September 8, 2011

A Spectacle-ular Hike

Filed under: Hiking, North Cascades — Tags: — geezerwriter @ 8:38 pm

Eleven hikers set out on this warm day for a hike to Yellow Aster Butte. The air was little less clear than it had been two days before when three of us had gone up the same trail to assess its condition, but the view was still grand just a short distance from the trailhead.

Starting up

Starting up

One of our goals was to look for my glasses that I had stupidly set down while I put on my bandanna early on that hike on Tuesday. I had very little hope of finding them – I had watched for them pretty carefully on the way down and notified the ranger station. They were wire rimmed glasses with dark colored temples that would easily blend into the forest floor.

But I thought I remembered that Mike had taken a picture of me at about the time that I lost the glasses. I thought we might be able to coordinate the time stamp on the picture with my GPS track and pinpoint the location but that didn’t work out for a couple of uninteresting reasons.

But Mike did find the picture and print it out – it showed me with my bandanna on and glasses off and in the background there was a large cut tree with a distinctive triangular patch of bark missing. (I forgot to grab a copy of the picture from Mike so I can’t show you). He carefully showed the picture to everyone so we would all be on the lookout.

And about a mile into the hike (a good bit further than my guess-timate), that triangle of bare wood popped into view. I watched as carefully as I could and noticed that everyone else behind me was doing the same – but nothing. Unless we came to another distinctive triangle of missing bark pretty darn soon I would have to give up. Which I soon did.

Resting and waiting

Resting and waiting

We had hardly been stopping at all since we’d been swarmed by black flies right at the trailhead and all the way along the trail, but I stopped at the next turn in the trail for a short break and Fred walked up to me and handed me my glasses! Eight of us had walked right past them but Amy (perhaps because she is built a little closer to the ground than most of us) spied them right near the magic tree. Someone else had apparently found them and had moved them a little ways further from the trail to a more open and visible spot – just a bit further away than the rest of us were looking.

I’m only half Irish but I must have inherited a full dose of their proverbial luck. Just a couple of weeks ago I had left my brand new trekking poles at the Goat Lake trailhead – a hundred miles from home and far out of our usual bailiwick. Four days later I got a message from Ward & Linda, two of our hikers from Ferndale, that someone they had met on the trail that day had picked up a pair of poles, assuming that it belonged to our group. Mind you, these were not old friends but complete strangers who had bumped into us on the trail and had just happened to notice that Fred had the word “Ferndale” on his cap!

Amy said that I should probably go right down and buy a lottery ticket. I haven’t decided yet whether to do that or go hide in a cave.

Flowers everywhere

Flowers everywhere

The rest of the hike was comparatively uneventful – another glorious delayed summer day in the Pacific Northwest. The “spring” flowers are out in force, having just emerged from the snow, and yet some of the bushes are starting to turn to their autumn colors. We began to escape the flies soon after reaching the open meadows where the picture above was taken but the warmth of the sun caused us to stop short of the summit of the butte. We stopped for lunch on a rocky hill about 500′ feet lower in elevation and afterward went on up to the base of the summit trail.

Mount Tomyhoi

Mount Tomyhoi

Amy, Fred and Mike (my Spectacular Spectacle Heroes) started on up the very steep trail to the butte (400′ gain in about 1/4 mile) but turned back about halfway. The rest of us waited patiently, enjoying the view, and then reluctantly headed back down the trail, fully expecting that our little black flying nemeses would be waiting for us and licking their chops (if they have any).

Tomyhoi and Border Peaks

Tomyhoi and Border Peaks

And indeed they met us about where we’d left them at the tree line and capered joyfully about our heads all the rest of the way down to the cars. They didn’t really eat much (they only got one good bite out of me) but the continuous buzzing and occasional incursion into ear, eye or nostril was more than a little annoying. But I think it’s a fair price to pay now and then for the privilege of visiting these glorious mountains.

I didn’t take any of my usual scenic shots today.  Jan, our stalwart Blogger-in-Chief, was unable to join us today and assigned me to write this posting in her absence, so I was focused on actually having people in my pictures for a change. So I’ll sneak in a picture I took last Tuesday showing the lupines along the summit trail, with Mount Baker in the background.

Lupines & Baker

Lupines & Baker


1 Comment »

  1. Yayy! You FOUND them, or actually Amy found them. How wonderful, Al, and I truly appreciate your pictures and story about the hike. I was trying to figure out who is who underneath the netting, and I see Jonelle returned for another hike, and although I am sorry I wasn’t there, I truly needed to get a handle on this bronchitis. Thanks for the GREAT pictures, with people in them!!

    Comment by DJan — September 9, 2011 @ 5:50 am

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