This is the 3rd consecutive Thanksgiving long weekend where I have been staying in home state. I usually go out for long weekends but for various reasons, I end up spending Thanksgiving in Washington. Taking advantage of meetups and snow, I signed up for a hike even though the forecast was hardly good. It was raining in Seattle in the morning but things started to look promising during the drive to trailhead. The clouds were shining bright with the rays and we could see blue sky. I was excited to start with the hike asap since I wanted the views from the top. It was a short but steep trail and since I was ahead, Michael asked me to take care of navigation. I screwed it up in the beginning but was careful from thereon. Snow was with us right from the parking lot. Trail was slippery due to numerous boulders. We hiked in clouds for a while and the views when we were above the cloud level were spectacular. The views kept getting better and the summit offered nothing less.
We were between 2 bands of clouds and the near panoramic views were awesome. I hadn’t carried any lunch, so spent time capturing the beauty and started the descent. The hike down was much safer than I expected and we were back on the trailhead by 2 PM. I am thankful for being in this amazingly beautiful state.
Taking advantage of the beautiful weather on a November weekend, I signed up for Gothic Basin hike. I was excited since my snow cravings hadn’t been fulfilled yet. It was an early start, we started to hike by 8 AM. Ascent till the snow section was quite boring and tiring (maybe because of yesterday’s Squash games). The trail was rocky almost all the way and there were multiple stream crossings. We wore spikes for snow and by then tree cover was mostly gone which provided us with scenic views. At places there were tiny waterfalls and some were frozen too. The actual fun started as soon as we entered the basin. In bright daylight, we could see snow, huge rocks, frozen pools and just beauty all around. I was no more tired from there on and we reached semi frozen Foggy lake for lunch. From there on we climbed to reach a saddle and explored a bit on the side. It was a fantastic vantage point which provided views of the basin, Foggy lake, Mt Pugh and surrounding mountains. Apart from occasional slight winds, weather was just perfect. I fell once on a rock as soon as I got rid of spikes. That made it back to back falls on hikes. The whole trail was like an obstacle course – slippery wooden planks, stream crossings, light scramble, finding snow to step on snow while on spikes, testing the frozen pools and steep traverse near saddle. A fantastic day out.
There is a peak near Seattle on which there is a mailbox(yes, a physical mailbox we all know). The proximity and the difficulty attracts many hikers and this serves as an apt training hike for the bigger mountains. Since this was right in the backyard, I had postponed this hike for a long time and today was a perfect day for the attempt. I hadn’t hiked for 2 weekends and had a craving for snow. Since this was at quite an elevation, I expected snow. I decided to go solo and chose Sunday since the forecast was warmer compared to Saturday and I could avoid wearing snow boots.
There are 2 trails, a longer newer trail and the shorter steep old trail. I took the steeper one at 9:45 AM and I was curious about my ascent time. I kept a faster pace and continued even without taking a water break. It was not as bad as Mt Baring section, but yet good enough to trouble the knees. Actually, I started enjoying the ascent after some time and kept moving without losing much of the pace. Snow started at around 3500 feet and icy conditions on the boulder section was tricky to cross. I eyed and tried to land on iceless boulders. I reached the summit with the famous Mailbox and I had taken 1hr 50 minutes for the 4000 ft, 2.5 mile ascent. I had my lunch and took enough time hoping that some of the ice would melt off. The weather was just perfect, not too windy or cold with clear views all around. I have been hiking these mountains since 3 years and the surrounding peaks looked familiar and friendly. I had initially thought that I would take the shorter trail up and longer one down, but I decided to take the shorter one back too. I wore micro-spikes for a short distance, crossed the boulder field with the same trick and picked my pace for the next section. The descent felt so fast – I used to track the elevation on my watch and observed that I lost batches of 200 ft elevation in just few steps. I thoroughly enjoyed the tiny switchbacks and it was like I was going down on water slide in a tube. I took 1hour 20 mins (much faster than I expected) to descend and reached the parking lot by 1:45 PM. I checked the Strava stats later on the timings and people had taken way less time than mine for the ascent and descent. I was happy with my timings though. A nice day out.
I took off mid week from work to hike this since according to the organizer this was his second best PNW hike and the forecast was just perfect. I had forgotten to carry my license, so I chose to drive in a fellow hiker’s car. That fellow hiker who drove us was 73 years old and another passenger in the vehicle was 72 years old. I was just amazed at their energy at this age. Except the 7 of us, there was nobody at the trailhead and for the entire hike. Few conversations among the fellow hikers were embarrassingly funny. The first stretch was gentle and then we ascended a steep section to reach the ridge from where we could see Mt Baker in all its glory. I could see the height from bottom to all the way to the top. We then entered North Cascades NP and then ascended on the Mt Shuksan climber’s trail. It had some amazing campsites en-route but without any nearby streams. We could see Baker, Shannon lake and many other mountains in the distance. We chose a spot for lunch overlooking Mt Baker and even the parking lot of Artist’s point was visible. I chose to scramble to reach a high ground but turned around mid way thinking it was not worth the risky moves. We spent quality time in the perfect weather for lunch and then traced our way back to the trailhead. I wouldn’t this was my top 3, but I would say that this was the best view I have had of Mt Baker.
Activity OverviewPhotos and Videos
Almost all the hikes I have been having since last 2 months have been fantastic and the fall season has only bettered it. The hike to Carne mountain was the latest and I was just dumbfounded with the beauty. It’s been three years of hiking in PNW – I am surprised and feel blessed that I still have lot more to see and experience. Even though I was way below in the waiting list, I was confirmed by the organizer for the meetup hike and I got to hike with an amazing group in a beautiful place. The weather forecast couldn’t have been better too.
Since there were huge warnings for the bad road in the last stretch, I preferred not to drive my car. I ended up in a fellow hiker’s Toyota FJ cruiser with super duty tires. The last stretch was the worst road I have travelled yet in Washington and the FJ did just fine cruising through it. We could see surrounding jagged peaks from the trailhead itself and the place already looked quite different from the usual hikes I did. It was quite cold (around 3 C) and we started hiking at 9:30 AM. The first 2.5 miles was in the shade, then we saw dusts of snow on the trail after which it was almost an exposed hike. We reached a basin where we saw many larches and few had camped there. Party started from that place and the next few hours just awed me continuously. The first section was through a series of yellow-golden colored larches with snow on the trail. I was wondering if I struck gold.
We reached a ridge and I could see muddy mountains with more larches on the other side. As I walked along the ridge, I was exposed to more of the beauty with a combination of snow covered, muddy, tree laden mountains all around. The Carne summit itself looked like it was amidst many valleys with an awesome vantage point to view the surrounding mountains including Glacier peak. The most interesting part was that the trail provided very contrasting views from different angles.
Looking towards West (reminded me of high altitude peaks in Himalayas):
Towards East, more larches:
Towards South East, typical PNW summer views:
We had lunch on the summit and a bday woman shared chocolate brownies, another person shared watermelon and Ferrero Rocher with everyone. It was nice to be part of the group with similar interests. The weather was just perfect too – with occasional clouds blocking the Sun and almost non-existent wind. It was actually warmer on the summit than on the trailhead. It was around 1:30 PM when we started descending and afternoon warmth felt like a summer hike. I was actually impressed with the group’s strength. It was fast paced – we ascended and descended quite quickly which left us ample of time to drive back and have dinner on the way.
PNW still surprises me and the best part is that she surprises me even on the same place in different seasons. I absolutely love this place and I don’t think I would want to live anywhere else in the world during this part of my life.