Mt. Baker Highway
Friday, July 27, 2007: In the morning, I headed back west along the Cascade Highway to Sedro Woolley, then turned north on SR-9. I had one more place to visit on my trip, and pretty soon I turned east on the Mt. Baker Highway.
I stopped at the visitors center and Nooksack Falls as I headed east again toward Heather Meadows and Artist Point. Just before a ski lodge near Picture Lake I saw some birds walking across the road. Grouse? Yes, they were grouse! One female and two youngsters. Although I had the wrong lens on the camera, I managed to get some ok photos.
But then I had a thought. Which grouse? Much earlier in the trip a birder-ranger at Redwood had shown me a photo of a female Spruce Grouse that someone had taken in North Cascade NP. Was my female grouse Spruce or Sooty? After studying Sibley a bit, I was leaning toward Sooty (a lifer!). Then I noticed the tail tip was a different color on the two. Gray is Sooty, brown is Spruce. Did my photos show the tail? Yes. Sooty Grouse!
I stopped at Picture Lake. It was a little too breezy for the classic photo of Mt. Shuksan in Picture Lake, but I still had a nice walk around the lake. I also added another bird to the trip list — Hooded Merganser.
Heather Meadows was next. A Yellow-Pine Chipmunk was inside the visitors center when I was there. I walked the short Fire and Ice Trail. Although there were holders for interpretive signs, none were there. Perhaps they remove them for the winter and haven't put them back (or maybe the winter destroyed them, I didn't ask). I did ask about the closed road at this point. It was still closed for the winter!
There was hope for the road. They expected to have it open later today, or I could walk. I decided to walk. I actually tried the Wild Goose trail first, but lost track of it in a big snowfield. I did what many seem to have done at that point. I climbed the snowfield to road, and took the road the rest of the way.
I was surprised how many people had walked up the road. The road seemed clear. They were just digging out the toilet at the upper parking lot. Most of it was buried in snow up to the roof, but they cleared the entrances and one guy was on the roof connecting the solar collector to power the thing.
All of the trails were heavily snow covered and I couldn't really tell where the official trails went. Due to the deep snow, I didn't try to get to Artist Point itself. As I was deciding it was time to walk back, the first cars arrived at the top.
I walked back, then got in the car and drove back up. After a few more photos and wandering around in the snow a bit, I called it a day and headed to Seattle.
Unfortunately, I hit Seattle at rush hour and it took a long time to get to the hotel. Fortunately, they had a restaurant, so once I got there, I didn't have any work to do (other than repacking for the journey home). I'd traveled over 5500 miles by car since arriving in Seattle almost a month ago, not to mention additional miles by boat (2 ferries and a pelagic) and by foot (numerous hikes). It was quite a trip, and now it was time to return home.
Clarion Hotel, Seattle, WA
Saturday, July 28, 2007: Today was quite uneventful, which is a good thing. I had breakfast and went to the airport. My plane left on time, and I had no problems changing planes at Houston-Bush. It was almost midnight when I arrived in Miami and after 1am when I got home.