Thursday, July 30, 2015

Heliotrope Ridge 2015

Parking lot, filled with cars on a weekday
Twelve Senior Traiblazers gathered at the parking lot for the Heliotrope Ridge hike, without our leader Al, but with Ward (yellow shirt) and Steve who acted as his stand-ins. We had three hikers, Roger, Doug and Susan, who decided to ride together and do their own thing separate from us. They are what I call Superhikers, much stronger than some of the rest of us, and who would go much farther and faster. We bade them goodbye at the parking lot.
Crossing the first creek, the only one with a bridge
This parking lot is not only the place where people climb to see the Coleman Glacier on Mt. Baker up close and personal, but it's also where those who are going to climb to the top of Mt. Baker begin their trek to the base camp. We saw lots of strong-looking guys with full climbing gear starting out at the same time we did.
The second creek crossing, no bridge
Then we reached the second creek crossing, which looks pretty innocuous in the picture; it wasn't. We had to pick our way across the rushing water, which is coming down from the Glacier and with the warm weather wasn't all that easy.
Steve helping me across, Joy on the left after crossing
Steve went across first, and then helped those of us who felt we needed a hand. Although it wasn't too much of a stretch, my short legs were glad to have some assistance as I leaped across the rocks. All was well as we continued on the hike to the third crossing. Before we got there, we came to the junction to the Climber's Route, which takes you steeply upward to a ridge. Most of us wanted to see whether we would be able to get across the third, and most difficult, crossing, so we could see the Glacier up close.
One of our first great views of Mt. Baker
The weather could not have been better, although some of us might have appreciated a cloud or two, and Mt. Baker looked close enough to touch. Just a short jaunt to the top, right? But before we could get to the glacier overlook, we had to cross that last stream. I was hoping against hope that we would be going over there to take a look around.
Linda going up to that log to see if she could cross
Because of the extreme warmth we've been having, the glacier is releasing tremendous amounts of rushing water across this stream. Linda is heading up to that horizontal log to see if we might be able to make it across. She tentatively evaluated the situation, but before she could start to cross, both Ward (her husband) and Steve said NO. Although it doesn't look like much, the water is very strong, and a fall would inevitably mean an injury. So we turned around and started up the Climber's Route.
Coleman Glacier and Mt. Baker (Carol's picture)
As we climbed up the steep trail, we did get some fabulous views of the glacier and Mt. Baker. But when we are on the other side, you really do feel like you can reach out and touch the glacier. We did this hike last September, and we were able to cross and see the magnificent views. Check them out here
Aphids munching on a dead lupine
Because of the heat, all the flowers were gone except some fireweed and monkey flowers (near water sources), and I noticed that all the lupines have gone to seed and attracted plenty of aphids. If you enlarge this picture, you can see lots of fat aphids who are enjoying them. Someone said that all members of the pea family (which includes lupines) attract them. There was no doubt about that!
That first bridge, on our return journey
And then we made our way back down the trail, having covered somewhere under seven miles and more than six (6.2, 6.3, 6.7 were our various readings) and around 2,000 feet up and down. It's interesting that my feet have learned to notice eight miles, since that's when they get tired, and I wasn't anywhere near that today. We hopped in our cars and drove to Graham's in the town of Glacier where we enjoyed ice cream cones and more, and then headed home.

It was a wonderful day. I think this is one of my very favorite hikes, and I don't need to say it, but I will: it's much more enjoyable when we have our fearless leader with us. I hope next week he will be able to be with us again.


  1. i'm hoping al will be back, too. :)

    funny, i was thinking the creeks would be dry because of your drought conditions, yet because of the heat wave, you have melting glaciers causing water rushes.

  2. Beautiful pictures and description. Tempting to want to join you, except I am no where near in good enough shape to keep up with you guys and complete the trail!

  3. Great hike! I especially like the pix from last year. It's looks like you really did get right to the edge of the glacier!

  4. Any hike is much more fun when there'a special goal like a good view of Mt Baker. Now I'm not sure if you get across the creek with dry feet or cooled off feet. We used to take flip flops. The water from glaciers is very cold.

  5. Beautiful! I'd love to hike around Mt Baker sometime. And I know what you mean about glacial creek crossings. They always scare me.

  6. Where are the ladybirds when you need them. They would have a wonderful time munching on those aphids.
    Another beautiful hike, and I hope your fearless leader is back with you soon.

  7. Those Aphids are huge! We don't have them that big here. Another great hike! Good to hear that Al might be with you next week! That is some bright yellow T that Ward had on! :)

  8. We gave up trying to grow lupine a long time ago because they are such aphid magnets.
    I'm glad you stayed safe and had a good time.

  9. Just gorgeous! Glad you guys played it safe re crossing that water. :)

  10. At the right time of summer, you can travel up our highways and it is a sea of lupins, stretching mile after mile, such a spectacular site that I have watched more than one driver stop and take photos. We have the new highway with much beauty. Loved your hike today and did go into past post and it looks like you were right on top and a hands touch from the glacier. Hi to Al and hope he is with you soon.

  11. Well now, I was enjoying going with you and seeing all the beautiful scenery....even crossing the creek/water cascades....and tho it's glacier water, I'm sure those rocks were a bit slippery....Like I said, enjoying the hike...up until you spied those aphids...they give me the willies!!! LOL

    Beautiful day, gorgeous mountaintops of sky, great companions makes for a perfect day.

  12. I almost feel as though I could touch the glacier. Thanks for taking us along!

  13. You were so right not to attempt that water crossing. People often underestimate the power of water and those rocks would be very slippery. Glad you had such a wonderful, safe hike.

  14. Such dramatic beauty! Smart to play it safe with the streams.

  15. How nice that you have a group that enjoys the same pace. It would be discouraging to try to keep up with the serious folks. It must have been nice to give your feet a treat and not stretch them with a longer hike.

  16. It was wise to heed the leaders about not crossing that creek. Someone might have been hurt.

    So, 8 miles is your limit, then? Lol.

  17. That looked like so much fun and I'm glad the weather cooperated. However, I'm glad you are all careful about safety out in the wilderness.


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