Changing Weather

Mt. Shuksan from Herman's Saddle

Sunday was a glorious day, although a bit cool after our first frost of the season. Fall is definitely in the air with leaves turning brilliant shades of red, orange, and gold almost everywhere you look. The forecast calls for increasing clouds and then rain later this week. Daylight hours are getting rapidly shorter, by about 13 minutes each day.

It was a good day to get out. I’d thought about bicycling 50 or so miles, but ultimately decided to head to the mountains. There’d been a little snow a week or so before so the road to Artist Point had been closed. I chose to hike the Chain Lakes loop, starting and ending at the Mt. Baker Ski Area upper parking lot. It’s about 8 miles around.

The photo of Mt. Shuksan above was made part way up the Herman’s Saddle trail from Bagley Lakes. Wispy cirrus clouds were starting to form over the mountain at 3:45 pm. I hoped that the front would move in slowly enough that there would be a spectacular sunset when I got to the other side of Table Mountain a couple of hours later.

Along the trail the blueberries were as ripe and sweet as they could be, soft from being frozen and thawed several times. I was surprised that there were so many berries still on the bushes as black bears make their home in the area and blueberries are among their favorite fall foods. I did see a little bear scat along the trail and some probable footprints in the snow, but the bears were otherwise hiding.

I met up with another party of hikers doing the whole loop that included a man who two weeks prior had been on top of the other Table Mountain, the one that overlooks Cape Town, South Africa. He took a dip in Hayes Lake, which I was tempted to do but decided the air was too cold with the sun below the treetops. Also in the group was a couple who had come to see our solar panels on the solar tour the previous Saturday. Earlier I’d met an acquaintance whose son had been in Scouts with my boys; he asked me to do a portrait of him and his golden retriever, which I did with Mt. Shuksan in the background.

Mt. Shuksan from Table Mountain trail

The farther around the loop I hiked the cloudier it got. The sky turned dingy white to the south and west, and then to the east as well. I carried my camera on my shoulder until I got to the empty Artist Point parking lot, but didn’t stop to shoot much. This one of Shuksan from below Table Mountain was made at 6:06 pm, just a few minutes before official sunset. It hardly has the drama I was seeking, but sometimes that’s what you get.

I stowed my camera and tripod and hiked as quickly as I could down the Fire & Ice trail back to my truck. It was more ice than fire on the shady north side of the hill so I had to watch my step, particularly on the stairs descending to Austin Pass. I could have hiked the road, but that would have added considerable distance. It was about dark when I loaded up my truck and started down the road home.

All in all, a good day in the mountains. Only about three weeks had passed since my last visit, chronicled under Deliciosum. The next time I’m up there will most likely be with lots of snow on the ground. By the time winter is over there will be about 30 feet of snow where I hiked today. The weather is changing.

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