GeezerHiker

October 13, 2010

Heliotropes personified

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades — Tags: — geezerwriter @ 12:47 am

On Monday Earl and I marched up the Heliotrope Ridge trail on the north side of Mount Baker. I don’t know why it is called that – there is a flowering plant called a heliotrope but I’ve never actually seen one on this hike (although I have to admit that I wouldn’t know one if I tripped over it.) But the word “heliotrope” derives from Greek and means roughly “sun seeker” and that described us perfectly as we tried to snag one more beautiful day in the mountains. The forecast called for clear, dry weather through Wednesday (or so I thought at the time) but this was the only day we were both free.

 

Roosevelt and Coleman glaciers

Roosevelt and Coleman glaciers

 

And it worked for us – we drove out of a morning fog into sunshine and blue skies. Above is the view as we left the trees and headed up the Hogback, which leads to the most popular route for climbing to the summit of Mount Baker.

 

The Hogback

The Hogback

 

I had heard people mention “The Hogback” many times but was never sure what they were talking about, since the trail forks and the other branch goes to a prominent rock outcrop that has sort of an Arkansas Ridgeback look to it. But all doubt was dispelled when, after about half an hour of steep slogging, I turned around and looked back down the trail and took the photo at the left.

 

Ice on the rocks

Ice on the rocks

 

A bit further up, beyond the Hogback, the trail more or less disappears – it is covered by snow most of the year and there are a number of trail-ish looking pieces of ground. We had started seeing some ice in the streams at about 5000′ elevation (after we’d crossed the biggest creek, thank you very much) and by now the ice was getting to be a problem. The most desirable tracks would have led us across the larger streams, so we had to do a bit of scrambling to stay on firm, dry rock. The picture below shows Earl crossing the last stream where the ice came to a stop above the trail.

 

Earl on the rocks

Earl on the rocks

 

Earl and I both have a little problem with “summit fever” – “This is a nice place. We could stop here, or we could go on up by that big rock.” And upon arriving at the big rock, “This is nice, but how about that next little ridge?” And so on, and so forth, until we found ourselves 6000′ above sea level at the base of a very forbidding mass of black rock, with no more “little ridges” in sight.

 

Skiers from BC

Skiers from BC

 

We had seen not a soul all morning, but about ten minutes after we sat down a pair of skis popped up over the edge of the hill, attached to a young man in fashionable striped tights, and followed shortly by a half dozen of his friends. They had come from Vancouver, BC seeking some of last year’s leftover snow to slide down. They had piqued the curiosity of the border guards, shall we say, when they said they were going skiing in October, but they eventually got through and seemed to be having a wonderful time.

 

Still hunting for snow

Still hunting for snow

 

About ten minutes later, I had to crank my telephoto lens all the way out (and crop the result down) to get this picture of them making their way further up the ridge, with no snow in sight.

 

The color of the day

The color of the day

 

You can see from the photos that it was a beautiful day. The only thing missing was the brilliant red of the blueberry bushes that we’d been enjoying the last few weeks. The vegetation was mostly just turning to yellow and the best I could do was this one bush covered with red berries (I should probably know the name by now) and the purple of the moraine in the distance.

 

Earl at the Big Rock

Earl at the Big Rock

 

I had been quite comfortable sitting in the sun, but about 12:30 a cloud passed over and the temperature dropped like a stone, reminding us of how all that new ice had gotten there. Sitting and enjoying the view was suddenly a bit less charming, and pretty soon we packed up and headed back down.

 

Cloud cap forming

Cloud cap forming

 

That little cloud had been just the first of many – it seems I missed one little sentence in the weather forecast, something like “a weak front may brush the northern part of the region (i.e., us) and bring some rain.” It was still mostly clear when we got down to the tree line, but a cloud cap was forming on the summit of Baker. By the time we got to the trailhead it was winter, and back in Bellingham we were “brushed” by about a third of an inch of rain by morning.

 

One last look

One last look

 

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1 Comment »

  1. Wow! What a great trip you had. And that picture of the skiers looking buff and happy (not to mention the one where they are climbing what looks like straight up a cliff) is a cool shot. That capped mountain is also an excellent picture. Okay, enough ravings about your post. It’s great, and thanks for doing it.

    Not sure about tomorrow. I’ve come down with a sore throat and keep sleeping more at night, and the little bit of rain we are supposed to get might turn into a little more. Still considering Skyline?

    Comment by DJan — October 13, 2010 @ 5:59 am


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