I know I said we were all done with our High Country hikes, and this was a few weeks ago. But yesterday I got an email from Al saying that, with the weather promising full sunshine on Tuesday, we should take advantage of the opportunity to get up there at least one more time before the Forest Service closes the road. We met early on this frosty morning, five of us, and headed up as far as we could go on the Mt. Baker highway to the Chain Lakes trailhead. For most of us, it was cold. Mikey hiked in shorts and t-shirt the entire way, but then again, it's Mikey.
The beginning of the hike took us past Bagley Lake, which as you can see here, is mostly frozen. We had snow and some ice underfoot, but we were prepared with Yak Trax in case we needed them (we didn't). The shadows were long, and we trekked past plenty of red-leafed blueberry bushes, some of which had ripe berries that we enjoyed. It wasn't warm, but as we toiled upwards toward Herman Saddle, we stayed very warm in the sunshine. We figured we could get to the saddle and probably would not make the entire loop, but would turn back and retrace our steps after lunch. It was pretty snowy at the Saddle, as you can see.
Here you see Al at the high point of the hike at 5,400 feet (1,650 meters). We had plenty of snow and slick spots to contend with, so we descended down a bit to a sunny spot to have lunch and thought we would turn around afterwards and head back the way we had come (just under three miles). And then while we were having lunch, a couple of women hikers who had started the hike in the opposite direction from the parking lot passed us by at right about noon. That was all it took for us to decide to attempt the loop, as we had their footprints to follow in the snow.
We headed down from the pass, with Iceberg Lake showing its beauty on the way as we headed up toward Artist Point. That road is closed, but we had the Wild Goose Trail to follow from there, which we used to get back to the cars. The Chain Lakes loop took us along a south-facing slope that displayed amazing color. If you look just above halfway in the picture below, you can see the faint trail that leads to Artist Point.
The five of us reached our car after five hours or so of splendid time in the wilderness, with almost eight miles covered, and 2,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. Tired and happy, we climbed in our car and wondered if by any chance we might have such a stellar day again on Thursday (our regular Senior Trailblazers hiking day). Between now and then, we have a good chance of rain in Bellingham and more snow in the High Country, so... we'll see. I had so many wonderful pictures that I will put a bunch more of them on the Senior Trailblazers Fall 2011 site. Enjoy! We sure did!