Hiking at Mount Baker open but snowy

  • Fri Aug 3rd, 2012 3:20pm
  • Life

By Sharon Wootton

Sunshine and snow conditions combine for picturesque high-elevation hiking. But in many cases, pack your snowshoes.

The Mount Baker Highway (Highway 542) is open to the Heather Meadows Visitor Center and the Austin Pass picnic area.

The melt-out on trails in the Heather Meadows area is later than usual, but all the trails in this area now are accessible

Accessible does not mean snow-free. Trails at the highest elevations are covered with 20-some feet of snow.

The Lake Ann Trail, for instance, has intermittent snow for two miles before it becomes totally covered; the half-mile-long Picture Lake Path, a combination of pavement and boardwalk, is now free of snow, according to reports this week from the Glacier Visitor Center.

The half-mile Fire and Ice Trail remains covered, despite the loop being one of the first trails to melt out. Wild Goose Trail’s lower section has no snow.

Popular Artist Ridge Trail is accessible but snow-covered. If you want heather and mountain blueberries to be in your photographs, wait for a few more weeks and then call for the latest report.

Assume that all trails are partially or completely snow-covered. Call the Glacier Visitor Center (360-599-2714) for up to date information before you leave home.

A recreational pass is required at Heather Meadows-area and most Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest roads.

For information and online purchase, go to the U.S. Forest Service website, tinyurl.com/d4s2ux4.

Swift watching

The Vaux’s swift cam is back in working order, according to Larry Schwitters, project manager.

He saw a couple of hundred swifts come out of the 40-foot chimney about 11 a.m. Monday at Frank Wagner Elementary School in Monroe.

Swifts can eat as many as 20,000 insects in a day, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

Most of the chimney action takes place in the morning, usually best seen between 10 and 11 a.m. when they leave to feed, and in the evening as they are returning to roost about an hour before sunset.

The Monroe chimney may be the second-largest roost in North America with more than 20,000 swifts counted during the spring migration.

Salmon convergence

Several hundred sockeye salmon are passing through the fish ladder daily at Seattle’s Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, otherwise known as the Ballard Locks.

About 142,000 sockeye salmon have passed through the locks on the way back to their spawning grounds.

Although sockeye are nearing the end of their run, the chinook run has started and should peak in mid-August.

More then 1,200 have already passed through the locks. Although this is a smaller run, the chinooks are so large that it’s still impressive.

In the past, sea lions have been a smart nuisance, waiting at the locks for the salmon to reach the fish ladder.

This year, according to a visitor center report, sea lions have not been frequent visitors, and the harbor seals usually eat smaller fish.

For information, call the visitor center at 206-783-7059.

Howl all you want

Wolf Haven International will have a Howl-In from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 18. It includes sanctuary tours, children’s activities, an eco-scavenger hunt, Wolf TV and musical entertainment.

WHI is just south of Olympia. For information, go to www.wolfhaven.org.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.