Forum Index > Trip Reports > Excelsior via Damfino Lakes 6/20/09
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Oarboar
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Oarboar
Comically unhip
PostWed Jun 24, 2009 12:06 am 
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Since no one else is going to start this trip report, I'll do it.  Other people are going to have to add pictures, though.  Especially Elvis, who got the flower shot of all time.  Once I find out it's OK with the photographers, I'll drop some of their shots into this post to break it up.

This hike was part of Jenjen's solstice weekend festivities.  Her and her dog Buster, Elvis, razz2sea, the Zachster and husband (plus Timber and Cedar), Backpacker Joe, Dayhike Mike and his friend and yours truly all navigated Canyon Creek Road's many twists and turns to get to the Damfino Lakes trailhead.

After taking our turns in the privy with a handle on the lid, we set out on the trail.  It took me about ten steps to remind myself of how out of shape I am, but I chugged along to Damfino Lakes with everyone else.

I really should try to go back a month from now to see how much it changes as summer finally reaches up there.  Jenjen had said that the trailhead had melted out in less than a week since her reconnaissance of the area, but on our trip Damfino Lakes were still covered with snow.  And it was there that the snow part of our trip began as we lost the trail but followed wands with pink ribbons up the hill.

I said I was out of shape.  At Damfino Lakes, I was wondering what the heck I'd gotten myself into.  I figured that I could do what Jenjen could do since she's coming off a knee injury, but I was beginning to have my doubts as I was having to stop far too often to try and suck some oxygen down.  I was also cursing my failure that morning to dig out some old ski poles I'd bought specifically to use at trekking poles.

Happily, at one such stop not far beyond Damfino, my fellow NWhikers helped out.  Elvis, just as he did on our Lake Ann excursion last September, loaned me his trekking poles.  And Dayhike Mike, seeking some extra work for his hard-earned newly-trim body, graciously offered to take my backpack for me.  Thank you both.

I continued up with a steadier gait, although I still had to stop too far often, suck in ten deep breaths and then plow on.  At one point, I found myself on one of these breaks with no idea where I was going, on a steep snow-covered hillside with my glasses fogged over, breathing hard and feeling my heart thump in my chest.  I think this is where I asked razz2sea or maybe Elvis how far we'd gone up.  We were at 4800 or so from a 4000 start.  Excelsior was only 900 feet more vertical.

Turn around?  Naaah.  Everyone else was still going, and this was a learning experience I needed.  I learned firsthand what postholing is.  I learned how to kick steps into the snow, glad I had I had my leather hiking boots on and not my nylon hiking boots.  Punch in with the toes, lean forward on them, go up!  Lather, rinse, repeat.  At one point during all this, I found had a great big grin on my face.

Eventually, we got off the Really Steep Hillside onto flatter terrain.  I think this is where we saw BPJ stretched out underneath a tree, quite comfy in his short sleeves, vest and shorts, patiently waiting for us slowpokes to crawl up the hill he'd practically bounded up.

I started up the gully pretty much ahead of everyone else.  It was here that I slipped and fell to my knees and almost broke my glasses.  I'd pushed them up on my head because I could see better without my fogged-over lenses, but my knee came down right by them, close enough that for a moment I'd feared the worst.

DHM caught up with me and told me that we just needed to get up the gully and take a left.  Which I did, practicing my kick-stepping every chance I could when I wasn't traveling in his steps in the snow.

My group -- Jenjen, Elvis, the Zachster, razz2sea and I -- stayed put at that little plateau below Excelsior and had lunch while the others continued up a ways.  Looking at my Hiking Whatcom County book, I'm going to guess this was Excelsior Pass, but someone else will have to confirm.  The views weren't much this day, but there was just enough to convince me that it would be gorgeous here on a much less cloudy day.  Elvis informed us that we were at 5,226 feet.  For a second, I considered going up 54 feet to make it an even mile.  But only for a second.

I found out that razz2sea had a little bit of an accident.  Something about slipping on a wet rock, bouncing off a bush and then sliding downhill 40 feet.  Only damage was a slightly tweaked knee and a dirtied pair of pants.  He can speak much better to that than I can, though.  I know if that had happened to me, I definitely would've called it a day at that point.

While lunching, we saw some young hikers/snowboarders picking up their pink-ribboned wands on their way down the hill.  I silently thanked them for marking the route.  We also watched the other part of our party come down the hill and join us before heading downhill.  Again, thanks to DHM who loaned me his fleece vest to go along with my rain jacket, hat and gloves.  I'm glad I bundled up after we stopped for lunch.

Downhill obviously was a lot easier than going uphill.  I quickly learned how to kick steps downhill -- just stomp down with your heel.  With nearly 270 pounds of me to put into that, I think I did pretty well.

I did fall down at one point, though, so I figured as long as I was down there, I'd try glissading.  I lifted Elvis' trekking poles up and gave it a shot.  Not the furthest glissade, but it was still fun.

We stomped our way down the hill.  The only bad thing was having to go sideways on a hill, which meant Elvis' trekking poles got a workout and I developed a heartfelt determination to fall uphill if I had to fall down.

Eventually, we found the trail again, wet from the recently melted snow.  I stopped at Damfino Lakes to serve as a model for Elvis and the Zachster, and then we worked our way back to the trailhead.  I chuckled to myself as I swung into view of BPJ just as he saw us stragglers and he decided it was time to get off the picnic table and get ready to go home.

Back down the hill.  Riding in the back seat again with Buster, I noticed he wasn't nearly as restless as he had been this morning.  Jenjen stopped so that Elvis could get his awesome flower shot.  Then we went and all had fun at dinner and the bonfire.

Trip statistics:

Mileage:  Seemed like a lot, but Elvis said it was more on our Lake Ann trip.
Elevation gain:  1200 feet for five of us, a little bit more for the other four in the group.
Dogs:  Three, with one unleashed, but she cleaned up after him.
Poodles, leashed or unleashed:  0
Wildlife seen:  Sadly -- for me at least -- no bears.  Heck, I see more deer just driving around Bellingham than I did on the hike.

Lessons learned:

1.  I really should take a checklist approach to getting ready for a hike.
2.  Trekking poles need to be on that list for me as the 11th essential.
3.  I also need to get a strap for my glasses so they don't fall off while hiking, even if I'm having to park them on my head.
4.  If I'm going to get a prepackaged sandwich from the grocery store for lunch, I really should actually check to see if I'm going to like it or if it has stuff I don't want to eat.
5.  It's time to join the 21st century and abandon Granola Bars in favor of Clif Bars.
6.  Dayhike Mike is cool.
7.  So is Elvis.
8.  And Jenjen, too.
9.  Thanks to Jenjen and Elvis on the car ride, this newbie found out more about such topics as slide alder and just what the heck skinning means in terms of backcountry skiing.
10.  I need to get my butt in better shape.

So, when can I do this again?

--------------
Sadly, right now I'm a poseur.  Sigh.
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Ingunn
Hiking Viking



Joined: 01 Feb 2008
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Ingunn
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PostWed Jun 24, 2009 12:22 am 
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Great report, I'm looking forward to seeing the photos - especially the fabled flower shot. Learning snow travel is so much fun, it really opens up a whole new world of hiking!

Sounds like you have some great nwhiker friends. agree.gif
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Dayhike Mike
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Dayhike Mike
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PostWed Jun 24, 2009 7:39 am 
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Thanks for the writeup, Oarboar!

It was a fun trip, shortened by the lack of views, but a goot outing nonetheless. wink.gif I can imagine that Excelsior would be a great place to be perched if we'd had clear views of both Shuksan and Baker.

And I'm looking forward to seeing that flower shot again. It's definitely one of the more exotic flower arrangements I've ever come across in the backcountry. wink.gif

--------------
"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
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Yet
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PostWed Jun 24, 2009 8:29 am 
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Enjoyable writeup, oarboar. The last line is my favorite.  smile.gif
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the Zachster
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the Zachster
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PostWed Jun 24, 2009 9:53 am 
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Oarboar, thanks for writing the report! You did an excellent job of describing you first spring snow scramble. I've been doing it so long I have forgotten how challenging the details can be in the beginning...the post-holing, learning how to travel up and down on the slippery stuff, clothing adjustments, etc...  I was impressed by your courage because I know it was difficult for you. As you continue to work on getting in shape and get out often to practice your new skills it will only get easier. And more fun!

I'll re-post the pics here from the Solstice thread. And I am anxiously awaiting the amazing Elvis flower shot! agree.gif


BPJ providing guidance
BPJ providing guidance
Heading up the trail
Heading up the trail
jenjen (and wands) showing us the way!
jenjen (and wands) showing us the way!
Heading up the ridge
Heading up the ridge
BPJ patiently waiting ...
BPJ patiently waiting ...
Dayhike Mike and friend heading in to the fog
Dayhike Mike and friend heading in to the fog
Group shot at our high point
Group shot at our high point
BPJ bonding with Cedar
BPJ bonding with Cedar
Heading home
Heading home
Lunch break
Lunch break
Elvis at one of the Damfino Lakes
Elvis at one of the Damfino Lakes
Oarboar on the bridge
Oarboar on the bridge
Super-duper lid lifter at the trailhead
Super-duper lid lifter at the trailhead

--------------
"May I always be the kind of person my dog thinks I am"
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Oarboar
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Oarboar
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PostWed Jun 24, 2009 10:40 am 
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the Zachster wrote:
Oarboar, thanks for writing the report! You did an excellent job of describing you first spring snow scramble. I've been doing it so long I have forgotten how challenging the details can be in the beginning...the post-holing, learning how to travel up and down on the slippery stuff, clothing adjustments, etc... I was impressed by your courage because I know it was difficult for you. As you continue to work on getting in shape and get out often to practice your new skills it will only get easier. And more fun!

Dang.  I didn't even realize I could classify that as a scramble.   embarassedlaugh.gif   Thanks for the kind words, though.

the Zachster wrote:
PS  Buster was the only unbridled pooch...the other 2 escape artists were on leash! hockeygrin.gif

Making the change above.

--------------
Sadly, right now I'm a poseur.  Sigh.
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Backpacker Joe
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Backpacker Joe
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PostWed Jun 24, 2009 10:42 am 
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Great report OB.  You did fine.  Practice practice and more practice........

A good learning experience. up.gif   It was good hiking with you all.

--------------
"If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide."

Abraham Lincoln
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Hiker Mama
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Hiker Mama
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PostWed Jun 24, 2009 11:51 am 
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Good for you for sticking with it!  You wrote an interesting TR, too.  Wish I could have been there.

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My hiking w/ kids site: www.thehikermama.com
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Elvis
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Elvis
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PostWed Jun 24, 2009 7:52 pm 
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Cheers y'all!

Thanks Oarboar for the TR.  Very well done.

The day after the hike (& Solstice Party) we left for vacation... so chances are high that the much discussed flower pic won't be posted until Friday night.   Just hang in there.

FWIW... the picture itself isn't perfect as it's a little over exposed.  That is a result of being in a hurry as the rain was just starting.  Like I said, it's not perfect but I wouldn't say it stinks.

Pun intended.   winksmile.gif

~E

--------------
"Ill habits gather unseen degrees, as brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas."  ~John Dryden
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jenjen
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jenjen
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PostWed Jun 24, 2009 9:04 pm 
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Elvis wrote:
Cheers y'all!
Like I said, it's not perfect but I wouldn't say it stinks.
~E

Actually, I'd be surprised if it doesn't stink.  wink.gif

It was a great time.  Buster could barely move Sunday, but he had a blast Saturday.

--------------
If life gives you melons - you might be dyslexic
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Oarboar
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Oarboar
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PostWed Jun 24, 2009 9:26 pm 
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jenjen wrote:
It was a great time. Buster could barely move Sunday, but he had a blast Saturday.

Hey, we had something in common, then.  smile.gif

The odd thing is that I wasn't really that sore after the hike.  I had a headache, and I had trouble breathing deeply the next morning without feeling like I'd gulped down some water, but it wasn't like my muscles were aching.  It was more like they just really didn't want to move too much.  So that explains my stiffness.

--------------
Sadly, right now I'm a poseur.  Sigh.
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Oarboar
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Oarboar
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PostFri Jun 26, 2009 11:20 am 
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Bumping this so Elvis sees it tonight and can post his shot.  smile.gif

Did we end up at Excelsior Pass or someplace else?

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Sadly, right now I'm a poseur.  Sigh.
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jenjen
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PostFri Jun 26, 2009 11:55 am 
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I really don't think we made it to the pass.  We stopped on one of the gentle humps the trail goes past on it's way to the pass.

It was foggy enough that it's hard to tell.

--------------
If life gives you melons - you might be dyslexic
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Dayhike Mike
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Dayhike Mike
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PostFri Jun 26, 2009 12:10 pm 
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Here's the topo.


1.5 miles to the saddle with just a touch over 1000 foot gain.
1.63 miles to the upper stopping point, with right around 1200 foot gain.

--------------
"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
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Elvis
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Elvis
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PostSat Jun 27, 2009 8:45 am 
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I knew it!  We were totally lost!

hockeygrin.gif

Here are the two flower shots that I took.  Like I said, they aren't the best quality photos (due to a number of reasons), but it was a very funny sight.

Moreover, it seems to represent a lot of things we all deal with in many aspects of our life.  Good & bad aren't mutually exclusive.

Pile1
Pile1
Pile2
Pile2

To whomever stuck that there... we all thank you for the laughs.

~E

--------------
"Ill habits gather unseen degrees, as brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas."  ~John Dryden
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