October 15, 2010

Skyline Divide

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades — Tags: — geezerwriter @ 12:01 pm


Arriving on the ridge

Arriving on the ridge


The skies were threatening to the west but there were blue skies to the east,  so fourteen of us hurried up toward Mount Baker on Thursday to get in a quick hike before the front moved in. Skyline Divide is on just about everyone’s short list of favorite hikes in the North Cascades – after a scant two miles on an excellent trail which climbs about 1500′, you pop out of the trees at 5800′ onto the top of a ridge that points right up at Baker. There are also great views of the Twin Sisters Range to the south, the Fraser Valley to the north, and wave after wave of mountains to the east.


Baker from Skyline Divide

Baker from Skyline Divide


When we got to the ridge we were denied the “full monty” by a layer of cloud that obscured the summit but lent a sense of drama or even danger to the scene – we were enjoying a sunny day and a temperature around 40°F, but could only imagine what it was like on that summit, only six miles away and another 5000′ feet up.


On Skyline Divide

On Skyline Divide


We hiked about another mile along the ridge, enjoying the sun. It sounds a little easier than it is, since there are some pretty good sized hills along the way. The trail goes around some of them, but still there is a good bit of up and down.


At a safe distance

At a safe distance


At one point Peggy’s sharp eyes caught sight of a black dot down in the valley to the east that seemed to be moving – a black bear. I’ve included the picture I took with my telephoto lens cranked all the way out to (the equivalent of) 400mm to show just how sharp Peggy’s eyes really are. Ah, youth! (Relatively speaking.)


On Skyline Divide

On Skyline Divide


As the morning progressed it got chillier, as the clouds around Baker expanded to fill more of the sky. And now and then the wind picked up, even to the point where you had to lean into it. Skyline Divide gets its name from the fact that it is the first high ridge you encounter as you move up the Nooksack Valley along the north side of Baker, so it forms the skyline from many common vantage points. That also means that any air that is moving either east or west around Baker has to roar right across the ridge.

But we managed to find a relatively sheltered spot to have our lunch. While most of us sat down and chewed and gossiped, Mike and Fred, two of our fastest hikers, were still too full of vinegar to sit still, and hustled on out the ridge (with a walky-talky, of course).


Ready to descend

Ready to descend


Around 12:30 I went around to the windward side of the trees and saw that the weather was noticeably closer. The blue sky was just about gone, so we headed back, hoping to get off the mountain without having to break out the rain gear. And in fact there were a few drops on the way down, but not enough to cover my sleeve, and even a couple of moments of snow flurries.


The weather was a bit brighter than it looks on these pictures, for some reason. And the day was a huge improvement on the last time this group came here – dense fog/cloud, maybe 100 feet of visibility. If you’d like to see what the view from Skyline can be like on a truly beautiful day, I refer you to an earlier posting from last July.


1 Comment »

  1. That bear was close enough when I looked at the picture to see which direction he was traveling: away from you! That’s good, and a pretty darn good shot, considering. I am so sad I didn’t get to come along with all of you, but it was better than i stayed home. I’m still sick but getting better by the hour. I hope.

    Comment by DJan — October 15, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

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