I love it when a trip comes together at the last minute and goes according to plan without a hitch. Unfortunately this was not one of those trips!
In a series of fiascos that started with me forgetting my watch (I could use my camera for a time piece, but no alarm for sunrise photography!), forgetting my headlamp (but I carried 3 extra AAA batteries for it) and cumulating in a stove that did not work.
I had enough filler food to make it to Tapto Lakes and back and if I got REALLY hungry I could still eat the boil in bag food with cold water yuck! But I decided the first night I would cut the trip short and and hoof it 18.5 miles out on the 3rd day, skipping out sunset on Hannegan Peak the last night.
My plan was to take it slow and easy this trip as I had Athelney Pass planned for the coming weekend. So I did something I do not normally do, I stopped for a lot of breaks and took some photos of things along the trail I normally wouldnt stop for.
I had the US Cabin campsite all to myself on a Saturday night so I crashed early. I was probably more miffed that I had humped that stove, fuel bottle, pot and 2 boil in bag meals in 10 miles for nothing than I was miffed about the fact that the stove didnt work and I was going to be a tad hungry this trip.
I hit the trail at 6:45am once I cached my stove and shortly reached the cable car and then the junction to head up the Brush Creek trail after that. What can I say about this trail, other than it is aptly named. It was so brushy in spots I couldnt even see my feet. The weather had been cool and damp the previous day and I was absolutely drenched battling through the brush.
There was a fire along the Brush Creek Trail earlier in the week, but the trail was opened again and the fire was being monitored. There were a few short patches where smoke lingered in the air, but it wasnt too bad.
The rest of the hike up to Whatcom Pass was uneventful, there are a couple nice streams and small waterfalls to break at and refill water containers.
When I reached Whatcom Pass I was greeted by yum! Huckleberries. They were ramping up their production and it was a good thing, because I could use the extra food!
By the time I turned off the main trail at the pass and climbed up the steep path I was feeling kind of tired.
But when I reached the overlook of the Tapto Lakes Basin I was instantly recharged. Wow! It was a lot nicer than I expected, no wonder everyone raves about this place! There were lakes and tarns all different sizes and colors.
I slowly headed down, snapping photos left and right as I descended. I was disappointed when I got to the main lakes, this does not look like the photos a couple of my friends had taken, you cant even see Challanger and just a bit of Whatcom!
I really wanted to go for a swim but it was still cold and the sun only came out for short periods at a time. So I dropped my pack and wandered around. Ok Heart Tarn check, Swimming Pool Lake -check, Buoy Lake (there was a yellow buoy in the middle) check, Lemon Lime Lake check, and then finally the Ugly Duckling Tarn.
THIS? THIS is the tarn my friends took pictures at?
It is small, full of sticks, rocks and weeds, it is dull reddish brown in color and boy does it STINK! Those guys are out of their minds, what were they thinking? Little did I know at sunrise and sunset this hideous tarn is transformed into one of the most magical settings I have photographed!
So back I had to go to the first lakes to get my pack. It would be one of many wanderings I would do over the next day! After a BRIEF swim in Swimming Pool Lake I set up camp on a little hillock just above Lemon Lime Lake and Ugly Duckling Tarn, it was the only place I could find a bare spot to set up my bivy without crushing anything.
While taking some photos on the far side of Lemon Lime Lake and waiting for a brief moment of sun I noticed I was sitting in a patch of ripe berries.
I later wandered over with my pot and proceeded to forage for some berries to take home for the kids. Less than 10 minutes after I was done and back to camp I notice a black bear lumbering down the hill headed straight for not only MY berry patch, but my photography spot!
I watched the bear for a long time and once he got too close to camp for my comfort I banged my hiking poles together. When the bear looked over at me I called out Here bear bear and it immediately changed course and went up and over, above the lake. At this time I decided it was prudent to put a big lake in between the bear and my camp (yeah I know bears can swim and the lake isnt that big, but it made me feel better).
I watched the bear for over an hour, cheering him upwards and back in the direction it had come from. The sun was now out and I wanted to take pictures dammit! Finally with the bear long gone I sat and watched the white sky turn almost instantly to blue. What the heck? I was worried about no sunset because it was all cloud, now I was worried about no sunset because of no clouds!
The sunset was ok, and I have to admit for the first time in years of photographing sunsets I was tricked into believing the show was over.
I was way to camp when I realized the sky behind me was blazing! I ran up the hill and sure enough some wispy pink clouds had appeared out of nowhere. Darn it! I sprint back to Ugly Duckling Tarn and wow! What a transformation!
I was not fooled the next morning and headed straight to the tarn. I think this was the nicest sunrise I have ever seen. The whole sky from Red Peak behind me to Shuksan was on fire. Ugly Duckling tarn is very shallow and not subject to the breezes Lemon Lime Lake was and the red sky reflecting in it was beautiful. By the time the sun had rose, the spell was broken and tarn had turned back into a pumpkin. But dont worry little tarn, I know you are truly beautiful!
Not much to say about the last day except it was a very long slog out to the trailhead. After finishing the wet Brush Creek portion I had to stop and ring out and change my socks.
How come every time you get to a cable car, it is always on the far side?
The trail up to Hannegan Pass was a veritable highway , lots of climbers heading up Ruth. I passed at least a dozen parties on their way in after 3pm on a Monday night!
One last note, the road is in great shape, they did a good job repairing it. And the avalanche debris fields across the trail (2 of them about 5 minutes and 15 min in) have a boot beaten path through them, no problem to negotiate.