First of the Fall Colors Larches – Blue Lake

Fall colors were beckoning out on Highway 20. Its a bit of a drive to this wonderland from Seattle, but oh so worth it. There are several awesome fall colors hikes along the highway. We arrived at the Blue Lake trailhead in the afternoon to a full parking lot and cars parked out on Highway 20. When we came back after sunset, the lot was empty.

This trail is in great shape. No stairsteps over roots, mostly dry. Came across several people with dogs. I love seeing dogs on the trail. Honestly most dogs treat the wilderness better than many people. Anyway the lake and the larches are spectacular. Incredible views in every direction. A short easy hike with incredible payoff. Warming up for the Enchantments next week and this is a nice introduction.  #larches #fallcolors

 

Blue Lake Fall Colors Reflection

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Elsewhere in Park Butte

I have never made it to the lookout. It seems like a nice goal but I always end up taking photos amongst the tarns. So when an overly smug 20something woman came along, noticed my overnight pack and informed me that the lookout was already occupied by overnighters, I didn’t care really. I knew I was heading elsewhere.

It was a brisk night but my friend and I found a nice clear spot to lay out our tents. Sunset was nice but sunrise was amazing. Lots of pink, interesting clouds and gentle breezes. I was trying out a new 13oz cuben fiber Hexamid Solo Plus tent from Zpacks and it really did the trick. No condensation. I was also happy with my lens lineup including a 10mm prime, 16-35mm zoom and 100-300mm zoom. Great night for photos. Always good to be back at the trailhead too and heading for a triple tall mocha. #zpacks

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Mount Baker Artist’s Point Sunset Views

My friend Dan was coming off of 3 weeks of solid work behind a screen and was in need of some backcountry time.  So we headed up to Artist’s Point for an overnight and views of Mount Baker and Shuksan. Took us about an hour to snowshoe up to the point and scout around for a camp spot. Several promising locations were already carved out of the snow. The weather seemed mild during the day but got cold and windy at night. We did well with our 3 season Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 tent.  I hiked up everything in my Zpacks Arc Blast 45L pack and it felt comfortable from the moment I slipped it on.  My Z-packs 10 degree down sleeping bag kept me warm all night in freezing temps with  considerable wind.  All in all, I was happy with our gear choices including bringing a few bottles of Pike Kilt Lifter ale.

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Mount Baker Sunset Light

 

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Mount Baker details – Zeiss 100-300mm

 

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Dan’s controlled descent  😉

 

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Mount Baker Morning Light

 

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Climbing the Hill

Artist’s Point Sunrise Overnight

I had been meaning to hike up here for sunrise for quite some time.  By mid last week, however, I had exhausted my list of companions, so I went alone. Weather was supposed to be good;  Clouds clearing off and temps around 20 with winds gusting to 30mph.  I was also curious about some of my new winter gear and how it would perform.  So off I went to Heather Meadows parking lot.  No recent snowfall, and the snow on the ground was crunchy, so I went with my Sorels and no snowshoes.  My other gear choices:

  • Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 tent – I knew I would need something freestanding but didn’t think I would need my Mountain Hardwear Trango Assault.
  • Zpacks 10 degree down bag and Thermarest Xlite Xtherm pad.
  • Arcteryx Naos 55 pack
  • Mountain Hardwear Phantom and Ghost Whisperer Jackets with Transition Windstopper underneath.
  • Arcteryx Windstopper shell pants with Windstopper tights underneath.
  • Delorme inReach satellite beacon
  • Sony a7r camera and Zeiss 21, 50 and 100-300 lenses with Gitzo 0540 tripod.

Climb to Artists Point was uneventful, except maybe wishing they would open the road up with so little snow.  I’ve always seen the WSDOT as being a flexible organization.  🙂

At the top, the wind came on strong.  I tried pitching my tent in two spots and it blew itself inside out.  I lashed it to a tree while I looked for a better location.  Scouting around, I noticed a group of tents near the parking lot which was under several feet of snow.  I went back to gather my stuff to join them.  It turns out that seeing me, the guys camped there set out to come see if I was ok.  We met in the middle. They helped me with my tent aka wind sail and we camped together against a bluff that blocked the wind sort of.  They had used a sled to bring up an ample supply of Coors which we dove into.

With me in it, my tent was bending 20 degrees or so in the wind, but I eventually fell asleep.  I was warm enough, figuring the wind chill at about 0 degrees.

I got up early and got some nice shots of Baker with alpenglow coming on at sunrise.  I went back and thanked my new compadres and packed up.  As I was heading down, scores of skiers were heading up.  The new day looked spectacular.DSC03286 DSC03311_stitchsmaller DSC03397

Mount Baker Chain Lakes Morning Light

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I’m going to say yes to fall foliage although I may have been imagining it. Bugs were a bit less than the last time I was there and Baker didn’t show (clouds). So I ventured up again last night and hiked in, as everyone was hiking out, intent on finding a nice spot near Iceberg Lake. I got to the lake just as the alpenglow was peaking and got a few shots. Then I scouted about for a camping spot and pitched my tent. I got up around 1am for a few Milky Way shots then back in the sack. Scouting around for photos in the morning, I was struck by the abundance of ripe huge berries 🙂 I slipped at one point and ended up with berries all over my backside. Looked like blood. Maybe that was why no one would pick me up at Austin Pass for a ride to AP. Speaking of which, doing this loop starting at Artists Point is highly recommended. Going the other way coming up from Austin Pass looked like quite the slog.

 

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