What a fantastic hike! I found the trail description to be accurate regarding the sedate switchbacks — the grade was enough that you knew you were climbing, but not so much you wanted to kill yourself. Plus, it was all through a lovely forest, which is great for hot days. Once I hit the pass and stopped for lunch, I got a tip from some other hikers about continuing on Sahale Arm a bit to overlook Doubtful Lake. It added a mile (one way) and 800ft elevation gain, but soooo worth it. The fall foliage was even better up there and the lake was beautiful! So glad I went. This one is on the repeat list.
I ran into a guy that hiked down to the lake and spotted a bear, and heard stories from others that more bears were spotted up on the hillsides above the lake, so be aware they're in the area.
I was a little disappointed by how highly trafficked the trail was for a Wednesday. The parking lot was full when I got there at 11:15, but I was hoping maybe some of them were overnighters. And maybe that was so, but definitely lots of people on the trail! There is safety in numbers though, so there is that. I would say there was about 65% mask compliance as well, so a little disappointed there as well. We can do better Washington! And despite all that, I'm still super glad I went.
I clocked a little over 10 miles overall and got back to my car and left the parking lot around 5:15. As an extra bonus for the day, there was a couple trees down across the forest road so about 40+ of us or so were stuck for 3 hours until a crew got there to clear the logs. In the meantime, we had one ax among us and made the guys made decent progress chopping at that tree and utilizing a truck and tow straps to try to pull it out of the way as there was speculation among us whether help would arrive that night or the next morning. Help did finally arrive around 8:30 and we were on our way shortly after. Not that I'm going to put a chainsaw in my car, but it has made me rethink what I do carry in case I'm trapped on a forest road for the night :)