Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls – January 2014

IMG_4549
Lake Serene in all her serenity

Again, it’s been a while since my last hike post. And this post is much overdue as well… Here goes…

IMG_4541
Beautiful turnoff views

I had my usual Thursday off from work, so Jonathan and I decided to hike. Flexible jobs make for good hikes. It was cloudy in Seattle, but the previous day there had been an inversion where the clouds congregate down low and the skies are sunny up at high elevations. We’d heard about the inversion from Eve who had hiked and had been greeted by clear blue skies on her trek the day before. We were hoping for the same luck.  And the forecast for the Stevens Pass area was clear so we went for it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015. Hike: Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene. Distance: 8.2 miles roundtrip. Elevation gain: 2000 feet. High point: 2521 feet. 

IMG_4185
That’s where we’re headed

 

IMG_4542
Plenty of streams ran along and across the trail

A cloudy, gray morning in Seattle. Typical Seattle weather. I pack my hiking bag – including but hoping to avoid using my rain gear. Jonathan picks me up in his trusty old car, off we go toward Stevens Pass. This will actually be my first time hiking in that area. We sip on some coffee and cross our fingers that the clouds will part and we’ll meet sun on the other side.

IMG_4195
Preview of Bridal Veil Falls

And like clockwork, the clouds miraculously part. We’re about a mile before the turnoff for our hike, and bam! We leave the clouds in the dust. The road rises just barely enough that we drive above the fog and into the sun. We couldn’t have hoped for better luck. We are so psyched for the sun that we miss the turnoff. We drive an extra half mile, take in some beautiful mountain views at a turnoff, and then retrace our steps. We park in the lot – only a few other cars there. I pee behind the closed bathroom building with the locked pit toilets taunting me, and we set off on the trail.

IMG_4543
The valley below and the inversion layer

The trail is relatively flat with only mild elevation gain over the first few miles. Some tiny patches of snow scattered here and there, but nothing substantial, and nothing on the trail itself. The trail passes the turnoff for Bridal Veil falls (which we’ll hit on the way back down). We skirt some lesser, but still amazing, falls on our right. We cross the creek. The ascent begins. To quote the WTA trail description, “It’s a steady ascent using stairs, roots, and rocks for the final 1.5 miles gaining 1,300 feet”. Our entire hike is in shadow, the sun is obscured by Mt Index which towers over Lake Serene, at the top of the hike. (“Across the water the cliffs of Mt. Index rise 3,000 feet straight up and snow is piled at the base after a winter full of avalanches.”)

IMG_4544
A touch of ice on the trail

A hundred feet or so from our destination of Lake Serene, we’re greeted by icy trail. Careful walking. An older hiker with a sweet bandana-as-sweatband and his dog hike on by. He remarks that it’s like spring up here. It kind of is. Only when we finally reach the sign announcing our arrival at the lake do we find the sun. So happy, we bask in it’s light for a few minutes before forging on down to the lake. Jonathan and I find a nice rock to perch on, sit in the sun, and fuel up snacks. Man, this lake really is serene. It’s so incredibly still and peaceful.

IMG_4545
Snow packed trail just before the lake

We also realize that our sun is very limited. The sun is so low in the January sky that it’s barely peeking out at us through a notch to the left of Mt Index. It will “set” in a matter of minutes! Man, did we ever reach the lake at the perfect time. Jonathan sets up cameras to capture the changing light. We eat snacks – Skout bars, hot peppermint tea, hot hibiscus tea, etc etc.

IMG_4546
Jonathan enjoying a few moments of sun

The lake is iced over, some footprints visible on the ice which lead directly across and into snowcaves at the base of Mt Index. It’s been so warm that we wouldn’t risk following the footprints and crossing the ice. We’re happy on solid ground. Several small glaciers persist in the dark wintery shadow of Index. A few other hikers come and go. The sun “sets” around noon or so. Jonathan realizes that he had his GoPro on the wrong setting and it failed to capture the time lapse pics he was hoping for – bummer! More snapshots to compensate.

IMG_4547
Lake Serene covered in ice

After a good rest, we take the trail that skirts around to the right of the lake. Signs point us toward “Lunch Rock” and “Valley Overlook”. We check out Lunch Rock first. Up icy stairs and then we’re at a huge snowcovered rock that overlooks Lake Serene from the perfect angle. So aptly named, this would be the perfect place for lunch!

IMG_4548
Sunlight peeks over a dip in the horizon

We snap photos. I get nervous that Jonathan is going to slide off the icy snow and into the lake (my ol’ irrational fear of heights kicking in). I make my way down the icy stairs and over to the Valley Overlook. A nice view of the valley below and the outlet of the lake, also the uppermost point of Bridal Veil Falls.

IMG_4550
Looking towards Mt Index

I wander back down to our initial perch by the lake. I recline on a sleepy looking log. My rest is stirred by a mother-daughter hiking duo in matching purple athletic tights. I snap some pictures on their iphones for them. Jonathan wanders back down from his photo op at lunch rock. I pose for some pictures for him by walking across a log bridge several times – a human subject with Lake Serene as the backdrop. I’m getting cold. We head down.

IMG_4551
Photogenic ice

Trying to warm myself up, I take off quickly and hike ahead. I pass a few more hikers here and there. I make it halfway down the descent to the falls before Jonathan catches up with me. We bound down the stairs that make up a big chunk of the trail.
We reach the spur to the falls on our left and take it the 0.5 miles to our next destination. More uphill that we weren’t quite expecting. I’m glad I didn’t know there would be more up. Pass more hikers. I’m starting to feel sleepy. Stairs, stairs, stairs, and we’re there! Bridal Veil Falls!

IMG_4254
Ice, tiny glaciers, and a snow cave if you squint hard enough

 

IMG_4552
Sunlight still glows on Mt Index’s peak after “sunset”

The falls are huge. Water is leaping off rock which towers above us. A light mist hangs in the air from the crashing water. More pictures. Jonathan poses for some pics at the base of the falls and gets drenched in the process. We soak in the falls for a few minutes, then we’re off. On our way down again. Down, down, down. We’re back at the trailhead before we know it.

IMG_4553
Log bridge crossing on the way to lunch rock

Just in time to take in a beer from a tiny/weird new brewery on Route 2 less than a mile from the trailhead. And then we were on our way back to Seattle. A good hike. Great weather. Awesome inversion. Success.

IMG_4554
On the way to Lunch Rock and Valley Overlook

 

IMG_4555
Lake Serene from Lunch Rock

 

 

IMG_4556
Lake Serene being all serene

 

IMG_4557
View from the “Valley Overlook”

 

IMG_4558
The inversion layer of clouds grew while we hung out at the lake

 

IMG_4559
Stairs on the way down

 

IMG_4560
A fine bridge crossing

 

IMG_4561
Almost to Bridal Veil Falls

 

IMG_4562
Jonathan getting in for a closer inspection of the falls

 

IMG_4564
Water tumbling down Bridal Veil Falls

 

IMG_4563
Jonathan survived his brush with the falls

 

IMG_4565
Meandering trail down to the trailhead

 

IMG_4566
Reemerging into the Seattle fog

 

IMG_4277
It was a serene and picturesque trek. Can’t wait to do it again in summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Artist Point Snowshoe – January 2015

Driving toward Mt Baker
Driving toward Mt Baker. Snow covered trees everywhere

Jean

Jared and Tyler on snowshoes, halfway up to Artist Point
Jared and Tyler on snowshoes, halfway up to Artist Point

It’s been a while since my last post! I have been hiking/snowshoeing a few times and need to catch up on the excursion posts… Jared, Tyler, and I went on the first snowshoe trip of the year to Artist Point at Mt Baker. Jared and Tyler each had to try out their new snowshoes and I had to try out my new sleds (LL Bean slope sliders). So off we drove to Mt Baker…

I think we're in a cloud. Which way is Baker?
I think we’re in a cloud. Which way is Baker?

Saturday, January 3, 2015. Hike: Artist Point Snowshoe. Distance: a few miles (WTA lists it at 5.5 miles, but that seems way longer than we actually walked). Elevation gain: 1200 feet or less. High point: apx 5200 feet. 

Wake early, pile into Tyler’s Subaru. Coffee from the new Starbucks Roastery for the road. Stop at McDonalds for breakfast sandwiches and hashbrowns. Three hour drive to Mt Baker. A mostly cloudy day, but a few mountains peek out at us. Mt Baker Highway ends at our destination. No snow until the last few miles when the elevation starts to climb. Snowy trees line the road.

Tyler on his way up a snow hill
Tyler on his way up a snow hill

We arrive at Mt Baker. Around 10 or 11 am? The parking area is at the Mt Baker ski area. Shuksan appears from cloud cover at times. Mt Baker is nowhere to be seen. The clouds are too thick. We park. The parking lot is mostly full. We go off to our corners to pee in the snow. A couple is practicing with a ski parachute in the parking lot. We bundle up. The day is cold and snowy but not biting or frigid. Probably between low and upper 20’s all day. Snowshoes and tiny sleds in tow, we’re off.

Ski parachuters!
Ski parachuters!

We walk through the parking lot. Then go up the trail that branches right where other snowshoers and backcountry/sidecountry skiers are going. Partially on ski trail but partially out of bounds. Up we go. Tyler and Jared make adjustments to the new snowshoes. Tyler’s take more adjustment to get just right. The dropoff to the right feels kind of steep. Up, up, up.

Snow cave below
Snow cave below

I’d downloaded a new app called “Topo Maps” and use it to see where we are on the map. It’s really accurate and awesome. And useful with all of the clouds obscuring our view. The hill plateaus and we skirt left. We meet up with the road, completely snow covered, which is open in the summer and will take you all the way to Artist Point. Mt Baker is one of the snowiest places in the world. The snow beneath us is deep but fairly compact. We have no problem with our snowshoes.

Ski parachuting in action
Ski parachuting in action

We wind our way up, and suddenly we’re there! The views are non existent because we’re in a cloud, but it’s great to be up there. There’s a summer bathroom cabin almost entirely buried in snow. Other people are at the top, playing like we are. Another couple and their dog are getting ready to parachute ski down. It turns out to be an adventure for them – this is the first time they’d tried it with their dog. The woman skies first. The dog follows. The dude’s parachute gets stuck. The dog reappears, looking for his mama. Then runs off again. Then the guy skies off… we hope they all met up at the bottom somewhere… A few others are digging a snow cave. There are fun little hills of snow at the top. We run around a bit, play in the snow. We eat snacks of goldfish and hot peppermint tea.

Jared making his way down a snow hill
Jared making his way down a snow hill

There’s a tiny break in the clouds and we can see part of a valley below. Tyler climbs a snow hill to take pictures. I set my sights on another snow hill and break trail there. Jared walks between some of the snow hills. The white snow and flat gray light are incredibly deceiving. Is that an uphill or downhill? A sheer drop or flat ground? We all meet up amidst the snow hills. I try to run down a small slope, but end up running into a bank of snow that I had no idea was there. We look at the clock. Time to go down.

Tyler photographing the snow
Tyler photographing the snow

We follow the path which the parachute skiers and their dog had taken. We come across snowshoes that someone stashed! Haha, we leave them. And then there’s a steep drop. A couple is sledding on the lower half. They shout at us to sled down. We’re skeptical, nervously switchbacking our way down. Would we keep our snowshoes on? Take them off? Isn’t it steep? Hmm…

Summer bathroom cabin buried in snow
Summer bathroom cabin buried in snow

Then, out of nowhere, a sprightly old man suddenly appears over the hill above us. He’s at least 65, maybe even 80. He nods and smiles. Without a word he skitters past and jumps down the snow chute, snowshoes on and all. Whoosh. And then he’s gone. We look at each other in disbelief, shrug, and then follow his lead. Tyler first, Jared second, and me third. It’s steep but awesome. There’s a 4-5 foot drop at the top, but the snow is very forgiving. Weeeeeee! We reconvene at the bottom. Tyler tells us that when he got to the bottom, all he saw was the sprightly old man running off into the distance. We can only imagine he was looking for another snow chute to jump down. Mirage or man?

Sweet views
Sweet views

Inspired by our sledding success, we continue down, looking for the next slope to sled. These slope sliders are pretty awesome. They’re like glorified plastic shovels. We’ve adopted the sledding couple as sledding companions. A bit of walking down, and then we’re back at that drop off that I remembered felt steep on the way up. And suddenly it has potential. Could we sled it? Why not? Jared takes off first. Whoosh! Then Tyler. Then me. It’s steep and long and I can’t see anything with snow kicking up into my eyes. Somewhere in the middle I intentionally topple over to slow myself down. I hop back on and sled my way down. Whew that was awesome! The couple follows our lead.

Igloo!
Igloo!

We keep walking down. Mostly flat from here. A few tiny sled adventures along the way. We pass a group in the process of building an igloo. It looks amazing. Before we know it, we’re back to the trail junction, then at the parking lot. Man is my butt cold. I’m thankful for the heated seats. So warm.

Snow hills
Snow hills

We make our way back to Seattle. Sun setting. A stop at the Beer Shrine in North Fork for pizza and really really good beer. A successful adventure.

White on white
White on white