Thursday, July 6, 2017

Welcome Pass 2017

Dense forest cover kept us from getting too hot
Fourteen Senior Trailblazers headed out from the Senior Center to the Mt. Baker Highway and our destination of Welcome Pass. We had been scheduled to head up Ridley Creek, but we learned that it is still quite covered with snow, so instead we decided to go up what is probably one of the more difficult hikes in the area. It's not long, not at all, but the elevation gain is unforgettable. Here's some information from the sign at the trailhead:
Begin at the trailhead by hiking a mile on an old roadbed. The trail then climbs a series of tight switchbacks for the next 1.5 miles through an old growth forest. After 2.5 miles, gaining 3,000 feet in elevation (900+ meters), the trail reaches Welcome Pass. 
That's 66 or 67 switchbacks, depending on how you count them (Al counted them today both ways and judged it to be 66), never letting up from steep and painful. But it's SO worth it when you get to the top.
Welcome Pass today
 On a sunny day like today, you emerge from that wonderful shady forest onto a beautiful area that joins with the High Divide trail. Heading east (behind these hikers) takes you to Excelsior Pass. Instead, we turned right (west), heading up the steep ridge to a simply wonderful view of Shuksan and Mt. Baker. And yes, there is still snow around here, but there wasn't nearly as much as we've seen in other trips at this time of year.
Our wonderful lunch spot today
We climbed another several hundred feet from the pass to this place, where we knew we would have an incredible view of both Mts. Shuksan and Baker. I've been here before when the stiff breeze was cold enough to don our jackets, but not today. It was just about perfect up here, so we settled in and enjoyed the flowers and the sunny weather. Not to mention the company.
Glacier lilies next to the path
As we climbed, we saw places where the snow had obviously retreated only recently, since they were covered with glacier lilies. These fragile flowers only last for a short while once the snow leaves, but as you can see, today they were abundant.
Gazing at Mt. Baker
Some of the first to arrive on the top found a really lovely place to have lunch, with Mt. Baker showing off her magnificence, while to her left we saw Mt. Shuksan looking fabulous, too.
Mt. Shuksan with lupine and valerian flowers
It was hard for us to decide to leave, with such perfect conditions, but we couldn't stay here much longer. Bob showed me some lovely phlox next to his lunch spot. After a short while, we started back down the way we had come.
Bob with phlox in bloom while enjoying lunch
Snow field
On the way back down, several of us stopped to check out the view and play a little bit in the snow before our steep return trip. I knew that although it was hard to climb up those switchbacks, it would be even harder to climb back down them. But what are you gonna do when you're already there? Since it wasn't a long climb either way, we would be fine, but we did slow down quite a bit and spent some time waiting for the slower hikers. Nobody minded not hurrying down, certainly not me!
Al in the flowers with High Divide behind him
And then we were finally back at the cars, having climbed an enormous amount of elevation in a short distance of six miles or so, and feeling a little sunburned from the intense sun and everybody very happy to be heeding to our ice cream spot in Graham's before heading home. It was a wonderful day, and I'm glad to be finished with my post so I can call it a day. A very fine way to spend my Thursday, that's for sure!


  1. Wow! Tough hike. Exhilarating though. The scenery was spectacular as usual! Well done.

  2. Wow, wow and wow. I am so grateful for the shots you share of the beauty which surrounds you.

  3. If you were wearing a Fitbit, you'd probably record a million floors. Wow! You guys are so amazing!

  4. You always find the neatest places to have lunch. People would pay big money for those views. You only have to spend a ton of energy.

  5. You're doing fantastic if you didn't have any body screaming complaints after that one! Wow! Love all the flowers up there. What a view! :)

  6. What a spectacular lunch spot! I'm so impressed that you can handle that up and down to get there and back!

  7. Well cutting to the chase I'm out of breath and totally exhausted.Ah but the view was worth every last gasp....

  8. Oh, that was a gorgeous hike! The flowers, the mountains! It didn't come easy though.
    Your photos are wonderful.

  9. I just feel like breaking out in song...."THE HILLS are alive with the Sound of Music!!!"

    Absolutely stunning.

  10. Yes! What Hootin Anni said!! my thoughts exactly! What a beauty of a hike:)


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