Monday, September 15, 2008

Lake Ann (Mt. Baker/Shuksan) 09-14-08

Lessons Learned & Memorable Moments:
  • Always bring all 10 of your 10 essentials.
  • Make sure your water bottles don't have cracks in them.
  • Hiking Poles can be a very valuable piece of equipment when you least expect it.
  • There is a chance that Elvis might sing on the trail when you least expect it - or when you see a fungus shaped like a dancing frog.
  • If you leapfrog our party on the trail you might get to (or be subjected to) pass through a hiker-tunnel, complete with cheering. (Hiker-tunnel: imagine hikers standing on both sides of the trail with arms raised and outstretched to cover the trail, requiring passing hikers to walk underneath the arch created by the party being passed).
  • The Berry Crop Failure is already resulting in defensive/aggressive bears. There was a notice at the trail head warning of hyperphagiac bears being defensive of their now-limited food supply and how to handle a bear encounter in these conditions. We didn't see any bears on our trip.

Met up with Erik H. & Steve G. in Mt. Vernon at 7:30 Sunday morning to spend a glorious day showing off the splender of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. We agreed to meet Tim M. at the Lake Ann TH about 10:30am. While this was a bit of a late start for a day with temps forecasted to hit 80 degrees, it gave me some time to show off the Austin Pass and Artist Point highlights, including a quick warm-up walk out Huntoon Point for some in-your-face Mount Baker photos.

We geared up & hit the trail just a little before 11:00am under a cloudless sky, appreciative of the shade offered by the forest as we descended toward Swift Creek. Started taking pictures after the Swift Creek junction and took lots of care as we ascended through the talus portions of the trail to avoid any injuries while also admiring the views of Mt. Baker over our shoulder.

We continued our steady progress to the saddle where beautiful Lake Ann pops into view. The only remaining snow on the trail is about a 20 foot long patch which didn't pose any problems. There is still a patch of snow that extends down to the lake shore on the south side of the lake, but it's not part of the traditional trail.

We descended toward the lake and the group was fascinated with the close-up view of Shuksan that comes into view as you approach the campsites.

We had originally considered taking the group over toward the Lower Curtis Glacier, but reconsidered that choice due to the late start and the heat. We'll leave that side trip for another day.

Found a shady spot above the lake to stop for lunch. Steve couldn't resist the temptation for a little additional exploring so he took a 15 minute side trip around the lake to ascend the opposite side toward a rock bench. Thanks for returning in a timely manner.

Returned to the trailhad at about 5:30pm and stopped by Picture Lake for some early evening Shuksan photos while hordes of photographers were arriving to stake out their position for the upcoming sunset and full-moon display. Noticed some real fall colors starting to appear at the Picture Lake viewing area, FYI.

Grabbed a Subway sandwich in Kendall on the return, took the Hwy 9 route through Acme. Bought an anvil.
Stopped for a quick picture of the moon over the Twin Sisters Range and returned to Mt. Vernon at about 8:30pm.

Full Trip Report and photos available at
My almost-complete list of trip reports is available here.

Advice to those who haven't done this trail before: For those reading this report who aren't familiar with the Lake Ann trail, it's important to look at the topography of this route. From the trail head, the route immediately drops about 800 feet down into a valley and then ascends about 900 feet to a saddle before dropping another 100 feet to the lake. My point is that some guide books indicate the trail is a 900 foot elevation gain... when really that's only half the story because you gain another 800 or so on the way back out. (Yeah - my elevation numbers are only approximate). Make sure your party understands that concept and is properly prepared for the physical challenge.

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