We didn't go where we were scheduled today, us Senior Trailblazers. The day dawned clear and cold, and we decided to head up to Lake Ann, which has been unavailable all year because of the late snow. But some friends had successfully reached the lake, so eight of us headed up the Mt. Baker Highway to the end of the road. We couldn't get all the way to the trailhead, so that added an extra mile to the hike, but it was worth it. Look at the clear sky! When we got to the parking lot, it was so slippery that we had to take precautions not to fall, but once we got into the sunshine, most of the ice melted away (most, not all; we had to watch every step).
This trek covers more than four miles before you reach the lake, but it's an interesting one: you start and end at the same elevation, descending almost a thousand feet from the trailhead, cross a beautiful and wet valley, and then begin a rocky ascent to Lake Ann. Here you can see the lake, and it's already frozen, mid-October. It looks like it never cleared completely all year. If you enlarge the picture, you can see that the middle of the lake has last year's snow still present. What an unusual year it's been: we saw fall colors as well as summer lupines that had just surfaced from the snow.
We had several exciting stream crossings, and sometimes we got a bit damp, but nobody got hurt. We were careful to take our time. The snow in the above picture behind the hikers is left over from last year, and it is obviously not going to melt, since this year's snow was already fresh on the trail. In the summertime, when we've done this hike before, it's so exposed to the sun that it tends to be very hot and uncomfortable as you navigate the rocks when you are gaining elevation. Today, every time we were in the sun it felt great.
This picture of Diane and me, taken by Peggy, shows our lunch spot, with two glaciers on Mt. Shuksan behind us: about even with the top of Diane's head and to the right is the Lower Curtis Glacier, and the Upper Curtis Glacier is visible just below the peaks in the middle. Several long-time hikers noticed the decrease we can see in the glaciers, just in the last decade or so. The first time I came here two years ago, I was able to hear glaciers breaking away (calving), and they are disappearing amazingly rapidly.
The eight of us spread out and sat in the brilliant sunshine, no breeze at all, and enjoyed our lunches. I was pretty tired by the time we got here, and I knew that we had another four-and-a-half miles and plenty of elevation loss and gain to travel before we reached the cars, but at this point it was a magnificent place to be, filled with laughter and camaraderie. I was happy and content as we began our descent.
If I didn't know better, looking at this picture, I'd think we were a bunch of intrepid explorers in the trackless wilderness. However, every time we weren't sure of the trail, we asked Steve, who has more experience in this environment than all of us put together. He has climbed all the peaks many times, camped here more times than I can count, and told us he was very happy to be out and about with us today. It was a bright and beautiful day, one that I will remember for a long, long time.