Ptarmigan Ridge (Sep 24-25, 2016)

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ptarmigan_ridge_coverConditions: backpack
Gear: overnight gear
Map:  USGS Shuksan Arm
Area: Artist Point (Mt Baker)
Reference: n/a
Stats: 9.68mi, 2066' gain (round trip)

Steve and I were trying to squeak in one last backpack before the weather turned. I had wanted to do this trip about a month ago...but then we had a spell of really rainy weather. This weekend...the forecast looked good. Saturday was expected to be partly sunny and no rain. Sunday was mostly sunny, no rain, and a bit warmer. Saturday rain was in the forecast...

We packed and headed up to Artist Point. I always forget how long a drive it is to get all the way up there. It's about 3 hours from the house. We arrived, did a last minute check on the gear, and then headed out.

We started out with low clouds and a bit of a chill in the air. It's clear fall has arrived. Based on the spot forecast we figured the clouds would burn off. We started out on the Chain Lakes trail and passed a WTA trail crew working on the trail up to Table Mountain. Thanks guys... From there the trail contours the hillside...sometimes going a bit up, sometimes a bit down...sometime on one side of the ridge, sometimes the other. Its just the kind of trail I like. The clouds seemed to take forever to burn off. It was fun to see the clouds swirl around and sometimes you'd see views and minutes later they were gone.

I was surprised to find there were a few huckleberries still out. There were a few late season flowers out too. Mainly...just lots and lots of fall color in all the foliage. The mountains will be under a blanket of snow soon.

We passed by Coleman Pinnacle and noticed the no name lake and pumice basin to the SE of the pinnacle. It was too tempting to pass up. We headed down just to explore. The place is incredible. One small tarn just below the trail, a larger one further down. We decided to head back up to the trail and head back into Camp Kiser. Back on the trail we passed a backpacker headed out and chatted briefly. His girlfriend had dropped a pack at one of the two campsites just below us while he hiked towards Camp Kiser. He said the next couple of campsites were taken. Hmmm... What to do? We could have hiked all the way to Camp Kiser but campsite availability was unknown. It was getting into late afternoon too. Well...Steve and I talked...we decided to head back to the pumice basin and camp near the first small tarn. We found a nice site up on a pumicy knoll but close to running water and pitched our tent and then settled in for the evening.

All evening the clouds swirled around camp. It did seem that they were increasing as the evening wore on. As the last light was fading, we headed into the tent. Not long after that we heard the pitter patter of rain. What?!?! It wasn't supposed to rain. Well rained for a bit and then stopped for about 30 minutes. Good...we figured it was just a passing squall. Then the rain began again and pretty much didn't let up all night. That could make for a wet day two...

Sunday morning came and finally, about 8am, it seemed that the rain finally was going to let up. Problem was near completely socked in. We could have hiked to Camp Kiser but we wouldn't get the views. So...we decided to skip firing up the stove for a warm breakfast and just munch on snack bars. Then we packed up and hiked out. It seemed that Saturday was indeed the better weather day. Sunday it never did clear as much as it had the day before.

I'd really love to head back to this area but earlier in the season when the hillside is full of wildflowers. I think I need to put this onto the 2017 calendar...
Ptarmigan Ridge Slideshow

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