Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mount Pilchuck Sunshine 10-18-2011

Lucky planning resulted in a second consecutive day of blue sky hiking in the Cascade Mountains!

Tuesday morning dawned with crystal clear skies, so as soon as the family was off to work and school I made my way south to Mount Pilchuck State Park for the 5.25 miles and 2,100 feet of elevation gain trail to the fire lookout cabin atop the mountain.

Despite the clear skies and the delay in the fall colors, the fresh snow up on Mount Baker the day before combined with this sign posted at the Pilchuck trail head really drives home the fact that summer isn't just over... winter will be here before we know it.

Until then, let's just keep enjoying the sun and the colors.

Even though it was a weekday in October there were plenty of other hikers on the trail for company . I wonder how much impact a 9% unemployment rate has on the frequency of week day trail usage.

The temps were pleasant, but this trailside tarn wasn't the first or last ice of the day.

According to StateParks.com:
"The word "Pilchuck" comes from the Native American name "red water," for a creek in the area.

Shortly thereafter the trail emerges from the trees and into the basin, offering views to the summit (and the lookout if you have a good zoom camera or binoculars). This is also where there used to be a small ski area which stopped operations in the early 1980's (due to lack of adequate snow to support a profitable venture).

Noticed the moon was following me today. Not sure what that means, but it must have been a good thing because the day was FANTASTIC!

Came across a group on the back side of the ridge. They were having a blast and provided much entertainment at the lookout. Also, they are in a number of shots used in the video further down in this trip report.

On with the pictures...

The Lookout was built in 1918 by the Forest Service and was used until sometime in the 1960's. Currently, the Forest Service is resposnible for trail maintenance and the Mountaineers Club of Seattle volunteers to maintain the historic lookout building.

You may have noted that the Lookout is looking pretty pristine in the photos. For the most part, this is because it received some necessary repairs a new coat of paint just a month or two ago. Much of that work was prompted by the fact that some hooligans decided it would be a good idea to vandalize the lookout... and then post pictures about it on facebook. The heroes over at nwhikers.net managed to piece the puzzle pieces together and alerted the authorities and the heroes at the Mountaineers organized a short notice work party to put the universe back in order. Kudos to you all!

Enjoy a few series of 'continuous' photos from the basin and also from inside the lookout in this video. So unbelievable (the scenery, NOT my video skills)!

The Mt. Pilchuck trail is very diverse. It begins in forest, with creeks and waterfalls before ascending to a minor talus/boulder field and then opening up to an alpine wonderland. Hike at the base of cliffs. Hike on the crest of ridges. Pull yourself up and over boulders and finally climb a ladder to claim victory. What more could a hiker ask for?

With all that to offer, Pilchuck is a very poplular destination. Please keep in mind that just because it is popular and easy to access doesn't mean that it is free of risks or dangers. Each year many people sustain injuries and need the assistance of Search & Rescue teams. Each year people make a wrong turn on a trail and end up lost. Please... bring the 'ten essentials' with you and be aware of your surroundings. The little bit of extra weight in your pack isn't going to ruin your day hike and it may be of good use to you (or someone else) when you least expect it.

Here is the route map and trail profile from this hike:

Thanks for reading and Happy Trails to you all!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Table Mtn 360s

Here is a short video showing the panorama's from Artist Point and from the top of Table Mountain.

The first panorama is from Artist Point. You can see the thin layer of snow (ice) remaining in the parking lot, and also see the snow piled up around the bathroom building. This panorama is made up of a 'continuous' series of photos taken while turning in a slow circle.

The second panorama is actual video footage from Table Mountain. The real video had a horrible blue glow to it - must have messed up a White Balance setting or something. So, it's been converted to Black and White for the viewer's enjoyment instead of being a blue distraction.

The cool part of the video is when you can see the summit of Mt. Shuksan through the lenticular cloud that was hanging around. You'll see it at about the 35 second mark.


Click here to see the photos from this trip to Table Mountain if you happened to miss that post.

The Pilchuck trip report and video will be coming soon.

Happy Trails!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Table Mountain 10-17-2011

Monday, Oct. 17, 2011

With a morning of blue sky before me I found myself battling road construction in Sedro-Woolley and then non-stop 'Speed Limit Minus 10' drivers all they way up Hwy 9 through Acme and on to the Mount Baker Highway.

Stopped to say hello to Jen at Crossroads Grocery in Maple Falls before cruising up to Heather Meadows at the Mt. Baker Ski area.

The road to Artist Point remained closed all summer so I parked at the gate just beyond the Austin Pass visitor center. Right by this "Reflecting Tarn".

Fresh snow was visible just a couple hundred feet above me. You can see the snow level beneath Chair 1 and part way into the Bagley Lakes Basin as shown in the pictures below.

Instead of walking the road, I followed the trail that departed from the parking lot. It's unsigned, but it's the only trail here that heads 'up'. This trail quickly gains elevation and will eventually pop out at Artist Point (if you ever stop taking pictures).

The road to Artist Point does indeed still have snow on it. Although, really, it's more like one to three inches of ice with a little fresh snow on top and a few lingering snowbanks in some of the corners that partially block one lane or the other.

Looking across the basin, the Chain Lakes trail was clearly visible. the Chain Lakes trail was my original intended route, but the new snow made me a little cautious about doing the entire loop solo, due to the increased risk of injury in a lingering remote snow field and the liklihood of bears hanging out in the huckleberry bushes around the upper lakes.

Here is the actual Artist Point parking lot. A couple of bare spots.

Plan B was to follow the trail up Table Mountain.

There was one snowfield that I crossed with quite a runout.. all the way down to the lakes. My Stabilicers and Ice Axe were put into action... just in case.

Shuksan decided to remain in a Lenticular cloud for the first couple hours but it finally decided to come out in full after lunch.

Views of Mt. Baker were also jaw dropping.

From the top of Table Mountain you can easily look down to see the parking lot, the closed road, the trail in lieu of a road hike and the "Panorama Dome" as labeled on the TOPO.

Once on the summit, I had to use 2 of my 10 essentials: My pencil to write down phone numbers of people who left me voice mails so I could call them back and (2) the back side of my map to use for writing down such phone numbers.

While it wasn't a very long hike, it did have top notch scenery and a heart pounding trail up the side of the mountain - not one for those people afraid of heights.

~3.23 miles (round trip) and 1,000 to 1,250 of elevation gain. Image of the GPS route:

Happy Trails!

PS: A video showing the 360 degree views from the summit of Table Mountain has been posted. Click here to go to the Table Mtn 360s post.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Itinerary for 10-18-2011

Once again... it's 9:30pm on the eve of a hike and the destination is TBD.

Wrestling with either a re-visit to Mt. Baker's Railroad Grade / Park Butte Lookout or heading south to Mt. Pilchuck.

I've been to RR Grade/Park Butte a number of time in fantastic weather - and it's a fantastic place... with some areas still unexplored that need to be checked out sometime.

I've also been to Pilchuck multiple times, but only to the summit once... in a snow storm. The one time I've been on the Pilchuck trail in the sun was the time that the black biting flies created a MISERABLE environment... so bad that I called it quits.

Sure, there are a lot of other worthy sunny-weather-fall-color hikes I'd like to be doing, but just not solo. That's the downside of unexpected weekday hiking opportunties. So I'll stick with familiar trails.

If it weren't so late I'd consider hitting up Craig Romano or Vince Richardson to see if they'd be interested in a day hike.

Baker's RR Grade is closer to home, but the road is about as dusty (or muddy) as it gets. Pilchuck road is 'less' dirty (more gravel), but more prone to vehicle break-ins.

Since I enjoyed views of Baker today and also reached the peak of Table Mountain... probably it will keep life in balance if I go summit Pilchuck and take sunny pictures of Pilchuck's surrounding dramatic peaks instead of spending another day on Mt. Baker.

So... Pilchuck it is.

Depending on how that goes, maybe I'll explore other areas out in that neighborhood too (unlikely, but you never know).

No 4pm curfew for Tuesday, so the day feels a lot more flexible and relaxing than what went on today. Whew!

Happy Trails!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Itinerary for 10-17-2011

Tentatively (depending on how the morning goes) heading to Heather Meadows to (finally) do the Chain Lakes Loop.

Weather looks nice, but the need to be back in town by 4:00 has me a little off kilter... I'm used to a later curfew ya know.

Depending on how fast or slow this loop goes (or the amount of bears) there may be time for a diversion up to the top of Table Mountain.

With the 'limited time', I considered closer alternatives, but they either require a Discover Pass (which I don't have yet) or a long dirt road to the trail head. Since I just washed the car (it's for sale) and am not earning a paycheck this week I'll keep the car clean and keep the cash.

Might also get a chance to hike on Tuesday... might have to head out Hwy 20 or maybe the Mountain Loop Highway. Wait and see...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Next Week...

Looking forward to a relaxing week next week. Praying for some dry weather, fall colors and maybe just a touch of snow here and there.

If you're looking for a daytime day hike buddy next week, hit me up.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Exploring Cooper River 10-01-2011

Instead of the traditional western Washington hike that I've become accustomed to, this hike was a bit different: it was 'east of the Cascade crest'... my first hike on the east side of the Cascade Mountains.

The original plan was pretty generic since there were a lot of variables coming into play: sketchy weather, sketchy knees and lots of driving to an area that I had never been to before.

If you read the original itinerary posting, you'll know that there were three or more trails that were on the potential to-do list for the day. We didn't really do any of them.

Rob informed me that he would be interested in taking me eastward for an 'easy on the knees' type of hike day. Since we always have fun stuff to talk about (or trouble to get into) there was no way that I'd miss this opportunity.

Rob and I have been close friends since Junior High. The only reason I'm bringing this up is because I just came across a picture of us taken during a camping trip from 1983 at Lake Cushman. Nope, not going to say who is who.

Now, back to the hiking related content.

Instead, we did a little cruising around the back roads of Roslyn and Roland to eventually find ourselves at Cooper Lake, beneath Polallie Ridge. The weather had been dry - until we parked and stepped out of the truck to investigate a particular boat launch site. Then the rain started to fall.

What did we do?

You guessed it! Instead of getting back in the truck and looking for beer, we grabbed our hats, packs & cameras and set off to follow a faint bootpath (or probably game trail) along the border of Cooper Lake.

There is an actual trail here... but we weren't on it (until the way back).

We crossed over and under blowdowns for almost a mile, looking for the Cooper River that feeds into Cooper Lake. Finally we lost the path completely and decided to consult Mr. GPS. Garmin told us the real trail was just 50 yards away so off we went and Viola! there was the nice, wide open trail that leads directly from our parking lot at Cooper Lake to the Pete Lake trail head.

Since the rain had let up we decided to follow the Pete Lake trail for a ways, just to see what there might be to see.

It turns out that the sight to see was the Cooper River we had been in search of. Beautifully clear and beautifully cascade blue at the same time.

After numerous pictures of the river, the trail and the river part ways just enough so you can not longer see the river, although a few small streams are crossed here and there.

Eventually we reached a trail intersection with the Tired Creek trail (which also heads to the top of Polallie Ridge and back down to the road we came in on).

Realizing that we weren't likely to continue the remaining 2.75 miles to see Pete Lake we deemed this to be a fine turnaround spot.

Autumn colors are still a ways off, but there are some bright burning colors showing up at this time. Much more to come!

The hike out was uneventful, but it was a lot faster since we followed the actual trail from the Pete Lake Trail head back to the boat launch. You can see the slight deviation that our lakeside route took in comparison to the return trip.

The route was very flat (especially compared to most of my hikes).

Also, this portion of the Pete Lake trail is open to hikers, stock and also Mountain Bikes. Bikes would be a good option on this trail since it is so flat and has very few trail hazzards. I believe that bikes are not allowed inside the Alpine Lakes Wilderness - so you probably would have to stash the bike when you cross that boundary (although I'm not sure off hand how far the boundary is from Pete Lake).

After the hike we made a couple detours to watch the spawning salmon in the Cle Elum River. Here is a short video for your viewing pleasure.

Our hike was only about 4.5 miles in total with minimal elevation gain/change.

Next scheduled hike is more than a month away (Nov 12th), but I'm hoping for a few bonus hike opportunities to capture more of the fall colors and maybe bag a few more peaks before the snow starts to pile up.

Happy Trails (and stay tuned)!