Friday, April 10, 2009

Mt. Baker - Heather Meadows 4/8/09

I skipped out on work Wednesday to go play outside (with approval from the big boss of course). Originally my plan was to do Mt. Si since it’s been quite a few years and it’s a great workout, but when I realized that meant I’d have to sit through morning and afternoon rush hour then that idea suddenly seemed much less desirable.

After much debate and changing my mind, I settled on Heather Lake. As I packed up the car it became obvious that there were dark, menacing clouds in the direction of Heather Lake , while Mt. Baker was staring at me… engulfed in full sunshine.

So, I quickly grabbed my avalanche beacon, ice axe, shovel and probe, jumped into the car and headed toward Mt. Baker instead. Besides, I’ve been to Heather Lake twice… both in such horrible weather that I haven’t really even seen the actual lake yet. It needs to wait for a sunny day.

Made a quick stop in Bham at Grace’s CafĂ© to grab some fresh bagels and a quick stop at JenJen’s store in Maple Falls to grab some sunscreen and chap stick before heading up the mountain.

The ski area was closed today, so I shared the entire mountain with only 8 other people.

Once up at Heather Meadows I was content to just wander around. The Artist Point area was engulfed in clouds, while blue sucker holes seemed to linger nearby… teasing me with good weather. Mostly I wandered here and there, taking pictures of this and of that.

Took a break on one of the chairlift seats just because I could.

Took some pics of the Austin Pass restrooms & lodge, both being surrounded by lots of snow. Recalled that a few years ago, Hiker Boy told us there was (maybe still is?) a payphone over there and if you call the number you can hear it ring… much to the surprise of anyone poking around that area, since the phone is completely buried in the winter. No, I don’t have the number. Sorry.

Eventually I came across an Avalanche Beacon practice area – what an unexpected surprise! No, this isn’t where you practice setting off avalanches… it’s where you practice using your Avalanche Beacon to locate buried beacons, simulating a rescue.

This practice area had three different beacons you could search for. I’m sad to say that my search efforts failed miserably. I know I was really close and I dug and dug and dug… but I just couldn’t uncover a single beacon. It was frustrating but it reemphasizes just how important it is to practice using your beacon so when a real emergency presents itself you can confidently zero in on those who are buried and need immediate help.

After I filled in the holes I had dug, my next stop was a nearby steep hill, about 30 feet high, which was a perfect spot to practice my ice axe self-arrest. It was kind of fun to throw myself down a hill in different positions and then maneuver into the proper position to self-arrest. Over and over again… fun, but tiring.

Next stop was Picture Lake (or is it Reflection lake… I never remember) where I enjoyed the view and snapped a couple pictures facing away from Shuksan since it was cloud obscured anyway. This is looking toward the spot where everyone takes that popular picture of Shuksan.

Finally returned to the car mostly dry. My bum was wet from all the snow sliding and my hands were soaked from the beacon digging. I was wearing a new pair of Mountain Hardware ‘all purpose’ gloves and they really soaked up the water but my hands managed to keep perfectly warm – it was amazing.

Driving away from Heather Meadows, Mt. Shuksan started to peek through the clouds so I took a few pics while parked in the middle of the road, my head sticking out the sunroof, before heading back to civilization… and my next hike to Cedar lake in the Chuckanuts.

Happy Trails!


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