Fourteen Senior Trailblazers headed up what to me was a new hike, Railroad Grade. Last year, we went to Park Butte, which splits off at the meadow; Park Butte goes to the left, and today we went to the right, up Railroad Grade. With a name like that, I thought an old railroad went up to a mine, but it's actually a glacial moraine, with the remnants of what was once a huge glacier (Easton Glacier) on one side with a pretty impressive drop-off, and on the other a steep hillside covered with wildflowers.
Once we had traveled somewhere around three miles or so and had gained around 2,000 feet in altitude, we came up to a view below us and suddenly, I could hear the sound of the glacial melt cascading down the ravine, with an amazing view in every direction. This railroad grade is a popular route for climbers wanting to get up to the top of Mt. Baker, and I can see why. The trail goes right to the edge of the glacier, but you need to stop before you get to it unless you are prepared with ice axes and crampons. We saw lots of people heading in the glorious sunshine up to some spot beyond where we went.
This picture looks up the trail toward the Black Buttes, hidden at present in clouds, with the edge of Mt. Baker to the right. At this point we were at 5,300 feet of elevation, and with the breeze blowing and the exposure on two sides, it was exhilarating, to say the least. Here I am with Mt. Baker behind me, the glacier on the lower flanks of the mountain.
After spending some relaxing time in the sunshine, the light breeze, with the breathtaking view, we headed back down the trail, being careful to watch our step at the treacherous spots. Mostly it was only a problem if I didn't concentrate on the trail below me; otherwise I had little difficulty with the exposure. Half of our group only came to the beginning of the grade and then headed back down.
This photo shows that most of the trail was pretty wide and easy to travel, and the spots that were only a little more than a foot wide with a drop-off on both sides were not ones where I felt comfortable stopping to take pictures! It took all my concentration now and then.
There is one stream crossing that is usually somewhat of a problem, but two young members of a trail crew had just put this temporary bridge across the stream, and we had no trouble getting across. It is not always this easy; Al was there a month ago and without this bridge it took a bit more effort to cross.
Last year, when we went to Park Butte, we hiked up to this lookout cabin, which I captured today with my telephoto lens. This link takes you to last year's hike, and the second picture on that link shows this cabin as we approached it from below. Remember, any picture can be enlarged, and suffice it to say it was a fabulous day in the sunshine, with good friends and great weather!