Saturday, December 31, 2011

North Mountain 12-26-2011

Went for a nice 9.4 miles (RT) and 1,200 feet of gain hike on North Mountain just outside of Darrington on the day after Christmas.
On the way out there, I stopped in Rockport to look at the Eagles. Problem was that it was so comfy and warm in the car that I froze my buns off outside and the Eagles all seemed to suddenly disappear. I saw them from the road, but couldn't find them with the camera. It didn't take long before I was happy to be back in the warmth of the car.

Turned the thermostat WAY down on the way to the trail head. Lesson learned.

Found the turnoff for North Mtn off Hwy 530. It's the intersection that is signed for the "Christian Camp".

GPS aided in making sure I stayed on the right track for about 7 miles at which point there was a 'Y' intersection after which the road up appeared to be pure ice. Decided to park here since I wasn't sure what the conditions would be like further up the road and didn't want to get stuck since I was solo.

Turns out that I probably could have driven another mile and a half without too much risk. Oh well... "I could use the exercise" is what I told myself. Had I driven up further then I might have made the Lookout.
Since there wasn't any real snow here and my pack was jam packed with winter gear ("just in case"), I decided to leave the snowshoes in the car and just use my Stabilicers for the ice.

Just around the corner, the ice and snow disappeared from the road. There were traces of it here and there for the next mile to mile and a half. Oh well.

Another two miles later the snow finally reached a depth of maybe four inches, but it was either pure ice or just enough crust to hold you for a fraction of a second before collapsing. Other sections were pure frozen snow bomb lumps from the trees, making each step a lopsided step in an unexpected direction.

The stabilicers did great for traction, but the snow shoes would have been awesome for taking the limps out of the icy snow bomb bumps.

I called it quits at 1:30 and turned around.

***Please note that the North Mountain Lookout is being considered for demolition by the Forest Service. Efforts are underway to help save and renovate this Lookout - you can read more about how to help (and see a picture of the lookout) on the SAVE NORTH MOUNTAIN LOOKOUT page. ***

On the way home I stopped in Rockport again for Eagle pictures. Had a little better success (I could actually see a few in the trees). Others on hand informed me the best place and time for eagle viewing is at about 10:00am a bit further east where there are one or two hundred eagles having breakfast each day. My guess is that this must be at the little roadside park just west of the Cascadian Farm stand.

Here is a video I threw together. The video starts with the same art-deco style pictures but transitions to the 'real' photo too (since not everyone is a fan of the modified images). The end of the video includes some live video of eagles. It's not very exciting, but you can see one fly out of a tree and can hear one singing (if that's what you call it).

Route Map:

Happy Trails!


Monday, December 26, 2011

Glacier Creek Road with MBC on 12-17-2011

Dec. 17, 2011

Met up with a group of Mount Baker Club members for a pleasant snowshoe along the Glacier Creek Road.

Glacier Creek Road is located just east of the town of Glacier along the Mount Baker Highway (Hwy 542) in Washington State.

During the summer months, this road is used for access to the Heliotrope Ridge trail which is one of the primary climbing routes for those seeking to summit Mount Baker. The trail provides up close views to a number of glaciers and is highly recommended for an interesting and enjoyable day hike.

In the winter months, the Glacier Creek Road is a designated sno-park and is shared between snowshoers, skiers and snowmobilers. All vehicles need to have a sno-park pass for parking unless you want to take your chances on getting a ticket.

Generally, snow levels, the capability of the vehicle and the capability of the driver determine just how far you will park.

We parked alongside the road when the snow became consistent, but not deep.

Accordingly, we ended up walking a mile or two before the snow became deep enough to warrant use of snowshoes. Many people opted to don their snowshoes early simply due to the thin layer of ice that covered the road, making each step an opportunity for an injury.

Weather was mostly cloudy, but there were a number of sunbreaks later in the day.

Upon reaching the junction with the Coal Creek Road we had our first views of the mountains and the impressive glaciers.

We took a short break at the Heliotrope Ridge trail head. The picnic table is still available for use (not quite buried) and the outhouse was still accessible also.

The views vary a bit, and improve slightly, if you continue beyond the Heliotrope trail head and on to the picnic area at the end of the road.

One of many ice walls (full digital zoom):

It was a fun trip with a great group of individuals. Thank you, Mount Baker Club, for hosting/organizing this outing!

Total distance (round trip) was 9.7 miles and included about 1,901 feet of elevation gain.

Here is a video slideshow (of the above pictures) plus a short video clip at the end:

Happy Trails!


Itinerary for 12-26-2011

Planning on burning a few post-Christmas calories in search of the North Mountain Lookout.

Will probably drive the loop (clockwise) from home to Concrete, do a little Eagle watching (photographing) and visit the lower Baker Dam before heading down toward Darrington and North Mountain. Will finish the loop by coming through Arlington and then home.

If North Mtn is a bust then there is a chance I'll visit the Boulder River trail with the extra time available.

Solo. :(

Happy Trails!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

2012 Hiking Calendar

Here is the final list of hikes for 2012:

Jan. 14:  Ladder Creek (Hwy 20)

Jan. 17:  Samish Overlook in snow (Chuckanuts)

Jan. 22:  North Lake Whatcom a.k.a Hertz Trail

Feb. 5:  Mt. Baker Heather Meadows with the kids

Feb. 11:  Skyline Lake (Steven's Pass/Hwy 2)

Mar. 4:  Samish Overlook, Oyster Dome, Lily Lake (Chuckanuts)

Mar. 17:  Wells Creek Road (Hwy 542)

Apr. 14:  Sumas Mountain with Geologists Doug and Dave (Hwy 542, kind of)

Apr. 29:  North Mountain Lookout (fail) and Old Sauk River Trail (win) (Darrington)

May 12:  Index Town Wall exploring (Hwy 2)

May 19:  North Mountain Lookout (Darrington) and exploring the Diablo Dam Trail, Stetattle Creek and Sourdough Lookout trail for a bit (Hwy 20).

Jun. 23:   Goat Lake (off the Mountain Loop Highway) ***Trail Journal Now Available!***

Jul. 14:  Cascade Pass ***Trail Journal Now Available!***

Jul. 25  Oyster Dome

Aug. 1  Clayton Beach Redemption Hike

Aug. 4  Skyline Divide on Mt. Baker

Aug. 15:  Squires Lake

Aug. 26:  Yellow Aster Butte and Gold Run Pass

Sep. 16:  Gothic Basin and Foggy Lake

Sep. 29:  Heather Lake off the Mountain Loop Highway

Oct. 15:  Mount Pilchuck

Oct. 16:  Lake Twenty-Two

Nov. 10: Annette Lake off I-90 with Rachel, Steve, Kim and Ken

Dec. 15:  Sumas Mountain (mines 1, 2 and 3 plus the Sumas Mountain Outpost cabin)

Just for historical purposes, here is a link to my customized/personalized 2012 Day Planner:

FWIW, Kevin, Andrea and Beau are featured on page 2. :)

If you'd like me to customize a day planner for you with different starting/ending dates please let me know. It would be a fun project.

Happy Trails!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shadow Of The Sentinels 12/07/2011

On my way back home from visiting the Mt. Baker Hot Springs it was a fine time to visit the Shadow Of The Sentinels trail.

This trail is built to be a wheelchair accessible route, complete with interesting and informative signs along the way.

While there aren't any views of distant (or nearby) peaks, the forest is lovely and this would make a nice short trip for the kids.

This trail is located along the Baker Lake Road, just after the turn off for the Baker Lake dam.

In the parking lot is a large chunck of a tree. Very large.

Can you figure out how old it is?

Happy Trails!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Itinerary for 12-17-2011

Took the easy way out today.

Going to hang out with the Mount Baker Club and go for a nice snowshoe trek. Last I heard, the destination was dependant up how far up the Glacier Creek road we could drive.

I suspect we'll head toward Heliotrope Ridge trailhead (or the picnic area beyond or just the trail itself) or maybe we'll divert and up toward Coal Creek Pass. These are all connected to the Glacier Creek road (off Hwy 542 just beyond the town of Glacier and the Forest Ranger HQ building.

Carpooling from Sunnyland School in Bellingham and expect to be in cell phone range before 6pm.

Will likely try to finish up the Christmas shopping on the way home.

Happy Trails!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mount Baker Hot Springs ~ 12/07/2011

Nestled in the foothills between Baker Lake and Mount Baker there exists a certain paradise.

The Mount Baker Hot Springs has been around for ages. It's well known by locals, but not often discussed.

It's a northwest soaking paradise - provided you're with good company.

As you can imagine, hot springs naturally attract a diverse population. Stories circulate as they do - ripe with examples of meth-heads and drunks interrupting a quiet evening soak by couples. Romantic picnics being interrupted by families of 28 suddenly arriving on the scene, complete with infants and dirty diapers.

The potential for conflict can be high, possibly fueled by the strong smell of sulfer, the lack of cell phone coverage and the distance from the laws and regulations enforced near pavement.

Baker Hot Springs can be paradise, but it can also be quite the opposite.

After living in the area for more than twenty years, it wasn't until Dec. 7, 2011 that the right combination of time, weather and transportation came into alignment to undertake this adventure.

Online research quickly revealed the route to the hot springs. Years ago, most visitors made use of FS Rd 1144 (Morovitz Creek) but that road has since been released back to Mother Nature. The new route follows the Marten Lake road (Rd 1130), stay to the right. Park at the end of the road. Follow the short trail. The gravel road is about 4 miles long and in pretty good condition. Snow is currently piling up in some areas of the road, but still passable for now. The trail itself is about 1/3 to 1/4 of a mile long (short).

It's reported that the hot springs are generally between 100 to 102 degrees fahrenheit. Nice because it's not too hot, but bad because it's also a temperature that is conducive to the development of the E. Coli bacteria.

***I'm not a scientist or biologist or have any kind of medical background... I'm just regurgitating what I read elsewhere. Soak at your own risk.***

My visit happened to be on a cool weekday, temperatures in the upper 30's to low 40's, patches of snow around. There was no one else around the Hot Springs that day. Only my hand enjoyed a soak. The rest of me was more interested in taking pictures and exploring the area.

Other than the periodic campfire rings and the couple of flat spots for tents, the area was remarkable natural looking. This was pretty unexpected given the high level of use and potential abuse. Granted, there were a few skeletons of candles, one lost t-shirt and a soaking cigarette carton... but I was expecting something much worse.

Up high on a tree there exists a sign in memory of Erich Aspel. A few inquiries here and there, plus a google search, didn't reveal any useful information about Erich's history or his story or why this sign was placed at this location. If you know something about it, please feel free to leave a comment to fill us in.

The Skagit Alpine Club used to provide the volunteer efforts to maintain the hot springs area and reports indicate there used to be one or two wood structures up there. Possibly a changing room and a honey bucket (just guessing). Ultimately, there was just 'too much trouble' up there and eventually the structures were completely removed with hopes that it would reduce the problems (and desirably result in fewer visitors).

The hot springs emit a strong sulfer aroma. It's not pleasant, but you do tend to get used to it after a while so it's not too much bother (although I highly suggest a shower ASAP after returning home).

It's also suggested that you bring a shovel to aid in shoveling the silt out of the pool. That's all I know about that topic (again, just relaying info from others).

From the hot springs, there was a short trail up the hillside (about 30 feet long) to a little clearing. Looking up the hill further will provide you with a view of a drainage creek and a black culvert. The culvert passes under the road you drove in on. In periods of no parking or when snow makes it too risky to drive all the way down to the parking lot, this could be a potential (albiet steep) shortcut. This would make a kind of loop and is seen on the route image further along in this post.

As I followed a very faint boot path + drainage creek, I happened upon a lost flashlight (wet, but works) and a decorated mushroom. The 'shroom may be a clue to the flashlight's owner. Yes?

As the shortcut approaches the road, it steepens. Here are views to the road (almost there) and back toward the hot springs (barely visible)

Here is a short video/slideshow with some nice music:

Enjoy your visit, pack out your trash, leave the hot springs better than you found them and have a good time!

Happy Trails!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Hoypus Hill and other sights to behold 11-29-2011

Hoypus Hill is located on the east side of highway 20, across from the main portion of Deception Pass State Park.

***Warning: This is a really long report, but so worth it!***

In general, Hoypus Hill is a nice area. It's certainly suitable for an easy day hike, but really, in my opinion, it's much more suitable for a nice trail run. It is mostly flat with relatively obstacle free trails and a nice hill option if you're into that.

Just to the north of Hoypus Hill is Goose Point. Goose Point provides a much more interesting hiking environment than Hoypus. You can read my trip report from March 2010 right here.

You might be thinking "Maybe Hoypus would be a little more interesting if I knew what the word Hoypus actually means." Well, you'd be wrong. :(

According to Google, Hoypus doesn't have a pre-existing meaning.  A Google search will provide you some (not) interesting info about something called "Hoypus Series". Basically, it's dirt that came from Hoypus Hill. You can knock yourself out right here.

Don't get me wrong, I still had a really memorable day out here.

You'll need a Discover Pass to park at Deception Pass State Park... even at the Hoypus Hill boat launch.

Upon my arrival I immedietly encountered a Heron at the boat lauch.  Mind you, this is only about 30 feet from the car. He was pretty cool and pretty calm. I named him Prickly Pete.

As I snapped photo after photo of this bird, he walked across the boat launch and plucked a fish right out of the water and then flew off.  There is a video further down in this post which contains that series of photos for you to watch the action.

Then the day started to get a bit boring. Temporarilly. (That means please keep reading anyways)

Since this was my first visit to Hoypus Hill, it seemed logical to start off following the gated road along the water out to Hoypus Point before venturing onto the actual trail.

This road has a few benches alongside it where you can rest and enjoy the view of Deception Pass, its bridge, Goose Point and a few nearby islands... just a few feet above the water.

A short while later you'll pass one of the numerous trail access points for the Hoypus Hill trail. I skipped the first one to stay along the water and soon found myself at the Deception Pass Picnic Table Graveyard.

Then again, maybe Hoypus Hill is the picnic table's equivalent of Arizona for retired people and they'll return to the popular part of the park next summer.

Continuing on along the water, the path eventually dead ends at a small sandy beach with a bench. The beach is probably larger at low tide, but really, I have no evidence to indicate one way or the other.

Sit. Take a break. Take a nap (it may be easy if you are bored). Watch the world go by. Watch unexpected things float by. Enjoy the views (they are probably the last one's of the day).

Return the way you came and look for the Hoypus Trail head.

If you are one of the lucky 8 people who read this blog, you'll be one of 9 people that know there is an access point to the Hoypus trail from the picnic table graveyard. Somehow I managed to not see it both times I walked by it... so I ended up hiking most of the way back to the parking lot before venturing onto the actual trail.

Once on the trail, I recommend continuing in a clockwise direction.

Almost all the junctions are marked with signs, but not all the trails are on the map. I recommend bringing a map and a gps unit. You don't want to be stuck here like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

As mentioned earlier, the trail is rather nice (perfect for trail running), with lots of greenery and only a few muddy sections.

The other thing that became obvious is that there are a lot of cargo and fighter planes that fly around this area (based on the Naval Air Station located in Oak Harbor just a few miles away). During my visit there were very few minutes where you couldn't hear a plane flying by. Loud planes. There's an example in the video further on in this report.

That's about it for the trail info. It's very odd that there isn't a trail to the high point of Hoypus Hill. Maybe no one put a trail up there because there aren't any views? There aren't any views along the existing trail so why wouldn't the trail naturally make it's way to the high point?

Maybe there is something there we aren't supposed to see. Hmmmm. Interested concept. I'm just sayin',  Let's nominate Redwic to investigate.  :)

As I wandered my way back to the car, listening to the figher jets flying by, it seemed logical that if I were on the other side of Hwy 20 at the main portion of Deception Pass State Park then I might actually be able to see some of the fighter jets flying by. That sounded a lot more interesting than more Hoypus Hiking.

Hoypus is now an adjective. For sure. It's a fact. Better make a Wiki page for it or something.

Back to the car, off to the west side of the park. The parking lot at Cranberry Lake contained only two other vehicles. A very quiet day in the park (aside from the planes).

Saw some planes. Took a few pics. There are more in the video.

While watching planes come and go I also wandered around the sand dune trail (which was nice) and I noticed an odd island out in Puget Sound.

Of course the island isn't really floating. It's a mirage caused by weather patterns. This same mirage also causes the pointy cascade mountains to stretch even taller but also gives them 'tabletop' summits instead of peaks.

Mike Collins, member, explained (truthfull or not, I have no idea):

"It is the stuff of mirages. When temperature increases with height, as with yesterday's heat inversion, the image is displaced up from the object. The atmosphere acts as a lens rather than a mirror causing images to be refracted rather than reflected. The atmosphere will cause light to bend because of gradual variations in the index of refraction in it. The index of refraction depends on the temperature of the air and the amount of moisture in it. The stronger the temperature gradient (the greater the temperature change with distance) then the stronger the gradient of the index of refraction and thus more bending. If the temperature is the same everywhere in the atmosphere then light travels in a straight line."

Thanks Mike.

Expecting my adventures to now be complete for the day it was time to head back to the car.

That is when I met Scott Chase.

Scott works for Island County with the WSU Extension and administers a grant funded program that focuses on cleaning litter off of beaches. Litter is not only left by beach visitors who are too lazy to be resposnible for their own garbage. Litter is also washed up on the shores as tides and currents carry it from one place to another.

At the time we met, Scott was hosting a beach clean up event. It was advertised in the newspaper and regular people show up and work together to clean the litter off the beach. Sometimes lots of people show up (often its neighbors who show up, per Scott), and other times (like today) absolutely nobody shows up.

Except me.

Together, Scott & I roamed the beach with plastic bags and litter-picker-upper-grabbers.

Scott taught me a lot about the program and a lot about a problem that is on the horizon.

First, I found it interesting that this particular program is funded with tax money from bottle and can manufacturers to make up for Washington’s lack of deposit fees on bottles and cans. It amounts to $6 or $7 million each year.

Second, remember the big earthquake in Japan and the related tsunami? All that stuff (garbage) is headed our way. Straight to our beaches. (Note to self, buy stock in bag manufacturers and the dump).

Scott explained it to me, but I found this news article that words it much better than my version, so here is a LINK and an excerpt:

"A mass of debris measuring 2,000 miles long and weighing up to 20-million tons is expected to hit the Washington coast in late 2013, with some items arriving sooner.

A Russian ship spotted debris near Midway Island last month and the debris is expected to hit Hawaii next year".

In our conversation, it sounds as though the debris will continue on to the entire west coast, including Washington.

Now that the beach was looking pristene & clean it was time to go home.


On the way out of the park there appeared to be a bunch of sail boats in Cranberry Lake. How often does that happen? I have no idea... but it's probably worth a picture, a video and a mention.

In summary...

This was a fun day, but the Hoypus Trail should be saved for your next trail run. Need a lowland hike for any weather in any season in this area? Go visit Goose Point instead.  Either way, Deception Pass State Park covers a huge area with a TON of fun stuff for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.

Here is the video. A small portion in the middle of the video requires sound so you can hear the jets.

More trip reports are coming soon: Baker Hot Springs and Shadows Of The Sentinals. They'll be a lot shorter than this one.

You're welome.

Happy Hiking!