Tuesday, August 27, 2013

High Divide adventure

Trudging up Welcome Pass
Yesterday nine Trailblazers went on our third "extra" hike of the summer, this time doing a loop from Welcome Pass across the High Divide trail and coming down Excelsior Pass. We left a car at Excelsior trailhead and all piled into one big van to the Welcome Pass trailhead. This is an almost twelve-mile-long trip, with the grueling Welcome Pass at the beginning, meaning that the majority of the difficult part of the hike is over quickly. You climb sixty-some switchbacks in 2.5 miles, ascending 2,800 feet. And the first mile is gentle, meaning that in the next 1.5 miles you climb 2,300 feet!
The views looking north from High Divide
Ah, finally we were at the pass! We traveled from east to west along the High Divide trail, and as you can see from the above picture, we had hopes of getting some wonderful views of Mt. Baker and Shuksan, if the clouds cooperated. Unfortunately for us, they didn't. But it was cool and very beautiful along the five miles we traversed along the High Divide trail. Not all the wildflowers are gone, either.
Aspen and flowers on the trail
The weather continued to deteriorate during our hike to Excelsior Pass, in terms of views, but the lovely vistas and lack of rain made up for it. We were all prepared for rain, since there was a distinct possibility, but we were actually very fortunate in that regard. However, the cold wind made us all bundle up quickly when we stopped for lunch. Much of the vegetation was wet from a recent rain, too.
Low clouds and wind as we continued on
We didn't have much for views looking out at Mt. Baker and Shuksan, which was a little disappointing, but since there were still so many wildflowers, not to mention ripe blueberries, along the trail, nobody was unhappy. We were really enjoying ourselves.
Mountains obscured by clouds
By the time we started our downward trajectory on Excelsior Pass, we had seen only two other people all day long. They were at the top of the pass, probably doing an out-and-back hike as we usually do. After about a mile of downward hiking, we began to smell smoke. It got more intense and we were not sure what was causing it. And then we saw it: a smoldering fire along the side of the trail.
Trying to put out the fire
We dumped all the water we had onto the fire, which had glowing embers on tree roots. We didn't have any shovels or any way to be sure we got it completely out, but some of the more adventurous hikers stomped on it as best they could. We took GPS coordinates and Al was able to mark the spot so we could tell the rangers where the fire is located. There is no cell coverage anywhere along the highway, so we discussed what to do as we continued down.

Al and Peggy hustled down faster than I could go, and once they made it to the trailhead, they flagged down a car. The driver was more than happy to head down to Glacier and report the fire to the appropriate authorities. This morning I got an email that Steve, who followed up this morning with the Forest Service, has an update. The Forest Service already had the GPS coordinates, which must have come from the driver of the car, but they wanted more information about the fire from Steve. As Steve said in the email, "I think we did our good deed for the year."

This fire could only have come from one source: humans, and probably from a careless cigarette thrown off the side of the trail on Saturday or Sunday. I suspect Sunday because other hikers would have smelled it and reported it if it had been earlier. It felt to me as if it had been smoldering and burning very slowly, but tree roots were finally involved and eventually the tree would have burst into flame.

After we were reunited with both cars, we stopped for dinner and made it home safely around 8:00pm. It was a long day, but filled with beautiful vistas and adventure. And, the rain stayed away until we were in our cars on the way home after dinner! The rain was actually quite welcome to us, as we thought of the fire that we hopefully (mostly) put out.


  1. oh, so glad you discovered that fire in the early stages! ugh!!!

    but the rest of the hike along those wildflowers, mountains and green expanses must have been gorgeous!

  2. Wow...that could've been a disaster if not dealt with as y'all did!! I cheer the initiative from each and every one of you. And the people who carelessly do things like this should be horse-whipped!!!!

    Gorgeous outing again. The wild flowers with the image of the obscured mountains photo...beautiful. The 1st photo is so pretty, I think I would've stopped to admire the tranquil scene way too long.

  3. goodness...a bit of excitement...glad you were there and got the fire out and let those that needed to know....that could have been a disaster....

    love the veins and colors in that mountain...that steep trail...oh my....

  4. What a scary thing, that fire! Especially considering the wild fires in that area. I hope the fire is out for good. Beautiful photos, DJan.

  5. Hooly dooly. What a climb! As usual I am in awe. And loved the photos. And so pleased that you found, and dealt with the fire. Some people are true oxygen thieves.
    Wine o'clock would have been very welcome after that day.

  6. You were in the right place at the right time - Thank goodness. That was a disaster in the making. Just too scary to think what could have happened without your intervention.

  7. I'm not surprised at how careless and stupid people can be but the likelihood that outdoorsy hiker-backpacker types were the likely culprits does surprise

  8. I also notice a large field of alpine flowers. Fire is a real threat. You did your good deed.

  9. Thank goodness you found that fire! It's shocking how many horrible, uncontrolled fires there are right now on the western side of the U.S. You definitely did your good deed for the day, week, month. I didn't realize that the fire could travel up the roots. YIKES! That is so scary!

  10. Sounds like another spectacular hike, though the fire is a little scary! As for that 2800 foot ascent at the start, I'm glad I wasn't trying to keep up with you!

  11. Glad to hear your group dealt with the fire and reported it. That could have escalated into a major incident. We have several already on this side of the Cascades, don't need them over your way.

    I love those wildflowers DJan. Even on a cloudy day the flowers can brighten things up.

  12. I think the views are beautiful....
    The wildflowers are lovely as are the mountain peaks in the distance.
    So glad that the fire was contained and the proper authorities were notified. Thank you to all of you who had a part in putting out the fire and giving the coordinates.
    Have a great week, Jan.

  13. It is mind boggling how one stupid moment by careless folks can easily destroy such beauty. Good job reporting it. Sleep well.

  14. Isn't it weird that someone would be out in the beautiful wilderness, walking in the fields and the flowers . . . and smoking a cigarette!?! Anyway, kudos to you!

  15. So glad you were there & did what you could to stop its' growth and for reporting it as well. Good job! Beautiful pictures too, thanks for sharing your journeys.

  16. I just cannot believe someone could be that careless, especially way out there. I am so glad you all discovered and put it out as well as you did and then reported it. You may very well have saved hectors of forest n trails. Always love your photos and hikes DJan.

  17. You prevented a forest fire for sure..good going! Dirt works well too for smothering the embers. Another beautiful hike, I am thinking that one of these extra hikes and blueberries being ripe is when you saw that bear.
    Hope you are having a good week! It is hot here and miserable. Next week will be much cooler:)

  18. Now that's a hike! That first picture alone had me breathing hard. But it looked like a really nice day for it.

    and regarding the fire... maybe you were meant to be there. It gives you pause as to what to do in situations like that.

  19. It sounds like it was a great hike and you all certainly did your good deed with the smoldering fire. I often wonder how many of these horrendous fires are caused by sheer carelessness.

  20. Another amazing hike in the high country. Fortunately the sky was not so low that that it blocked out all of the mountain tops.
    and it was very fortunate that you got that fire under control before it took off.

  21. wildflowers are so beautiful!!

  22. Way to seize the day with another amazingly beautiful hike - and save the day, too, coming by that fire to put it out!

  23. You all were heros to that tree!! And all the forest around it. Wow! I am so glad you got it out the best you could and got the forest rangers involved quickly. What a trip that was! Still beautiful close up with all the flowers and berries, even if the mountains were covered with clouds. :)


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