Thursday, September 5, 2019

Heliotrope Ridge 2019

View from the trail toward some Canadian peaks
Twelve Senior Trailblazers headed up the Mt. Baker Highway to Heliotrope Ridge, a trail I've done plenty of times before. Only occasionally have I ventured across the final crossing of Heliotrope Creek. Usually I and a few others will not be willing to cross, and you will see the reason why that's true in upcoming pictures.
First glimpse of the glacier
Even if you cannot cross that last creek, it's also possible to take the climbers' route to some good views of Mt. Baker and the glacier. I've done that in previous years, but I knew I would not try it this year because of its steepness and the precarious condition of my knee.
Crossing Heliotrope Creek
Fortunately for many of us, Frank brought a rope, and then he and a couple others went across the creek in their boots (having brought several changes of socks). The rest of us put on water shoes or sandals, and Terry even went barefoot; that's her in front. Using the rope for reassurance, I was successful at getting across. (Terry did not return barefoot, since it was slippery and the water was rushing by a fierce clip.) And let me tell you, that glacier melt water was COLD!
First view of Coleman Glacier
This was the first closeup view I took of the glacier. It's receded an alarming amount since the last time I saw it, but it is still a magnificent sight. Behind it is Roosevelt Glacier, and on the right behind that tree is Mt. Baker, seemingly close enough to touch.
Me in front of the glacier and Mt. Baker
Since I don't know when, if ever, I will be able to return to this spot, I asked Kirk to take a picture of me. I was very pleased to see this and will cherish it. Then, we found a large-ish flat area and sat down to have our lunch.
Almost close enough to touch
You can see that this is probably the closest we will ever get to Mt. Baker itself, without climbing gear and a lot more time than we had available to us. We did see plenty of climbers on their way up, but they all turned off at the climbers' route. You knew who they were because of all the gear they carry.
Chris on the return crossing
Then it was time to return, retracing our steps. But, as you can see, the water was even deeper and rushing by with enough force to pull you off your feet. That rope made all the difference, for me at least. If you read that link I've provided from the Washington Trails Association, you'll find out more information about this amazing hike.

All in all, we only covered around six miles and gained and lost around 2,000 feet of elevation, but it was a day filled with adventure and plenty of drama. Nobody got hurt, and my knee is not much worse that it was at the beginning of the day. I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful opportunity we all had to enjoy a glacier up close on a beautiful day.


  1. Glad your knee held up okay. We did that hike this summer. My second favorite (Chain Lakes was my fav) was Heliotrope. So beautiful. That water crossing looks worse than when we did it in August.


  2. Water flow from the glacier really increases by late afternoon. and by the way water from the glacier is extremely cold. Yes , I've waded across and you wonder if you'll make it before your limbs become completely numb. good that you got out today.

  3. Good for you! I’m happy to see you got out on the trail again.

  4. Not 'much' worse? Be careful please. And huge thanks for taking us on this spectacular hike.

  5. An adventure for sure, but, yikes, that stream crossing!

  6. I can FEEL the icy glacier water! You did GOOD!

  7. Well done, Jen! Beautiful area and a challenge! Glad your knee help up!

  8. It looked like a bright, sunny day. Beautiful photos! Glad that you were able to hike.

  9. Stunning scenery and goodness that creek looked like a challenge, more so on the return trip.
    So glad you didn't set yourself back and got to just enjoy the day.

  10. So glad your knee held up. Bringing that rope along made all the difference it sounds like. Wow! Great photo of you and the glacier! :)

  11. Dear Djan, how wonderful to see an actual glacier. My brother and sister-in-law are going to Alaska for a few days this coming Wednesday and so looking forward to seeing a glacier there--as well as the Northern Lights, musk ox and reindeer. I'm so glad your knee was up to this hike and that you have that photo to treasure. Peace.

  12. Ya, I'm not sure if I would cross that creek either. Looks like one little slip and you would be in big trouble. Beautiful photos of what looks like a great hike!

  13. Wow I am impressed with both the scenery ... and your ability to get there. You take care of that knee now!

  14. Wonderful pics... as usual. That creek crossing with that rushing water would have made me pause. Glad you got to do it.And although we saw glaciers from the ship in Alaska, I've never been that up close and personal with one.

  15. That was a tricky walk for your first one in a while. Glad your knee was up to the challenge.

  16. You did it!! Even with a tricky water crossing...way to go! :)


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