Monday, October 12, 2020

Day 57: Strolling along the Mount Baker Hwy

August 5: I had a wonderful night at my campsite at the trailhead. I had been a little concerned that camping at a trailhead would be an annoyance with lots of people coming and going, but after sunset, absolutely nobody came or went and I had the site all to myself. Ironically, I probably would have been more disturbed by others if I had camped at a site further up the trail because there were a lot of other people camping out there! The trailhead I had all to myself! =)

Just beyond the washout, the road was packed with parked vehicles! They were lined up along the side of the road for nearly a mile! But my campsite at the trailhead was completely empty of campers, much to my surprise and delight. =)

I woke at what had become my normal time (about 6:00am) and hit the trail around my normal time (about 7:00am), but unlike on my previous days, today was a long day of road walking.

I started with a 5-mile gravel road, Hannegan Pass Road. When I first started walking, the road wasn't particularly busy with about one vehicle per mile driving up to the trailhead.

Beehives along the road walk. They even put an electrified fence around it! Probably to keep out those pesky bears wanting to steal honey. ;o)

When I passed the Goat Mountain trailhead, I saw a note asking for people to text how many vehicles were in the two nearby parking lots to a number and I thought, does that mean my cell phone works here?! So I pulled out my phone, turned it on and surprise! I got service! 

I went ahead and texted the number of the vehicles (4), and it replied asking if I was willing to answer a few additional questions. It almost felt like I was having a conversation even though I knew everything was automated and pre-programmed. How many people were in my party? (1) How many vehicles did my party bring? (0) I wondered if that was an answer that they had planned for....

I checked the weather forecast and was disappointed to find that rain was supposed to begin during the night and into the morning. It was the first hint of bad weather since re-starting this hike. The 8-day forecast I had checked before leaving at Ross Lake showed no rain at all, but that was 7 days ago. The skies today were clear and blue and there was no hint of rain, but I knew better now. I was glad to know about it too, even if I wasn't excited about it.

I also noted some new bugs had showed up on Atlas Quest, but none of them appeared so serious that it couldn't wait a few more days until I made it into Concrete. Today I did have an opportunity to get off the trail if I needed to. I didn't need to, however, and had planned to hike through without getting off. My hiking through plans were still a go!

I continued my trek, taking a short rest near Ruth Creek a little way before reaching the Mount Baker Highway. The traffic on Hannegan Pass Road picked up throughout the morning, perhaps averaging three or four vehicles for each mile I walked.

I wasn't looking forward to the Mount Baker Highway. I'd be following that paved and relatively busy road for 8 miles, so I took a break just before it with the intention of hiking through the highway portion as quickly as possible with a minimal number of breaks.

Although the road walk was unpleasant, I booked it up the highway at a relatively quick speed and pushed out 12 miles before noon.  The Mt. Baker Highway was all uphill too, climbing thousands of feet in elevation.

Happily, there wasn't any snow on the highway. Not that I expected any in August, but the Mt. Baker Ski Area (which the highway does pass) does hold the world record for most snowfall ever recorded in a single season at 95 feet (29 meters). That's a heck of a lot of snow! 

The Mt. Baker Ski Area currently holds the record for the most snow in a single season: 95 feet (29 meters) during the 1998–99 season. But there's no snow now!

Speaking of the ski area, all of the buildings in the area were being worked on. Workers doing some sort of work on the ski lifts. Another building I saw being painted. Another one was surrounded by vehicles doing other kind of work I could only imagine. It was definitely maintenance season at the ski area. I was a little disappointed about this because I thought that maybe I could walk behind one of the buildings to get off the road for a break along the road walk, but the workers thwarted that plan.

The road walk ends at Heather Meadows which was packed with seemingly hundreds of day hikers. I could understand why--the views there were expansive and gorgeous! But the hoards of people I could have done without.

The views around Heather Meadows were fantastic! This is Mount Shuksan.

I stopped again for another break at the Lake Ann Trailhead where I finally escaped the masses of day hikers of Heather Meadows before beginning my long descent toward Concrete. From this point, it was almost entirely downhill (or flat) all the way into Concrete which I expected to reach in another three days.

I passed one set of hunters walking around with their riffles. I was surprised to see them--I didn't realize that it was hunting season--but as it turned out, it was bear hunting season and they were hunting bears.

I reached the junction with Swift Creek Trail having completed over 18 miles--and it wasn't even 5:00 in the evening yet! I was pretty happy with my progress and was tempted to push onward a bit more and get some more miles in before the rain arrived, but decided to stop. I didn't want to overdo it, and I wasn't sure if there were better campsites available further up the trial within the next few miles. 

The trail junction itself would have made a wonderful place to cowboy camp, but knowing that rain was in the forecast, I selected a location hidden among the brush that was less exposed. I also looked for a location where the ground wouldn't send a river of water under my tarp nor pool to form a water bed under my groundsheet. It was supposed to rain, so I picked my location accordingly.

I felt good. My feet weren't causing me any trouble, and everything had been going according to plan since I hit the trail at Ross Lake, but I was a little concerned about tomorrow. My guidebook mentioned three potentially dangerous river crossings--and rain overnight definitely wasn't going to make them any safer! I also scouted up the trail a bit and found it very difficult to follow about 5 minutes up the trail.

Tomorrow, I was certain, was going to be a pretty miserable day and I wasn't looking forward to it.

Goat Mountain Trailhead

A citizen science project! Which I was happy to contribute to. =)

The Mount Baker Highway was the worst part of today's hike, but that didn't mean there weren't any views or flowers that could still be enjoyed. =)

Glad I didn't have to carry chains! =)

Mount Baker Ski Area

Lots of work being done on the ski area structures.

Even the ski lifts were getting some sort of work done on them.

Mount Shuksan in all its glory!

There were lots of people around Heather Meadows, but I did a pretty good job of cropping out most of them from my photos. =)

The part I dreaded was the section that reads: Take the Swift Creek Trail toward the Baker Lake basin but note that creek crossings along Swift Creek Trail may not have trail bridges in place. Stream depth fluctuates depending upon snowmelt, recent rainfall and time of day. The Swift Creek Trail through hike to the Baker Lake basin is not recommended for inexperience backcountry travelers, as orienteering may be challenging and terrain more difficult to navigate.

Even though the late afternoon was still clear and beautiful, I knew the weather forecast called for rain starting in the night so I set up my tarp. All set! But I was dreading tomorrow....

1 comment:

Karolina said...

Shuksan sounds almost like shukran! That’s „thank you” in Jordanese. I mean, Arabic! ;-P