Church Mountain Trail

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Banana slug (maybe?) on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

By Regis. July 7

So we tried a third mountain hike today. On the drive to the trail head, Linda was thinking out loud “Why is it always cloudy and rainy when we go for hikes?”. Then without skipping a beat “oh yeah it’s Washington”. The weather had a better chance today than our Sauk Mountain hike . Today it was just highish clouds hung from the mountain tops, no rain and a bit warmer than 40.

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Columbine on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Linda had heard about this hike, Church mountain trail, on her recent whale watch trip. There was snow in the meadow and we thought it would be great for Dart to have some fun. Seemed like a great plan until I located a trail description from The Washington Trail Association (www.wta.org).  I’ll let their description speak , emphasis mine;

“From the trailhead, the route up Church Mountain starts deceptively easy with a 0.5-mile stroll up an old forest road. Then it gets right down to business with lots of switchbacks winding up and around the west side of the mountain. The trees are fairly dense, which you’ll actually appreciate on warmer days, though they obstruct any big views until later—look for the occasional peek of Mount Baker above or the North Fork Nooksack River below as you continue to climb.

At 3 miles, the trail finally eases its grade and opens up into sprawling meadows. This is your first chance to glance back at the spectacular view of Mount Baker. As you meander through the meadow, you will not see any of those notable golden larch trees, but the vibrant fall colors brought out by the abundance of huckleberry bushes that blanket the meadow and the ridge above in hues of green, red, purple and gold.

From the meadow, the last 1.2 miles of the climb get steeper, but the trail takes you directly through a large huckleberry patch for some possible late-season treats. The last 200 feet are a scramble up loose rock. Take advantage of the cable to hold on to going up this last section. From the peak, you will get a fantastic 360-degree view of Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, Damfino Lakes, Border Line Peaks, Goat Mountain, Excelsior Pass and Skyline Ridge in the background.”

If you were counting thats 4.2 miles UP. I knew we would not be doing a 8.4 mile round trip, but 3 miles up to the meadow seemed doable. Oh how could I have been so wrong! To be fair the description listed lots of switchbacks. OK we did lots on Sauk Mountain. What it didn’t say was how STEEP the west side of the mountain was! Once we started hiking we were going up and a very steep up it was!

We started the hike at 2300 ft. and got to the meadow just short of 5000 ft. For the mathematically challenged thats 2700 ft. This hike was steep! The switchbacks were much longer and steeper than Sauk Mountain. In fact, each switchback was probably higher than the total height of Florida! The trail NEVER gave us a break. It was a long steep slog up probably the steepest side of the mountain.

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A rare glimpse down the mountain on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. There were lots of clouds.

We paced ourselves and took many breathers at the switchbacks. We were dog tired and about to give up but we had glimpses of a meadow through the trees and and decided we would go 500 more feet and turn around.

We did get to the meadow and within the 500 ft. Dart had been off leash the whole trip and was great. We were a bit disappointed with the snow. It was just smaller patches much higher up in the meadow. If Dart was going to romp, he was going alone. I think we snapped a couple of pictures, snacked, watered, started getting eaten by bugs, and started back down. Going down was almost as hard as going up but without all the heavy breathing and sweating!

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Meadow at the 3 mile mark on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

On the way down, we met a couple going up.  She was carrying a baby in a sack on her chest.  He was carrying a young child on his back.  It definitely made us feel unfit.

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Fungus on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

We also determined that Dart has no age issues to prevent him from hiking.  He has temperature issues.  If it is warmer than 70 degrees, he’s a quitter.  Otherwise, he can outdo us any day.

 

Another Great Day on the Water

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Orcas among the San Juan Islands.

July 6

I went whale watching again today, but this time from Bellingham, Washington.  This puts you in the midst of the San Juan Islands.  It was a great trip and I was fortunate to see another pod of Orcas.

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Orcas by the San Juan Islands,

We saw transient Orcas.  There are transient Orcas and resident Orcas in Puget Sound.  The naturalist told us that the transient Orcas, many of which eat seals, live to about 40.  The resident Orcas have been documented to live to 100 and they eat salmon.  Unfortunately, the salmon stocks are so depleted that the resident Orcas are struggling.  But, the transient Orca numbers are increasing because the seal population is also increasing.

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Orcas hunting for seals by the San Juan Islands.
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Orcas hunting for seals by the San Juan Islands.

Apparently, sometimes you get to see the transient Orcas actively feeding.  Our Orcas were traveling a regular route where they are often successful in getting a seal.  When they do, they drown it and then split it up between the pod.  We saw a pod of about 4-5 whales that included a juvenile.

I also saw some seals.  They are just beginning to have their young.

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Seal mom and pup.
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Curious seal watching our boat.

 

I saw lots of seabirds including these Oystercatchers.

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Oystercatchers.

And, there were great views of Mount Baker and the San Juan Islands.

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Mount Baker.
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San Juan Islands.
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Lighthouse on Patos Island.

 

Purple Martins

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Purple Martins (female).

Our new campground has 4 nest boxes set up by the water that have attracted more purple martins than the boxes can accommodate.  There is a lot of twittering, communicating, and bickering going on.  Regis saw two females fall out of the sky latched onto each other.  They parted when he went to get a closer look.  They are a constant source of entertainment.

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Purple martins (female).
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Female Purple Martin.

Our son and his friend are staying in Port Townsend only a few blocks from our campground.  We’ve had lunch and dinner with them the last few days.  It’s been wonderful.  We’ve had a lot of great food and many of the restaurants are right on the water.

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Flower at Point Hudson

Yesterday we went to Sirens for lunch.  It’s on the third floor of a building and we were seated on the outside deck.  While waiting for our drinks to show up, we noticed the crows catching small fish that were left behind in puddles after the tide went out.  They would take the fish and bring them up past the tide line and bury them.  The fish were still wiggling.  After they tucked the fish away in a suitable location, they would cover them with grasses and such and go get more fish.  We could have stayed all afternoon watching these guys.  I will definitely return later this week.  The food was delicious, so it will be easy to return.

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Flowers at Point Hudson

Our son and his friend took the kayaks out.  They kayaked on the shore next to town which happens to be next to the ferry terminal.  They were too busy sightseeing to pay attention to the ferry which had to toot at them to get out of the way because it was departing!

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Gull feeding.

The weather is warming up and it’s been very nice.  Since we are camped right next to the water, we get a cooling breeze that usually requires a jacket.  But, once you walk into town, it’s much warmer.

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We finally got a view of Mount Baker from our campsite.

On our return from dinner, we noticed a beautiful rainbow in the sky.  Today, they celebrated Pride in Port Townsend, so it was very fitting.  As the sun went down, it reflected nicely off the clouds.

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Evening view from our campsite.

Rhododendrons

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Rhododendron bloom on Mount Walker.

June 5

We spent the day exploring the west edge of the Hood Canal. We set out in search of Eagles and found some. Mostly, the Eagles were soaring over the side of the mountain but one adult sat in a tree nearby and one Juvenile did a fly by.

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Immature Bald Eagle.

We drive to the top of Mount Walker and there were lots of rhododendrons in bloom. When we got to the top and had to walk a short way from the car to the viewpoint, Regis had to point out that he saw more rhododendrons in bloom in that short space than our entire 3 mile walk the other day. The blooms are beautiful. There are foxgloves blooming and some yellow flowers beginning to burst into bloom everywhere. Spring is a lovely time to be here.

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View south from Mount Walker.

From the south viewpoint, we could see Seattle in the distance. From the north viewpoint, we could see Port Townsend, Whidbey Island, and Mount Baker. It was pretty cool to get a view from above of the places we will soon be visiting.

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View of Seattle from Mount Walker.
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View of Mount Baker from Mount Walker.

While Dart and I were walking today, we found an injured mouse. The mouse’s leg was broken. I called my friend Melody who knows how to rehabilitate wildlife and she told me how to help the little mouse. Regis and I were going to have to perform surgery, but we had the tools to do it. We never got that far. I tried to give it water but it was so weak by then, it couldn’t drink it. Sadly, the little mouse didn’t live long. The mouse may have had internal injuries. I’m guessing it was hit by a car.

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Rhododendron bloom on Mount Walker.