FURTHER AFIELD: Into the Mountains

Last week we drove northeast to the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, a vast tract of land on the western slopes of the Cascade Range. Our goal was a high meadow set with heather, wildflowers, blueberries, firs and hemlocks, about 10 miles south of the Canadian border as the crow flies. A glacier-fed creek winds through the meadow and widens into shallow lakes where American dippers (gray, fist-sized birds) plunge underwater in search of small fish and invertebrates. At 4200 feet (1280m) the subalpine meadow is far below nearby Mount Baker but it’s a big step up in altitude from life on an island at sea level.

Mount Baker, known as Koma Kulshan in the popularized (and probably incorrect) version of a local indigenous language, is our guardian mountain. Snow-capped all year long, it’s presence graces views to the northeast from different vantage points around our island. When it isn’t obscured by clouds we like to check its mood: sometimes the mountain looks gentle, other times it seems forbidding and fierce. It all depends on how the light hits it, whether it’s ringed with a puffy cloud necklace, how clear the sky is that day, or our own moods – we like to read things into the mountain. As we left Fidalgo Island on a bright September morning, Mt. Baker competed with electric wires that span the bridge, creating yet another scene. It wasn’t a picture postcard view but it was just as real as any other.

1. Mt. Baker/Koma Kulshan from the car as we drive off the island.
2. A distant North Cascade peak shows the scale of the mountain range relative to the lowlands.

It’s a two-hour drive on two-lane roads that pass through small rural communities. The final stretch penetrates thick forest as it climbs on up into the mountains. After a series of hairpin turns the road passes a ski resort before it ends above the timberline at a scenic hunk of rock called Artist’s Point. Fine views of mountain peaks can be seen in all directions up there. But you’re still well below Mt. Baker. For that, climbers need to execute a technical climb on the glacier-strewn peak, which is technically an active volcano. But no worries, it’s unlikely to erupt without warning while research and monitoring stations are keeping watch.

No gluttons for punishment, we just wanted an easy, scenic hike – and what a beautiful day it was for that. We pulled into a lot below Artist’s Point, parked, donned backpacks, hats, and sunscreen, checked our water and food supplies, and set off on the Bagley Lakes Trail.

3. Bagley Lakes.
4.

*

*

6. Blueberry bushes cast shadows on a well-worn boardwalk over a wet section of the trail.
7. A gold rush in the late 1890s brought settlers into this wilderness. Soon after that the idea of tourism took hold. Construction on a lodge began in 1925 and a road was constructed up to Heather Meadows, where we hiked the trail around Bagley Lakes. In 1931, the 58-mile-long Mt. Baker Highway was extended to its terminus at Artist Point; the lodge burned down the same year. Three years later Jack London’s Call of the Wild, starring Clark Gable and Loretta Young, was filmed nearby in the Mt. Baker National Forest.
8. Massive hemlocks tower over the meadows.

*

*

10. Bagley Creek’s bottom is littered with fallen trees. The red leaves in the lower left corner are blueberry bushes.

*

12. One impressive tree towered over the others, tilting toward the creek. Someday it will topple.
13.

*

I was surprised to find that last time we hiked here was exactly a year ago. The blueberries were more plentiful then and the skies were cloudier. It’s reassuring to return to a place you enjoy and take in the same views – but it’s always a little different. I find that reassuring, too. If you haven’t had your fill of mountain images, a post about last year’s hike can be seen here.

***


62 comments

    • Thank you! And I think I can safely identify most of them now. That beetle was really cool, and the Mourning cloak butterfly was cooperative. Then there are the dippers! Sorry I didn’t get a good photo this time. They’re just amazing to watch. If you have a minute, google them and watch a video of one foraging. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Lynn.
    I know nearly all the insects of No 9:
    Only Pachyta armata, the beetle is not known to me. We also have longhorn beetles here but now in early fall I can’t find any of them.
    The pottwer wasp ist really elegant – such a sight! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Once again I’m impressed with your insect knowledge. I guessed one or two but I wasn’t sure. I posted them on iNaturalist – do you know that site? It’s a worldwide site for nature observations. You can post your sightings and if you don’t know the species, often someone will help identify it. I’ll try to add the names to the picture caption later. The beetle was wonderful – that’s my favorite, for sure! It was very good to see so many insects up there. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      • 1) Eristalis tenax – very common
        2) Nymphalis antiopa
        3) already mentioned: Pachyta armata
        4) a hoverfly: abe Sericomyia silentis
        5) a potter wasp
        6) Ernestia rudis. This fly ist still around when it’s cold. One of the last insects in german winter.

        I use bing for a search or insektenbox.de

        The more I look for insects the more I’m interested in the very tiny ones.
        There is still a variety of insects out there. πŸ™‚

        Like

  2. Wild blueberries, yay! And great to see the bees and other critters looking healthy & busy on the flowers and ferns (and a sweatshirt, it looks like). I’d known the western hemlocks are taller than the eastern, but the ones in your shot really are massive-looking. Glad the mountain was in such a generous mood and thanks for the nice mementoes of your hike.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the blueberries are prolific enough up there that even though they’d been picked over, I was still able to find enough to take a little home. There are huckleberries, too but I don’t discriminate when it comes to yummy berries. πŸ™‚ It was gratifying to see so many insects busy that day, after everything I read about their decline. The hemlocks up there are Mountain hemlocks and yes, they can get very tall. We have Western hemlocks, another species, down here. I have not begun to sort out the different conifers that grow in the mountains. As I said above somewhere, I always ask myself why we don’t go more often. Thanks for commenting!

      Like

    • Oh yes, we enjoyed the blueberries very much. Picking berries and just popping them into my mouth is one of my favorite experiences in the world. πŸ˜‰ We put some into a bag and hung the bag on my backpack so they wouldn’t get crushed. We had them for breakfast the next day – not enough for a pie but I’m happy. πŸ™‚ I’m glad you enjoyed the trip, thanks for letting me know.

      Like

  3. I enjoyed sharing in the views from your lovely trip! And, hey! check out nature’s asemic writing on the creek bed (#10).

    βœ¨πŸ™πŸ•‰πŸŒ±πŸŒΏπŸŒ³πŸŒ»πŸ’šπŸ•Šβ˜―πŸ‰βœ¨

    Like

  4. While in Maine we had all the dishes we could order with wild blueberries as an ingredient. Well, we could have ordered more but we’d burst. πŸ™‚ That’s quite a story about the the lodge burning when the road was completed then the “Call of the Wild’ being filmed there. That and “The Sea Wolf” were two of my favorite childhood reads. The Hemlocks are quite impressive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steve, I had no idea about the filming until I happened to do a little research about the history of the road. BTW they keep the road plowed up to the ski resort all winter, of course, but the last few miles to Artist’s Point aren’t open until well into the summer. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Such wonderful photos, Lynn. Your close-ups are especially captivating– the insects are terrific. Love the vintage treatment on the landscape – perfect for the historic description and your lead color landscapes are spectacular. Glad you had a fruitful and fun day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled with the photos but I know people love to see the mountains (me too!) so I worked on them and put the post together. But we already talked about that, didn’t we? πŸ˜‰ The insects turned out better than the landscapes. Thank you for noticing the pairing of the sepia toned photo and historical tidbits. πŸ™‚ Yes, it was a very good day up there! Thanks for being here.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. #2… loved sliding down the tree tunnel with the peak guiding the way!
    ​#8… have you read “​Finding the mother tree : discovering the wisdom of the forest​”​ ​by​ Suzanne Simard? I’m finding it utterly fascinating. This great hemlock made me think of the book.
    #10 and #12… I see you’re discovering more examples of how trees end up as driftwood. πŸ€”
    ​​Thanks for taking me along on this adventure in the wild. Wishing you a lovely weekend and the week to follow! πŸ˜Šβ€‹

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s good to be reminded about Simard’s book – I haven’t read it yet but I’m aware of it, and of her work. It’s a pleasure to have you along, if only vicariously. Wishing you another good week, too!

      Like

      • I’m really enjoying reading about her struggle to have her research recognized about how plants/trees communicate underground. A true community of connected beings. Sharing between kin and non-kin unlike anything we ever suspected. The downside is that it makes me ache all the more whenever I spot one of those ugly devastating clear cuts. We are doing so much damage to our environment and planet, but she’s getting the message out, along with other researchers continuing the work. 🌱🌿🌲

        Liked by 1 person

    • That was one of the reasons we moved out here – the mountains (and the coast, too) aren’t as far away as they were in NY. With everything you read about the demise of insects, it’s really good to lots of them. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for being here, it’s nice to keep the connection and I value your opinions. Have a good weekend!

      Like

    • That’s too funny about the Veronica. They were so pretty – it’s a nice genus, the Veronica’s. πŸ˜‰ A relative of Fringed G-of P, Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia asarifolia) was a favorite of my mother’s when she lived in NC near the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s always special for me to see these – I hear her voice saying the name. With butterflies, the reds and oranges are usually so attractive but I agree, Mourning cloaks have a beautiful, deep velvety color. Happy fall to you, too!!

      Like

  7. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Cow and Calf, Ilkley | Still Restlessjo

  8. Very nice written! The photos of the mountains are beautiful and impressive. The size puts humans in the right size I would think. No room for overconfidence! I love the detail pictures here. They are so joyful, all of them. Of course I like the insects and you know all of them, congratulations πŸ™‚ The photos are brilliant! What a nice variety. So you found really much life in the mountains. Yellowjacket sounds cute by the way! Also the tiny wildflowers are beautiful. They are really special in your area. I can feel the joy and fun of your trip to this place. So it is already autumn the pictures have a slight feeling of spring. Maybe the colors πŸ™‚ It was nice to be part of this tour. Thank you Lynn.

    Like

    • I’m sorry to burst your bubble but I didn’t know the insects! I submitted some of them to inaturalist and found identifications that way. I did it for you! πŸ˜‰
      I’m glad you enjoyed seeing this (and the writing, thank you!). The photos didn’t come out as well as I hoped but there were enough decent ones to make a post. The light is so different up there, it’s hard to know what to do. You’re right about the life – there were plenty of insects and butterflies flying around, and enough wildflowers still in bloom to satisfy me. I think they already had the first snow up there!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Burst your bubble is new to me πŸ™‚ Great! I guessed you did some research, but hey, so do I πŸ™‚ At least you found most of them. They all look so fresh, as if the year just started. It would be nice to draw them. By the way, did you do the sketching class in September?
        I don’t have any experience, but maybe you need a kind of filter up there? Or more processing? The photos you showed in this post were all good! Always new situations, new challenges πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

        • I was thinking that maybe you hadn’t heard that phrase. πŸ™‚ Do you think the fresh look could be because the air is so clear up there? I wonder.
          No, I didn’t do the sketching class ;-( And yes, a polarizing filter can be helpful but not always. Also, I tried something new on the camera that i didn’t like. That wasn’t the best idea. And you can bet that LOTS of processing went into some of these – mainly the landscapes. Thanks, Almuth, the challenges keep us awake, right? πŸ˜‰

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Utterly beautiful! photographs and landscape. I saw the peak of Mt Baker once upon a time from Vancouver Island. Now it’s become more real through your skills. And yes, the air can be so clear up high away from cities, dust and smoke. A rarefied atmosphere.

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s