Forum Index > Trip Reports > Glacier Peak Meadows Wildlife Expidition 8/27-28
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Exmoor
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PostThu Aug 30, 2018 9:43 pm 
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On Monday I hiked up to White Chuck Glacier in search of mountain birds.

This was the first time I've been up in this area. Leaving from the N. Fork Sauk trailhead I soon encountered a hiker with a dog who was making an early exit from her PCT section due to terrible weather over the weekend. Fortunately it had stopped raining and was actually downright perfect with light cloud cover and very cool temperatures.

The hike to the Mackinaw Shelter was 5.8mi by my GPS track. It's lovely for a mile, but gets old pretty fast.

Mackinaw "Shelter"
Mackinaw "Shelter"

After the shelter the trail gets pretty steep and starts switching back in and out of open areas. A Golden Eagle, generally rare west of the mountains, glided over I was talking to a climber who had climbed GP in Sunday's storm.

After the first couple miles of switchbacks the trail enters a steady gain up the open meadows as you head towards the PCT. There were plenty of blueberries.

I headed south on the PCT for a short distance until I hit White Pass and the Foam Creek Trail. I was running behind schedule at this point and didn't have much time to bird, but a group of sparrows here were mostly Chipping Sparrows.


On a map, Foam Creek is a fairly straightforward one point something mile trail until you jump over the ridge. In practice it was surprisingly annoying with lots of small altitude gains and losses for not much obvious reason. The cut over the ridge is steep enough to make you wonder why you didn't just crest the ridge a while ago.

Glacier Peak obscured behind the clouds.
Glacier Peak obscured behind the clouds.

Coming out of the meadows the drop into the basin couldn't be more different. The terrain here is rocky with little vegetation, but this is what I came for. After poking around for birds and finding very little I set up camp a short distance away from the White Chuck Glacier. At this point the clouds finally revealed the mountain and I had a great sunset.


The next morning I made a quick trip over to see the glacier and look around for birds. American Pipits were everywhere, but nothing else exciting. After packing up camp I took a look at my surroundings and tried to figure out where Ptarmigan should be. A big nob in the middle of the basin seemed to have the right amount of vegitation and after about an hour of exploring I found a mamma Ptarmigan and at least three babies.

At this point I was really wishing I'd made this a three day trip, but I was expected home tonight so I began a slow trek down through the meadows making large sweeps trying to pick up more birds. Lots of pipits, and a few sparrows (Savannah, White-Crowned, and Juncos), but no Rosy-Finches or Horned Larks.

As I passed the largest lake in the basin I spooked two animals off of a snowfield. Too big to be the ubiquitous marmots.. As my binoculars hit my eyes my jaw dropped. WOLVERINES! I'd never dreamed I'd run into this species in the wild in my lifetime, so having two right in front of me was incredible. They quickly ran straight up the steep 600ft slope and I watched them run down the ridge before I finally lost them. I was even able to get a short video:

Wolverine Tracks 1
Wolverine Tracks 1
Wolverine Tracks 2
Wolverine Tracks 2

Immediately after losing sight of the Wolverines several Ravens drew my attention to a falcon flying nearby. Further investigation revealed it to be a Prairie Falcon. This species is most commonly associated with open areas in eastern Washington, but they're regular in similar habitat around the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier and there are a few records elsewhere in the cascades. Seeing one here is another data point indicating that they commonly use open mountainous areas west of the cascade crest.

I had lost whatever semblance of an official "Glacier Peak Meadows" trail exists up here and had to bushwack it down a steep slope along a series of waterfalls to the lower meadows. Here there was actually a visible trail, but it was fairly overgrown with small trees once it got out of the open.

Lower Glacier Peak Meadows
Lower Glacier Peak Meadows
Lower Glacier Peak Meadows
Lower Glacier Peak Meadows
Lower Glacier Peak Meadows
Lower Glacier Peak Meadows

After getting briefly off trail I finally hooked back up with the PCT and made my way towards red pass. I ran into a couple PCT through hikers who hadn't seen each other since central California. I must say that it feels very weird to be out for one night when talking to people who've been on the trail since March.

PCT North of Red Pass
PCT North of Red Pass
Red Pass Looking NE
Red Pass Looking NE

Just past Red Pass I had a Bald Eagle flyby. At this point I'd seen quite a few Golden Eagles (likely a few birds multiple times), so it was a bit amusing to get excited about the more common western Washington eagle species.

After dropping over Red Pass and back to the Sauk Trail I knew I needed to make time in order to not be hiking out by headlamp. The trail got really long at this point. I'd neglected my food intake and the last 6 miles I made pretty good time but was pretty lightheaded and light was almost gone. I'd foolishly buried my headlamp very deep and unpacking and repacking to find it was not something I looked forward to. Finally as I was about to break out my phone for light I came to the trailhead.

GPS said my total milage was 32mi for both days, with 8500ft elevation gain.
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostThu Aug 30, 2018 10:10 pm 
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Wow, great video clip of the wolverines!  eek.gif

That's beautiful up there, glad you got to see it.  Isn't that series of waterfalls dropping down from White Chuck Basin cool?  That was one of the highlights for me.
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Yana
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PostThu Aug 30, 2018 10:14 pm 
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olderthanIusedtobe wrote:
Wow, great video clip of the wolverines!  eek.gif

+1

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Brushwork
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PostThu Aug 30, 2018 11:01 pm 
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Wow!   Seeing wolverine there is not something I would expect.  That is so exciting! Has to be a decent compromise to not getting all the birds, and you lucked out with the weather.  Nice to see video of wolverine,  thanks!

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GaliWalker
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PostFri Aug 31, 2018 3:58 am 
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Yana wrote:
olderthanIusedtobe wrote:
Wow, great video clip of the wolverines!  eek.gif

+1

+1 for me too! My one and only wolverine sighting was much the same as yours. I initially thought it was a large marmot. dizzy.gif

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PostFri Aug 31, 2018 6:35 am 
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I have read that as a rule of thumb, wolverine habitat consists of areas that are snow-covered in May.  So Glacier Peak Meadows would be a heck of lot of wolverine habitat by Washington standards.  Based upon sightings at NWhikers, it seems the population is increasing rapidly.

I was curious if it was possible to set a goal of seeing Rosy Finches and then actually do it.  I have seen them plenty of times above tree line, but they always seem to be where you find them.  And as for Horned Lark, well I have never seen one in 35 years of hiking in the Cascades.

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Bootpathguy
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PostFri Aug 31, 2018 7:01 am 
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Great video! Thanks for sharing

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Frango
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PostFri Aug 31, 2018 7:01 am 
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What a great trip report - that area is one of my happy places in the world for sure!
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mbravenboer
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PostFri Aug 31, 2018 7:28 am 
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Nice trip! Those wolverines! So glad they seem to be doing well.
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Yana
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PostFri Aug 31, 2018 8:12 am 
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GaliWalker wrote:
My one and only wolverine sighting was much the same as yours. I initially thought it was a large marmot. dizzy.gif

Now I'm beginning to wonder whether I've mistaken wolverines for large marmots before.    embarassedlaugh.gif  huh.gif

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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostFri Aug 31, 2018 8:44 am 
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Too bad the Mackinaw Shelter fell down.  It was looking inevitable last time I saw it but still standing about a year ago.
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neek
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PostFri Aug 31, 2018 8:59 am 
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olderthanIusedtobe wrote:
Too bad the Mackinaw Shelter fell down.  It was looking inevitable last time I saw it but still standing about a year ago.

It was still standing a month ago but looked ready to go.  I wonder if the mid-August trail closure involved an intentional knock-down.

Can believe you not only saw but actually managed to capture decent video of two wolverines!  And yes the hike back down that trail always feels super long.
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Nancyann
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PostFri Aug 31, 2018 11:15 am 
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That’s so exciting you spotted the wolverines and then were able to get a video of them. That made an awesome trip even better!
I remember the Glacier Peak Meadows camp on the PCT very well. In early September of 1972, my PCT hiking partner and I camped there during a storm while on a ten day trip up to Rainy Pass. To help us dry out our sleeping bags, a guy named Steve poured white gas on a stump and lit it. It burned all night and we were able to dry out. The next morning, it was still storming, so we bailed out at Kennedy Hot Springs. Sorry for the thread drift. smile.gif In those days, that area was known as “Glacier Meadows” and there was a well established trail.
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contour5
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PostFri Aug 31, 2018 6:05 pm 
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Thanks for coming back with the TR!

I had hoped you'd get your birds, but it looks like you had a fine trip anyway. Getting video of wolverines would definitely be a highlight for me.

Wolverines! They're only slightly more common than sasquatch!
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