October 25, 2009

Up Swift Creek…

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades — Tags: — geezerwriter @ 6:39 pm
Looking up Swift Creek

Looking up Swift Creek

As we started down the Swift Creek Trial I was immediately struck by the greenness. It had been raining on and off for a few days, including just a half hour earlier as we drove up highway 20, and everything in sight was sumptuously damp and almost aglow – an archetypical northwest rain forest scene.

The two and a half miles of the trail that we hiked is all lowland forest, between 1200 and 1700 feet in elevation, but the trail continues on for another 5 miles or so to a junction with the Lake Ann Trail. At one time, development-minded folks in town hoped that Mount Baker Highway would be continued into the Baker River area to connect up with highway 20, and this trail pretty much follows the route that would have been used.

Who wants to go first?

Who wants to go first?

The reason we didn’t hike further was that the creek was roaring and impassable. We went as far as the site of an old bridge that is long gone, replaced by a cable which was installed by the Pacific Northwest Trail Association. They have been working for years to restore this trail to the point where it can be a part of the PNT system of trails. One of our members, Pat, has been working long hours with them and served as our guide for our introduction to this trail. The PNT workers string a boatswain’s chair from that cable and drag themselves over the creek to work on the upper parts of the trail, but the chair is gone for the season. (I don’t know if it will be available to the general public in the future – maybe we can get some stimulus money for a bridge!)

As I said, the creek was running full, so we settled down on the rocky shore for lunch.

Lunch on the Rocks

Lunch on the Rocks

DJan has recovered (mostly) from her tumble at Rainbow Ridge, so we once again enjoyed our accustomed dessert of fresh brownies.

Rainbow Creek.JPG

Nearing the Rainbow Creek crossing

The other major creek crossing is at Rainbow Creek. about 3/4 of a mile from the trailhead. There are two big logs spanning two branches of that stream, and the PNT has installed a steel cable as a handrail – it probably wouldn’t be much good if you actually fell off the log, but it really helps those of us who tend to be unsure of our footing and/or shy about heights.



There were no grand views along the trail, but there were some great fungi. This fluorescent orange one caught my eye on the way back from the springs.

We got back to the cars early, so we decided to walk the quarter-mile trail to Baker Hot Springs, which meets the road at the same parking area. There was one gentleman in the water, who claimed to be “cleaning the bottom”. Presumably he meant the bottom of the hot springs, since his own bottom looked quite clean indeed, as we learned when he exited the pool. This clearly fit in the category of Too Much Information, and we soon walked back to the road.

It was still pretty early, so I tricked encouraged the group to go on one more adventure – trying to find Rainbow Falls. When I was up in this area several years ago there was a sign at a bend in the road indicating a trail to the falls. I recall making an attempt at following the trail, but giving up rather easily when it got brushy and I came to a steep washout. We were considerably more persistent this time and struggled on for almost a half mile, through at least two washouts and many alders, along what had once been a road (sometime in the Mesozoic Era, I believe). We did get one leafy peek at some white water in the gorge below, but it was pretty much a waste of effort.

Just after we turned back toward the cars we discovered that we were missing two fairly valuable items: my GPS receiver and Pat, our leader! It was a little tense for awhile, but Pat emerged from the brush after a few minutes and Marjan miraculously found my GPS where it had come loose from my belt clip about half way through the bushwhack.

Check out Djan’s blog posting, also: d-jan-ity

I’ll end with a couple of pictures. The first is a small butterfly that we found on the trail near Rainbow Creek and the other is the view from the road of Shannon Ridge on the side of Mount Shuksan.

The last butterfly of the year?

The last butterfly of the year?

Shannon Ridge

Shannon Ridge


1 Comment »

  1. Nice post, Al. I especially like your description of the fellow in the hot spring. For some reason on my laptop I can see some of your pictures, but not all. If I mouseover, however, I can click on it. It’s funny how some picture are exactly right and the others are not. Shannon Ridge is one that I can’t see without mouseovering (now that’s a word for you!).

    Comment by DJan — October 26, 2009 @ 6:27 am

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