WA – North Cascades National Park, Hannegan/Copper Ridge Trails

After completing my trip to Sahale Glacier (link), I found myself once again at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount. I arrived at 6am and had the place to myself. It was sprinkling so I was happy to wait in my car. When the next car arrived they did the same. By the time the third arrived I checked in with them to see if they’d honor the line so we could all wait in our cars out of the rain. The answer was a resounding YES and in fact by the time the office opened there were 5-6 vehicles. A ranger put out a “take a number” box 5-10 minutes before opening. It would be helpful to do this much earlier, maybe even the evening prior. But alas, I was first in line and got the permit I wanted. Tip: The office in Marblemount opens at 7am whereas the one in Glacier, nearer this trailhead, doesn’t open until 8am. Both are open 7 days a week.

My fingers were crossed I’d get this permit as I needed to drive the 40 miles to Sedro Wooley to retrieve my replacement credit card, and it was conveniently on my way to the trailhead.

Initially the forecast indicated a clear day starting Monday but reality was a bit different.

I dilly dallied and made a second pot of coffee waiting to see if the storm would blow over.

I drove up Mt Baker and finally got enough signal to check the radar. I drove back to the Glacier Public Service Center to see if I could delay my permit by a day. Success!

So back up the Mt Baker Highway I went and caught a teaser of the mountain.

It was so beautiful on the mountain, I was looking forward to exploring further when I returned from my latest outing.

The next day the skies were looking much improved.

Bleeding hearts.

Foxgloves.

Not sure on the ID of this one.

Columbine.

I hadn’t seen this plant previously and have since learned it’s a dwarf fireweed.

Aster with morning dew.

Monkey flower.

First sighting of a black slug. Ewwwww, right?

It was nice to see evidence of recent trail maintenance.

Survey marker at Hannegan Pass.

Views from Hannegan Pass.

I couldn’t help but admire the texture and colors of this mountain. I learned later that this is Hannegan Peak. My plan was to summit on the day of my exit.

New wilderness for me.

Looking down at Hannegan Pass. To the left is Ruth Mountain, with Mount Shuksan in the middle and Hannegan Peak to the right.

I was so happy berries were finally ripening. In fact I believe berry picking saved me from a collision with a bear.

Insulator from old telephone lines.

Silesia Camp is on the top of this hill and would be my home for a couple nights.

There are two campsites at Silesia Camp. My first night I had the protected site without a view. The bonus was no condensation.

The second night I switched sites for this one with a view of Mineral and Whatcom Mountains. Initially I had the tent set up front and center but after the wind started gusting I relocated to the side. I was surprised by the amount of condensation I experienced.

It’s such a convenience having a bear box in camp.

Toilet with a view.

From camp I had great views of these mountains.

Morning light.

This helicopter made a few stops at Copper Ridge Lookout with parts for repairs.

The lookout is barely visible on the distant peak.

The trail to the lookout.

Copper Ridge Lookout

The butterflies liked my gaiters, I’m guessing they thought they were flowers.

Egg Lake is just below Silesia Camp. It’s the nearest water and is quite a descent followed by a stiff ascent. The lookout is on the ridge behind the lake. When I returned from the lookout I couldn’t resist stopping by for a swim. I was thrilled I had the lake to myself. It was deep, clean and a decent temperature.

Looking toward Hannegan Pass; Hannegan Peak is to the right.

Photo bombed by this beautiful creature. 

Going up Hannegan Peak

The amount of snow, ice and glaciers is quite amazing.

The ridges had open invites for further exploration.

So much eye candy.

Looking back up at Hannegan Pass as I’m returning to the trailhead.

You can see the transition up to Ruth Mountain.

I believe this was my first visit to the Mt Baker Wilderness. 

It was cool to find out part of the trail was shared with the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT). I met a few thru hikers. I wouldn’t want to hike the next section which includes 5 miles on the dirt trailhead road and 10 miles of paved Mt Baker Highway.

Adventure Date(s):

  • August 13-15, 2019

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • Permits are required and can only be obtained either in advance from the recreation.gov site or from a wilderness office for same day or next day camping. Rangers are out and about checking permits.
  • This intimated me and as a result I chose not to hike the Copper Ridge Loop. I later found out the cart was broken and you can walk through the creek. I’m sure it could be challenging based on snowmelt.
  • Be prepared for biting flies and mosquitoes. I’d sprayed my outerwear, pack and screen on tent in advance with Sawyer’s Permethrin (Amazon link), and applied Picardin (Amazon link) to my skin when needed.
  • Dispersed camping is available on nearby USFS lands.
  • Set mouse traps in your car.

Resources:

Links:

WA – North Cascades National Park, Sahale Glacier

OPEN OPEN OPEN. When I arrived at the Marblemount Wilderness Information Office at 6:30am I found about 10 others in line ahead of me awaiting the 7am opening. We were all hoping to secure a walk-up permit for North Cascades National Park where this is the game you must play for backcountry camping if you don’t want to reserve six months in advance.

Finally the doors opened. First up was a group of guys who’d been waiting since 5am. Soon enough two groups in front of me secured the spots I wanted. However, one benefit of living this flexible lifestyle was that I was able to delay my start by a day and thus was still rewarded with a permit to Sahale Glacier Camp. I spent the day taking care of chores and of course eating, including dealing with a fraud alert on my primary credit card. The fun of traveling was figuring out where and when to receive a replacement. This ended up being my best option, 40 miles away from Marblemount.

Finally it was time. When the trail looks like this, you know it’s gonna be a slow slog.

I got an early start and was welcomed by this friend.

These were so tiny and delicate. I’m guessing a type of penstemon.

Monkey Flowers

Looking back down from where I’d come.

I have a love/hate relationship with backcountry toilets like this one at Cascade Pass, especially when they involve more ascending. With the amount of traffic this trail sees I’m grateful to not see white butterflies and piles of human excrement.

Cascade Pass survey/benchmark post.

I was excited about this next section as I’d heard as it attracts much wildlife.

As if on cue, just 10 minutes later we spy this black fuzzy guy on the hillside. Of course, he’s decided to hang out between the switchbacks.

I think he was intoxicated from the flowers and berries he was happily consuming and had no interest in leaving his paradise.

We grouped up, encouraged him to leave but after a long wait we walked by on the high trail without incident.

I continued hiking but several others hung back wanting to savor this close encounter with nature. When I looked back I was surprised to see these guys with their backs to the bear. I think they were so wrapped up in the moment they didn’t realize what they’d done. We met one of these hikers later and found out the situation turned violent when the bear spied a marmot, pursued, killed and devoured his prey. Now that was a wild kingdom experience!

Back to nature’s beauty as the climbing toward Sahale Glacier continued.

Doubtful Lake, which I planned to visit as part of my exit hike the following day, plus a glimpse of Sahale Glacier, my destination for the night.

I didn’t take as many photos as I should have on the hike up to Sahale. After this section, the trail worked it’s way through scree and boulders at a much steeper grade.

Photography breathing breaks are essential.

The marmots weren’t very photo friendly on this trip.

There are only a couple places where you can see Mt Baker.

And finally, I arrived at Sahale Glacier Camp. From the trailhead, it took me a little less than 6 hours to hike these 6 miles with 4000′ of ascending.

Mike was planning on ascending the Glacier. I was his accountability buddy and enjoyed watching his progress.

The glacier is much larger than it appears. Mike is nothing but a tiny speck the lip of the snowfield and false summit.

I watched another person hike up with skis and make a couple runs.

This is from PeakFinder app.

Pooper with a view, no privacy and a trek requiring planning; wouldn’t want to wait until the last minute as it’s a bit of a rocky jaunt.

This photo shows the location of some of the premier campsites. Each of the three gray snow-free mounds just below the glacier hold single campsites.

I chose a campsite nearer the glacier and snowmelt. All the sites have nice rock walls as wind barriers.

With no shade around I was thankful for my umbrella. The sun was intense.

Water water everywhere but thankfully there was a breeze and bugs were pretty much non existent.

I spent way too many hours in camp. I regretted not bringing my microspikes so I could walk the glacier.

Sunset was incredible as the weather was a changing and the valley canyons filled with rolling fog.

First light from my tent.

Early morning visitors, only a pair and not even a little pesky.

First light on Johannesburg Mountain. Little did I know this would be the only sun I’d see all day. This was at 6am. My tent is in the middle and on each of the peaks to the left and right are occupied campsites.

PeakFinder app is so helpful.

I checked weather on my InReach to see if rain was headed my way. I wanted to know if the fog/clouds would burn off or if I best get off this exposed location. I’ve found the forecasts somewhat unreliable but with heavy rain predicted by 1pm, I decided I best heed the warning.

It was looking doubtful that I would visit Doubtful Lake on this gray chilly day.

This is the sketchy part of the trail with mixed slippery dirt, scree and boulders. Not my favorite type of terrain. If you look carefully toward the top of the photo you’ll see a couple just beginning their descent.

I didn’t want to drop into the cloud.

Looking back from where I’d come. You might be able to spy the couple descending behind me as colorful tiny dots.

Run marmot run, don’t let that bear get you.

Sahale Mountain to the left, with Doubtful Lake in the lower middle.

Oh Doubtful Lake how I wanted to visit you but you’ll have to wait for a nicer day.

Down down down I go, descending into the swirling clouds.

Finally I was back into the forested switchbacks where I was hoping for some ripe berries.

It seems I finally found worked my way out of prime wildflower season. There were still some around but not in the quantities I’d experienced a few weeks earlier.

Adventure Date(s):

  • August 8-9, 2019

Hike Details:

Tips:

  • Permits are required and can only be obtained either in advance from the recreation.gov site or from a wilderness office for same day or next day camping. Rangers are out and about checking permits. Mine was checked twice. If you are planning on being an early arrival, check at the door for a number system. The first day the numbers weren’t out. The second day it was raining and we were waiting in our cars. About 15 minutes before opening they put out a box with numbers. It was much more efficient but they should put them out much earlier.
  • This was a great option for WiFi, as was The Eatery.
  • Lots of options can be found in Sedro Wooley; Lorenzo’s was recommended by a friend.

Resources:

Links: