Squak Mountain sits in the Issaquah Alps squarely between Tiger Mountain to the east and Cougar Mountain to the west. It makes up for being the smallest in area of the three with short steep trails that only turn to switchbacks to add a bit of distance to each trail. The afternoon sun poked through the trees on the south, while slight breaks west gave way to brief glimpses beyond and to the north, bustling sounds of human activity disrupted the peaceful quiet of the east. This looped 10.4 mile run soaked up 3100 feet of elevation gain starting on the south side Phils Trail and worked west and north before connecting to the Squak Mountain East Side Loop.
Finding the south trailhead by car is a bit deceiving as it pops up blindly around a corner when approaching both from the east and the west. After turning onto the dirt road and driving for a few hundred feet, a makeshift parking lot bordered by a large pile of gravel is currently flanked by logging efforts presumably to make the parking lot larger or more accessible? After parking and finding the nearest two trailheads both being closed, the access road continued past a gate to open trails which connected back on the May Valley loop trail.
With a Green Trails map and the guidebook the plan was to connect two looped hikes into one long run. One of the hikes starts on the south side and the other starts on the north side and both happen to connect at generally the same area – the top of Squak Mountain. Unfortunately either the map or the guidebook (or both?) are out of date as the actual trail signs have different names than what is one printed paper with some trails showing up on paper, but I could not locate them. Generally being lost is a problem, but give me lemons and and I’ll make sour lemonade – the routefining stops provided built in rest periods to take in fuel and liquid and re-orient myself.
The one odd point of interest during the run is the remaining foundation and stone fireplace of the now absent Bullitt Family summer home. Actually, much of the land in and around the park was donated by the Bullitt Family. (Yes, that Bullitt family name that adorns the Bullitt Foundation and Bullitt Center.) (Bonus: The Bullitt family history is linked back to settlement of what know Seattle to be today and the start of television broadcasts in Seattle.) It’s presence was a bit creepy as I was by myself, hearing literally no sounds in the woods, except for a few small streams, until approaching this abandoned site when a large bird (crow?) started cawing insistent and louder. A bit offput and retreating back to the trail the cawing ceased and I was on my way again, albeit at a slightly quicker pace.
Squak Mountain itself is unapologetically a ‘working mountain’. It’s bisected on the south by a fairly straight access road which leads directly to the top of the mountain and around adorned with fenced off mobile and satellite towers and a utilitarian sign posting the latitude and logitudinal coordinates. It’s unfortunately fitting the middle mountain gets far less foot traffic than it’s two siblings. It’s smaller in area, shorter in stature, lacking pristine (or any?) mountain or lake views and while it’s trails are just as well maintained, they’re staccatoed and abrupt. This, however for me, made for a great training trail run, rarely having to stop for others – just myself – with my quads burning on the steep ascents and descents.
Nothing amazing to see here, just strap on your kicks, put your head down (or up when trying to figure out where you’re at) and run.