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So, anyway, I never get a flu shot, and never plan to, but this winter I guess I got the flu. I would call it a bad cold and when I looked up on the internet how to tell the difference between a cold and the flu, I had some symptoms from both categories, so I still don’t know. However, I know I got what seemed like a bad cold, and for two weeks simply dragged myself everywhere I had to go, including work, sorry guys. If we could get some sick-leave, I would be happy to stay home, but if I don’t come to work, I don’t get paid, so . . . everyone at work got sick.

But, before you blame me, I was not the first person to get sick. My boss, who did get a flu shot, was the first to get sick. So much for the flu shot.

Well, then after two weeks, I felt like my regular self, so I started going back to the gym. After a week, I was sick again! So another two weeks dragging myself here and there, and now I’m fine again, and back at the gym.

You know what really pisses me off? My 88 year old mom, who still wanted me to pick her up for the day, never got my cold/flu. I guess I’m glad for that, but at the same time, I kind of resent it, if you know what I mean.

Hamster report out!

PS: I’m planning my summer and fall hikes and backpacks, can hardly wait to get out on the trails again.

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Fourth of July Pass

The weather was sunny and clear – and hot! Not used to that around here. The Mount Baker Hill climb was scheduled for today also, so that meant the Mount Baker Highway would be closed between 7:30 am and noon. That meant I had to leave home at about 6:00 am to get to my turn-off before 7:30. There was no way I was going to hike up 2500 feet in the sun in the hottest part of the day.

Tarns below Yellow Aster Butte

Tarns below Yellow Aster Butte

Besides, my theory was, and I turned out to be not totally correct, I might be on the trail by myself. I thought that would be fun. I like my wilderness experience to be without crowds; too many people and I don’t feel like I’m out in the wilderness!

Peaks from Yellow Aster Butte trail

Peaks from Yellow Aster Butte trail

So, I left home about 6:00am and got to my turn-off a little after 7:00. Then I drove my 16-year old car up a pretty crappy gravel road. I averaged around 10 miles an hour up this not very maintained road for 5 miles. Some of the “gravel” looked more like boulders to me, and the potholes were deep enough to lose a wheel. The nice thing about the time I arrived was that I didn’t meet any cars coming towards me, as in some places one would have to back up to get to a wide enough place for the cars to pass each other.

Not to worry, it worked out fine – going up. I had a great hike, I met several people coming down, as they had backpacked in overnight and were now heading down. It was hot, and it was only 8:00 when I started up the trail. I got to the top around 10:15. I was searching for a good place to set up my tent next weekend, and I could see there were LOTS of great spots and many little snow-melt “ponds”. The views were spectacular.

Mount Baker from Yellow Aster Butte trail

Mount Baker from Yellow Aster Butte trail

There were tons of wildflowers everywhere, and I could hear the humming of thousands of bees, doing their work. I wondered where their hives are at that elevation?  Still wondering.

Wildflowers at Yellow Aster Butte

Wildflowers at Yellow Aster Butte

 

So, when I got back to my car, about 12:30, I thought it would be too early after the highway re-opened for any cars to be coming up. I was wrong! There was a pretty steady stream of cars I had to negotiate around on my drive down. I was really glad I had done my hike early, both to avoid the hottest part of the day, and because the number of cars coming up meant there would be a crowd on the trail. Yuck! Not my thing.

The hike went great for me, and I’m looking forward to my overnight trip next weekend!

Hamster report

Spider web in the mist

Spider web in the mist

Ok, so now I have been up this trail 3 times this year. The first time went pretty much as planned – I knew there would be snow, and I carried my snowshoes until I hit the snow, put them on, and hiked another couple of miles. It was somewhat annoying, as the trail went along a sleep slope (what doesn’t around here) and after several miles the snowshoe straps were hurting my feet as I was sliding to one side constantly. It was OK, but not as pleasant as walking a more gradual slope with a somewhat level path.

They say there is a great view of Mt. Baker

They say there is a great view here of Mt. Baker

So the next time up, I had planned the trip a month in advance, thinking the snow would be off, as the trail goes up a south-facing ridge. Not to mention the Forest Dept website said the snow level was at about 5,500 feet on this trail. I don’t know what year they were talking about, but not this year. I was still getting over a bad chest cold and thought that I would be OK; just walk slow. That doesn’t really work in the mountains. Steep uphill trails are tiring, no matter how slow you walk.  Besides, the snow was still down to about 3,500 feet; I walked on it for a while, but since I was so tired I thought it would be wiser to turn around, instead of falling down at some point.

My daypack & 1968 vintage ice ax

My daypack & 1968 vintage ice ax

This time, I was ready. I had my six-point crampons. I had my ice ax. I was not recovering from illness. The snow had more time to melt off. Hah! It was overcast the whole day, and no views!  This is supposed to be one of the most spectacular viewing spots! Oh, well, I did make it to the top of the ridge and did a little scouting around for places to pitch my tent next weekend.

Trees in the mist

Trees in the mist

I would prefer to camp on dry ground instead of snow, but it looks like it’ll be snow. I just need to find a flat spot, or maybe I’ll have to carve out a spot. There was so much fog up there I couldn’t see very far, and I suspect there may be nicer places to set up camp a little further along the ridge. If it is sunny next weekend, I’ll scout around more. If it is like Sunday, it won’t matter much because I’ll just need a place close to the trail, as there won’t be any views. Hoping for sun!

yellow wildflowers

yellow wildflowers in the meadowLots of snow and fog

 
hiking into dark woods

hiking into the dark woods and fog

 
Snow free area of meadow

Snow free area of meadow.

 

Hamster report

one of many waterfalls on trail

Many waterfalls and streams crossing trail

Too much snow this year; I tried this hike, but after about 3 miles the steep snowfields covering the trail became too hazardous for someone without an ice axe.  It was overcast and the trail was becoming hidden in the fog as well, so I was having trouble following the footsteps in the snow.

Forest in the mist

Next time I’ll bring my ice axe and some crampons. I’m getting tired of only hiking 3 miles up the trails.  It was beautiful, but no views other than trees in the fog!

Fog & snow on upper trail

Fog & snow on upper trail

 

They (the scientists) say the effect of climate change in the Pacific Northwest will be more snow in the winter and more rain year round.

 

Mist & snow on upper trail

Rocks at base of snow slopes

It seems to be working out that way. I have my rain barrel, but due to damaging my finger and just procrastinating, I haven’t hooked it up to my downspout yet. I’m such a slacker.

Hazardous river crossing

scary river crossing

 

I tried to get a photo of this crossing that accurately showed how hazardous and frightening it was, but didn’t succeed. It was very steep, one rock that you could put a boot on would be quite a bit above the next one downstream from it. The water is just melted, and the air temp is way too low to contemplate how cold you would be if you miss-stepped and got too much of yourself in that icy water.

Looking forward to my next hike in the mountains – with my ice ax and crampons, in August?

Hamster report

 

So, I couldn’t get my friend to go backpacking with me this past weekend, so I went solo – my first!  I wondered if I would be too freaked out to have a good time. It turned out I was very comfortable alone and except for the bear I met on the trail, I was not worried.

Baker river trail and baker lake trail sign

Baker river trail and baker lake trail sign

The forest was incredibly beautiful; some of the trees on this trail were huge – 8 to 10 feet in diameter. I could hear at least 3 different bird song. In the evening I could hear Loons calling; it was hauntingly beautiful.

Portion of the trail without shoulder high brush!

Portion of the trail without shoulder high brush!

The trail was 4.5 miles to Noisy Creek campsite on Baker Lake. 

One of the more complex bridges on this trail

One of the more complex bridges on this trail

There were many streams and rivers crossing the trail – the larger ones had bridges for crossing, and the the smaller had to be crossed by trying to walk on rocks people had tossed in for stepping stones. Unfortunately, the water was flowing over the rocks, so my boots got pretty wet, not to mention all the water that cascaded onto me from the wet brush along the trail.

One of many streams crossing trail

One of many streams crossing trail

The floor of the forest was covered with a green carpet of moss; every downed tree, rock and stump.  The brush – most of which was composed of  huckleberry bushes, salmon berry and other berry bushes covered the trail in many places and was about shoulder-high. On my hike out, there were two young forest service employees with big weed-eaters cutting this stuff down. 

One quarter dome tent

One quarter dome tent

I met the bear on my way in – about an hour and a half up the trail. I had seen his paw prints in the muddy parts of the trail, and was a bit worried, but whistled as I went along, to let any bears around know there was a human on the trail. I’m glad they take that as a signal to take off, because it could mean “here is lunch”.  

Rainbow over Baker lake

Rainbow over Baker lake

When I spotted the bear, he dropped down on all fours and took off at a good clip, heading away from me, for which I was very grateful. It would have been impossible for me to get off the trail to get out of his way, due to the trail being on a steep slope and with everything covered with such thick moss you couldn’t tell if you were walking on anything substantial or stepping between rocks and fallen branches. I’d have broken a leg in 3 steps, I’m sure. Without the maintained trail it would be impossible to travel through the area.

Baker River in the rain on hike out

Baker River in the rain on hike out

Hamster report

So much for information taken from internet sources. I went to the forest service website for Mount Baker forest and there it said the snow pack was at 5,500 feet on the Excelsior Ridge trail.

Excelsior trail head

Excelsior trail headStream 2 miles up trail

At about 3.5 miles up the trail I encountered significant snow on the trail.

Stream 2 miles up trail

Stream 2 miles up trail

It quickly became 4-5 feet deep, and when I began to lose the footprints I was following I turned back, without reaching the ridge and the views I was hoping for.

Snow on trail

Snow on trail

Oh well, I had a great time just being in the woods. The weather was perfect on Sunday – warm, but not hot, and blue skies – which was one of the reasons I was hoping to make the ridge top and see the views of Baker and the Canadian peaks to the north. Oh well, next time.

More snow on trail

More snow on trail

They are sying we have the highest snow pack ever recorded here, and Mount Baker has one of the highest snowfall records in the United States.

Rest stop on way down

Rest stop on way down

I had carried my snowshoes, but it wasn’t appropriate to use them. Some of those mini-crampons would have been ideal. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any.

Hamster report from the woods

So, all my plans about getting in shape are going to the hot place. It’s a good thing  I’ve been here numerous times before, so I know this too will pass, and I will keep trudging on.

Right now I have a horrendous summer cold, with major coughing fits – I guess there is crap in my lungs – in fact I can feel it. I’ve been way sicker than this, but am going home from work and spending some serious couch time to try to get over this as soon as possible.

This is what I'm looking forward to!

This is what I'm looking forward to!

I’ve spent all the money my health insurance allows for this year, and more – right now I over $1,600 for my E.R. visit in May, so I won’t be going to the doctor’s, unless I find myself at death’s door, thank you politicians. Maybe I should go to a Republican political rally and pass around my germs . . .

Somebody backpacking somewhere in the Cascades!

Somebody backpacking somewhere in the Cascades!

 Anyway, I’m planning a day hike next Sunday, to scope out the trail conditions on a backpack trip planned for the week after that. We’ve had so much snow this winter in the Cascades, it will be very late in the summer before the snow melts out in most of the trails.  This trail faces the South, so it is melting out right now. We will see!

Hamster dreaming

Sunday I left Bellingham about 7:30 am and drove to the southern trailhead for the Baker lake trail. You can access the trail from either the south or the north.

Baker and reflection

Baker and reflection

It is a nifty 14 mile long trail that goes from the north end of the lake to the Baker Lake dam a t the south end. The drive from Bellingham is 1-1/2 hours, not too long.

Shucksan arm

Shucksan arm

The weather was great – one of the sunniest and warmest days we’ve had so far this year. I hiked along the trail for about 6 miles before turning back, making it a 12 mile hike.

Early morning light on old snag

Early morning light on old snag

I stopped at the two campsites along the lake on the way back, and took a snooze at the southernmost campsite, about 1.8 miles from my car. The views of Baker were stunning. The trail winds through cathedral-like trees, ferns, hucklebery bushes and wildflowers.

scary bridge

scary bridge

The only downside was the fact that noise and voices travel very clearly over water, and so the motor powered boats and the car campers who were out enjoying the lake as well-kept reminding me that I wasn’t as far from civilization as I like to be on a hike!

A great hike, thumbs up on this one.

Hamster report

So, there is still too much snow in the mountains, so am still hiking the Chuckanuts. Besides, my finger is still in a splint, so I can’t wear gloves and it would be hard to put on snowshoes.

Wide trail to start

Wide trail to start

It was drizzling all the way up the trail, was just overcast on the way down. Started out at 8:00 am from the Arroyo Park trailhead, mine was the first car there.

Trail narrows

Trail narrows

I do enjoy the peace and quiet when I’m the first on the trail. I could hear the birds singing, and the rain falling on the leaves.

One of the fun things about this tr

Trail narrows more

Trail narrows more

ail is it starts out on an old road (as soon as you traverse a trail from the parking lot to the road/ trail, that is), and the trail gets progressively narrower, until finaly, very close to the lake, you are brushing through head-high berry bushes, ferns, etc. 

Obstacles

Obstacles near lake

 The last part of the trail you have to negotiate through what is barely more than a swamp.

Muddy trail near lake

Muddy "trail" near lake

The first time I did this trail, several years ago, it took me a while to figure out where to go, as some idiot tied pink plastic ties to some brush that leads to a dead end in an even more swampy area near the lake.

However I know my way now

Lost lake

Lost lake

, and navigated the mud over to the part of the trail that goes uphill a bit to the rocky rest spot where I had a snack before starting back down.

Berries and brush

Head high brush

The trail is 9 miles, but goes fast. I left my car at 8:00 am and was back at 12:20.

Hamster report from the woods

first view

first view

salal on trail
salal on trail

I finally get back on the trail! It was very nice. I’m still craving the higher elevations, but this was a good training hike. Apretty steep trail, but only 3 1/2 miles each way. I took a side trip across that horribly wobbly bridge to check out the bat caves, but had no intention of going in. They looked very damp and cold, and I assume must have plenty of bat doo-doo. Not my thing, however, I do love bats. Ever since I heard they eat their weight in mosquitos every night. How could I not love that?

ferns on the trail

ferns on the trail

 
view from the top

view from oyster dome

 

I am having a hell of a time uploading pictures. WordPress keeps somehow melding one photo with the one I’m trying to upload. I give up for now, I don’t have all friggin’ day to do this. I had more photos, but WordPress sucks.

Hamster report from the woods and internet hell in the city