Thursday, July 9, 2015

Yellow Aster Butte in a drought, all right

Steve at the beginning of our hike, with hazy Mt. Baker behind
Today eleven Senior Trailblazers met to start our earliest annual trek up to Yellow Aster Butte. Because of medical issues, Al decided not to join us, so Steve agreed to be our leader for the day. Since we had some people (like me and Noriko) who didn't want to make the trek in the heat all the way to the top, four of us decided to make a car-full who would slowly make our way up to the flat place that divides the trails downward and the trail upward to the top. If you want to see what the top looks like from one of my earlier jaunts, you can see it here. In fact, that post was from just last year, at the end of July.
On the trail with Carol and Noriko
I was surprised by how dry everything was, but I suppose I shouldn't be. Just today I learned that we in this part of the country have been declared to be in a severe drought, and we haven't seen any measurable rain in what seems ages. And the forest fires burning in Canada are causing a great deal of visibility issues around here.
Mt. Baker is still visible, but barely
And it was hot. Not as hot as last week's hike, but still very much warmer than what we are accustomed to. If you want to see how much, just type in "yellow aster" in that search box on my home page, and you'll be astonished at how much different it is today than it was in past years. The four of us caught sight of the larger group ahead of us now and then, but we were enjoying our slower pace.
Butterflies enjoying the aster
We saw several different kind of butterflies fluttering around these flowers, so many I just had to stop for a picture. If you study it carefully, you will see at least half a dozen in this picture alone. Although the lupines were already gone to seed, there were still plenty of other flowers to take their place.
The last of the snow
In years past, we have always had to cross this huge snowbank, which gives us a chance to filter some water if we need it on our return trip. You can see the trail snaking above it, and given the size of it today, I  believe that within another month or two, it will be completely gone. It's the only water we saw on what is usually a rather wet trail.
Beautiful flowers still to be seen
This was the most I saw today of flowers, which are usually filled with lots of blue from the lupine, but still it was so lovely. This is almost to the top of my hike. The others had already summited the top of the Butte, while the four of us stayed  below. Just a few hundred feet below us, the closest tarn called our fellow hikers to take a dip. For the third week in a row, they went down to the water and stripped, although it wasn't the same four.
Last year, 28 July; this year, 9 July
Here is a graphic picture that will show the difference between what we usually see here, and what we saw today. That is the same tarn in both pictures, but the one below actually has four Trailblazers swimming in cool water, and the one above shows what we saw last year! Nobody would have gone swimming at the end of July last year, I don't think.
Our return trip to the cars
After comparing our adventures today as we all gathered as they sauntered up from the tarn, we decided to let the faster hikers go on ahead and we would make our way back home. I just received a text from Chris (who was in the faster group) to make sure we all made it back safe and sound. And now I am showered and almost finished with my wine and my post, feeling really good but a little scared about the condition of some of my favorite places in the world. We need rain really badly, and there is none in the forecast that will make much of a difference.

But in spite of my fears, I still had a wonderful day, filled with sunshine in abundance, friends galore, and (thankfully) a shower, a partner, and contentment.


  1. I am so sorry about your drought. Scary, destructive things. Fingers and toes crossed for some useful rain.
    I was awed at the difference in the treks - and loved the ephemeral magic of the butterflies.

  2. Drought is a scary thing and the fires that come with the drought. I hope you get rain and soon. What a difference in your two photos, isn't blogging a wonderful way to leave a record!
    Sounds like you took the better/easier route today...I looked back to last year and that hike was hard for you.
    Glad you are home and safe. Greet Al I hope he gets his medical issues taken care of...poor guy has had quite a time of it:(

  3. Despite the drought over there, the mountains still look good. At least it doesn't look like Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." Remember the Dust Bowl?

  4. Although I like that the trails are snow-free I'm very worried about how dry it's been. I'm hoping for some summer rainstorms!

  5. Moisture conditions area concern here too. It's still beautiful with lot of flowers. Our high country flowers are much short.

  6. What an incredible difference from last year. This really has been a warmer year everywhere. Even Skagit Valley bloomed earlier by almost a month. It's been in the 90s for over a week here in Hawaii too. I hope you get some rain and cooler weather soon.

  7. Drought is NOT a good thing. Y'all know that in South Texas we experienced that for 5 years straight. I do hope your area will get some much needed rain.

    And take it easy with the extreme heat D J!!

  8. Those two pictures really show the dramatic difference in a year. They're saying that some of the Saskatchewan fires may burn until snow flies. Firefighters just work to keep the fire away from buildings.

  9. i understand that fear of drought, now, after what texas went through the past 4 years. we fear grass fires here, but they're nothing like what overtakes wooded sections of mountains and the like. i do hope you'll get some rain to keep fire risk lower. the tarn comparison shots were startling. the wildflowers were beautiful, though.

  10. The difference is stunning and alarming. Gosh do you ever need rain and a cool down. Hope it comes soon. Glad you are restricting your hikes in this heat.
    Hope Al solves his medical problems soon. It must really be frustrating him to not be hiking and the leader.

  11. Quite a difference. Wish we could send you some of the rain we've been getting here in the Northeast. Everything is damp and soggy, and we're worried about ticks and mosquitoes. But at least everything is green.

  12. We are finally out of the drought in Texas with all our rain this year. It's so sad to see all the lakes down, but now they are full again and advertising for visitors.

  13. You still look pretty green in comparison to California. Some friends and I took a drive through the foothills yesterday. What hadn't burned was dry and brown. Be thankful for the snow and water you do have.

  14. A lovely walk with plenty to see, as usual. I hope you get some rain soon.

  15. That looks a worrying sight. Global warming is having an effect everywhere. Let's hope you get some rain soon.

  16. I love all of the flowers. I am noting that you are slowing down a bit with the heat. Good. When we were in the south we quickly learned to slow down in that hot, muggy weather. That's how you do it there, and here too, this summer.

  17. Your hikes always reveal something about climate change. I didn't realize the California drought extended into your area as well.


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