HERE COMES THE (SHUK)SUN
I was up early the next morning, as I was anticipating seeing the sun for the first time in days.† For once, I wasnít disappointed.† In fact, the early morning sun was nearly blinding after days of fog and rain.† After breakfast, I drove† back up to Heather Meadows.† I parked at the Lake Ann trailhead, and gathered my gear for a hike to the base of Mount Shuksan (pronounced Shuk-sun).
It was then that I realized that, in my eagerness to get to the trailhead, I had neglected to bring water from the campground.† I wandered all over the Heather Meadows area in search of a faucet, but didnít find one.† I wasnít about to drive back to the campground, so I threw my filter in my pack and hit the trail.
It was a much nicer day, but there were still clouds clinging to the highest peaks.† After days of rain, I wasnít about to complain though.† I followed the trail down through an incredible wildflower garden.† At Swift Creek, I stopped to filter water.† From there, I followed an easy but muddy stretch of trail.† I was able to hop through most of the mud, but one particularly impressive quagmire caused me to pause.† Going around wasnít an option, and the mud was more than knee deep.† I attempted to cross the mud hole, using submerged rocks and logs.† I was almost at the end, when my boot slipped.† It was an ungraceful fall, and I landed on my side in the middle of the slop.† Actually, to be honest, the fall was intentional.† I was simply trying to remove the mud from the trail, by way of absorption.† Well what can I say, Iím truly dedicated to public service.† Unfortunately I looked like a UPS driver the rest of the day.
The mud eventually ended in favor of a rocky climb.† Normally I wouldnít look forward to walking uphill, but in this case, it was a considerable improvement.† As I climbed, I looked back towards Mount Baker, which was still hidden in the clouds.† Fortunately, the muck had finally broken around Mount Shuksan, which was directly ahead of me.† Although there were a few clouds lingering near the summit, the west side of the mountain and several of its glaciers were in plain view.
I crested an unnamed pass, and descended to a ridge above Lake Ann.† I followed the ridge into a meadow with a great view of the mountain.† It was a great view, and apparently I wasnít the only one who thought so.† There were probably 30 or 40 people lounging in the meadow, taking in the sun, and the view.
I had lunch there, but decided to explore further.† I followed the continuing trail, which heads towards Fisher Chimney.† This trail eventually provides access to a popular mountaineering route to the summit.† I wasnít about to attempt that, but decided to follow the path over to the base of the mountain, where Iíd get an up-close view of the Lower Curtis Glacier.†
This path was more rugged than the main trail to Lake Ann.† The footing was marginal, and the path was blocked by the occasional deadfall.† Steady switchbacks made for a challenging ascent, but the effort was worth it.† Before long, I was treated to a great view north, down the valley of Swift Creek all the way to Baker Lake.† Eventually the climb eased, and I traversed a bare slope towards the glacier.† At one point, the path crossed a gully full of loose talus and scree.† This was a little dicey, but it allowed me to gain the top of a ridge overlooking the glacier.† From there I had a great view of the ice spilling down from the summit.†
I relaxed there for a time, before heading back.† While I was there, I spotted two climbers on their way down from the summit.† A few minutes later, I heard an incredible roar as the glacier calved, sending large chunks of snow and ice down into the valley below.
On my return, I stopped to explore Lake Ann.† I wandered the lakeshore for a while, before resuming the hike out.† On the return, I was treated to a few glimpses of Mount Baker flashing me through the clouds.† At one point, the mountain lifted her skirts just long enough to allow a glimpse of the summit.† This was somewhat satisfying, as Iíd been looking forward to seeing Mount Baker all week.
There were still a couple hours of daylight when I returned to the car.† Instead of heading back to camp, I decided to take advantage of it.† I drove back to Artistís Point, where I began the short hike to Table Mountain.† I hurried up to the top, despite the steep grade.† Once on top, I hiked out towards the end of the mountain.† I think the official trail actually ends at the east end, but I didnít realize it.† By the time I neared the far end, the clouds had returned, and I was walking in a chilly fog.† Sigh.† I hurried back down and returned to the car.† There, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had a cell signal.† I called my wife to let her know that I was doing ok, and to fill her in on my latest change in plans.† I would be starting a backpacking trip the following morning, but told her Iíd call once I finished on Sunday.
Continue reading about my trip as I backpack along Copper Ridge and the Chilliwack River.
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