GeezerHiker

February 2, 2011

Three Winter Hikes

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades — Tags: , , — geezerwriter @ 2:43 pm

Ruth Mountain

Ruth Mountain

Snowshoe Loop

We have had a break from the rain in the last week or so, allowing for three beautiful hikes. The first three weeks of January were very wet – I measured over 7 inches of rain, well over the average for the whole month, which is generally one of the three wettest months of the year. It is also about one-fifth of our average annual rainfall. Between the 5th and the 24th there were only two days without rain.

Shuksan

Shuksan

Last Wednesday the forecast looked great, so a bunch of us headed up to the the Mount Baker Ski Area, hoping to snowshoe up to Artist Point for some of the superb views. The weather didn’t quite live up to the forecast but there was some sun when we arrived – unfortunately the higher elevation areas were closed for avalanche control work. Ironically, the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center had listed the avalanche danger for the day at its lowest level.

Frank at lunch

Frank at lunch

So Marjan led us on a loop down and around the ski area. Most of the time we were away from the built-up areas and had a nice hike in the woods with frequent views of Mount Shuksan.

The most excitement came about midway when we had to cross the highway. Normally this would be pretty uneventful, but the eight-foot-high vertical walls of packed ice and snow on each side of the road spiced it up a bit. Getting down to the road wasn’t exactly easy, but hauling ourselves back up onto the snow was a real struggle. I finally got a chance to use the plastic scraper-shovel thing I’d been hauling around for about 8 years.

There were some other places where we had to struggle up some pretty steep slopes and the sun withdrew some of its support as the day went on. By the time we got back to the cars it was pretty chilly and windy. But the sun still peeked through now and then, lighting up the snow in places and making for some eerie, almost monochromatic scenery.

Looking toward Artist Point

Looking toward Artist Point

Mount Erie

The next day was even nicer for the weekly hike of the Senior Trailblazers. We would have gladly settled for just a dry day but after driving through some fog we found full sun at the Heart Lake trailhead in the Anacortes Community Forest Lands on Fidalgo Island. We enjoyed a nice strenuous climb through the woods to the summit of Mount Erie where we were greeted by a view that was truly spectacular, even by the standards of our glorious Fourth Corner.

 

Campbell Lake - Skagit Bay - Mount Rainier
Campbell Lake – Skagit Bay – Mount Rainier

We were standing in full sun but there were high clouds adding color interest to the sky. To the south, looking over Campbell Lake and Skagit Bay, the sky had a salmon-colored hue; the fog still lingered over the lakes and bays; and that lump on the horizon is Mount Rainier, almost 120 miles away. It is rare to see Rainier at all from this distance, considering that we are looking over or through the smog a major city, but on my telephoto pictures you can even see distinct detail on the mountain. A first.

Further to the west the Olympic Mountains, only about 30 miles away, were glowing in full sun, but I neglected to take a picture.

Glacier Peak and friends rising above the fog

Glacier Peak and friends rising above the fog

To the southwest was a rank of western Cascade peaks, including Three Fingers, White Horse and White Chuck Mountains, presided over by the least known of the major Cascade volcanoes, Glacier Peak. It is as tall as Mount Baker but it is very rare to get a good look at it, since it is sits well away from the populated sea level strip of Washington and is surrounded by medium sized mountains.

Glacier Peak

Glacier Peak

Mount Baker

Mount Baker

From another overlook a short distance away we could look out over Anacortes and its oil refinery (famous for a recent explosion) toward Mount Baker, the local favorite.

Huntoon Point

After a bit more rain over the weekend we were promised almost a week of fine, cold weather. So a group of 7 set off Tuesday for the Ski Area and another attempt to reach the Artist Point area. The day was sunny and cold and the avalanche danger was rated at the lowest level, so we were eager to get to that spectacular scenery that had been denied us on our last two snowshoe trips. It was only the second snowshoe outing for two of our hikers, so I really hoped we wouldn’t get snookered again.

The gang

The gang

Linda on the way to Huntoon Point

Linda on the way to Huntoon Point

And the Weather Service nailed this one – just a perfect day! The only possible complaint that anyone could come up with was that the sky was a bit too blue – not enough clouds to add interest to the photos.

[Which reminds me of a time when I was first getting to know my first wife’s family, who owned and ran a fairly prosperous farm in the fertile Lake Erie bottomlands of southeastern Michigan. I had heard my father-in-law complain about the weather being too dry or too wet or too cold or whatever. It was always something. Then one summer we had warm, sunny weather with enough spring rain to germinate the crops but not enough to flood the fields, etc., etc. Perfect, right? Surely Tony would be pleased.

Huntoon Point

Huntoon Point

So the next time I asked him how the weather was going, he said, “The crop’s too good. The prices are down!”]

We made it to Artist Point and on to Huntoon Point, a hill that rises about 300 feet higher and gives 360 degree views of Mounts Baker and Shuksan, Baker Lake and a broad panoply of the North Cascades.

The stone bridge on Chain Lakes trail

The stone bridge on Chain Lakes trail

On the way back down we took a small side trip down into the Bagley Creek valley, where I got a picture of the small stone bridge that carries the Chain Lakes trail over the creek. You can almost see the bridge, if you look closely.

Elk on the Nooksack

Elk on the Nooksack

On our way back down the Mount Baker Highway, my sharp-sighted passengers saw a small herd of 5 or 6 elk sunning themselves along the bank of the Nooksack River. Unfortunately, they saw us, too. By the time I could get out of the car to take a picture, they were moving off into the brush.

The weatherman is now reneging on that week of fine weather – it is still nice today, but our Thursday hike on Blanchard Mountain, and most of the weekend, will likely be soggy, again.

For more on this outing, see Djan’s blog.

Shuksan

Shuksan

Baker

Baker

Odd lumps of snow on a slope

Odd lumps of snow on a slope

DJan

DJan by Bagley Creek

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1 Comment »

  1. These are some really nice pictures, Al! I especially love the vertical one you call “The Gang.” Very nice indeed. I wasn’t on the first snowshoe hike mentioned, but it’s a very nice picture of Frank. He sure doesn’t look 80, to my mind. Hope I get there in such good shape!

    And good weather or not, I’ll be there tomorrow!

    Comment by DJan — February 2, 2011 @ 3:14 pm


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