Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mountain Loop Highway

Yesterday, for Project Explore Washington, we drove the Mountain Loop Highway and took a couple of hikes.

This is Whitehorse Mountain, seen from Hwy 530 as we headed east toward Darrington. From this view, we all said, "Why is it called Whitehorse Mountain? It seriously looks nothing like a horse."

Then we got to Darrington, and we said, "Oh. That's why. I can see the horse." Can you see it? I'm guessing that in winter, it's, you know, probably white. It's 6,563 feet tall.

This is White Chuck Mountain, as seen from White Chuck Overlook on Mountain Loop Highway. This is actually one of the taller peaks on the drive, at 6,989 feet.

I think this is a ridge between Mount Forgotten and the Twin Peaks. It is not named on my topo, but it's 5,662 nonetheless. I took this pic from Forest Service Road 49, looking southwest. I got to hang out the truck window and dangle my arm through the ladder rack to get this shot. The boys were duly impressed with my acrobatic abilities.

I'm not exactly sure, but I think that's Lewis Peak (5,608) to the right, and Del Campo Peak (6,610) behind it to the left.

This is Hall Peak, which rests at the other end of a gigantic saddle that joins it to Big Four Mountain. It's 5,484 feet tall.

This is Stillaguamish Peak. It's 5,351 feet tall and looks spectacular in the setting sun.

So... this is called Big Four Mountain (elev. 6,200). I might be going out on a limb here, but... I see five. So... that's confusing. In the interest of helping me move on with my life, I have determined that the number four refers to the saddles between the five peaks. Those sure are four big saddles.

I'm pretty sure this is Sheep Mountain, which stands 6,165 feet tall. But I could be totally wrong.

 I think this is the tracker jacker's cousin.

Father.
Son.
Waterfall.

Retaining Jeff.

We took two little explorations on our trip. For the first, we hiked a quarter of a mile down to the North Fork Falls on the north fork of the Sauk River.

I heart wooden walkways.

My hero!

Tada! Here's the waterfall!

It's a 58-foot drop, about 20 feet wide.

Jeff has offered to daredevil his way over to the falls to give you some perspective on its size.

See? Pretty big waterfall.

I crawled out onto this ledge. It's a really long drop, but it's pretty hard to tell from this perspective.

This is the cliff I was on.

I heart ferns.

This is a nifty moss canopy.

It's five and a half. Reed lengths.

 For our second hike, we visited the Big Four Ice Caves. It was about a one-mile hike and very lovely with lots of flora and fauna along the way. Jeff is holding up Nightlock. Don't eat it.

 Daisies.

 We saw lots of downed trees. Fun.

Some were more friendly than others.
 Gigantor shiny leaves.

 I heart boardwalks.

This bridge is ridiculously long and futuristic for a nature trail. Jeff said, as he pointed out the remains of the previous bridge, that futuristic was probably the general idea.

 I'd say this bridge is about... mmmmm... 5 feet 11 inches wide.

 BTW, I don't think I mentioned this yet, but I am a big fan of wooden walkways through the forest.

 I believe I also failed to inform you that I heart ferns.

 Wild men.

 My wild men.
 Flowers poking up through ferns. That I heart. (Did I mention I heart ferns?)

 I also heart wild men.

 This purple flower is super duper tiny. See the fir needles? They're normal-sized.

 Elephant.

 "Oh, I get it," said Jonathan. "Dad's pretending to be in the Sixteen Chapel."

These always make me think of my Grandma Baker. She loved this flower. I can't remember what it's called. Gloxinia? Scotchbroom? Foxglove? Google Images says it's foxglove. I'm glad we cleared that up.

These are the ice caves at the base of Big Four Mountain. The ice caves are formed by streams flowing underneath melting snowpack. They're volatile. They kill people. Stay back.
Here we are, staying back. Behind us is the saddle between Big Four Mountain and Hall Peak.
Here's Jeff. For perspective. I was sure he'd be fine because he didn't go inside the caves, but then today, in the writing of this post, I discovered that one death was caused when ice the size of a volkswagon bus broke free of the snowpack and hurled itself at a couple of hikers who were standing down the meadow. Yeesh. I think this will be the only perspective shot we ever take of the Big Four Ice Caves.
But we all survived. Here we are, right as rain, with Stillaguamish Peak in the background. I like us.