Category: Backpacking


IntotheWildAuyuittuq has only fragments of trail- bits that you celebrate like a delerious drunken sailor before they disappear into a gouged-out riverbank or a rockslide. You start out at Pangnirtung Fiord on sand and feel like this will be a super-easy trail. What’s that uneven ground they warned you about, anyway? And then you have to scramble over a rockslide with that heavy pack, pick your way down a jumble of rocks on a glacier moraine.  Even the most nimble of us did the dance to stay upright once or twice.  

But for me, a couple days were an unending exercise in slipping, tipping, bruising, and cussing. If it weren’t for Mt. Thor watching over me, I might not have found a solution or salvation.

In late 2010, the orthopedic surgeon didn’t really think it was weird that I wanted to have my old hip joint as a souvenir, to take it with me on new adventures.  Apparently people who have replacement surgery at a young age  commonly have the same primitive desire to carry removed body parts in celebration of renewed life along as they continue traveling the world.

What I left behind was not just pain, disability, and degraded bone pitted and gnarled by chronic inflammation.  Using only the finest of carpentry tools, the good doctor carved out rotten bone and along with it, removed pressure sensors that help the brain tell where the leg and foot is.  While bird-watching a couple months after the surgery, I was looking up as I attempted to step onto a downward sloping plank across a water-filled ditch.  My brain just said “no” and my foot wouldn’t move. Hiking and scrambling in Death Valley National Park a month after that, the brain freeze effect was even more noticeable. At my three month check up, the attending doc looked quizzical, told me I was doing a little more than usual for a recovering patient, and said it would take 18 months to rewire as best as I could.

Life is better with fake parts- it's glorious to be walking in the clouds again

My first stint on crampons after surgery was at Mt. St. Helens, pictured at right.  I was frustrated by my inability to use different foot positions, but I made it.  I kept moving on foot, on skis, whatever I could use to keep going.  When I had to scramble with a pack over the roots and rocks on the way to Tuck Lake this summer, I was footsure and comfortable.

But there is a difference between uneven terrain and moving uneven terrain.  Rolling stones that gather no moss or lichens. Boulders perched on sand and gravel, all ready to let loose.  Parks Canada gives a thorough introduction when you register for the Auyuittuq hike, letting you know where it’s safe to cross moraines- Crater Lake by the Weasel, Windy Lake high up, by the mountain.  Look for paths with moss and lichens, Ranger Matthew said gently.  They’re more stable; they won’t roll from under your feet or onto you.

Oh, and watch for quicksand.

Well, I found that quicksand first, walking right beside Ruth but taking the wrong step on jello-ey wet ground before my foot plunged downward.  I tried to pull out the foot, but it felt like a creature underneath the soil had a death grip on my ankle.  Then my companions tried to pull me out- standing too upright, and I sunk further.  The burly guides hauled me forward, but by this time, my faux hip was compressed at an agonizing angle at risk of dislocation.  I cussed loudly- the only f-bomb audible on the trip-  because I couldn’t move from that cramped position and I hurt.  Finally, the guides had me remove my camera from my chest harness, lay forward on the mud, and they just dug my foot out of the mud.  Cheating.

The wrong way to deal with quicksand. Photo courtesy of Susan.

The wrong way to deal with quicksand. Photo courtesy of Susan.

That was more of a gee-whiz adventure compared to lurching over rolling rocks with the heavy pack.  I later figured out that if anyone walked behind me and I heard the clatter of their trekking poles, the labored breathing, I would rush and trip. With marginal balance, the heavy pack would tip me just a little and I was gone.  Down on my butt mostly, sometimes banging a knee or thigh. I’m pretty durable, so besides looking like a spotted cow because of the bruises, the only thing that truly suffered was my patience. the only thing that kept me going was Mt. Thor, watching impassively above the valley as I struggled like an insect below.

I’m a problem solver by nature and will take action when I get frustrated. I started walking behind the rest, looking at the rocks I wanted to use for a second before I put a foot on them.  When it was too complicated and my brain would freeze, I counted rocks to keep going:  one-and-two-and-three. It hurt my brain the day we hiked from Summit Lake to Turner Glacier Moraine to see if Mt. Asgard would appear.  One-and-two-and-three and four, all day long.  But it worked, reducing my crash-and-burn rate to almost zero.  And then, I realized something important.

We hiked down Windy Lake moraine to set up camp.  Can you see our path?

We hiked down Windy Lake moraine to set up camp. Can you see our path?

By hanging back, I had a little space all to myself for just a little while.  When I wasn’t staring at a succession of rocks, I could gaze at the towering mountains flanking the ancient glacier-carved valley.  The clattering of trekking poles and the chattering of voices just faded away.  It was my hike, my valley for those periods. I could stop counting one-and-two-and-three and sometimes just sing a song that felt like this place, wonder at its grandeur.

Rocks everywhere- hard to walk on, but good for wind shelter.

Rocks everywhere- hard to walk on, but good for wind shelter.

I’ve heard arguments that we shouldn’t be spending health care dollars replacing people’s worn-out parts, that people who get those parts shouldn’t do anything beyond power walking and strolling along easy trails, that we just need to accept the creeping disability of old age.  I’ll argue back that these parts provide pain relief safer than any opiate, return us from major disability to productive life, and -if we use them well- keep us healthier as we age.

My orthopedic briefly put down his carpentry tools to draft a letter approving me to take this trek.  And Mt. Thor watched- I imagine- with quiet approval as I roller-skated on rocks until I figured it out.  What more could I ask for?

Mountains, clouds, and ice guard the entrance of a rich, magical valley

Mountains, clouds, and ice guard the entrance of a rich, magical valley

In the Pacific Northwest, we tend to become hunched and dull during winter, when the slate grey days end too soon and the evergreen trees loom monotonously dark green. We board planes flying to sunny places, where light sparkles on snow or tropical oceans.  Or we just stay put and get depressed, drink too much coffee, and buy expensive lights for our desks.

Mt. Thor, shedding storm clouds

Mt. Thor, shedding storm clouds

This verdant weight felt lush and light to me as I drove back from SeaTac airport after returning from Baffin Island without having seen a tree for weeks. There, everything appeared to be ice, dangerously cold water, impassive peaks, jumbled glacial moraines, sand and rocks, rocks and sand.

Where glaciers once ground the rocks to flour sometimes looks lifeless and painful, like dry boredom.  Rocks and dirt are washed around by water, tipped by gravity to tumble down moraines, heaved by freeze/thaw.

CarpetLook closer and you will see a carpet of plant life spreading over rocks and dirt that finally stop moving: lush, deep carpets of moss and lichen, mushrooms, willows, grasses, and flowers.  Along Cumberland Sound, find lemon yellow Arctic sulfur butterflies and deep orange fritillaries by freshwater streams.

ArcticSulphurPang

Arctic Sulphur Butterfly- Pangnirtung headlands

In the Weasel River Valley, look up to see the warm streaks of iron across the charcoal and ivory surface of a mountain, or the warm wash of sun across the rocks or a wind-sculpted sand dune.  Find the iridescent sheen of bacteria thriving on iron and manganese rich water in puddles.  Delight in the abstract pattern of charcoal silt in a shallow stream.   Admire the faint gold of August evening light on the river braids.WeaselEveLight2

Around Crater Lake, pause to pick up rocks.  You will find crystals of every kind, shimmering finishes, all colors. These are rocks laid down by ancient lakes or thrown skyward by volcanoes, then heated under pressure to become gneiss, schist, quartzite, and slate.

The Pacific Northwest might wrap you in a soft cushion of greenery, so dense and comfortable that Midwest flatlanders like me never leave.  The seeming barren lands of the Arctic tundra drive you to action,  to seek beauty, drawing you onward with occasional flashes of beauty and brilliance.   Every day, once we set camp, I roamed looking for color and light.  When the pickup boat sped away down Pangnirtung Fiord, we looked back quietly at the grey fortress of mountains looming over the Weasel River Valley. Ruth said it was sad to leave the mystical valley, that she would miss just walking, eating, and sleeping, living a simple life in a beautiful place. I silently agreed as I imagined behind that curtain of rain flashes of red and gold, orange and pink, yellow and jet black.

Summit Lake Camp between rainstorms

Summit Lake Camp between rainstorms

The best lunch I’ve enjoyed in recent memory was delivered to my tent by guide Rhys Hill on a rainbound day at Summit Lake.  Hot bannock grilled with cheese and ham delivered in a plastic bowl to the vestibule, along with a bottle of glacier runoff water, fruit leather, and a chocolate granola bar from my snack bag made an unforgettable feast.

Lunch in my daily life now is usually forgettable.  I eat at my computer like many busy people, putting down calories without recalling what foodstuff contained those calories. Meals at home are more deliberate:  summer lunches eaten on the front porch listening to birds moving through the weeping cedar and crabapple, Sunday breakfast with hot coffee listening to the radio. All the same, I take food for granted most of the time, as only people in well-fed countries  can do.

Rainy day room service, Summit Lake camp, Auyuittuq National Park

Rainy day room service, Summit Lake camp, Auyuittuq National Park

But when a body is burning energy daily and the world is simplified into eat, sleep, walk, and stay warm, a hot lunch is everything.  When  clouds sit on top of a temporary nylon home, pelting the shelter with rain and wind, lunch is a highlight of the day, comfort and sustenance, survival.

Our plan was to camp at Summit Lake, day hike the following day to the Turner Glacier to see the famous Mt. Aasgard;  the Mt. Aasgard of the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved me. By this point in the trip, I had committed to brooding, magical Mt. Thor as my favorite, but we were still exploring as much of the traverse as we could despite the travel delays.

The day hike to the Turner didn’t happen the first day we intended.  We joked about the polar desert environment over breakfast, after living through wind and rain all night.  I had slept quietly, but others were kept awake by the flapping of the solid but noisy Hilleberg tents – even if they were sleeping in their own tents, and the Hilleberg was someone else’s.  After breakfast, our plans unraveled and we were chased back into our tents by another round of stormy weather. Everyone withdrew to write, read, sleep, or look at photos.

The lunch delivery was a welcome treat.  I didn’t want to burn any more camera battery, and I was struggling to write in the small Rite-in-the-Rain book I’d carried with.  My writing was not florid prose, but notes, cue words, and pen sketches written with a crabbed, cold hand as I hunched over.

OldCaribouAntlersSometime after lunch, the rain gave us a break for the afternoon and dinner before chasing us back into our tents.  Some of us went hiking.  I followed Trond and Ruth northward, but decided not to try following the gracefully rock-hopping Norweigans over the high point they chose to cross over a creek.  I backtracked to the Summit Lake moraine to find the caribou antler Ruth had picked up the day before. There are no caribou in the area anymore, and a hunting ban is in place indefinitely because populations have dropped 95% since the 1990’s, down to a herd of only 5,000 animals. According to CBC report, natural migration in addition to over-harvest due to the “reach of snowmobiles” is to blame.  Even pro-hunting legislators lined up to protect the remaining animals and work to establish a sustainable management plan.

The antlers left in this area are mostly old ones, yellow like this, though Trond found a big, white, complete rack by the Half Hour Creek emergency camp area.

PeekabooAasgardTurnerGlacierWe hiked the next day to the Turner Glacier to see if we could catch a glimpse of Mt. Asgard.  Micheil said the Turner River, something we weren’t keen to cross, had moved since he last saw it.  A central moraine with ice beneath a thin layer of rock stood allowed us to ascend to a spot where we could see the famous mountain. Mt. Asgard is there, behind that cloud, to the left of the rock teeth above the ice of the Turner Glacier.  Really.  It’s like Mt. Rainier, the famous volcano in my state:  you can work in an office for an entire winter and not realize your window has a great mountain view until the clouds clear and the sprawling, glacier-clad mountain looms large and white.  Really.  Others in my group pictured silhouettes of Aasgard, but I did not.  Standing on the rock-studded icy moraine of the Turner, I was happy to have made the place, and missed the somber and thoughtful Mt. Thor.

Even with the marginal weather, the rich orange-red of the iron-streaked terrain glowed against the gray mountains and sky.  Equally warm was the joy of traveling with a lighter pack-  though I was admittedly no more nimble and balanced than when I was carrying all my gear and shared food on my back.

IronRocks

 

Our camp at Summit Lake was lovely between storms, with mountains all around. My spot wasn’t the most comfortable.  Tucking in behind Susan’s tent along a rock wall helped break the wind a little, but the ground beneath me was uneven.  My warm ultralight Thermarest and ability to sleep regardless saved me during three nights at this location.BreidablikHwyGlacierEve

At every camp,  the simple things were all that counted like pitching the tent to put a layer of nylon between us and the wind. The tents might have been flimsy shelters, but the psychological comfort they provided was very real. Food counted a lot, no matter what it was.  No mindless meals working at a computer; we carefully watched Micheil and Rhys cook, contemplated how much fat we could add to a meal in the form of cheese or peanut butter, relished every hot meal.   Sure, the outfitter brochure promised pine-nut pesto, and the food barrels that never met up with us due to flight problems held bacon, wine, and rich desserts of pears to be drizzled with Grand Marnier-laced chocolate sauce. But for us, burning calories to stay warm and carry heavy packs over rough terrain , an extra piece of Co-Jack cheese on a bowl of chili, or a hot grilled sandwich consumed inside a rain-whipped tent was an incomparable feast.

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Mountains like these flank both sides of the Weasel River. Mt. Thor, my favorite, rises on the right.

Such an imperious commandment sounds more appropriate coming from Canadian artist Cory Trepanier or the North of Sixty project, both of which seek to raise awareness of the Arctic through art, personal stories, and multiple types of media.  After all, this was my first Arctic trip, a summer trek plagued by the vagaries of Arctic air travel and weather.  What do I know, anyway? I’m just a one-off white American tourist at this point.

It doesn’t take much poking around during flight delays to find that the beautiful, fragile environment and enduring, complex cultures circling the northern pole are at risk.  The economic and industrial development that brings the modern world to these remote places may ultimately destroy them if they aren’t balanced with environmental protections and cultural preservation.  When the World Wildlife Fund and National Geographic team up with sponsorship from Coke to deal with threats to the High Arctic, a comment in the Nunatsiaq online paper reads:

Why WWF, ITK, NTI, Inuit Orgs haven’t said a thing about over 30 dead whales off the shores of Alaska is troubling.  Is it global warming, radiation from nuclear power plant? Seas dying? Are they more interested in their shares in uranium and Nunavut oil drilling then concern for whales, seals, polar bears and Inuit people now?  Are the whales, seals, fish next to die in Nunavut?

Or is that the plan, constantly to traumatize people (William Sargent psychiatry effect) seeing they lost their sea/animals to seismic testing, oil drilling and land toxic from uranium mining making minds shut down.

Another commentor says:

Here is a thought;

Save the Arctic Ice – Do not drink Coke.

Down south, a can of coke has a carbon footprint of around 160grams. It must be way higher here where we have to ship it 1700kms north.

Instead, drink tap water. It only has a carbon footprint of .2 grams per glass. Added benefit, less obesity and diabetes.

This, in a nutshell, tells you why you should go north and see this mysterious, magical place while you still can.  “Down south”- below the Arctic- we’re a bit of a lost cause as we slide into WALL-E world, thinking technology will save us.  Up north, there are still people with memory of their roots, who live part of their old culture, and work to imbue the young with the resilience and creativity of their elders.  There is a grand, mysterious land infinitely reshaped by wind and water, decorated as a richly colored tapestry by diverse, diminutive vegetation where the soil comes to rest.

ArcticCircleIsh

Stop back for updates

Over the next couple weeks, I will be posting my version of the journey, my lessons learned and tips for gear and travel, and my photos as I continue to process this trip and plan for my next Arctic journey in 2016.  There were other folks on this trip who have their own personal reasons for going and their own read on the story and the place.  This one is mine.

The sign said

The sign said “Camp” but what it really meant was “Goat Camp”.

When I die, I plan on returning as a trail sprite.  When I hear hikers and backpackers having conversations about becoming a licensed engineer, the trials of office politics, or bad relationships, I will sprinkle people with amnesia dust, or cast a spell so that they can’t speak, and only hear the sound of wind brushing through pine trees, birds, drumming of woodpeckers, water, and the scratching of chipmunk nails on bark. I went on this hike to only the sounds of nature, and walked out a trail becoming crowded with weekend traffic to the sound of busy people like me just not letting it all go.

With a rare midweek break, I spent a couple nights under the spell of mountain goats at Lake Ingalls in the Teanaway region of the Cascades. I posted about the goats at Ingalls Pass a couple years back, and found they are just as pervasive as they were then.  A conversation with a passing (likely retired) long-time hiking couple confirmed my impression that the advent of fearless goats at Ingalls is a recent thing.  James Luther Davis’s “The Northwest Nature Guide” is already out of date after 6 years because he describes them as fleeting and hard to view, and doesn’t identify Ingalls as a place to see them.

A veritable gang of goats at my (their) campsite

A veritable gang of goats at my (their) campsite

From my short backpack,  I have about 300 pictures of goats, and learned a lot about goat heirarchy in a herd by the time I left.  I was chased away from a pee stop twice by goats that could hear me depositing a source of salt on dirt or rock, and 12-20 roamed through my campsite whenever I appeared.  I quickly realized that shooing them away was futile, and that they were patrolling, not confronting. Trained opportunists, not wild assassins.

We developed a sort of working relationship.  This was clearly their turf. The goats had a worn circle around the tent site and eating area, and they nabbed the best dinner spot on a big flat rock for goat repose. They walked that circle meticulously, alert to what I was doing but relaxed and impassive.  I could tell they were eyeing my gear, but only a couple adolescents looked directly at it, then ran away when I rattled my poles together. One lovely camping couple said they had to guard each other during bathroom breaks because they kept hearing the clatter of hooves on rocks the minute they tried to pee.

I kept a grizzly-clean camp and took my food with me when I day hiked.  Voila, no goat or rodent raids.  A hard sided food container might also be helpful, and I saw one campsite with food hung in a tree.

I haven’t been to Lake Ingalls in snow free condition in 20 years (usually I camp on snow and snow scramble), so I don’t remember the trail at all.  The last time I was there in summer, you could camp at the lake. The final approach to the lake seems different, more of a scramble than I remember.  People were missing the easy way to the first cairn because the trail looks like it continues, then ends and if you look up, there is the cairn.  I saw a couple folks who were going straight from cairn to cairn instead of winding around on the fragments of trail (easy to do coming up- the trail is more visible looking down than up). One woman was distinctly nervous and her partner didn’t look too confident in the route. On the way out, I talked to two women, one of whom remembered the final approach as “chaotic”.

“Watch for the rock that- pardon me- looks like a monkey’s butt, with two rounded protrusions at the top,” I told them. “You’ll see dusty footprints on the ledge to the left of that rock. Head for the first cairn that way, and look for fragments of trail on the way up.”

These are crazy directions for such a popular trail.

I spent Thursday wandering the basin and scrambling around the lake. Wildflowers in the seeps and wet areas were still pretty, with exotic colored paintbrush, some lupine, and a white umbel (haven’t found it yet).  Hummingbirds buzzed my pink headwrap. In one area along Ingalls Way, I saw mountain bluebirds hovering above the greenery, flapping their wings like harriers do, then plunging. A marmot lay stretched out on a rock below, listening and watchful.

Mountain Bluebird

Mountain Bluebird

Wednesday night, the winds started up.  Lying in my sleeping bag, I felt like a witness to the gods bowling with wind gusts that screamed past the face of the Stuart Range, rattling and shaking the tent. The winds died a bit at dawn, but Thursday morning arrived cool and breezy, especially at the lake.  Washington has been historically hot and dry, so I enjoyed the weather, especially with adequate clothing to stay comfortable.

What I do remember well are the wonderful scramble rocks around the lake- nicely graded orangey slabs with friction, cracks, and occasional splashes of shiny green serpentine type coating. I do remember the routes to North and South Ingalls peaks, and the way up them, but I didn’t do that- just scrambled and then lounged like a goat on a warm slab in the cool breeze.

SelfieLakeIngalls

Friday morning was windless and warmer- and then the mosquitoes appeared. Not too many, but I’m a bug magnet, so I was glad to be leaving.

But I’ll miss my campsite goats, though they are not as wild and fleeting as they should be.   They made an impression on me even in a couple days. There was Short Horn Mom, with one stunted horn and a small baby she seemed reluctant to nurse (it pooped one morning, so it’s getting something for food). The big, robust male had a scratch down his face from fighting, and pushed other goats around (but not babies, interestingly).  The teenagers were more brash toward older goats and me, but were nimble enough to get out of the way when they pushed their limits.  All were following people around waiting for that inevitable deposition of salt.

View of Mt. Baker from camp

View of Mt. Baker from camp

Besides working like a dog and finalizing my Certified Interpretive Trainer and Envision certifications,  I am trying to get back to wilderness fitness so I can go to Baffin Island next year and backpack the Arctic Circle for 3 weeks, maybe seeing a polar bear before they all expire.  I packed into the Park Butte/Railroad Grade trail in the Mt. Baker area to spend the night under a full harvest moon.  The road to the trailhead is excellent, unusual for our area, and I arrived early enough to get a decent parking spot. I was intending to head for Mazama Park, but a sign at the trailhead indicated it wasn’t available for camping due to a youth group.  I signed up for Cathedral Camp on my pass, not sure what I would find.

It’s not terribly far to get to a campsite, but the trail gets steep in one section.  In this area, I ran into two groups of young guys in camo with firearms, learning later they had arrived for the high country bear hunt.  The first group said they found a spot on Railroad Grade and thought there was at least a site or two open.  I figured I would try that first, and go on to Cathedral if nothing worked.

Awesome idea for a seasonal bridge where they wash out constantly

Awesome idea for a seasonal bridge where they wash out constantly

I grabbed the first site on the Grade, a great camping platform under some lovely mountain hemlock trees with a great view of the mountain.  The only better site I found in the area was the one closest to the moraine trail, a similar platform but with an even better view.  Since it was warm and dry, and unlike most of Washington, almost bug-free, so I brought my little lightweight Marmot Starlight shelter (more a glorified bivouac bag than tent).

My lovely little campsite

My lovely little campsite

The camp was above a lovely meadow and stream for water, with vibrant pink heather and pretty purple lupine in bloom.  The lack of bugs was a blessing at this time in the Cascades, as was relative relief from smoke of the raging wildfires scorching Washington.

I hiked the first day to the Climber’s Camp along Railroad Grade.  There are high country camps here, lovely but less private than my modest camp.  I’ve climbed Baker 18 years ago by this route.  I liked the Coleman route better since it was less crowded.  This route has a reputation for crowds, but it was not bad early on as I walked uphill.  A climbing couple passed me, and two women with packs.

Backpackers headed for the high camps

Backpackers headed for the high camps

I walked the very narrow trail on the eroded lateral moraine that embraced a once-mighty glacier. It’s stunning how far the glacier has receded, leaving the cavernous moraine to crumble into the void. The trail leads to “Sandy Camp” where a group of youth hosted by North Cascades Institute were spending the weekend.  Some had never been to wilderness before, nor ever camped.  They were having a superb time, skimming the snowfields and studying the world.

I chatted with two rangers, Julie and Vilay, who were going to give the youth group a talk.  Vilay was enjoying a break from her deployment as a fire ranger in the wildfire plagued areas of Eastern Washington.  She said the air quality was better here, and her cough was going away.  She had never backpacked before- but it was growing on her.  They were dividing their time between the youth group putting in the pit toilet in Mazama Park, and the group at Climber’s Camp.

I took shelter in the lee of a rock, since the wind sweeping off the glaciers was quite cold on an 80 degree day in the mountains, and took pictures of crevasses in the Easton Glacier.

This is late in the season, when crevasses are usually visible, but higher up, I could see a light snow layer over the surface.   I noticed that a group that seemed to be guided (in identical tents, and herded like cattle) climbed in the evening.  I wondered if they avoiding icy conditions that can become a sliding hazard if a climber slips.  Even skilled climbers have lost footing on August ice and careened down a slick glacier surface to their deaths.

 

Juba Skipper, first time I've seen one

Juba Skipper, first time I’ve seen one

Fritillary- maybe Arctic female, not sure

Fritillary- maybe Arctic female, not sure

Checkerspot on penstemon

Checkerspot on penstemon

What was most interesting to me, now that I’ve become older and distinctly batty, were the butterflies fiercely defending their patch of greenery and trying to complete a life cycle in the short alpine summer. At one point, I saw clouds of checkerspots rising in a tornado against an invading Western white.

And there were marmots- now dwindling in number, but according to Julie the Ranger, who does surveys, stable in this area at 46.  It’s hot for them, and I see a mother chillin’ on the snow, sprawled out while her baby tried to get her to come feed or nap in the den.  People are up here with dogs, and hopefully keeping them in check.  Julie says that marmots are suffering on the busy Skyline Divide Trail, possibly because of disturbance.  Later, I hear some kids whistling at them, and then passing the “trail closed” sign into marmot territory, which gets them calling.  Come on, folks- teach your kids better manners.  If they’re picking on animals at this age, they’ll be torturing people later on.

The night was lovely, with moonlight bathing the mountain and meadows and all of us sleeping beneath it.  I woke at one point to tremendous rock or ice fall, sounding like thunder in the night.  It happened twice in short order, suggesting maybe a serac went tumbling and took a buddy with it. A couple folks I talked to the next day said the sound woke them, too, and they thought there might even be an earthquake.The next morning I left my camp set up and hiked to the Park Butte fire lookout.  The morning light illuminated fields of pink heather still in bloom.  The trail winds up a rock garden and past two tarns, then winds around a bluff and approaches the lookout on a ledge.

Marmot announcing my presence

Marmot announcing my presence

Marmots chillin' on a hot day

Marmots chillin’ on a hot day. 

View from Park Butte Lookout

View from Park Butte Lookout

Heather meadows as the sun comes up

Heather meadows as the sun comes up

Trail to Park Butte lookout

Trail to Park Butte lookout

Bear, not being able to open her eyes to the vertiginous view

Bear, not being able to open her eyes to the vertiginous view

At the lookout, I met a dog- probably a Staffordshire bull terrier- named Bear.  Bear was an older dog who couldn’t bear to look at the dizzying view, and would stand on the stairs, or preferably my feet, with her eyes closed to feel secure.  Bear was lucky she was a dog when the two groups of hunters on the high country black bear hunt had passed the day before.  The nice young men were all dressed in Cabelas best- camo from head to foot and guns carried in safety position. They actually missed the black bear that the lookout overnighters and several campers saw.  All the campers were happy that the bear lived to see another day.

On the way down, I followed the nice young women I met the day before, cousins.  One worked for North Cascades Institute, the other was a piano repairwoman.  They were typical of the great young gals I meet now in the backcountry: free-spirited, happy,but and independent, loving the outdoors and their lives.  It gives my heart a lift to see this change- there is a light of hope for us women after all, and we are that light.

 

 

 

Tree beards, not Tree Beard- but by the full moon, who knows?

Tree beards, not Tree Beard- but by the full moon, who knows?

Admiral in the wet meadows on the lookout trail

Admiral in the wet meadows on the lookout trail