August 26, 2010

We peaked before the Pass

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades — geezerwriter @ 9:01 pm
Suiting up

Suiting up

Today thirteen brave souls headed out despite a questionable weather forecast for a hike to Hannegan Pass and, perhaps, on to Hannegan Peak. It is a very popular hiking trail since it one of only two that leads into the North Cascades National Park, a large wilderness park stretching from the Canadian Border south to Lake Chelan, interrupted by only one road, the North Cascades Highway. Early in Bellingham’s history many of the city fathers hoped to induce a major railroad line like the Northern Pacific to lay a track across the Cascades to Bellingham, crossing at Hannegan Pass. But the railroads decided to build further south, thus saving Bellingham from the inevitable onslaught of money and development that ended up in Seattle.

The  weather got a lot less questionable pretty quickly – we had gone less than a mile when a light rain started. We stopped for awhile, suited up in our rain gear and headed on up the trail. The trail runs up the Ruth Creek valley through an old clearcut that affords continuous views across the valley to Nooksack Ridge, running from the black gabbro cliffs of Mount Sefrit to snow-capped Ruth Mountain. It is usually one of our prettier hikes, but today we could see some of the cliffs but little else, as the weather got more and more definitive by the minute, rising to what passes for a downpour around here. The weatherman had called for “a chance of showers” but this was just plain rain, and not a drizzle, either.

Luncheon al fresco

Luncheon al fresco

The openness of the trail that usually allows the fine views meant that we had almost no shelter from the rain. We went on with only a couple of stops before we came to the turnoff to Hannegan Camp at 2 minutes to noon and almost 4 miles of soggy sloggage. No one raised a complaint when I suggested that we skip the half mile climb up to the pass, grab a snack and head back down the trail. Pat and Mike were aways behind us, but I talked to Mike on the walkie-talkie and they didn’t seem too broken-hearted about cutting the trip short, either.

The black cliffs

The black cliffs

There was no place dry, or horizontal for that matter, to sit down. Some didn’t even pause to eat and just headed right back down, leaving eight of us to stand around in the rain and shovel a little food into our chutes before taking off. Jan, our steadfast purveyor of fresh brownies, was away this week, so I had brought along a quite pathetic substitute “treat” as a gag, but I was upstaged when Fred pulled out a box of brownies! So the joke was on me – but the brownie was delicious.

Karen, Noriko and Ruth

Karen, Noriko and Ruth

The rain continued most of the way down, but it did lighten up a bit toward the end, allowing one quick view of the waterfalls on the black cliffs and even a tiny glimpse back up the valley to Ruth Mountain. We were a pretty sorry pack of drowned rats by the time we got back to our cars (and their blessed heaters).


1 Comment »

  1. Oh, I’m so sorry I missed this one (not!). Sitting here in air conditioned comfort with my laptop, reading about all my buddies and how much you missed having me there, I actually wouldn’t have minded the rain compared with the intense heat (at least to me) in the mid-eighties. Yesterday in the middle of the day I was quite uncomfortable outside.

    Thanks for posting this, Al, I feel much better now knowing that somewhere in my world, things are just as they should be. See you next week!

    Comment by DJan — August 27, 2010 @ 5:21 am

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