Thursday, September 25, 2008

Spider Meadow 9/20/2008

After series of several 4000+ ft elevation gain hikes was time for more relaxed adventure. The original plan was to go and check out fall color at Mt. Baker area but with the rain in a forecast I opted for the drier side of the mountains. My plan to escape the rain in Eastern Washington worked well. The heavy fog vanished as soon as we crossed Stevens Pass and the sky looked way less threatening there too.

After long and very slow 25 miles ride on gravel road, we finally reached the trailhead. It was busy but we were able to get the last two available spots at the actual trailhead parking lot.

It was surprisingly warm and clouds were high enough for us to be able to go uuuh aaah over the beauty of all the giants surrounding us. We walked to the forest and followed the path, very gently gaining elevation. I paused at Carne Mountain intersection for a moment, imagining the views, but as soon as I looked back at my wonderful but completely out of shape husband huffing and puffing on this nearly level grade, the thought immediately left my mind. I promised my crew an easy outing today so we continued towards Spider Meadow.

Bubbling of Phelps Creek, and fall colors starting to show made our way through the forest very enjoyable. Then we walked into the meadow, spacious, carpeted by golden grasses with hints of crimson leaves, enclosed by giant mountains. It was a beautiful place to sit down and enjoy lunch… and plan a backpacking trip for next year to explore the area further.

The wind picked up around 2:30-ish and brought this unmistakable feel of a true fall with this nipping chill annoying enough to put a layer on. Few light showers followed and finally just as we walked back to the parking lot, the rain got stronger. It was pouring pretty hard when we hit Hwy 2.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Boston Basin 9/13/2008

After several weeks of hiking in fog and rain, the weather finally decided to give us a break. Seeing the clear sky right after I left home made my way to the meeting spot filled with immeasurable excitement, especially since I knew we’re heading to one of the most picturesque area here in Pacific NW.

Boston Basin is known mostly to climbers who have several very cool
looking peaks available there. I've heard it was a wonderful place to
hike to, even if not climbing anywhere further on, so I had it on my
list for a while. With clear blue sky, plenty of sunshine, and great
visibility, the day could not be more perfect.

The trail was very easy to follow, however there were few narrow
parts where vegetation (and especially stinking nettles) got little
too close, there were few parts where we had to scramble a bit, there
were quite a few trees across the trail we had to climb over, and
last but not least there were 4 un-bridged creek crossings which at
this time of the year did not pose any problem but earlier with water
level higher might be little tricky. I bet many regular hikers would
consider the trail too treacherous and would probably turn way before
reaching the basin, but for those little more adventurous; the
approach itself brings lots of fun to what without all the obstacles
would be just a walk through a forest.

Once at the bottom of the basin, whole new world opened in front of
us, inviting us to wander further. There were many possibilities to
explore. Most of us decided that the glacier at the very far end of
the basin was way too cool to miss so we rock hopped all the way to
it and spend a long time chilling out, enjoying the awesome
breathtaking scenery. It was quite difficult to get up and head back
leaving all this beauty behind.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mt. Pugh Scramble - 9/6/2008

Once again the weather man tricked us into thinking it'll be a gorgeous day and we'll get plenty of sunshine. With vision of all the magnificent views we'll be getting today we arrived at the trailhead and found it partially hidden in the fog.

In was early in the day though and with 5500 ft of elevation we had to gain we figured the sun will have plenty of time to burn the clouds off before we get to our destination.

So we headed up. The first part of the trail took us through the forest where the mist around us made this otherwise regular forest walk more interesting. It was a long walk but the grade was rather gentle. We made a good time to the meadow where we finally got into some steeper terrain and slowed a bit. The flowers were plentiful as
we switchbacked up the hill; however all the views remained hidden behind clouds.

We reached Stujack Pass and took a little break for lunch. With no views, some wind and very light drizzle, there was no reason to hang around there for too long and soon we were back on our feet making our way towards Mt. Pugh summit.

The route got more interesting once we left Stujack Pass and now we were scrambling our way up, getting around rocks, going over few somewhat sketchy exposed part or the trail, but for most of the ascend we had a great time and progressed slowly but surely to the summit.

Once atop of the mountain we took a deep breath and enjoyed the never ending thick layer of clouds everywhere around us. It was pleasurably warm and windless up there. We sat down to make our entries into the summit register and then a little while later we noticed a patch of clear sky revealing little bit of our surrounding. Curiously we watched as it made its way across the sky. The sunshine that came shortly afterwards, making the sky above us bluer and bluer, and it felt unspeakably good too.

It never completely clear but despite the fact we only got tiny glimpse of all the mountains around us, the summit itself held its own beauty making the trip very worthwhile. We stayed up for about an hour before the sun, traveling slowly down towards horizon, reminded us it was a good time to start heading back.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fall weather preview on Yellow Aster Butte 8/30/2008

Not everyday is perfect. There are many days when sky is grey and clouds roll across the sky obstructing any possible views. I noticed quite a few of such days occurred on the weekends lately so when I first saw forecast for Labor day weekend promising reasonable weather
I was excited.

Saturday started nicely. We met at designated location and headed north to Hwy 542 with blue sky above us and sun shining brightly. Soon after we left Bellingham, the sun started to disappear. The trailhead welcomed us clouded in familiar overcast.

Fortunately we were on just the perfect type of trail. Yellow Aster Butte offer spectacular views when clear but with so much to see within a close proximity of the trail itself it also makes for
wonderful outing when the clouds are low. With that though we headed up and we were not disappointed.

The trail led us through a variety of terrain – first we started through a forest, then crossed meadows and somewhat rocky parts where several snow patches still could be found. The flowers were out, the berries were sweet, and once we got under the false summit we spotted
a bear roaming on the hillside above us. He wasn't close enough for a good photo but still it was very exciting experience. We watched him for a while before proceeding further.

Once atop of the false summit, the sky partially cleared for a bit making it possible to continue safely to the true summit and back. With nice sense of accomplishement we headed back. The sleet that accompanied us for most of our descend did not bother us too much - that's what rain gear is for, righ?

The weather changed completely on our way back and with clear blue sky all the way from Hwy 542 to Everett I was hopeful that Mt. Pilchuck hike scheduled for Sunday will provide all the cool views that we missed today. That hope disappeared right when I got up in the morning and saw that all the clouds had returned.

Despite the weather the trailhead was busy. Once again we ventured into the fog and once again we enjoyed the mystery feel it gave to the trail as we followed it all the way to the lookout. Few times the sky got brighter but the sun was not strong enough to penetrate the thick clouds today and we got a view of never-ending white mass atop the mountain. Not a single thing to see from the lookout but still very pleasurable outing and it was very nice to see that so many others did not let the weather stop them and made it to the summit like us.