Labor Day Weekend of 1859 (presumably, he had the day off work), it has gone over 150 years without an official name. Fred Beckey refers to it as “Cinnamon Creek Peak,” but Fay soundly rejects this moniker. She left a register titled “Daemon Peak,” which apparently is the accepted peak-bagger’s name. Don’t even try calling this “Cinnamon Peak”!

Doug, Tiffany, Fay, and Eileen On Daemon Peak

Once back at Devil’s Pass, Fay set up her tent in preparation for her next few days of peak-bagging. The rest of us packed up and headed south on the main trail. We dropped into North Fork Devil’s Creek (a good water source), then climbed 1000 feet up the opposite side on a rudely steep, brushy trail before dropping another 400 feet into an attractive meadow basin below Jackita Ridge. We established Camp 2 in the basin (10..2 hours from Camp 1), near a little stream. Evening sun pierced the cloudcover and highlighted various features around us, including Jackita Peak and Crater Mountain.

Evening Sun On Jackita Ridge
Sun On Jerry Glacier and Jerry Lakes

Day 3 – Jackita Basin to Canyon Creek Trailhead:

We awoke to patchy blue skies and mild temps. Our hiking route took us on an up-and-down traverse below Jackita Ridge, across a combination of scenic meadowy slopes and scree fields.

Hiking Below Jackita Ridge On Day 3
Traversing Around Head Of Devils Creek Valley

Before long, we started descending into the gorgeous grassland of Devil’s Park. This sweeping green plateau rivals Grand Park at Mt. Rainier and The Parks of the Chuchuwanteen in its plea for a day of wandering. We had to be contented with a lazy lunch in the sun here.

Descending Into Devils Park

On our hike out of Devil’s Park, we stopped at the old trailside shelter. It seems to be in good condition even after many decades of hosting wet hikers on rainy nights.

Devils Park Shelter

We arrived at the Canyon Creek TH around 4:00pm (6.9 hours from Camp 2), where Tiffany’s car was waiting. It had been an immensely satisfying and enjoyable loop hike—leaving no doubt why this has become such a popular trek. Someday, we hope to complete the full 360-degree “high and low” circuit. The burning question then becomes: which direction to go?


——————– Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ——————–