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.