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Kanike 11-08-2014 05:03 PM

Damfino Lakes and the High Divide Trail
Yesterday Carm, a friend of hers from the Chwk Outdoor Club and I met up at Bromley's in Sumas at 8:00. Fortunately I had no problem crossing the border but Carm was told that "Baker was closed". Apparently her and the border guard chatted back and forth until Carm was able to convince her that you can still hike in the winter and Baker was open (true, parts of Baker are closed but many parts of Baker are still open).

After listening to our own border stories we jumped into one vehicle and started discussing our plans for the day. Excelsior Peak, hiking the ridge from Excelsior Peak to Church Mtn and/or YAB. After much discussion we agreed on Excelsior Peak and the High Divide Trail. Bev had been there before but this would be a new one for Carm and myself.

We drove the Mt. Baker Hwy to the Canyon Creek Rd. FSR. From here Bev had to drive us 24 km to the TH! Road was in decent shape and the scenery along the way was beautiful. We arrived at the TH to find a brand spanking new snowmobiling hut. Opened the door... and wow. Super nice inside.

We geared up and started out on the well groomed trail. Well groomed until a couple of downed trees... No problem. Managed to make our way around them.

Less than 1 km in we came to a junction for Cowap Peak and the Canyon Ridge turnoff. We continued straight towards Damfino Lakes. We arrived at the lakes and now I know the story. Years ago a ranger was asked what the lakes were called. The ranger replied. "Damn if I know." Damn if I know why they are called lakes! (credit to author Craig Romano for the information).

We continued on past the lakes and I was thrilled by the amount of creeping raspberries still on the trail... what a treat. Bev had an animal track brochure and we managed to identify a little deer mouse's tracks hehe. We came out of the forest into an open area. The colours were like black and white.

Another meadow and creek crossing took us to the ridge we were aiming at:

At 4.5 km in we came to the junction for the High Divide and Excelsior Peak/Trail. (why would anyone hike up to Excelsior Peak from the Mt. Baker Hwy when you can drive most of the way up from the back?)

At this point we actually re discussed taking the ridge towards Church Mtn. but in the end stuck with our original plan which was to travel the High Divide Trail. We hiked along the trail and looked down at the Excelsior Peak trail and Nooksack Valley.

Then our guide (Bev) pointed out Excelsior Peak. HAHAHA. (sorry but this peak did not look anything like I expected). Nothing jagged or intimidating, just a... knoll. :D ;) Views from the south side and north east side:

We looked across the valley towards Canada... Oh Canada!

Continued along the ridge and enjoyed a mixture of beautiful weather:


We made our way off the trail up to the ridge for a lunch break and as we were sitting there having lunch my favourite peak appeared.. Larrabee then Tomyhoi:

Group photo:

After a 1/2 break we got back on the trail and followed it some more. Finally everything was beginning to appear. Baker, Shuksan, etc.

Even McGuire to our left:

More scenes from the trail:

4 hrs in with a 1/2 lunch break we knew we had reached our turn around point. We soaked it all up and Bev explained the route for Goat Mtn, told us about Welcome Pass, etc. Very informative.

I had to smile at how tiny YAB looked compared to Larrabee:

Baker through the trees:

Heading back:

All in all it was a great day with some awesome company and I'm guessing we hiked about 12 km return.

Thanks Carm for inviting me to join you two. Had fun and can't wait to go back and explore the ridge to Church Mtn. as well Cowap Peak and Canyon Ridge.

xj6response 11-08-2014 05:14 PM

"Damn if I know." Damn if I know .... Hilarious :) Ah yes, back in the day when a ranger could speak his/her mind.

Great pics and TR. We're thinking of spending a week or so in the Glacier area. How far is the Canyon Creek road from Glacier?

Kanike 11-08-2014 05:19 PM

3.2 km on your left. :) Hope you post a trip report.

EAK 11-09-2014 08:44 AM

Feel good day, feel good report. Looks awesome up there right now.

KARVITK 11-09-2014 01:23 PM

Sweet trip Janice, those Baker trails our great.


susied 11-09-2014 09:13 PM

Canyon Creek road is open again?? Multiple "YEH!"s, it has been closed for years due to a bridge washout. Excelsior is probably my very favourite Baker hike. Lovely to see your TR.

KARVITK 11-10-2014 12:56 AM

I missed it before, that is a real funny way to get a name..


simonc 11-11-2014 02:28 AM

Nice layer of snow up there right now.

Kanike 11-11-2014 09:21 AM

^ Sweet! Thanks Simon. Wondered if when you asked me what it was like up there if you were going to head there yourself. Also, have you done Cowap Peak? Hard to find any trip reports for that one and do you know if Church Mtn. can be accessed via the ridge? TIA.

Kanike 11-11-2014 09:24 AM

^nevermind. Just saw your Facebook post lol.

RGB 11-11-2014 11:39 PM

" (why would anyone hike up to Excelsior Peak from the Mt. Baker Hwy when you can drive most of the way up from the back?) "

Because the road is often closed due to washouts, made worse by not enough $$$ to fix it. Not even the US Border Patrol - which uses the road for obvious reasons - can make the Forest service get it repaired fast. And when it is open, it's a long drive up with no guarantee that it will be in good condition, and it has some slightly risky sections as you may have noticed.
And the Excelsior and other ways up to the trails are usually open: you're not afraid of a little elevation gain? With the drive and the hike to the Divide it's about the same time as going up from the highway anyway.

Damfino: Original use of the word may come from Buster Keaton's movie The Boat.

quote: Buster is married with two children (both of whom wear the porkpie hat made famous by Keaton). He has built a large boat he has christened Damfino inside his home. When he finishes and decides to take the boat out to sea, he discovers it is too large to fit through the door. Buster enlarges the opening a bit, but when he tows the boat out, it proves to be a bit bigger than he estimated, and the house collapses, utterly.

Buster loses his car during the attempt to launch the boat. The boat passes with impunity under the exceedingly low bridges of the Venice (California) canals thanks to Buster's boat design. While out on the Pacific, Buster and his family are caught in a terrible storm. The boat is barely seaworthy to begin with, and it does not help that Buster nails a picture up inside the boat, causing an improbable leak, or when he further drills through the bottom of the boat to let the water out (resulting in a spectacular gusher of a leak). He radios a Morse_Code call for help, but when the navy or coast guard operator asks who it is, he answers, "d-a-m-f-i-n-o" (in Morse Code). The man interprets it as "damn if I know" and dismisses the call as a prank. Taking to a (ridiculously small) dinghy (that is in fact a bathtub), Buster and his family wash up on a deserted beach in dark of night. "Where are we?" asks his wife (via an intertitle), to which Buster replies, "Damn if I know" (mouthing the words to the camera, no intertitle is used).

This is referenced in one of the best episodes of The X-Files: "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose".

quote: Many of the names used in the episode are homages to the silent film era. The name "Clyde Bruckman" refers to an actual screenwriter and director of silent comedies of the same name who committed suicide. The names of characters Detective Havez and Detective Cline are also references to a writer and director from that era: Jean Havez and Eddie Cline, respectively. One of the victims, Claude Dukenfield, is a reference to the real name of W.C. Fields. The name of the hotel in this episode, "Le Damfino" is a reference to a boat used by Buster Keaton in the movie The Boat.

RGB 11-11-2014 11:53 PM


quote:Originally posted by Kanike

^ Sweet! Thanks Simon. Wondered if when you asked me what it was like up there if you were going to head there yourself. Also, have you done Cowap Peak? Hard to find any trip reports for that one and do you know if Church Mtn. can be accessed via the ridge? TIA.
Cowap Peak has some good views at the summit. The trail continues north of the peak and originally was built as a smuggling route during Prohibition. Donkeys (real "mules") would use the trail to bring booze bottles south to the nearest road. It is still possible to get to the border but the trail is in poor shape.

Church is possible following the boot path along the ridge from Excelsior. Bring a good map.

Kanike 11-12-2014 05:59 PM

Thanks RGB for the information re: the road. Never crossed my mind that the FSR could be closed due to washouts, etc. (doh) and no I'm not afraid of a little elevation gain but I do dislike boring switchbacks. Not sure if that is what the trail from the Baker Hwy to Excelsior Peak is like. I will have to do some homework to find out, and thanks for the info re: Cowap Peak and Church Mtn.

RGB 11-13-2014 12:01 AM

OK and thanks for your great TR. I notice that the new admin has blocked swear words which in general is good, but **** = D - a - m -n is not really one of them! The four **** in my reply above and your TR should be replaced with D- a - m - n.

One reason I like the trails from the highway is that they have sections with good floral displays in spring and summer, partly because they go up the south side of the ridge, getting lots of sunlight.
The POTD thread has a flower photo of mine posted earlier this week taken on the Welcome Pass trail at the east end of the High Divide.

Some of these trails also have tricky = exciting sections on them, like a very narrow trail across a steep open debris chute.

For more info go to and search TRs for these trails.

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