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whitebark
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PostWed Jan 03, 2018 8:36 pm 
Squak Mountain is my go-to spot for hiking when I don't feel like a long drive. This small but rugged mountain has a vast network of trails and all sorts of interesting corners. I had heard that there were large old growth trees on Squak's East Peak, and today's dry and sunny weather was perfect for doing a little exploration and see those trees. Here's a map of my route:
Squak
Squak
After parking at the May Valley Trailhead (Discover pass required) I walked the short spur trail to the Squak Mountain road (point 1 on the map) then continued along the May Valley Trail as it climbed through pleasant forest. At the next junction (point 2) I went right on the short spur trail to get back to the road at point 3, which I followed for the sake of efficiency - the service road is more direct then the trail. At point 4, I veered off the road onto the Phil's Creek Trail, which made a gentle ascent along Phil's Creek's tranquil valley. At length the trail topped out at Thrush Gap, which separates the East Peak from the main mass of Squak Mountain. At Point 6, I turned right onto the East Ridge Trail which dipped into the lowest point of the gap before climbing a bit to the top of the ridge. Right at the high point of the trail I spotted an unsigned but obvious path heading south - the East Peak Trail. This trail is unofficial but seems to get some use and a bit of maintenance. It made a gradual climb along the ridge top toward the northern summit of the East Peak. The forest along the path was beautiful with many large trees three feet or so in diameter - not ancient forest but pretty nice all the same. Beyond the northern summit the trail became fainter as it descended into a saddle, where I saw one massive old douglas fir leaning precariously. The trail then ascended to the south summit of the ridge (Southeast Peak on the map). After resting here a bit, I continued following the trail, which began a sustained descent. With less signs of use, the trail became a bit hard to follow as it plunged through the thickets of old growth sallal. Despite this, it was clear that someone had put quite a bit of work on the path a long time ago. Large logs were chainsawed and switchbacks laid out to moderate the grade. After descending a few hundred feet, the trail leveled out in a basin, then climbed a bit to reach a base of a massive ancient tree. Not long past this point, near a ravine with a cliff rising beyond, I lost the trail for good as it faded out on a slope covered with ferns (point 8). Seeing on my GPS unit that I was not far from a newly built section of the May Valley Loop Trail, I commenced a traverse toward that trail, using a cross country route made unpleasant by thickets of sallal and fallen logs. It was a happy sight when I finally reached the broad tread of the MVL trail around point 9. A better way to reach the MVL Trail may be to ascend over the top of the cliff from point 8, then drop down on the other side. The final walk back to the trailhead along the MVL trail was easy and pleasant (points 10, 11, 12). I tooked the shorter old trail between 10 and 11, not the longer official route. The MVL trail crossed Phil's Creek on a massive bridge supported by steel girders, then climbed a bit to reach the Squak Mtn. service road, which I followed to the trailhead. A nice day all in all. The summit ridge of the East Peak is a beautiful spot and deserves a few more visitors. Maybe someone can figure out where the old trail went past the spot where I lost it.

Fedor
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Malachai Constant
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PostWed Jan 03, 2018 9:37 pm 
Bill Longwell in the 70's built a number of trails in the area according to Harvey Manning. One of these went from near the junction of May Valley and Issaquah Hobart roads to the prominent cliff visible to the road and then to the Southeast peak there were switchbacks much of the way. Two years ago I followed a well blazed trail from the peak down to the power line on the East Side of Squak Mountain ending up across the street from the Chirco trailhead. I think this trail may have been a part of a greenway extension. The Squak Ranger told me that horse people had blazed a trail from Phils Creek to the Southwest Peak but I never found it. It is an interesting area and GPS readings can get sketchy there.

"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn

Fedor
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whitebark
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PostThu Jan 04, 2018 11:11 am 
That is some interesting info, MC. I didn't see the trail descending from E. Squak towards the Chirico trail - I'll have to look for it next time I am up there. One old Manning/ Longwell era trail that survives is the short cut path from Thrush Gap to the East Side trail. It passes below a rock bluff called "Manning's Pulpit", a joking reference, no doubt, to Harvey's preachy tendencies. Some other of the old trails were upgraded to official routes, notably the Perimeter Trail, so named because it was part of a route circling Squak Mountain. The old Thrush Gap trail was part of the Perimeter Trail system.

Fedor
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Malachai Constant
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PostThu Jan 04, 2018 8:38 pm 
The thrush gap to East Side shortcut was rebuilt by one of my neighbors a few years ago. It passes above the Squak Caves area. I believe the Perimiter trail was originally proposed by horse people to loop around the summit. There are several other abandoned trails and a couple cabins on the mountain.

"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn

Fedor
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nordique
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PostFri Jan 05, 2018 7:09 pm 
Supposedly, that cliff area is full of poison oak--which ended trail development.

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Malachai Constant
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Malachai Constant
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PostFri Jan 05, 2018 7:45 pm 
I can affirm poison oak is in the area. Long ago we checked it out for climbing but the rock is not suitable. Low grade crumbling andesite.

"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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nordique
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PostFri Jan 05, 2018 9:50 pm 
Speaking of old cabins, I always look for Bill Longwell's old cabin when going up the centrail summit trail on Squak. Here is his old cabin as of yesterday:
The late Bill Longwell was a  great trail builder on Squak, Tiger,  and Cougar Mts.  He overnighted in this cabin that he built while he was creating so many of the trails in the Issaquah Alps.
The late Bill Longwell was a great trail builder on Squak, Tiger, and Cougar Mts. He overnighted in this cabin that he built while he was creating so many of the trails in the Issaquah Alps.
I also noticed the fine-looking trail going up to the east peak of Squak, from the east ridge trail--and hope to see what shape the rest of that trail is in sometime this winter. It also looks as if it would be easy to link Debbie's View with the Bullitt Gorge trail, making a loop with the Perimeter Trail. I remember when Debbie's View was Joe's View, after Joy Toynbee, who did a lot of trail building on Squak with Bill Longwell. Nice to see that Joe is still among us! The first time I did the Perimeter Trail was with Joe.

Fedor
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Malachai Constant
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PostSat Jan 06, 2018 8:10 am 
Too bad about the holes in the roof I assume it is not long for the world. I see it a lot but have not been inside for years. It was intact last time I was there, when it was built you could still drive up Phils Creek.

"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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nordique
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PostSun Jan 07, 2018 1:37 pm 
Wow, never knew that Phil's Creek was driven in the old days! How far back was that?

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Malachai Constant
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PostSun Jan 07, 2018 3:43 pm 
In the 70's the cabin was built just past the stringer bridge over Crystal Creek. It originally went all the way to the the mill where the Old Griz trail intersects. They ran old Model T logging rigs up there. There is a picture of the mill in the Squak Mountain book the IATC put out. Some logging relics at thrush gap and around the SW peak. Most of the trails were old logging roads. We saw one of the last keeps on the Central PeakTrail née road in the mid 80's.

"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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nordique
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PostSun Jan 07, 2018 6:38 pm 
Thanks! I need to pick up some of those IATC books while they are still available!

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jaypinkerton
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PostMon Jan 20, 2020 6:37 pm 
Two years too late, but I wanted to thank whitebark for posting this! My wife and I moved to the area this past summer, and we've fallen in love with hiking Squak. We started hunting around for publications about it online, and discovered a bunch of Issaquah Alps books, one from the 90s, another from the early 80s:
It ended up being a treasure trove of old, forgotten trails and sites on the mountain -- Thrush Gap, the original Old Griz trail, Bill Longwell's old cabin, a long-forgotten quarry. Some of these trails have been abandoned for only a few years; others haven't been maintained since the 80s or 90s. Finding them hasn't exactly been a Da Vince Code-level mystery, but they've been fun excuses for my wife and I to get out in the woods with a challenge in mind, poking around the nooks and crannies of a park we've gotten pretty familiar with. One enduring mystery for us has been the trail that heads south from the East Peak (itself an overgrown, now-disused path). It was clear from the 1982 map there was a curved path downwards that seemed to connect up with what is now the Equestrian Loop.
We reviewed it against some topography maps, and the best we could come up with was this:
And we've completely struck out. We were pretty sure we'd be able to find it if we went to the East Peak first and found our way down, but part of the fun was seeing if we could find it from Equestrian. Anyway, we decided to give up until the spring, when the snow went away and we could see the goat paths a bit better. We hunted around this weekend for another of the last remaining mysteries, the Longwell cabin. We found it! Afterwards I googled "longwell cabin squak", curious if others had stumbled on it, and came across this thread accidentally. I did a double take when I saw this:
Thank you so much for publishing this! We were so close! (But also not actually close at all.)

Fedor
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jaypinkerton
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PostMon Jan 20, 2020 6:42 pm 
Here's what the cabin looks like as of this past weekend, btw:

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zimmertr
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zimmertr
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PostMon Jun 12, 2023 11:19 pm 
I bushsquaked down to the Equestrian trail from the SE peak today. Didn't see any poison oak. Or much of a trail to be honest. Just waist deep Salal, sharp Oregon Grapes, a couple large patches of Nettles, an old decomposing t-shirt, and 6-7' tall ferns. Oh, and a TON of spiders. I also saw a couple large trees, including one that has fallen, but not sure if any of them were the big tree. The first 100-200' of the trail as it descends from the peak are still intact but it disappears as you head east. Then is intermittent until you near the Equestrian trail. I noticed quite a bit of erosion and loose soil when I sidehilled around the cliffs so I can imagine the trail has historically struggled in this area. It's a shame that it doesn't exist more robustly though because the convenience of a trail there would make for excellent trailrunning loop opportunities. Some route finding tips from my experience would be to avoid going too far east, avoid dropping too low, and when you see cliffs to the west climb up and stay above them. After which it flattens out (and fills in with nettles) until you find the Equestrian trail. Also bring poles for stability on the steep slope if you get off route and also to probe the ground in front of you before committing to step into waist-deep brush that may conceal snags and other tripping hazards. I'm not too proud to admit I fell twice. Track on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/9255247296
Route on Caltopo
Route on Caltopo
Jurassic Park Ferns
Jurassic Park Ferns
The "Trail" at is best
The "Trail" at is best
Deep Salal
Deep Salal
Rotting T-Shirt?
Rotting T-Shirt?
Cliffs on-route. Ascend above them before continuing.
Cliffs on-route. Ascend above them before continuing.
Good luck with the Nettles!
Good luck with the Nettles!

Flickr | Strava

Fedor, Now I Fly, lopper, neek
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huron
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PostTue Jun 13, 2023 10:33 am 
nordique wrote:
poison oak
Bah! That explains the spot on the outside of my leg that broke out with blisters super bad after a run there. I didn't think we had it here but back in the midwest all I had to do was look at it to turn into a huge puff ball. Full tights from now on!

zimmertr
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