June 7, 2010

Springtime in the Cascades

Filed under: Geology, Hiking, North Cascades — Tags: , — geezerwriter @ 8:51 pm

When we set up the June hiking schedule back in February, the snowfall in the mountains had been pretty light and we chose to schedule some high country hikes earlier than usual. Last Thursday that planning ran into reality on our hike to Goat Mountain. We had been warned of snow at 4000 feet (about 3 miles along the trail) by the Forest Service, but that “intel” was almost three weeks old. It was sunny and pleasant and we were hopeful.

Spring in the Cascades

Karen had brought a clipping from a hiking book that described a short trail that supposedly spurred off the main Goat Mountain trail for a about a half a mile to the site of an old “lookout cabin”. This had come up last summer on our last trip to Goat, and I was convinced that is was complete nonsense. I had hiked this trail many times and many features of this book’s description, including that spur trail, had made no sense at all to me, not the least being that it would be a pretty silly place for a lookout – on the side of a mountain, well below tree line. What were they looking out for? Squirrels?

But we followed the book’s directions and watched carefully after passing the boundary sign for the Mount Baker Wilderness. I had been pretty vocal about my disdain for the whole concept, to say the least, and so was more than a little surprised, and chagrined, to find signs of a trail right where it was supposed to be! We skipped it for the time being, but pencilled it in for exploration on another day.

When the bough breaks...

We continued on and got all the way to the 4000 foot level without even seeing any snow, on or off the trail. But all of a sudden at about 4200 feet the trail disappeared beneath mounds of the white stuff. We kept on for awhile, but it was pretty rough going, and after post-holing into a few voids and a snow bridge I lost most of my enthusiasm for reaching those spectacular views of Mount Shuksan that appear at our usual stopping point. As it was already noon, we found a large bare spot among some trees and settled down for lunch. Cindy managed to find a couple of trunks that were nearly horizontal and formed a sort of sling or hammock, and did some serious basking.

While we didn’t make it to the alpine terrain, we did enjoy some nice views of Mounts Herman, Sefrit and Shuksan peeking through clouds. And the tip of Grant Peak on Mount Baker just peeped over the top of Mount Herman.

Baker peeking over Mt Herman

Since our trip had been cut short, we decided to explore the mysterious lookout trail on the way down. We schussed and hiked back down to the 3700 foot level and set off on the abandoned trail. It was easy going right at the beginning but we soon ran into some bushes that needed whacking, and it turned out to be steeper than I’d expected. Before we’d gone the advertised half mile we started to run into the snow again and the trail started to disappear. We did indeed find a level spot that could have been a cabin site; in fact we found two of them. There was even a bit of a view between the trees, but I still don’t quite believe the “lookout” part of the story. Maybe a prospector’s cabin? The bedrock that Goat Mountain is made of, the Darrington Phyllite, has hosted most of the gold mining activity in the Mount Baker region, although I don’t know that were mines on Goat, itself.

I have to put in one more picture, this of a trillium blossom next to the trail on the way down. It is a graphic illustration of the compression of the seasons in the mountains that this picture was taken less than 15 minutes after the “Spring in the Cascades” photo above.


P.S. For some really nice pictures from this hike, see DJan’s Blog.


1 Comment »

  1. I just LOVE that picture of us coming down from the snow, Al. I think I’ll snag it and put it onto my Flickr list if you don’t mind. It shows how much snow we were dealing with. Great description of our day. I wish you would write more often, because your blog is always interesting.

    Comment by DJan — June 8, 2010 @ 6:17 am

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