Sunday, September 28, 2014

Easy Pass to Colonial Creek

Rich, Allen and I went from Easy Pass to Colonial Creek in the North Cascades on Saturday.  This is a favorite route of mine. The weather was good to us, and fall colors were in abundance. The famed larches were in full turn to gold. The berry bushes provide hillsides of reds. We saw mushrooms and fungi of all sorts and colors--this route is particularly good for this.

As I'm not in ultra running shape, this was a tough effort for me, though it shouldn't be for anyone who is running long frequently.  The distance is somewhere between 25 and 28 miles.  This is a point to point, requiring two cars. I pretty much had to walk the last few miles, and we walked many early miles too, just because. I rolled my ankle near Fischer Camp, which meant 20 miles of careful steps later. Rich and Allen were phenomenal in showing patience with me.

This is a favorite route of mine. The trail cuts through the heart of the North Cascades, while going through several ecological zones. The trail starts in east side sub alpine and finishes in west side old growth. The best part in my opinion is the Fisher Creek basin, which is simply spectacular. There are magical green moss fields down low, clear creek water running over riverstone, and a stunning headwall at the top of the valley.  Lower, but before the forsest begins again, you run through shoulder height bushes which surely hide bears and other critters. Nary a soul. In fact, we didn't see anyone the whole day, which is amazing, for such a long trail in the middle of the North Cascades. Such solitude is treasure.

There were a few creek crossings of modest safety interest. One log bridge was missing a rail, which gave me a slight surge of fear, as it required four steps on the wet log, about 10 feet above running, ice water. A couple other crossings had high log crossings, but I decided to get the feet wet rather than trust my untrustworthy balance.

A good day in the mountains. Thanks guys!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cutthroat Pass

Had a great day Saturday checking out Cutthroat Pass on Saturday with friend Rich.  Fall is just beginning to show signs at the higher altitudes, with some berry bushes turning red and a few larches just starting to show their fall gold.  We had an outstanding day, with 80 degree weather and clear blue skies.

Rich ran the Enchantments the day before, and then met up with me at Rainy Pass off Highway 20 early Saturday morning.  There, we met Pacific Crest Trail hiker "Trek", trying to hitch a ride to Mazama.  We weren't in a hurry to start, and so we gave him the lift, went for coffee, and bought some very tasty sandwiches for later on at the Mazama Store.  We ran into many other PCT hikers during the day, happy to be near the end. I always marvel at that effort.

We hiked the same route that is the Cutthroat Classic run.  Since I always run this route, it was nice to   spend more time exploring, especially at the top of the pass.

There are a number of side trails up there, for camping and for climbing routes.  We climbed above both sides of the Pass, including a relatively easy scramble to a notch at about 7100 feet, which gave us sweeping views of the PCT going north, Tower Mountain, and the dry country of the Pasayten.

In all, we spent at least an hour and a half exploring the Pass.  The quiet air and steady breeze has a way of pushing the cares of the week aside.

We jogged down the backside, which is about 5.5 miles. A short stop at Cutthroat Lake--a pleasant lake with a large amount of eelgrass (or something akin) growing bright green on one side.

I saw a bluebird on the way down. Bluebirds are mostly on the east side of the Cascades, and while I haven't tried too hard, I haven't seen one in a few years. Made me smile.

There were plenty of small patches of red at or around 7000 feet. It looks like in two weeks or so the autumn colors will be in full force in the North Cascades.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ptarmigan Ridge

I had a wonderful Saturday hiking the Ptarmigan Ridge in the Mount Baker Wilderness Area, out of Artist Point.

I got up early, as I like to do, and beat the crowd.  The weather was spectacular for an early September weekend. 80+ degrees, and I ended up with significant sunburn due to lack of reasonable care. I took my time, meandering the day away, looking at rocks, flowers, animals, and the mountains. I enjoy just taking pictures and taking it in.  This was my fourth or fifth time on this trail, I think, and by far my favorite day.

I saw a bear and at least six mountain goats!  The bear was way off, and moving, and I only got two Sasquatch type pictures. I posted one below. The goats were across a valley on a ridge all day.  I've seen as many as 50 goats on this particular trail in different years.  The pictures are more clear if you click on them.

The snow was completely clear, so I made it to the very end, to a place called The Portals.  The Portals are special because you climb up to about 6500 feet and get to look down and across at the Rainbow Glacier on Mount Baker. Basically, you're sitting across the table from the glaciers. There is a bit of a climb to get to the overlook.

The day was incredible, with the sky painted blue and nary a cloud.  The trail covers about half the distance between Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker, the volcano.  The views of the glaciers on Mount Baker are about as good as it gets, without stepping on them. Actually, I did stand on a few snowfields. Cooked my calves in the sun.

The views didn't stop there.  I could see Glacier Peak, prominent in the south, and Mount Rainer's cap was clear in the distance. All sorts of other peaks that I didn't know.

I ran into a group of Canadian runners, training for Baker Lake.  Yay!  My favorite race.  Towards the end of the trail, there were excellent views of the North end of Baker Lake.

Lots of mountain blueberries. I ate a few handfuls.  Lots of people, later in the day--far too many for any solitude on the trail, but nice to see folks getting out.  Getting away from folks was just a matter of taking a few steps off the trail, and staring at Mount Baker, and everything else.

Afterwards, I hung out with my good friends Dean, Ruth, and Al.  Good times.

Listened to a '70s punk collection on the way up--the Clash, Blondie, Iggy Pop, etc. A lot of lost gems. This was a good Saturday.