The Rambling Writer Hikes to Heliotrope Ridge

It’s been an odd year for Thor, Bear dog, and me in terms of our usual mountain excursions. After literally a year of physical therapy for my chronic neck degeneration/nerve compression issues, I am starting back to hiking, but Thor has been sidelined with plantar fasciitis. Plus it was a major snow year, so the high mountain trails are still covered in a lot of the white stuff, frozen and pitted and not very pleasant for snowshoeing or hiking. The first high trail to open this summer is Heliotrope Ridge off the Mt. Baker Highway, a trail used by mountain climbers for the first stage of their ascent of Mt. Baker. Invited by a couple of friends, Pam and Richard, to make the hike, I left Thor home this time, with Bear dog to keep him company.

Driving up the Mt. Baker Highway past Glacier and the forest service station, where I scored one of the last of the $10-for-lifetime Senior passes to Federal parks and forests (hey, there has to be some good news about aging!), we turned up Glacier Creek Rd. for a bumpy 8 mile climb on the rutted asphalt/dirt road. Right past the trailhead, we encountered the first of many rushing snowmelt cascades, Grouse Creek, which is the only one with an actual bridge. Be prepared for lots of wet fording!

The next creek had a couple of narrow logs for crossing, which Pam navigated handily.

The trail winds up through dense old-growth forest of cedar, fir, and spruce. Winter storms always take their toll, here a big tree that snapped in two, dropping a sharp chunk like a deadly missile beside it. Glad I wasn’t standing there at the time!

Lots of lovely huckleberries, queen’s cup blossoms, mosses, sword and bracken ferns along the trail.

A volunteer group was doing some muddy trail work — thank you!!

Yet another water fall and creek crossing accomplished:

At about 2 miles in, a fork in the trail offers two options: right fork for the climbers’ route to near the base of Mt. Baker. We took the left fork for a view of Coleman Glacier that flows off the mountain. At the fork, this industrious native squirrel was chowing down on a fir cone:

As we climbed above the treeline, we could see Mt. Baker, though it was partly obscured by the high clouds on this overcast day. The glacier is the rumpled-looking blue-gray ice flowing (very slowly) down toward the left.

The high meadows were lovely with wildflowers.


The last creek crossing is the most challenging, if you don’t want to get your boots wet. It’s always wise to watch your timing when going up, as more snow will melt during the day and can swell the streams dangerously by late afternoon. We didn’t need to worry on this rather cool day.

Another view of the mountain and glacier. Unfortunately, my camera battery died before I got closer! Guess I should have included my backup battery among the “10 essentials.”


You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest novel from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction.  Sara is counting the weeks until a return trip to Greece this fall for research on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect.

Sara’s story “Reset” appears in the Book View Cafe collection Nevertheless, She Persisted, release date August 8.




The Rambling Writer Hikes to Heliotrope Ridge — 9 Comments

    • I know I’m torturing my friends who are roasting! We’ve had our share over the last week, with near-record high temps along with “Unhealthy” air rating due to forest fire smoke from British Columbia and nearby in Washington State. Ugh. I hope the firefighters win the battles soon. Climate change has really brought more summer fires to our forests, which are challenged in many ways.

      • To be fair, part of the problem in B.C. (and other parts of Canada) is the aggressive fire management practices that have been implemented over the past decades. Fires are a natural and essential part of forest maintenance and regeneration, but human interference, which focuses on complete prevention, has led to a substantial increase in the amount of thatch accumulating on the forest floor. This excess fuel, in turn, leads to more intense burns over larger areas, and, of course, threatens communities that have grown up in and around forested regions. There’s a renewed understanding in the forest management industry (renewed, because indigenous communities always had this knowledge but were never consulted or respected) that controlled burns are the only way to keep forest fires from getting out of hand. Of course, climate change and more intense weather conditions aren’t helping the situation either…

        On another note: what a sweet face your Bear dog has!

        • That’s the issue down here in California as well. As in your area, the Indigenous Californians used controlled fires to manage the forests. Not only did this prevent out-of-control wildfires, but it was also necessary to the health of the forest. But these days, people build too close to forests, so they demand fire protection, and the undergrowth goes unchecked until a big fire happens, and then we get these massive ones.

          It’s going to take some hard work and education to shift the system back to one with appropriate use of fire, but in the end it will be healthier for everyone.

        • Thanks, Zena, Yes, our Bear dog is a sweetie! And of course I know about the complexity of fire issues. living here in the West. One issue related to climate change is infestation by insects now moving into our forests that kill trees and provide more fuel for fires, along with all you mention. And less money now with new U.S. admin for fighting fires. Some big problems to address (or not, in the case of our so-called president).

    • Yes, this is his 3rd or 4th round of it over the past few years — he’s just now getting back to short hikes. And I need him to carry the heavy stuff (such a sweetie!), as my knapsack triggers my shoulder & neck issues if I carry everything I need. Again I say, bring on the cyborg body parts!