The name “Mt Grant” disappeared from maps of San Juan Island around the 1920’s and was slowly replaced with “Lawson’s Ridge”. The 141-acre property towering over West Valley Road and Lawson’s Pond, was, up until recently, for sale, destined to become subdivisions for a few. The fantastic people at the San Juan Preservation Trust wouldn’t let that happen. After learning that such subdivisions would directly pollute Trout Lake, the island’s main water source, they partnered with the San Juan County Land Bank and preliminarily purchased the property with the goal to heal the scars the developers inflicted and make the mountain a public nature preserve with trails, interpretive signs, and breathtaking picnic areas.
On a recent visit, we went for an after dinner stroll to check it out. We took Beaverton Valley Road out of town. After it becomes West Valley Road, about 4.9 miles from town, we found the well-marked preserve entrance on our left.
Right as we made our way past a trail map and a gate, a friendly couple coming down the paved road asked, if it was our first time here. After glancing at our unhappy looking teenagers, they advised to do the loop backwards - not so steep that way - and insured us that the view was absolutely worth it.
It was. The elevation gain of the one-mile loop is mighty and mostly shaded. Blue camas, its relative, the charmingly named “death” camas, fawn lilies and wild roses line the way, while mighty old-growth Douglas-firs make sturdy homes for pileated woodpeckers, band-tailed pigeons and red-tailed hawks.
There are peekaboo views all the way to the top, one more breathtaking than the next. Nothing prepared me for the absolutely stunning 360-degree view from the newest, highest publicly-accessible mountaintop on San Juan Island. We saw three of Washington’s five volcanoes: Mt Baker, Mt Rainier & Glacier Peak. We saw the fertile valleys of San Juan Island, the Gulf Islands, the Olympics and the Cascades. We saw bald eagles riding the thermals below us in pure joy. There was absolute silence.
Next to the steep trailhead going back to the parking lot, several interpretive signs explain the surroundings, habitat and goals of the $4,200,000 preservation project. The mountain is not safe yet. The tireless effort of both, the San Juan Preservation Trust and the San Juan County Land Bank and the community outpour supporting the Campaign to Save Mount Grant raised all but $1,000,000. If the monies aren’t raised, the property will revert to the sellers, who would re-list the 12 subdivided lots for sale. The mountain would be developed, its wildlife not preserved, its stunning beauty would not be open to the public.
In July & August the road to the top will be open for vehicles every Sunday, so truly everybody can enjoy the stunning 360-degree views. For now, please stick to the roads until SJPT can establish a trail system. The area is open daily from dawn to dusk to all un-motorized vehicles and puppies on leashes.
Be part of the mountain, please help Save Mount Grant.