Having caught the Baker Bug last weekend, I had a hankering to get back to the area, but for a backpack this time. Thankfully, Del Sol had the same affliction and was willing to let me twist her arm to put off some chores so she could head out with me on an adventure.
Neither of us had been to Hannegan Pass or Heliotrope, so we figured we would do one or the other, but didn't quite decide which one it'd be until we were well on our way Saturday morning.
The info from the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie forest website says there's a camp 2 miles in at the old Kulshan Cabin site and a great overlook of the Coleman glacier at 2.4 miles, so we figured we'd set up camp and then explore. It was hot on the trail as we followed the switchbacks up and we encountered a few creek crossings on the way- none of these were too bad, although we'd brought along good fording sandals, heeding David and Karen's warnings.
When we got to the "camp", we ran into a perky Park Ranger, who informed us that there was no camping at the old cabin site. Apparently the only options were either up past the glacier overlook, or up the climbers route. When we asked which was better, she described the climbers route as "steeper, but better views, and easier to find campspots," so that's what we chose. "I don't want to lie to you, though," she continued, "you're only halfway there."
In fact, it's another 1/3 mile to the junction and another mile to the Hogsback camp, with a gain of 1200 ft, and after a lunch stop we continued up and on our way.
A right turn at the junction and the trail starts it's ascent up the moraine called the Hogsback. Soon enough we broke out of the trees, and suddenly we were in God's Country: slopes of green, wild flowers a-plenty, cascading waterfalls, and a beautiful Mt. Baker vista complete with crumbling glaciers. The views helped, and we followed the trail, climbing the dusty, rocky path. Next, a short snow walk and we arrived at the Hogsback camp.
There are quite a few spots scratched out here with wind-breaking rocks helpfully circled around. First challenge was setting up the NightHaven sans pegs as there was no way to pound anything into the hard ground. With Del Sols assistance, and the NightHaven acting more as sail or flag than tent in the wind, we managed to get it set up. Turns out all you really need is 20 or so good-sized rocks, arranged inside and outside, to get the job done.
On top of the awesome views that include Skyline Divide and Chowder Ridge, our spot had the added benefit of a nice little brook beside it, so we chilled our beers in it as we continued on with the set up, then dinner. After some entertainment of watching some climbers practice crevase rescue (they gave us some good advice when they came back down- don't fall in a hole, it's hard to get out!), we set up Del Sol's Hubba in the adjoining rock oval. What a perfect fit, like it was just made for it. [^]
As evening progressed, the colours and views got better and better and we joined some friendly fellow campers for drinks and conversation as the sun completely set.
The next morning we awoke to clouds drifitng in and out, giving us peek-a-boo views and some misty rain. When we got a sun break, we finished packing up. The idea was to try to traverse over to the glacier overlook moraine and follow that trail back, effectively making a bit of a loop. The drop-offs and everchanging mist made that an unwise choice and we veered back to the main trail after getting a chance to enjoy the many wild flowers, waterfalls and rock shaping-water chutes in the area.
Back on the Hogsback, we were happy to find that the steepness combined with loose rocks wasn't too bad to handle. At the junction, we ran into a couple Trail Stewards that encouraged us to go check out the glacier overlook as it wasn't too far and was pretty flat. They also warned us that there was a challenging creek crossing.
Turns out the creek crossing was more a waterfall crossing, a funnel of all the water we had seen racing downhill from above and, as we investgated, there was really only the one way across: over a skinny log with some supporting rocks on either side.
Disaster averted, we had only one smaller creek to cross, then up a hill and the awesome view of the Coleman glacier lay before us, all chunky and ice-blue. The clouds had lifted to hide Baker, but we didn't mind as we were here to view the glacier and all it's gaping crevasses.
Thanks, Del Sol for helping me with my Baker addiction: it was great sharing the trail and camp with you!