Fourteen DNCBers enjoyed a beautiful, sunny, first day of Autumn, wandering a few of the trails in Mount Baker National Forest. We saw a few neat birds (American Dippers) and animals (Mountain Goats), but the spectacular scenery was the winner again, as it is on most of our annual Baker outings. Check out the magnificent photo evidence of the vistas, flora and fauna species, and the “beautiful people”, on our DNCB Picasa site.
Eight of us met at 7:30 a.m. at the Peace Arch Park parking lot and car-pooled nicely in two vehicles (ILB Tony took Baker Expert Terry and almost-refined Marion & Kirsten, Rob & Marylile took Stormcat Paula and me). After a very quick and smooth Border crossing (low Cdn dollar means little traffic), and a beautiful drive through the north Washington State farmland (and repository for many old, dilapidated vehicles that excited Marylile even more than Rob), we got to the Mt. Baker Service/Ranger Center just before 9:00 a.m. (right on time). The other six (keen-eyed Liz & Scoutmaster Alan, bewildered sisters Pat & Maureen, rambling Alberto & voluble Pascale) arrived around the same time, like clockwork. The Service Center was closed, Planned Power Outage(?), so we saved the 5 buck daily Park Fee.
Following introductions, a mandatory Group Photo, and pee break, five vehicles convoyed up the 23 mile winding road to Picture Lake. Before circling the lake (~45 minutes), a Gray Jay (Whiskey Jack) did a fly past, but none came close for hand feeding. The circle trail was quiet too, but the mirror image of Mt. Shuksan on the pond is always a photog’s delight. A single Horned Grebe was the only pond resident, and no Blueberries were on bushes along the trail: early Fall has arrived on Baker. Colourful orange poisonous mushrooms (Amanita muscaria) were attractive. We saw a Northern Flicker and Liz’s photo of a Woodpecker species looks like a Sapsucker (possibly Red-breasted). Terry and I saw a flitting Kinglet and his photo evidence confirms it to be a Golden-crowned. A Hooded Merganser was the lone bird on the adjacent pond divided by the intriguing stone Andesite columns.
Next stop was the Heather Meadows Visitor Center (HMVC, also closed because of “Planned Power Outage”?). From here, we walked the Bagely Lakes Trail (~one hour) and found several of our destination species, American Dippers. This sort of drab songbird was bobbing and swimming in the fast-flowing, rocky stream just like it is supposed to do. Some saw a Pacific Wren, Chickadees (possibly Mountain), Steller’s Jays and Squirrels but no Marmots. It was a gorgeous walk with continuous spectacular scenery. Although most wildflowers were finished blooming, the brilliant red, yellow and green ground/leaf cover was stunning. Back at the HMVC, approaching Noon, we munched on our sandwiches, peanut butter & crackers, trail mixes, or whatever, before driving to the top parking lot at Artist Point.
To give perspective, Artist Point is at 5000 feet above sea level and Mt. Baker’s glacier-covered summit is about 12,000 ft. Our Coastal Mountains are also about 5,000 ft. high and Whistler’s summit is about 7,500 feet. From Artist Point, we walked the Chain Lakes Trail (~ 1 ½ hrs return) along a steep precipice to a lookout opposite Mt. Baker. Other Park visitors continued on to the glacier on the mountain; we took photos of the almost completely cloudless peak, and enjoyed the Ravens and a Red-tailed Hawk flying by. On the trail back, while enjoying the spectacular vistas of surrounding peaks and Baker Lake, we noticed two white things moving on a grassy knoll below. We don’t often see the Mountain Goats (Antelope species) here so this was a treat. We got back to Artist Point at the scheduled 2:30 p.m., exhausted and leg-weary, but thoroughly satisfied. The Chipmunks (but no Pikas) acknowledged our departure, as we began the drive down the mountain and back to the Border. For obvious reasons, the inattentive and distracted ILB’s almost-fuel-empty vehicle had to be escorted to the closest gas station, which we fortunately reached without incident. Then, some stopped in Blaine for Mexican beer and burritos, while others continued on through the unusually-quiet Border. Another glorious DNCB outing.
Next Wednesday, September 30, we will meet at and leave from Petra’s at 7:30 a.m. for Elgin Park and then Blackie Spit in South Surrey. Check out our website for info on Outing destinations and previous reports and photos. As always, your comments are encouraged and please advise me if you want off the list to receive these verbose missives. Cheers: Tom
Tom Bearss, President, Delta Naturalists’ Society
PS: ILB is my affectionate nickname for Tony, the Indian Land Baron.