Tuesday, August 9th, 2022, 0615-1700
Twin Rocks camp NCNP to (near) Mt Baker HWY, WEBO mm 802, Section 7 North Cascades
22.6 miles, Gain 6060′, Loss 6400′, elevation 2400′
Despite my late and tedious night, I was up and at ’em like usual. We tackled the rest of the river valley as a team, which made it more palatable. We didn’t have far to go for the climb over Whatcom Pass, but there were more blowdowns, washouts, and thick undergrowth to push through. Not to mention an encounter with an overly standoffish juvenile black bear. He stood his ground when Wolverine approached, barely lifted a paw when I added my presence, and finally started moving down the hill when Karaoke appeared. Young ones haven’t yet learned to be fearful of the chaos-bringers (humans), especially in National Parks where they are protected from hunting. I later learned that bear season had started August 1st elsewhere in WA state. They’d be running scared soon enough.
The going was slow as we climbed steep switchbacks like a spiral staircase. I think that we gained 1500′ in one mile…very steep. This was fine, since the slow pace allowed for frequent views of the surrounding glaciated peaks. The whole day prior had been in the trees, so these were some of our first good views of the craggy peaks that the park’s comprised of. It’s more well suited for rock climbers and mountaineers, I think. We took a side trail at the pass for the best views of the glacier. I’ve seen a lot of glaciers but I never grow tired of them. On the other side of the pass, we ran into an awesome lady, Kelly, who’d been following my blog and immediately recognized us. She wrote an entertaining story about her experiences in her blog (follow link).
This was a good example of staring at a mirror with another mirror in the background and seeing the infinity of reflections…a blog within a blog. I was flattered by her high praise of us but we’re really just normal ladies out hiking and having a good time, that’s all. Still great to meet someone that enjoys reading my blog and even gets some inspiration from it. It does take a lot of work and I really do appreciate the recognition of that. Thanks Kelly for all your nice comments!
We also had another treat in going across the Chilliwack river in a cable car. This was something I first experienced in New Zealand, where these things are more widely used. I had one good experience and one bad (it was too hard to crank so I gave up and just got my feet wet). This one was very well maintained and easy to pull across. I did have one casualty though…one of my water bottles got bumped out of my side pocket, falling to its death in the river. Well, I wish it died because actually it’s going to live forever out there and I feel guilty about littering. I didn’t mean to! Now I was left with only one 700 ml water bottle that was missing the cap. Good thing there was water everywhere so I didn’t really need to carry any. There was also the possibility of going into a “town” at the end of the day, so at least I could get another bottle.
First we had to go over one more pass, Hannegan, which was nearly as high as Whatcom but didn’t feel as difficult. Both passes were only around 5k’ in elevation…not that high really. But it was yet another day with over 6k’ gain. The PNT goes up and down like nobody’s business. I came down the other side focused on catching other backpackers and getting down to the river for a dunking. Since leaving the mess of trail along Little Beaver, all the other trails had been immaculate with tons of hikers. They provided a good distraction for the rest of the afternoon. The river at the trailhead was also a nice distraction but so incredibly cold! My feet went numb while rinsing off and then hurt terribly for a long time afterwards. I rarely regret jumping in rivers and lakes but this time I did. It was also cloudy and suddenly I was freezing.
I started a 5 mile dirt road walk towards the intersection with the highway to town. It was all downhill, doing nothing to warm me. Only 1 car rolled past in over an hour. The second to come by contained Karaoke, so of course I abandoned my quest to make it to the highway (2.5 miles still to go) and jumped in. We picked up Wolverine, who was once again in Beast Mode, at the hwy intersection. Then just like that, were delivered to the first restaurant we’d had a chance to visit in over a week. It was a pizza place, of all wondrous things. I was still freezing and also ravenous. Hot pizza was just what I needed…badly! We each ordered our own 14″ pizzas, which most pleasingly came out even bigger than we expected. We devoured these personal pizzas… all except for one slice that I saved as a warm-up for breakfast. I could have easily eaten it all. I also had an amazing dry cider from a Bellingham brewery.
Once again I found myself with a full belly after dinner, but without a plan as to where to stay. The resort had a few rental cabins but were already sold out. We asked if we could pitch our tents behind, which the staff seemed hesitant about, but then kind of gave us an ok. A man at the bar overheard and made us an offer: we could stay at his awesome camp by the river a few miles away. The waitress verified that he was a regular and probably ok. We found out later that he’s actually a Seattle biology professor teaching some of my favorite subjects. He agreed to come back for us after we’d finished our beers and pizza. True to his word, David returned and had also stocked the camp’s coolers with beers and snacks. He made a campfire and we enjoyed his little place that he’d clearly put his heart and soul into making fun. It had a brick pizza oven, sink, fire pit, chairs, big metal awning to keep out the rain, and an outhouse. We found great spots for our tents. The site was affectionately called Camp Baldy. I can’t believe the whole night came together so perfectly on a whim. Serendipity. Much thanks to David for sharing his awesome place with us! We hope he becomes a regular PNT Trail Angel but I think our invite was more of a ‘you had to be there’ kind of deal.