Hiking the Northern Cascades, Washington, Table Mountain

I almost interrupted this series of hikes for a post from a recent lovely autumn day but decided to save it for next week (stay tuned), as this is the last hike in Washington state.

Before we reached our destination, we stopped to see a thundering waterfall. No salmon could come home to lay eggs up that part of the river. But the river to the right (North Fork Nooksack River) has plenty of space for returning salmon. You have the hear this waterfall to appreciate its power from all the water flowing down. It was about 35′ high.

North Fork Nooksack River

Table Mountain, located off Mt. Baker Highway, is about 1 and 1/2 hours from Bellingham. We visited the beautiful ranger station I mentioned in my first Washington hiking post: Hiking the Cascades, Skyline Divide to use their picnic tables. After a perfect lunch prepared by Laurie, we traveled into the back country to Mt. Shuksan and Table Mountain. As mountains go, Table Mountain is very small, but the 360° view it gives you is wonderful. To borrow a statement from the Washington Trails Association: Table Mountain is the plateau that resembles a giant anvil wedged between “the great white one”(Baker) and “the rocky and precipitous one” (Shuksan).

Mt. Shuksan

This is Mt. Shuksan, the first view after getting out of the car in the parking lot. I had to run over to a sign to use as a monopod before we did any hiking (I’ve given up carrying a tripod on most hikes – too much weight). As usual, the photo doesn’t do credit to the immensity of the mountain and the beautiful glaciers falling down the sides. The snow is really blue on the ends.

View from Table Mtn.

After reading the flyer from the ranger station about the steep ascent up the rock face of the mountain, Surprisingly, I saw small children hiking and babies being carried up the steep rocky steps. The sun is shining to the south, showing us Mt. Shuksan, but behind us, Mt. Baker never came out of hiding from behind the clouds. You really can’t see too well, but there are two people at the top of the rise past the snow.

Table Mtn

You can barely distinguish the snowy sides of Mt. Baker right in the middle of the photo above.

Table Mtn. tarn

The snow melt causing this little depression (tarn) to fill up with icy cold water is coming from behind me.

This moss was the stream feeding the tarn above. The moss was so soft I almost wanted to lay down and use it as a pillow.
This moss was the background for the stream feeding the tarn above. The moss was so soft I almost wanted to lay down and use it as a pillow. Can you see the water running down? It was a tiny rivulet.

 

As you can tell from the snow still lying around, the growing season is short here, but the heather is beautiful.
As you can tell from the snow still lying around, the growing season is short here, but the heather is beautiful.

Table Mtn avalanche

On the right of this photo is a wee bit of dust between the evergreens. As Laurie and I were standing right here, an avalanche broke free and rocks slid down the mountain for about 30-45 seconds. I guess one rock finally broke free because of a tree root or ice and decided to let loose, carrying many others with it down the slope. It was loud and dusty! While in the mountains, you often see rock slides that have happened, but not necessarily while you’re 40′ from it.

Lots of rock cairns were built up here.
Lots of rock cairns are built up here (looking toward Mt. Shuksan).
Kevin pondering . . .
Kevin pondering . . .
As usual, I hesitate posting a pic of me sweating, panting, gasping for breath, but here it is.
As usual, I hesitate posting a pic of me sweating, panting, gasping for breath, but here it is, with Shuksan watching. That’s not an oxygen tube around my neck, but my homemade camelpak tube cover to keep my water cold.
These were the granite steps and the precipice if you miss your step. 500' down of nerve wracking carefulness!
These were the granite steps and the precipice if you miss your step. 500′ down of nerve-wracking carefulness! You cannot see the next part of the switch back that winds back to the left beyond Laurie. The green ridge you can see, is about 1/2 mile across the valley (not the way down).
This is the last view of Mt. Shuksan on the way down the road. I left for home the next morning!
This is the last view of Mt. Shuksan on the way down the road. I left for home the next morning! Sad to leave my friends and this beauty behind.

4 Comments

    1. Thanks Carol! It was a lovely vacation with dear friends in beautiful surroundings. I may post about the island they live on, haven’t made up my mind about that yet. Next week will definitely be about fall though.

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