Lake Ann Washout and Wild Goose Chase at Mount Baker
October 2014 with Teresa & Denis, Nancy, Daphne, Cathy, and Robbin Y.
Late in the season I always like to try to get in one more Baker hike before the snow falls. Where to go is always a question. Skyline Divide – last time we went there the weather was socked in, the views were non-existent and the trail hard to see. Excelsior Ridge – the road there was closed for a few years and just re-opened this year. However, the forecast was for cloudy and showers, and both of those really need clear weather to be enjoyable. So I opted to go for Lake Ann, a hike through meadows where clear weather is not as essential.
Lake Ann was my first and only backpacking trip in the Baker area, back in 1993. But my previous trip there was in 35 degree weather, with not enough water, and a hiking group that was in too much of a hurry. So my memories aren’t that positive, though I knew there was outstanding scenery on the hike.
We knew this day wasn’t going to look like this photo from 1993 but we went for it anyway. One of the nice things about autumn hiking is that most of the crowds are gone. At the Austin Pass parking lot we saw just half a dozen or so vehicles, all with BC licence plates. Getting out of the cars, we were greeted by light but driving rain and a howling wind. An unusual thing about Lake Ann is that you descend from the trailhead to the meadows, and we were glad to get going on the trail just to get into the woods and out of the wind.
On the way down, we met a large group of (we believe) Taiwanese-Canadian hikers, presumably the occupants of the vehicles at the trailhead. They told us they’d gotten about half an hour along but turned around because the trail was too wet. We don’t get stopped easily, so we took note but carried on.
The meadows were looking nice. But it didn’t take long to find the water. Water was running down the trail, a trail normally well-built for drainage but with just too much for it to handle. The downhill part was fine, but when we got to the bottom of the hill it turned out the entire basin was basically flooded.
We crossed the creek three times in succession, some of us deciding to do it in bare feet (video version is on my Facebook page).
But when we got to the third crossing, we decided that was enough. We could have taken off our boots and socks again and waded this one, but it would have been more risky, and we expected that further down the meadows there would only be more of the same. (update after a return in 2015 – from there the trail goes back into woods for some distance and we could have gone a fair bit further, but there’s one more crossing would have been worse than anything we’d seen so far).
Here we found a dead rat on the trail, but Daphne spotted three mountain goats up on the hill above us. Out of reach of anything less than a 500mm lens, unfortunately. Probably wondering what those strange coloured apes were doing down there in the water.
So we went back up the 1.5 km or so that we’d hiked, and went across the road to pick up the Wild Goose Trail. This trail runs between Heather Meadows and the end of the road at Artist Point, sometimes parallelling the road and sometimes shortcutting its switchbacks. While it’s mostly used as a link trail or to complete the loop for doing the Chain Lakes trail, it’s an enjoyable trail in its own right. From Austin Pass, we could have gone up to Artist Point or down to Heather Meadows; the wind made that decision an easy one. We went down to Heather Meadows, with excellent views down to Bagley Lakes below us and north across the Nooksack Valley to Goat Mountain (with sun shining on it).
We found a picnic table with some shelter from the wind and had lunch, then decided to walk the lakes trail from the upper lake to the lower. This is a pleasant and mostly easy loop trail through a small canyon.
The visitor centre, parking lot and picnic area are located on a rocky bench above the creek and lakes and you descend a mostly exposed rocky slope (with built-in rock steps) to get to the trail. On top of the rocks, you notice some odd patterns in the surface; in places where the edge has broken off, you can see that it’s the top of a field of columnar basalt, and the sort-of hexagonal patterns are the joints between the columns.
After completing the circuit, we headed back up the Wild Goose to the Lake Ann parking lot and the cars.
Rather than the usual stop for ice cream at Graham’s in Glacier, we thought we’d go check out the other side of Graham’s which is a pub. Unfortunately, the whole place was shut down for a week. Instead of backtracking and trying out the other place east of town, we thought we’d head for Maple Falls and see what was there, or Sumas if nothing better turned up. The only place open in Maple Falls was a place rather unoriginally called the Maple Falls Cafe; well we reckoned at least we could have coffee there. We were pleasantly surprised to find excellent burgers, sandwiches and salads, as well as a unique Spanish dish known as Jamon Iberico (I didn’t try it but Teresa and Denis were very keen), all served by an enthusiastic Brazilian expat named Sam. A decent beer selection as well, but as they were out of the Oregonberry Wheat beer we’ll just have to go back again.