Stilly Hills


aka "Terrier Top"

Elevation 1440+ feet, with 440' of Prominence

USGS Riley Lake

January 24, 2006

Party: JR, Harry M., Sofy roperdog



This “peak” is about 4 miles NE of Granite Falls and is one of the “Stilly Hills,” a bunch of walkable and bikable blobs all less than 3000-feet high surrounding the Stillaguamish River. I very much enjoyed this outing, especially since this was one of the first nice-weather days after Seattle's 27-straight days of rain. Plus this was the first "climb” that Harry M. and I have ever done together.


Earlier in January I'd invited Harry and his two terriers, Val (a “Westie” or West Highland terrier) and Keegan (an Irish terrier), to join Sofy (a miniature rat terrier) and me on a dog-walk hike to the top of this soft eminence with greater than 400-feet of prominence near Harry's home in Robe. Although Harry initially declined, thinking this was going to be more of an athletic adventure than it really was, he agreed to the idea when the details were understood. Unfortunately, just a few days before our trip, his two dogs got into a fight over a bowl of food and were still recouping, so Harry thought they should not join us. This put a bit of a monkey wrench into the pre-billed name-idea of “Terrier Top” (or Tower), so "Miniature Mountain” later came to mind (it's a very little mountain).


Harry M


Sofy and I drove up through Granite Falls and farther along the Mountain Loop Highway to Harry's place, just outside Robe. His barking terriers greeted us first, happy to see Sofy, one of their distant cousins. Keegan and Sofy raced up and down the chain-link fence separating them before Harry came out to lead us to his library-living room which looked a bit like a scale model of the Stilly foothills in the form of one-to-two foot high mountains of vertical paper stacks covering every table (and most every other flat surface), arranged in piles understandable to the venerable historian.


Fresh on top of one of the mounds was the 1928 Chelan National Forest map which Harry had out to research Klenke's recent question on Andrew Peak in the Pasayten. Though Andrews Creek appeared on that map, Andrew Peak did not.


After a half-hour repartee about mountain men and history while enjoying his view of the Stilly, I followed Harry downstairs to even more and better mountain treasures. One long and large room had walls with end-to-end shelves full of books, with another row of full, freestanding bookshelves developing an aisle away from the left wall.


Most fascinating to me though was Harry's map collection, stored in professional REI-esque map drawers full of xerox copies of historic maps that he has gathered from government archives and other sources, many of which a well-known Cascade guidebook writer has never seen. One drawer was full of copies of the original USGS surveyor sheets as the original topographers were first developing these maps; another drawer was devoted to the miners; and one was full of land surveyors' maps, who were parceling out the state into one-mile squares.


Harry pulled out a copy of Louis Fletcher's manuscript field map of the original 30-minute USGS Stillaguamish quad (in development) from 1897 of the area around Robe and the Sauk-Stilly mountains. Harry had concluded that a horizontal-control station was first placed on Mount Pilchuck, then a second party of USGS surveyors established a series of vertical-control elevation benchmarks on their way up the Stilly, then a third party (Fletcher and his crew) came along to climb many summits and ridges as “first ascents” all over this area, taking directional and transit readings to sketch in the contour detail. First the wider contours developed, then many of the steep features caught their eye. Instrument readings were taken and Fletcher's pen drew in tight intermediary contours marking the ridges and faces between the larger contour intervals.


Fletcher noted tight contours and triangulated the elevations of most of the now-famous Darrington rock-climbing walls such as the Squire Creek Wall, Green Giant Buttress, Witch Doctor Wall on Exfoliation Dome, and Three O'clock Rock.


Harry's house and collections were the most fascinating part of this day (he also has an extensive collection of books on the history of science and medicine in the long room, and another whole room holds collections of areas of his other interests and study in philosophy, art, music history, quantum mechanics, the Crusades, and much more).


But we came to conquer a rarely done summit, and had to get on with our day.


So Harry, Sofy, and I drove back towards Granite Falls , parking at a “Masonic Park” sign about 5 road miles NE of Granite Falls at a gate blocking access to the entire USGS Riley Lake quadrangle from the south. The Jim Creek Naval Radio Station (whose Blue Mountain to Wheeler Mountain radio towers are used to communicate with submarines in the Pacific) denies access to much of this quad from the north.


Dahlberg Mtn left, Miniature Mtn (Terrier Top) right


From the parking gate, a smooth gravel road drops gently north, giving stingy views NW to our miniature mountain objective, and in ½ mile crosses a concrete bridge over Canyon Creek, now running like an honest river in freshet after the winter rains.


Just north of the bridge the road forks, the right branch heads to Olo Mountain and beyond to Wheeler Mountain, E Peak, 14-plus miles out there, never done by me or any of my friends to date. We three took the left fork here toward Mud Lake (locally known as “Trout Lake” per Ernie Wolcott in his classic 1961 Lakes of Washington).


In 2/3-mile beyond the Canyon Creek bridge a sharp left turn drops a bit to cross “Mud Creek.” Looking north from the bridge over this creek we could see the wooden remnants of what appeared to be either an ancient dam or bridge. Ernie's book suggests that it was a dam that formed what was once the 30-acre (Johnson-)Dean Mill Pond (now a marsh), a former steelhead rearing water.


From here we hiked up a bit to a sharp switchback left, then decided to cut a 0.6-mile switchback by bushing it straight up to the road 100-vertical feet above us. The rain-soaked, loamy ground, downed snags, and blackberry stickers made for an unfortunate thrash and choice. Arms bloodied, after a wound-licking rest, we found the final path leading up the east ridge of our summit. Views of Green Mountain, the south White Knuckle of Three Fingers, Wiley, Mallardy, Blackjack Ridge, and Pilchuck peeked out at various points.

Harry and Sofy near the summit


The road finally leveled out at 1400 feet just north of the 1440+ summit, but had no clear spur to the high point . Going on the theory that loggers usually end up running at least a cat track to the actual summit, we continued on the road, counter-clockwise. Sure enough, we soon picked up a road not shown on the map that cut left, up and back on the south side of our bump.


Our efforts were finally rewarded with views south to the Columbia Center skyscraper in Seattle, our home on Somerset hill, Squak, Tiger, Ten Four, and a straight shot across to many of the “Stilly Hills,” Granite Falls, and the miniature range of humps surrounding it, including the forbidden Iron Mountain and some bikable beauties (“Worthy Hill,” “Olfactory Hill,” “Flat Tire Hill,” etc.).


Some of the Stilly Hillys, SE of Granite Falls


Looking upvalley we enjoyed picking out the snowy Persis, Index, Pilchuck, Marble, Hall, Big Four, Vesper, and more. For all the rain we've had recently, we were surprised to see how high the snowline was in January.


After getting our fill of the panorama, we finally put our heads down and parted branches north/NW into the woods to find the most likely groundswell allowing us to claim this landform as done, then headed home, ignoring our uphill shortcut. Using Topo!, this trip measures as about 3.5 miles, not using our up-shortcut, and would make a nice bike ride.