Monday, April 25, 2011

Split Rock Redux 04-19-2011

366 days ago a friend and I tried to hike to Split Rock but were turned around due to the deep snow (in sneakers) and limited time. We didn't see Split Rock but we did enjoy the peculiarity of Bald Mountain.***

Fast Forward to today... I managed to round up a different buddy for another attempt.

This buddy was the guy who first told me about Split Rock: Ron Peterson with the Mount Baker Club. He'd been there a few times before, but it was decades ago and he was ready for a repeat visit.

Our schedules collided and we found ourselves trekking out there with mountain bikes and snowshoes.

We had clouds, sun and snow.

Ron and I encountered snow a lot lower than last year, but we made good use of some old 4WD tracks that were solid enought to walk in without snowshoes - even though the snow was more than three feet deep in places.

Eventually the tracks petered out and we had to switch to snowshoes. It slowed our progress a bit, but the snow was pretty crusty -- breaking trail wasn't a whole lot different that we we had been doing in the tire tracks -- except now we were wearing snowshoes while doing it.

Snowing at 2,500 ft on 4/19/11

Split Rock is a HUGE rock that just sits there... surrounded by nothing similar. My buddy explained that he heard from some knowledgeable geologists that this was not dropped here by a receeding glacier but it was in fact spit up by the earth at some point long, long ago.

It's hard to guage the scale in these pictures. This thing is at least as large as a five story building. At least!

We didn't climb to the top, but if I happen to go back then climbing to the top would be primary objective. Ron recalls that if you hike past Split Rock a short ways you can then circle around it and locate a reasonably easy route to the top.

The return on bikes was heavenly! Having to hike those final miles would have just been too much to be enjoyable.

All in all, it was a great day with excellent company, unusual weather (but it kept us cool without being cold or drenched) and lots of miles.

Our round trip clocked in at 13.9 miles with 2, 194 feet of elevation gain. We biked about 7 miles, hiked about 2.5 miles and snowshoed about 2.5 miles.

The gate was open upon our arrival and still open when we left, but we left the vehicle outside the gate.

Rumor has it that it is possible to drive directly to Split Rock in the summer. I don't know the route or the status of any gates along the way(or the appropriate vehicle) to take a stab at that, although finding that route could save YOU a ton of time and effort.

Happy Trails!


*** Regarding Bald Mountain: Here is a link to Dave Tucker's NW Geology Field Trip to Bald Mountain, in case you are interested in learning more about the geology of the area. Bald Mountain is on my 'to-do' list if you might be interested in tagging along (or leading the way).

Next Trip: North Fork of the Sauk River (Trip #142, 04/20/2011)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Scott Mountain Mine 04-18-2011

After my warm up hike (with snow) on nearby Devils Mountain, it seemed like a fine opportunity to do a little exploring on the west side of that same ridge.

According to my Topo Map, there is a lake near Devils Mountain called Ten Lake. Near Ten Lake is a high point labeled as "Scott Mountain". On the western side of Scott Mountain, Topo shows a road that ends at a "Mine".

"Mine" was my desired destination.

I found a well paved road with large undeveloped residential lots weaving up the mountainside (intersection of Bacon Rd and E. Stackpole Rd) and this road interesected the road showing on Topo. It intersected... but didn't follow the route.

Looking at satellite images via Google Earth, you can see large sections of the Topo road. Knowledgable Locals tell me that the kind people at the nearby Whispering Firs B&B have a good knowledge of the local mining history - but I've not talked to them about it.

Proceed up the hillside neighborhood road. The intersection of this paved road with the Topo route is at Lot #8, across the street from Lot #19. At this point there is a gravel road heading up the hillside. Viola! So I thought.

I parked and started following the road uphill. Although this was the intersection where pavement crosses the Topo route, the gravel road wasn't really going in the direction that Topo said it was supposed to go. Since there didn't seem to be any other viable option (and I had nothing better to do), I continued upward, following the gravel road, enjoying views of Skagit Valley.

Eventually, a water tower is reached. There is another road descending from the water tower which goes back to the paved road at the paved road's dead-end/cul de sac. You should consider just parking at the end of the paved road (it will save you a bit of elevation gain and has a better parking spot). All the lots up here are leveled but not built upon, yet.

Also at the water tower was a less noticable road that continued ascending and it appeared to be turning in the proper direction, so I continued upward.

A short while later, the ground levels out and you find yourself at an actual intersection of roads... and closer to the Topo implied route. You also find yourself next to a large house at another residential community's paved dead-end road (Bacon Rd to Cascade Ridge Road to Quail Drive). You CAN drive to the end of the pavement, but I'm not sure if it's a private road or whether or not you can park there (may be gated). Doing so would save you quite a bit of elevation gain and could potentailly really shorten the trip.

Also at this intersection is a cliffy/ridgy sort of protusion. The map is telling me the mine is above this ridge/protusion, but a couple hundered feet up. Looks like a lot of bushwacking.


The map also indicates that if I head south, I will intersect the Topo road, which would/should then provide an easy and direct route directly to the mine - but it's a long switchback. Is it worth it to do the road or would it be better to bushwack and climb?

I chose the road route, since I was solo and new to the area, and don't have a lot of experience off trail.

The road was easy to follow but definitely getting overgrown. Doing this in summer is going to involve lots of alders, devils club, nettles and blackberries.

When I finally intersected the Topo road, there was another branch heading downhill which is where I was supposed to be coming up from. A subseqent look at Google Earth indicates it might lead toward the aforementioned B&B.

So, I followed the topo directed route upward to the 180 degree switchback turn.

There was a third road at this intersection, but it went the wrong direction (S instead of N, and visible on Google Earth).

The upper segment of the switchback took me to an elevation that was above the expected mine elevation/location, but the road dead-ended on the spine of the ridge... where the mine was supposed to be, but slightly higher in elevation.

Maybe I was at the mine and the map is wrong, or maybe the mine was down over the edge where I couldn't see it. Don't know anything about the mine... if it was a shaft or if it was just an open pit. No idea what to look for.

No indication on Google Earth of a mine or mine history.

So, I headed back, with a couple side trips to explore game trails and a quarry in hopes of finding another route to a lower elevation. No dice.

Eventually, I ended up back at the big house on Quail Dr., looking at the ridge protusion.

Decided to explore the protrusion area and walked through deep sucking mud to follow what could have been trails or something. Eventually worked my way upwards into dense vegitation to just below the mine symbol.

No evidence of anything around there, but I didn't really go up quite as high as the topo said I should. Just too much out of my comfort zone.

Will have to do a little research on the mine and maybe head back some day with a buddy.

Retraced my steps back down the hill and to the car. Here is the top part of the road that I used to ascend the hillside from the Water Tower.

My route (and exploring) included 2.9 miles and 954 feet of elevation gain. One way (the long way, on the topo road and around the water tower) is about 1.18 miles and 735 feet of gain. If you park at the other residential community on Quail Drive, it's probably less than a half mile of bushwacking upwards.

Happy Trails!


PS: Stay tuned for upcoming trip reports for Split Rock, N. Fork Sauk River, Whistle Lake and SugarLoaf Mtn to show up over the next week or so.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Devils Mountain 04-18-2011

Devil Mountain is located just east of I-5 between the Conway and Mount Vernon exits in Skagit County, WA.

That stretch of I-5 has flat farming fields on the west side, but the east side is a long ridge of peaks and valleys, often with dramatic clouds hanging around nearby.

For me, that means it's close to home and a scenic landmark I see frequently, but have never explored.

The entire route is on gravel logging roads and at the summit sits quite a few communication towers (or whatever other top secret undercover covert purposes they may serve).

Devils Mountain has a summit - but not the kind that anyone would consider 'scary'. The only scary part of the trip would be the first quarter mile where there are a few side 'roads' with a lot of garbage/debris laying around. Lots of stuff that makes it seem like they are/were related to illegal activities of one kind or another. It's a mess, but it also appears to be private property so... just keep moving.

The ascending route for today involved basicallly a road walk directly to the summit. As of right now, the actual summit high point is at the top of a 10 foot tall slash burn pile.

Signs of wildlife (deer, coyotes, rednecks, drug runners and probably mountain lions) were noted along the way.

There are a number of spur roads that branch off the primary route. All but one of them are heavily bermed.

The County Bermer must love his job because it seems like he/she must have put in hours upon hours of earth digging and moving to construct the 15 foot high peaks and valleys that are in place x4 at almost every junction. Some are so high that you can't even actually tell there is a road on the other side until you climb up it to see. These were so notable I even took a zoomed in photo of it from the Devils Mountain summit.

Despite it being April 18th, the trek started in partly sunny conditions, then progressed to light rain, hail, light snow and then heavy snow.

Views of Big Lake and the Big Lake community exist, as were views west to the Puget Sound and south to Devils Lake.

My views of Devil Lake and high points beyond existed one minute, but they suddenly and quickly turned into ghosts as the snow came on fast and strong.

After poking around the summit area, watching a deer bound down the steep hillside (probably to escape my BO) and accumulate an inch of snow on my hat it was time to begin the descent.

The final spur before the summit is a road that heads downhill to Ten Lake. I followed it for a short distance, but decided there were other objectives that were more important. Ten Lake will be a definite To-Do, if I ever bother to head back out this direction.

Just before reaching the 'scary' part of the road, a gate and spur captured my interest. It headed eastward and upward. As you can see on my map, I followed it for a ways, but turned around when it was clear there weren't going to be any views (today). My expectation is that this actually connects to the road that goes by Devils Lake and it might be worthwhile to follow on a sunny day, as a last resort.

This was a fun backyard outing, but far from a 'favorite' destination.

My Round Trip was just over 6 miles, but that included some side road exploring.

One Way, gate to summit is about 2.5 miles. Starting elevation is about 745, summit is about 1,723, so it's about 1,000 feet of net gain.

Once back at the car, I decided to go try to find a mine on the west side of this range that shows on the Topo Maps. I named it "Scott Mountain Mine", after my Cousin Scott. Both of them. :)

Here is another generic trip video with the same basic pics but you also get to enjoy some real video footage, plus a bit of tunes from The Bangles. The 'black' lingers at the beginning - just be patient.

At least three more trip reports from this week are in the production phase... keep checking back!

Happy Trails!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Itinerary for 04-22-11

Taking Thursday off from hiking but might make a morning visit to Lizard and Lily Lakes in the Chuckanuts on Friday (if I'm not car shopping and the weather is favorable).

Over the last three days of hiking I've discovered that my rain jacket no longer repels water and one of my boots is no longer waterproof... H20 seems to be seeping into the toebox. DOH! Mother Nature owes me some DRY hiking days!

Thursday involves a morning of photo/video editing for the last four trails and the girl's spring break trip to AZ and whipping up a batch of Banana Chocolate Chip muffins. After all that, I'll enjoy lunch with my bride in SW and then the afternoon with the kids since they only have a half-day of school. Another jam-packed day of vacation!

Happy Trails!


Itinerary for -4-20-11

Decided I'd had enough snow over the last two days so I'm skipping the scheduled Mt. Baker trip. Instead, I'll go focus on some mine hunting along the North Fork of the Sauk River, just east of Darrington.

Not sure about cell service, but am sure that I'll find at least three mines, maybe a couple bonus mines if I'm feeling adventuresome.

Depending on how long it takes, I'll probably take the opportunity to sight see around Darrington because it's been years since I've been there.

Happy Trails!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Itinerary for 04-19-11

Yep, survived a day of rain, snow and sun on Devil Mountain as well as a bushwack trying to find the Scott Mountain Mine. More on all that later... let's talk about the Tuesday plan.

Meeting Ron Peterson of the Mount Baker Club for a bike/hike to Split Rock, located between Big Lake and Lake Cavanaugh. It's a long one - about 13 miles round trip.

Erik H & I made an attempt exactly a year ago today. We ran out of time and ran into more than a foot of snow.

This year... I"m bringing snowshoes and we are following the same route. Depending on how it all goes, maybe we'll venture toward Bald Mountain to see what it's all about.

Here is the Trip Report from last year:
Split Rock 2010

Doubt there will be cell phone reception, but we'll be back by dark for sure.


Itinerary for 04-18-11

Mostly due to a lack of planning time, on Monday I'm planning on exploring Devil Mountain, with a little dose of tulips touring and maybe a venture into the Lily Lake area of Chuckanut mountain.

Devil Mountain is located just south of Little Mountain. Basically, its the long ridge of points you can see to the east of I-5 between Mount Vernon and Conway exits. Access to the logging roads is available by taking Little Mountain road, turning right onto Amick Rd and then look for the logging road gate.

Might also try to find the 'mine' on the west side of the ridge (as shown on topo maps).

Depending on the weather, the day might start off with a tour of tulip fields for some pictures (without the crowds).

If Devil Mtn goes smoothly and quickly then I'll probably venture up to the Blanchard Mountain access to the Lily and Lizard Lakes trail.

Should be in cell phone range the entire time.

Tuesday looks like it may involve a bike trip to Split Rock and/or Bald Mountain. Possibly in rain and snow.

Wednesday looks like picture perfect weather. If the Avy risk allows, I'll head up to Mt. Baker and see if I can route-find the Heather Meadows Loop route.

Thursday and Friday are still TBD.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Razor Hone Knob 04-07-2011

Last week I was able to meet up with the Mount Baker Club for a nice day of snowshoeing up at Mt. Baker.

Sure... ANOTHER snowshoe at Mt. Baker (yawn!). Well, this is a brand new route that the club has been working on establishing as a new snowshoe route to aid in keeping the snowshoers from stomping on the groomed cross country ski tracks.

Since the Avalanche Danger Rose has been higher than my usual acceptable tolerance level, my Club friends assured me that the Razor Hone Knob route is one that would be safe in the forecasted conditions. I figured I'd give it a fair shake instead of just staying home.

They were right... very low risk of avalanches along this route. Although it's not always obvious along the route, a 3D viewing in Topo! makes it pretty obvious. I've added a video to the end of this post which concludes with a 3D "fly-by" via Topo! software.

Weather was mostly sunny, with an occassional light snowfall. Not quite enough sun for me to unbury the sunscreen, but I did get a little pink up on top (top of my head, not the top of the mountain).

Despite the fact that it's April, fresh snow continues to fall on Mt. Baker. Our entire route was knee deep (or more) powder. Slowed the progress a bit, but we all took turns breaking trail.

MBC members spent the fall doing some brush cutting and flagging to set up this new route (well, a new trail to us but they claim it was originally documented back in about 1923 or so). The original flags are now under snow and the current flags are at locations that they couldn't dream of touching before winter arrived.

The route (see map image at end of post) starts from the far corner of the White Salmon Lodge at the Mount Baker Ski area. There are no flags on this section, but there are certain landmarks that help club members know where to go.

After a short distance, the route breaks out of the trees and onto a maintenance road. This road isn't accessible to vehicles in the summer as it reportedly starts from the lodge parking area, which is generally gated in the summer.

This unnamed maintenance road follows along or near the ridgetop and offers a number of nice view points to the surrounding beauty. Weather permitting.

Did you notice that I finally got around to playing with some of the settings in Photoshop Elements? That's why it took so long to get this trip report online. :)

The clouds came and went. The sun came and went. The wind, however, never made an appearance. These were primo outing conditions... not too hot and not too cold. A few times we noticed a very light snow falling from the light but dark clouds floating by - visible in the video previously mentioned.

At the end of the maintenance road, the route drops down into the woods and follows another off-trail section. There are a couple flags down here, but really it's just knowing where you are supposed to go. Or following a MBC member.

After a short descent along the ridge spine you'll find yourself on the White Salmon road - popular with cross country skiers - but not today. Again, untouched, untracked fresh powder. Truly beautiful!

Razor Hone Knob can be reached by following the White Salmon Road, but it's a lot longer and involves a notable descent followed by an identical ascent to reach the knob. The more efficient route is to again drop down into the woods along the ridge spine. This section is fairly well flagged - but watch out for tree wells. They are everywhere and they are dangerous - potentially even deadly if you are solo and panic.

Please use caution.

Eventually, you pop out of the wood again and simply follow the road upwards to the knob, and more views.

After a very comfortable lunch break on top of Razor Hone Knob, we geared up and retraced our steps. Slower because it was more uphill, but faster because we didn't need to break trail the second time.

Round trip was just less than 2.5 miles and only 500 feet of elevation gain.

On the way back home we stopped at the Beer Shrine for a sampling of beverages.

The route video, as promised. Click below to start the video (yes, the image may look like the above map, but it is actually a video):

If you visit the Mount Baker Club website, you may be able to find their online topo map of snowshoe and skiing routes between the White Salmon Lodge and the Sno-Park location on the Nooksack River.

There is a trail in progress that cuts off from the White Salmon Road and descends all the way to the sno-park, although it's still mostly in the 'routefinding' stage (to the best of my knowledge anyway).

You'll need a sno-park permit to park at the Sno-Park or the White Salmon Road, but it's free to park in the White Salmon Lodge parking lot while the ski area is operating.

Happy Trails!


PS: What is a Hone: A stone of a fine grit, or a slab, as of metal, covered with an abrading substance or powder, used for sharpening cutting instruments, and especially for setting razors; an oilstone.

PPSS:Learn all about how to hone a razor if you didn't already know.

PPPSSS: This route is named Razor Hone because of nearby Razor Hone Creek. I have no idea why the creek was named Razor Hone creek. Bummer, eh?

P4S4: For more info about the Avalance Danger ratings, click here.

P5S5: I'm hoping to hit the trails a few times in the next week and a half. Hoping for a snowshoe loop around the Heather Meadows area (yes, another new route that I've heard about) and probably a few other local areas of interest, such as the Racehorse Creek landslide (for fossil hunting), Bald Rock, Bowman Mountain or a few other top secret destinations.

Drop me a note via a blog comment, a personal email or give me a call on the cell phone if you are interested in tagging along!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Three New Thumbs

I've been a little lackadaisical about generating the trip thumbnails for my last three trails.

Part of the issues is the lack of notable photos generated on those trips, but the bigger issues to blame are just that I've been so busy... plus our home computer has become painfully troublesome.

So, with no further adieu, here are the newest three thumbnails.

Oyster Dome Trip Report

Alger Alp Trip Report

Of course, generating these thumbnails have kept me from writing up the trip report for the most recent trip: Razor Hone Knob (TR coming soon-ish).

In other news, I'm looking forward to a few days off of work in a couple weeks. Let's hope that by then the rain will have depleted its reserves and the sun should opt to show its face. Stay tuned for outing opportunities as they become available... or contact me to let me know I'm on your radar screen.

Happy Trails!