Despite our early start (we woke up in Everett at 5:00 AM, August 23rd, to the deafening chimes of Pink Floyd's "Time"), we didn't make it on the road until six, and since we missed the turn off the first time, we didn't make it to the trailhead until 8. When looking for the Forest Route 41 turnoff from Mountain Loop Highway, realize that the sign actually says "Green Mountain Road." The "Route 41" sign comes later.
The hike went much faster than anticipated. After an hour we reached Saddle Lake, a 1000 ft elevation gain. In the next hour we matched that distance and reached Goat Flats. The trees broke away and opened up into a beautiful rocky meadow with a variety of mountain flowers. Fortunately, the prior good weather kept Goat Flats from living up to its nickname, Goat Floats. But, as the same internet website stated, there were definately plenty of marmots.
The bulk of the hike existed between Goat Flats and the summit. After Goat Flats the trail winded behind some peaks, facing out near Pilchuck. Unfortunately the weather could have been better, but the sunny patches followed us around: we saw Three Fingers on the way up and Pilchuck on the way down. When we approached the glacier, Three Fingers stood boldly above, majestically reigning over their territory.
On approaching the glacier, there existed two paths: a low path and a high path. On several recommendations, I took the high path. Soon thereafter I observed that the low route required a steep climb in the snow, which looked less than ideal. I believe we could have made the snowy trek without ice axes, but they definately came in good use. I definately could tell that they would be needed through most of the year.
Near the top we approached our final snowfield. The trail dwindled and soon disappeared, so we scrambled toward the summit shack. People exaggerated the ladders and ropes, and the sheer cliffs from the summit gave none of us vertigo (although the fog may have disguised the danger). Nonetheless, the summit impressed all of us. The lookout had full accomadations: bed, pen, paper, cards, rope, harness, etc. However, I'm not sure I would trust the blankets and dishware; and the whole area smelled of old feces. The "bathroom" was close by.
Suprisingly, it took us four and a half hours to get down. We beat our ascent by a mere half hour! The distance did not seem excessive on the way up, but everyone's legs began to fail them on the way down. Fortunately that made the car even better, and the drinks we hid in the bushes tasted heavenly. We had made it down the mountain by 5:30.