Thursday, June 9, 2011

South summit of Stewart

Today eleven Senior Trailblazers headed up to the south summit of Stewart Mountain from the Lake Whatcom trailhead. As you can tell from our attire, it was quite warm. Al had checked out the hike for us on Monday, the third day in a row of beautiful sunny weather. Today's "June gloom" kept the sun from shining most of the day, although now at 4:00pm as I sit as my computer, the skies are mostly sunny. It figures.
This is hopefully the season's last hike in the Chuckanuts, because next week we will try going up the Mt. Baker Highway and taking on Excelsior Ridge. I didn't expect to have as good a time as I did today. (I love the high country hikes the best.) As we headed higher and higher up Stewart Mountain, we ascended into a cloud. This meant our view of Mt. Baker would be limited, if visible at all. This particular hike has logging roads that take you to all the different summits, but Al has figured out a way for us to make this nine-mile hike with less than a mile spent on the logging roads, and the rest of the time on trails. It is definitely a workout, but it is much more enjoyable on trails where I can see the ferns and blooming flowers. We also saw something else:
We kept seeing BIG piles of bear scat, which means the bears are out of hibernation and looking for munchies. Since we did an out-and-back trip, we passed by the same piles on the way back, and Mike counted them on the way down: 13 separate piles, which I suspect were not all left by one bear. But other than the scat, we saw no other signs of these guys.
Click any picture to enlarge
By noon, when we stopped for lunch at our high spot on the mountain (3,000 feet), the clouds began to clear off a little. In the above picture, you are looking at Acme Valley down below, but this is about the best view I was able to get all day. Behind those low clouds are Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters, but you wouldn't know it. Al pulled out his camera and showed us the stupendous pictures he took on Monday. It only made me want to stick around to see if they would peek through, so we stayed for almost an hour, but this is the best picture I got.
As we headed back down to the cars, this picture of the logging road section shows it was a beautiful day, even if the sun wasn't shining. No threat of rain, and I thought this tree in the middle of the picture looked just magical. All in all, we covered nine miles and 2,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. Pretty typical for us. Al pointed out to me this "nurse" stump, which apparently happens in this part of the country quite often: the two trees growing out of the top started their lives and are being nourished by the stump in the middle, which will eventually disintegrate, leaving a very interesting root system behind.
It reminds me to remember the tenacity of living things to keep on finding a way to survive. Those long tap roots are now firmly anchored in the ground below, and the trees will be there long after the stump that nourishes them now will be gone. Today was a day filled with the kindness of friends, lots of sweating, and now a blog post to share. It was a day that made me happy to be alive, to be here in this part of the country, and to have the wherewithal to write this, tired and content.
:-)

24 comments:

  1. wow that is an awesome tree...the beer scat would have had me keeping an eye out...on one hand how cool it would be to see...on the other...

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  2. I would love to be able to hike with a group. I'll try to find one in my area, but I may be leaving in October to go on the road fulltime and would have to keep finding groups along the way. Would not want to do some of the hikes by myself, I think its better to have at least 2 or 3 people hiking together.
    Teri

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  3. Love that tree...really beautiful. I can't believe you're so brave...I'd have turned back once I saw the scat. That's a big pile = big bear. Your friends look like a fun group. Nice group photo.

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  4. I recognized the bear scat. I'm glad you didn't encounter any hungry bears.

    The tree in the middle of the photo looks like someone to pinking shears to the edges. I've never seen anything like it. Do you know what kind of tree it is?

    Also, I've never heard of a nurse tree. This is a new term for me. The two trees are fascinating. Some of your fellow hikers sure are just full of all kinds of good information.

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  5. A tree that deserves respect!You and your group of hikers are amazing!

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  6. I agree with you...the higher the trail ...the better the hike. I really like alpine meadows. There's so much birdlife and in July the meadows are covered with flowers.

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  7. Again I loved my vicarious walk. The bear scat was amazing, the nurse tree incredible and I just goggled at the view through the clouds. Many thanks.

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  8. I'm loving your posts, as usual, and particularly loving your reflections on life and health. You are enjoying each day to the fullest, I think, and appreciating all the good stuff.
    Things have been changing for me since I hit the big 5-0. Mostly my attitude, but the physical changes will come too, I know. You make the whole journey sound like something to look forward to, rather than something to worry about.

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  9. That is one beautiful hike but the bears-- YIKES! Glad you didn't come across any of them.
    Happy weekend, jj

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  10. I am so glad that the day made you happy and that you are in good health to enjoy it. Can't ask for anything better than that.

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  11. It must be amazing to walk in a cloud! I have experienced that by car in Tennessee but never in England. Where I live, it is low and flatish so we don't get that experience here.
    The tree is amazing. I'd never heard of a 'nurse' tree before.

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  12. Tired and content. Sounds so peaceful.

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  13. I agree that small pine tree does have a 'standout' quality about it and the trees on the nurse stump, are wonderous! I sometimes come across trees at the edge of the creek with exposed roots grown around small boulders, but never nothing like this. You did have a magical hike in the "June gloom" as you say!

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  14. Wonderful! Absolutely wonderful!

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  15. I wondered about running into hungry bears but figured there were enough of you to scare them off.

    Unless they were really hungry.

    Still, I am waiting on a picture of a Sasquatch.

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  16. Yes, keeping an eye on the bears is a good idea right now. That tree is so interesting!

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  17. Watch out for the "something else!"

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  18. I learn a lot from your hikes and I had never seen a picture of bear scat. You're brave to hike in bear country. We only see deer scat in our woods. I don't venture into the woods in our high temperatures, near 100 degrees yesterday. Love the air conditioning.

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  19. Love that you take us with you on your hikes! I've never seen bear scat, either. Love the almost lacy tree and the nurse tree--never heard of that--what a sight! At least you got a peek through the clouds, great company, and a ton of exercise. Looks like a great day. I envy you your hikes. :)

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  20. I love the shots in the misty clouds

    and I just have to say it
    bears sure do make some big scat!

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  21. Another great hike! You seniors are amazing.

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  22. Hmm, the bear scat looks pretty fresh, I hope you guys made lots of noise. I was tracking a moose one time by the tracks and dropping when all of a sudden bear scat started appearing. Oh goody, I'm tracking a moose being tracked by a bear, maybe it's time to rethink this plan!

    That tree is really interesting, nature can do some wondrous things. Glad you had a day without rain.

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  23. The tree (trees) is pretty awesome. I've never seen such a thing. Of course, I don't hike so that would make it more difficult...How in the world do the trees even begin their lives on the stump? Your right about tenacity though. It just goes to show, where there's a will there's a way.

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  24. The trees are awesome! Thanks for another great hike. You are a content lady:)

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