Thursday, June 24, 2021

Excelsior Pass 2021

Sign at trailhead

It was such a surprise this morning when we showed up at the Senior Center to carpool to Excelsior Pass. Last week we had eighteen people who wanted to hike up through the snow to the Goat Mountain overlook. Today, there were only five of us: me, Melanie, Al, Mike, and Tom. We thought maybe somebody might meet us at the Glacier Ranger Station, which often happens, but Al said nobody had contacted him, and when we got there: nope, just us today.

Our trail

We speculated that perhaps part of the reason is the upcoming heat wave, although it was quite pleasant when we started our hike today. It's supposed to start tomorrow and set all kinds of records for high temperatures, reaching 20 to 30 degrees higher than normal. But that didn't affect us today. This hike to Excelsior Pass is 4.5 miles one way, with an elevation gain of 3,600 feet. We didn't expect to make the entire distance, since we suspected we'd be stopped by snow. And that's what happened.

Rushing water

My pictures aren't really very good today, since the full bright sunshine and the shadows made for some difficult contrasts. Trust me, there was lots of water running down the side here, and Melanie walked down to take a better look. We continued our journey upwards on the beautiful trail.

Al taking a rest

It's not the best picture of Al, but he shows what a lovely place we enjoyed today, as we kept on going.

Finally ran into the snow

We found our first snow patches at about 4,300 feet of elevation (we started at 1,800 feet). After slogging through a bit of it without our spikes, we finally discussed whether or not to put on the foot gear and trudge upwards a bit longer.

Our lunch spot

We did just that, but after a short time, we knew we'd probably not make it. Although we got within less than a mile from the pass, we were tired and hungry and decided to stop and replenish our energy supply. That's Tom, Mike, and Al settling in.

Melanie in the forest

I captured this picture of Mel getting ready to enjoy her own lunch. We had traveled a good distance in the snow and decided it was not worth trying to make it to the pass. Walking in snow, even with microspikes, is much more difficult than just plain old hiking. So we decided to head back down. We covered over seven miles by the time we got back, with almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

Mike and Tom carrying my pack

My knee began to complain and buckle as we started back down the steep trail, and in the interest in getting back at a reasonable time, Tom suggested that I allow him and Mike to carry my pack, relieving the strain on my knees. I reluctantly agreed, but as soon as it was off my back, I was able to navigate the downhills much, much easier. I am in deep gratitude to those two for offering to help me in this way.

What it has also taught me is that my days of doing these very hard hikes are behind me. Although now that I am home and rested, I realize that I could have done it without their help, it was very touch-and-go. Why not just admit that I don't have to do these any more? It's hard, but I'm coming around.

And with that, I am home and feeling pretty darn good, with my post written, safe and sound, without injuries, and gearing up to make sure we get through these next few days safely. I am grateful, as well as looking forward to finding a way to make it through triple-digit temperatures!



  1. A good hike, even if the pass was not doable.

  2. I think you are right. Sometimes we have to be objective about our capabilities. Quality of life is everything and pushing on regardless of what injury you might endure is not for us these days. The scenery is always beautiful on your walks Djan.

  3. I am sorry that you are scaling back - but admire you for facing the necessity.
    Today's hike looks beautiful (as always). I am glad you got help though.
    I really, really hope the predicted temperatures don't happen.

  4. Yep, there is a time when we need to realize we can't do some things we did in the past. And you loving the social life it make choices more difficult.

    Love the photos

  5. Sometimes we have to make those hard decisions and stop an activity before it stops us. I made the same decision with cycling.

  6. Well you had a grand hike even if the guys had to help you a little. We do have to listen to our bodies. Can't imagine how difficult it could get with high temps. Sure hope you are spared triple digits. We have had them here and no one goes anywhere except from one form of A/C to another.

  7. Do you have to hike with a loaded backpack? Maybe just a water bottle and a snack?

  8. Well, you are much stronger than me.

  9. Maybe it's time to start avoiding the harder hikes. Yah--the only thing we can count on in life is change. But you will still get in your steps and exercise...and coffee. ;)

  10. Sounds like it was a good hike, despite needing a little help. To be honest, I think I'd enjoy the smaller groups vs the larger ones.

  11. I don't think I could even do 1 mile of level sidewalk hiking! Triple digit temperatures? In Seattle? Too shocking!

  12. That was a walk! Elevation and distance both were extreme in my book. I am glad you cam through unscathed.

  13. Nothing wrong with accepting a little help now and then.

  14. The reality of age related physical limitations bites, but it must be accepted. You still have many good miles to go yet.

  15. That's a very challenging hike. I'm still doing them, but I know my days are numbered. It's a weird feeling, wondering if I will ever make a particular hike again.

  16. Maybe you could travel lighter on the harder hikes:) How nice of the guys to help you!! You have such great hiking friends. Stay cool! :)

  17. You absolutely amaze me all the time, DJan. But I hope you’ll be careful not to overdo. It’s what I keep telling Art. I sure hope you’re able to stay cooler in Bellingham. I have friends that just left for Seattle today.


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