The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

Mt. Baker – A Much Needed Trip-Finally Above Treeline-Ptarmigan Ridge

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There are so many worthy photos to share from this one hike.  My day above treeline, on my Mt. Baker trip, took me out Ptarmigan Ridge Trail.

That fog obscured bump, I think, is Coleman’s Pinnacle.  But I’m not completely positive. DSCF5712

Heavy clouds blanketed Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker the entire hike.  So thrilled to be there, and all so beautiful, it didn’t matter.  While hunting for images of Coleman Peak, I found this image which shows what Mother Nature hid from me.  If you don’t mind a spoiled surprise, take a gander.


Exiting some trees, this stole my breath.  The trail hugs Table Mountain to its right.


Fireweed.  This pretty plant grows from rhizome roots that prefer disturbed soils (fires, avalanche paths, roadcuts). The fluff from the plants were used by natives for stuffings and combining into weaving fibers. The inner pith was sometimes consumed and the outer stem layer was split off, dried and twined into rope.  Interestingly, the French Voyageurs grew it to use the leaves for tea. Being high in Vit. C, I wonder if they knew it staved off scurvy?  I’ve had delish honey made by bees feeding on fireweed.


After 1.2 miles the masses peel off to the right to hike the Chain Lakes Loop Trail.  I happily veered left and made my way to the top of a ridge. Another breathtaking moment, my view of the way ahead revealed.  Glaciers peek out of the clouds.  There are three up there, Rainbow, Park and Sholes though I can’t tell you which is which.  You can see the trail scratching across the left hand side of the photo below. This land was scoured by glaciers. The geology fascinates me.


Zig zagging down the ridge, I walked across a bowl-shaped depression.



Ridges of rocks are evidence of glaciers passage.


My goal was to land somewhere before the pointed spot (Coleman Pinnacle?) on the left side of the photo’s skyline.  Of note, the guidebook cautions hikers to prepare for snow travel. Apparently this trail (normally) holds snow all year. Not this year, not a smidgen.


Here are a  few plants new to me. This one is a Yellow Monkey Flower variety. It likes seeps which were lushly carpeted where I passed over them. It looks very different from the Monkeyflower I got to know in CA.


Below is Pink Monkey Flower, again an “ice cold” stream and seep loving plant.  An intriguing fact I’d like to test – its stigma will close if touched with a pin or a blade of grass.   How do plants know how to do that?


And this is Cousin It plant.  No seriously…I spotted this up by Hurricane Ridge, once, and can’t find it in my notes or a book.  But I’ve emailed a gal that might.  I missed the Lupine. What a blue carpeting that must have been.  Reflecting, a hot and dry summer must have forced early and shorter blooming times.


After crossing the open scree and walking up the hillside (minus snow) the Ridge is gained.  The trail crosses steep hillsides, at times disappearing into the fog.  I looked for but did not see any Ptarmigan. I heard marmots (I think) but did not spot them.



It was blueberry season, a month early some folks proclaimed. Perhaps scant snow and an early melt off allowed an early season?  I gorged.  My hands turned blue.  Deliciously sweet, I’d never picked wild blueberries before then.


The rock up there is volcanic, stacked up in a columnar structure.


Aproaching my stopping spot and looking along the spine of the ridge the way I came from., Mt. Shuksan is back that way and obscured.


I reached my destination with a view of what I think is Coleman Peak, glaciers to the right and Mt. Baker cloaked over behind it all.


Whoo was it windy when I  popped up to peer down and out over the ridge.  Ducking down, with the ridge deflecting the wind, I ate and knit in splendor.  I gave my sis’s birthday hat a spin.


Peering over the edge of my perch, just look at that contoured landscape. You can just imagine the heavy layers of ice grinding downhill eons ago.


Mt. Baker stayed hidden. On the walk out, glancing over my shoulder I got a sliver of a view.


Next time, I’d like to walk the 5+ miles to Camp Kiser to overnight.  If one can safely con’t from there, the guidebook promises passing Sholes Glacier close enough to touch it.  “The Portals” are the end of the trail.

This was a healing trip, refreshing and a renewal of sorts for me.  Next summer promises a return.  I’ve a guidebook full of flagged pages ready to go.

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