2015 Trip, Day 5: Wednesday, August 19
The smoke from yesterday had not cleared from the Snoqualmie Pass area today, much to our sadness.
I was feeling incredibly discouraged. So far our vacation had involved a whole lot of worrying over what the conditions would bring each day. Every day we were making lots of phone calls to ranger stations and checking online for weather forecasts, fire conditions, and smoke reports. Now after 24 hours of smoke there was still an air quality advisory through the next day for the Snoqualmie Pass area. After making a phone call to the Glacier Public Information Center, Greg suggested we head to the Mt. Baker area, which was currently experiencing clear skies. So we headed north.
We had expected to spend the last three days of our trip backpacking, but we weren’t doing that now. So we needed more groceries for car camping and stopped at the Woolley Market in Sedro-Woolley. Also got some sandwiches for lunch.
Since we hadn’t planned on going to Mt. Baker, we hadn’t brought any of our books and maps with us. I downloaded hike descriptions to my phone and then we stopped at the ranger station in town to buy a few maps.
The Mt. Baker area was indeed clear and we enjoyed a sunny drive along Highway 542. We arrived at the Silver Fir Campground (the only campground in the area, not including the Douglas Fir Campground that’s 20 minutes back in the other direction) only to find no empty campsites. Well, there were empty campsites, but we couldn’t use them. Some people had reserved sites but then failed to show up and use them. The Weebers here were one such group.
Just before leaving the campground, we happened to see the Hoodoo camp host who is stationed at Douglas Fir Campground and also looks after Silver Fir. We told him we were looking for a campsite and he said the campground had been full for weeks, then turned away to finish cleaning the bathroom. Good grief. Hoodoo employees, in my experience, are some of the most unhelpful people! (We found out the next day that people are allowed to camp in the campground’s day use area when all the sites are full. No one had yet claimed the day use area and we could have taken it, but Mr. Unhelpful failed to mention that to us.)
On the map we saw a campsite symbol at Hannegan Pass so we headed up there. The road is a pothole-plagued mess, but when we got to the end we did indeed find a few campsites and we snagged one:
It was only 4:30 so Greg suggested we drive up to Artist Point and do the short hike up Table Mountain. So we drove back down the potholed road, then drove the curvy winding road up to Artist Point. When we got there I felt like doing a jig. We finally made it to Artist Point! When we visited this area in July 2010 the snow melted really late that year and Artist Point was inaccessible. When we visited last year it was raining and we didn’t even bother driving up there. Third time’s the charm! The evening light on Mt. Shuksan was divine.
Rugged mountains north of Mt. Shuksan:
Heading up to Table Mountain:
Some sections of the trail cling to the side of the mountain. See Greg on the left?
We reached a viewpoint that we thought was the summit, but it wasn’t. It actually proved to have the best views, we would later discover. It also had tons of annoying “rock art” stacks.
We kept going across the plateau towards the true summit, which we needn’t have done, it turns out. We lost the trail at one point and just headed cross country.
The point we designated as our turnaround point was not really the summit, but the views weren’t going to get better than we already had, so we called it good. Nice view of Mt. Baker:
Looking down the length of the plateau that is Table Mountain:
The jagged peaks of North Cascades National Park:
Glacier Peak to the south:
And of course a fabulous view of Mt. Shuksan:
Some panorama shots from my iPhone:
All the peaks to the south of us were somewhat shrouded in smoky haze:
A shot from the way down, with Mt. Baker in the background:
When we got back down to the car sunset was already well underway. We had wanted to photograph sunset at Picture Lake, back down the road a bit from Artist Point, so got in the car and headed down there. We needn’t have bothered though. Winds often calm down in the evening, but they didn’t today and the lake was not doing any reflecting:
Screw the lake. I’ll focus on the mountain:
Earlier at Artist Point we talked to a nice woman named Suzanne who told us about seeing amazing stars the night before, and even a bit of the northern lights. We wanted to stay and see the stars, but our pots, pans, and stove for making a car camping dinner were back at the campsite. Fortunately all our backpacking gear and food was in the car, so after driving back to Artist Point from the lake we made dinner backpacking style. I don’t think we’ve ever used our JetBoil in a parking lot before:
We sat in the car and ate our dinners as dusk fell:
We were glad we stayed because the stars were a sight to see!
We got to bed pretty late that night (11:30), but it was worth it!