In winter, the Forest Service closes a gate across Mountain Loop Road about 25 miles east of Granite Falls, Washington. I arrived at the gate at dawn to walk up the valley. Rain showers were happening at regular intervals and the light was soft and even with the cloud cover. The walk parallels the Stillaguamish River and has great views of the river and surrounding mountains although the low clouds blocked seeing the mountains this morning. It was just above freezing but there was still snow on some of the spruce branches and trunks. The alder trunks with a combination of snow, moss, and bark were quite attractive especially where the river back dropped the trunks.
The snow on the road was well packed down but I was the only person there until noon when I was headed back to my car and two groups of cross-country skiers passed me headed up the road. The solitude was wonderful. There was no wind so the valley was quiet except for a few birds. A flock of siskins flitted around the tops of few spruce for a few minutes and a raven flew down the valley squawking at one point.
I heard a steller’s jay fly into a bush along the north side of the trail. The bird dropped down to the ice and hopped along the edge of the ice dipping its bill into the water at several places to take a drink. It then flew up on the snow bank and poked around for a few seconds before flying off. An interesting set of animal tracks came across the snow and looked as if the animal was moving pretty quickly. The three or four prints were close together in the snow and each set was three or four feet apart. I saw elk prints elsewhere but these looked too small for elk.
Mid morning the storm began to clear and blue sky was visible through the trees. The mountain peaks looked like they were covered with a fresh layer of snow. Fog moved into the valley and waves of fog passed by me as I walked along the trail. Several times, it was quite tranquil as the landscape had a combination of fog, blue sky, and sunlight highlighting the vegetation. I stood for a while along the bank of the river and enjoyed the serene view.
I spent four hours enjoying the great valley. It is definitely a place worth another visit.