Monday, December 30, 2013

Mt Baker's Huntoon Point 12-19-2013

On December 19, 2013 I dropped Mikayla off at school and then scuttled my way to Maple Falls where I met 11 other Mount Baker Club members for a 'short notice' snowshoe trek to Huntoon Point.

Huntoon Point is easily accessible in the summertime via a short one mile easy hike from Artist Point (which is located at the very end of the Mount Baker Highway #542).

A visit to Huntoon Point in winter is a completely different trip.

The Mount Baker Highway is closed at Heather Meadows (the upper lodge of the Mt. Baker Ski Area) so you'll need snowshoes or ski's to get there.

The winter route is about 3.5 miles round trip and between 1,000 and 1,300 feet of elevation gain.  The route follows the ski area boundary (snowshoes and sledding are not allowed in the ski area) beyond Austin Pass up to a spot just below the Lake Ann trail head.

From this point it is easy to notice that the paved road heads off the left, providing a gradual elevation gain, but many fail to recognize the increased risk of avalanches along this route.  Steep slopes above the road often become wind loaded and are subject to sun exposure - great ingredients for an avalanche potluck.

The alternative route is to proceed straight ahead, ascending a steep slope nicknamed 'cardiac hill', or 'a$$burn hill' by others.  It's a steep slope and it's not easy but it's generally the safer option between the two routes.

In the 10 years that I've been snow shoeing up here, it wasn't until today's outing that I've ever taken the road route (and that was on the return trek).  On the way to Huntoon I took the 'Cardiac Hill' route while the rest of the party took the road route both directions.

There weren't any avalanches during our trek as the conditions weren't too risky, thank goodness.

However... while in my solo ascent of Cardiac Hill, there were four back country skier's in front of me who began pelting me with insults and everyone's favorite four letter words because I was following their tracks up the hill.

Generally speaking, snowshoer's are supposed to try and avoid tromping in ski tracks because they claim it make their skiing too hard or dangerous or something.  Generally speaking, I try to follow that rule.

However, Cardiac Hill is steep and it's not really feasible to head 'straight up' the hill.  It's easier to traverse from one side to the other and switchback your way up.  Like I have been doing for 10 years and like snowshoers and skiers have probably been doing for many years before that.  Today, I did the same thing.

For some reason, the skiers today felt they owned this track and wanted me off of it.  I tried to stay off it as much as I could to appease them, but those efforts often caused slabs of snow to sluff off and cover their tracks entirely so I really doubt that was what they wanted either.

Up at the top of the hill I caught up to one of the skiers and he explained they they hoped to ski down the Bagley Basin bowl and then climb back up Cardiac Hill for a second run.  Doing so would be a lot easier if they could just retrace their tracks up Cardiac Hill and having snowshoers track on top of it would make that more difficult.

I explained that in all the years of my ascents up the hill it has always been a shared track and if there was room for a second route up Cardiac Hill I gladly would have made it or taken it.  Unfortunately, there is only room for one route up.  So be it.  Sure, I could have taken the road... but so could the skiers.  "Buck up, Buttercup".

This was the second time I've had skiers bully me.  The first time was way back in 2008 at Lk. Keechelus.

Anyway, on the way back down I followed the rest of the MBC group, taking my chances on the road route.  I noted skiers and snowshoers ascending Cardiac Hill on our return.  Just like they always do.

Winter weather up here can, and does, change frequently and quickly, and the route passes through a number of areas which can pose an avalanche risk in some scenarios.  Please don't attempt this trip alone and please be prepared with proper avalanche rescue/survival gear and back country knowledge.

Here is the route map for today's antics.

Happy Hiking (or snowshoeing)!


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sharpe Park - Montgomery -Duban Headlands 10-25-2013

Located on Fidalgo Island located 'between' Deception Pass and Anacortes, you can find a hidden gem of a park.

This is actually a Skagit County Park with a number of trails that will lead you to a beaver pond and a couple viewpoints of Oak Harbor, Deception Pass State Park, Lopez Island and other Rosario Strait lumps.

My route covered most of the trails here, but not in a very organized manner.  Total hiking distance was about 3 miles and included about 700 feet of total elevation gain.  The elevation gain results from hiking down to the headlands, then back up and back down to other headlands, and then up to an unremarkable high point and finally over to Sares Head.
 Lots of large mushrooms in a state of decay... lots of mold along with them.

My specific route went from the parking lot to the beaver pond where I found a dead-end to the right.  Backtracked to the left and made my way down in the most direct manner to the northern most point closest to the water.  This point is actually a fair bit above the water at some cliffs.  Water access is not possible (or not wise).

From here I headed south for a ways before the trail headed uphill and back toward the north where I followed it up to a high point over the beaver marsh before circling back to the main trail, resulting an a figure 8 route.

Some neat Madrona Trees in the area too.

From here I made my way back down to 'near' the water before heading back uphill and finding (finally) Sares Head.

By all accounts, Sares Head is the highlight of this park.  Bring a camera and a picnic lunch.  Enjoy!

The name is a bit of a mystery.  Is it Sharpe Park?  Montgomery Headland?  Duban Headland?  Or is the whole combination the actual name of the park?  Another mystery is what did Sares do to get excluded from the park name?

Feel free to post your informative (or gibberish) answers in the comments section.

Directions (from WTA):  From Interstate 5 at Burlington, take Exit 230 and head west on Highway 20. After 12 miles, cross the bridge to Fidalgo Island, and in a few more miles, turn left at Sharpe's Corner to follow Highway 20 south toward Whidbey Island. After driving by Pass Lake, turn right on Rosario Road, and the park is on the left in 1.7 miles

Happy Hiking!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Face Of Mt. Pilchuck 10-20-2013

Sunny Fall days are the prime time to visit the Lookout on top of Mount Pilchuck.

Due to the late date of this trip report and the number of previous Pilchuck reports on this blog, this post is mostly just eye candy for those of you already tired of winter.

Some highlights from this trip include the cloud layer below us, blue sky at the lookout, sunlight illuminated fall colors, no bugs and of course the face of Pilchuck  which seems to stare at me every time I visit.

5.2 miles and 2,100 feet of elevation gain.  Pure awesomeness.  Round trip.


Happy Hiking!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Panorama Dome and More (Mt. Baker) 10-17-2013

Enjoyed a fantastic fall day exploring between Heather Meadows, Austin Pass, Artist Point Panorama Dome and the Bagley Lakes area.

Since this hike was more than two months ago and I have numerous other Artist Point reports about the area there isn't much to add so I'll try to keep this brief.

6.25 miles, 1,300 feet of elevation gain.

Started at Heather Meadows as the road was already closed for the season after an early season snowfall.

Photos in no particular order.

Started at Heather Meadows.

Followed the Wild Goose Trail to Austin Pass and then up to Artist Point.

Snow covered the Table Mountain Trail so I chose to not head up there being solo for the day.

Stopped at the Lake Ann trail head on the way down and followed a service road (which is the 'cattrack' during ski season) all the way up to the top of Panorama Dome where two chair lifts terminate.

Mt. Baker Ski Area staff were doing maintenance or setting up the chair lifts... they were in operation but the lift would stop for a minute or two every time a new chair arrived at the top.  No people in sight... must have been doing work from the bottom side.

Returned the way I came and headed down to the Austin Pass Picnic area where I scouted around, crossed the cement arched bridge to the opposite side of the lake and followed the trail back to Heather Meadows beneath Mount Herman to the car.

Photos with captions where appropriate but in no particular order.

This photo is of one of the Bagley Lakes.  I really like this image for a number of reasons:  First, I like the "Winter Overtaking Fall" aspect with the snow in the cold dark shadows overtaking the warm fall colors as you move from left to right in the photo.  Second, the arched cement bridge is located at the lower right portion of the lake.

 Bagley Creek as it flows out of Bagley Lakes.  A trail circumnavigates the lakes and creek here:

Bagley Lake seen from somewhere above Austin Pass:

 A great view of a tarn with reflections of Table Mountain in it.  This was taken at Austin Pass Picnic Area parking lot:

Another view of Bagley Lakes and Austin Pass picnic area taken from near Artist Point:

Mt. Baker (left) and Table Mountain (right) taken from Panorama Dome (or on the way too Panorama Dome):

Mount Shuksan, probably taken from Pan. Dome:

Top of the Chair Lift at Pan. Dome, Heather Meadows parking lot and lodge in the distance:

Wild Goose Trail markers:

Weird textured geologic lump near Artist Point:

Someone near the Bagley Lake inflow being stalked by Polar Bears.  Maybe they are dogs but you can't prove it one way or the other from this photo.

Part of the Chain Lakes Loop Trail as it ascends the other side of the Bagley Lakes valley:

Bagley Lakes valley, probably taken from Pan. Dome:

The Visitor Center at Austin Pass with awesome mossy Basalt Columns below it:

Austin Pass Visitor Center below Table Mountain:

Route and trail profile info:

Happy Hiking!