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Sculpin
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 11:09 am 
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My first multi-day hike in the Cascades was the North Fork Sauk-Lost Ridge loop, hiked on the week of the Fourth of July, 1984.  Got sunburned, ran out of food, struggled across steep snow.  But most importantly, I met the woman who later became my wife.  Fast forward 36 years, and it was finally time to go back.  My wife had to give up backpacking a few years ago, so this trip was with friends Dean, Lee, and Ron.

We hit the trailhead at noon on Tuesday, the parking lot was full.  A woman was just leaving so I took her parking spot.  Despite all the cars, we saw few folks on the NF Sauk trail to Mackinaw Shelter, where we were the first to set up camp.  In the COVID era, it was great just to hang in camp and shoot the breeze with old friends.

The plan was to get an early start to beat the heat (I remembered the switchbacks in the sun), but a thick cloud layer made that unnecessary.  We made it up to the PCT under the clouds, but then they rapidly cleared to reveal views of the expansive meadows.  Perfect.  There is an amazing crop of blueberries this year, and they were fully ripe on the NF Sauk, although not yet ripe on the PCT. By the time we reached Red Pass, the weather had cleared.  The heather meadows on the north side were quite pleasing, it was all snow back in 1984!


I am a meadow guy, so I wasn't really going anywhere that I hadn't already gotten to.  By the time I made it down to the camping area, it was already late afternoon.  We made our second camp near the series of cascades at the bottom of Glacier Peak Meadows.  It was a very scenic camp site.  The mosquitoes were pretty bad for September.

Day 3 was a day hike to the White Chuck Glacier.  A short stretch of the trail from the bottom is visible from the PCT and goes up to the waterfalls.  There is a junction with the main GPM bootpath near the waterfalls, but it is now invisible.  If you look up and to the right, the route is visible farther up.  This stretch takes you to the first hanging basin, where it disappears into wet ground.  Once across this first basin, the route reappears and takes you up to the second hanging basin.  Here, the route fades out in thick heather.  The milky White Chuck cascades off to the left, while a clear stream cascades down on the right.  Looking higher up, we could see tread going both directions.  I have an old Mountaineers map of the area that shows the route going up the clear stream to a side basin, so that is the way we went.  The route completely disappeared along the way but it never got worse than Class 2 gully walking.  We topped out at a shallow lake - not shown on any maps we had - and were a little confused.  After comparing maps, we saw that the Green Trails - updated in 2014 - showed the route following the White Chuck, not the clear stream.  We found our way back to the White Chuck and continued on.  None of it really matters because there are no blocking cliff bands anywhere.


There is a certain point along the climb where you can turn around and see all green meadows, then look forward on the route and see all moonscape.  I was expecting all basalt, but instead the rock was metamorphic with lots of cool striping.


We first veered off and went to the saddle to Foam Creek.  We noticed a crazy number of camp sites in the upper basin, and wondered how they came to be.  Then we walked over to the ice of the White Chuck.  There are not many places where you can safely touch a glacier, so that was fun.  After that, we climbed a knob to the west of the main basin.  Just below the knob was a small lake with a striking blue color.


As we were heading up the knob, I found a small population of Phacelia sericea, one of our truly alpine gems.


Over the edge at the head of Baekos Creek was a large, deep green lake.


We eventually reached a point where we could look down to a deep blue lake.


And there was one more blue water body, a scenic tarn that is now far from any glacier.


Then it was back down to camp for the night.  We awoke the next day and carried our packs to White Pass.  Some smoke was blowing in from eastern Washington but it cleared as the day progessed.


The hike from Mackinaw Shelter to Glacier Peak Meadows has no water sources in between in the first week of September,  but there are a series of flowing creeks on the short stretch of PCT between the NF Sauk and White Pass.  These are great sources of unfiltered water.  We were the first tents in the camping area below White Pass that day.  After lunch and a rest, we day hiked out the Foam Creek Trail.  I was surprised at the heavy usage.


Rather than climb to the saddle that leads to GPM, we scrambled up another knob for a view.


Unfortunately, there were zillions of winged ants on the ridgetop.  They did not bite, but it is annoying being covered with insects.  Eventually a breeze came up and they went away.

Then it was back to White Pass.  I generally avoid using PCT camps when possible.  Not only were all the campsites taken when we returned, there were numerous folks milling around wishing there were more sites.  I presume everyone found a place to sleep.  There is a water source just below the camping area, but you will want to filter that one.  We had a smoky sunset.


The next morning it was up and out, first above the clouds and then in them.


This was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, so I started counting folks on the way out.  By the time we reached the trailhead, I had counted 206 people.  Most had climbing helmets.  This explains why the Foam Creek trail was dusty and there were so many tent sites in the high basin.

Ron encountered his daughter hiking in.  She had made a last minute change to her hiking destination and unwittingly ended up on the same trail as her father Ron and her uncle Lee.  Ron offered some details on avoiding the crowds up above.


By my estimation, at around midday on the following day, there would be over 100 folks on the summit of Glacier Peak, making it the 16th largest city in Snohomish County!*  In comparison to the Foam Creek-to-Glacier Peak route, the hike through GPM seems rarely used.  Another one of those places in the Cascades that feels like it used to see a lot more folks than it does now.

*Don't fact-check that one, I made it up.

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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Jeff
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 11:17 am 
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I climbed Glacier Peak on labor day about a decade ago. Only saw one other group. It's a good time to be up there. Thankfully no winged ants!
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 11:35 am 
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Brushbuffalo
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PostSat Sep 12, 2020 11:38 am 
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Nice trip, despite smoke, flying ants, and a full trailhead.
Sculpin wrote:

The striped rock is high- grade metamorphic and is mapped as the Nason Ridge migmatitic gneiss. Rocks like this form deep in the crust during metamorphism.
Incidentally we won't find much if any basalt on or near Glacier Peak, which is predominantly a compositionslly different rock from basalt called dacite.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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Sculpin
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PostSun Sep 13, 2020 7:57 am 
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Thanks for the ID on the striped rocks, BB.

My friend Lee noticed some black rocks laying on the surface.  These were clearly volcanic ejecta, with obvious vesicles visible even without my reading glasses.  I'm guessing that they might have come out of the cinder cone on the other side of the drainage.  Do you know if that cinder cone is postglacial?  It is almost entirely unvegetated, but I cannot imagine it has been very long since the ice receded from this area.

I'm afraid that while I have the terminology mostly figured out, the geology literature remains among the most inaccessible of the sciences for amateurs like me.

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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Brushbuffalo
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PostSun Sep 13, 2020 9:10 am 
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Sculpin, yes, the White Chuck Cinder Cone is basaltic and as typical for cinder cones is composed mostly of air-fall ejecta.  Here is an informative report on the geology.
Late Episode Volcanism: Glacier Peak Volcano and Associated Rocks.  ( excerpt from USGS Professional Paper 604)

Sculpin wrote:
Do you know if that cinder cone is postglacial

Quoting from the report:
"We conclude that the White Chuck Cinder Cone is certainly younger than 17,000 years B.P. and older than 2,000 years B.P., and it is possibly younger than 12,000 years B.P. and older than 6,600 years B.P."
[ B.P. is Before Present]
Unraveling that means that the cone is 'a few thousand years old'. The dates are based on it not being obliterated by extensive glaciation as it would be if older than the last major glaciation there ( 17 K b.p.) yet still quite eroded (older than 2 K b.p). Finer age bracketing is based on not having any traces of Glacier Peak ash ( 12 K ) but has what is most likely Mazama [Crater Lake] ash (6.6 K) as a surface tephra (ash) layer in places.

Sculpin wrote:
the geology literature remains among the most inaccessible of the sciences for amateurs like me.

I agree! Every field has its own strange way of describing its area of knowledge, and geology might be among the strangest. I have spent my career as an educator trying to put things in understandable ways while holding true to accuracy....sometimes this works, often it fails.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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Jordan
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PostTue Sep 15, 2020 3:25 am 
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Love the pics.  I climbed glacier peak August 10th and had Glacier Gap to myself for 2 whole hours on a monday afternoon.  It was my third year in a row camping at glacier gap and first time I had any privacy.  Camped at your second night camp once about 5 years ago.  We call it bug camp now and won't ever be camping there again.

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fyodorova
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PostTue Sep 15, 2020 9:44 am 
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Sculpin wrote:
In comparison to the Foam Creek-to-Glacier Peak route, the hike through GPM seems rarely used.  Another one of those places in the Cascades that feels like it used to see a lot more folks than it does now.

Yep! We camped at the same site next to the cinder cone and had the meadows to ourselves on a sunny August weekend last year. Great report.
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