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Mountain Wildflowers

In hopes of adding to the "Close to Home" gallery, and to escape the heat, Nancy and I drove to the nearby mountains in search of wildflowers.

August, not far from the trailhead. Our route would take us up and over the distant, snow-draped slopes. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

Nancy and I are fortunate to live within sight of the North Cascade mountains. Snow-covered Mount Baker (10,800') is visible from our backyard. From our house, it is about an hour's drive to the base of the mountain and another 20 minutes to the end of the road at about 5,000' altitude.

The highest portions of the mountain road are often blocked by snow in July, and it isn't until August that access is assured. Many of the trials to the Mount Baker wilderness begin near the end of the road, so most hikes there have to wait until mid summer.

It was in the mid-80's when we left the house and in the 70's on the mountain. The sky was cloudless, blue, and sun-filled and there was almost no wind. It was likely to be a bad day for photography, but a good day for deer flies.

Our tentative goal was a lake—Iceberg Lake—that was on the far side of a mountain pass. From our starting point, it was a 1400' climb to the pass, and a 700' descent to the lake. An out-and-back hike, we were looking at 4200' of elevation change in about 7 miles.

Halfway up the mountain slope to the pass—a good place to rest while pretending to photograph wildflowers. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

The narrow, but well-worn trail traversed the slope at a steep angle and angular volcanic rocks in the path required constant attention to foot placement. The combination of physical and mental exertion was quickly fatiguing.

About halfway to the pass, after picking our way through a massive rockfall, we arrived at a more open slope where several braided streams coursed down the still-steep hillside. Originating in the melting snowfields above, the cold water flowing over thin soils provided sufficient habitat for yellow and pink monkey flowers.

This seemed to be a good place to rest.

Clusters of pink monkey flowers around the shallow mountain stream in bright sunlight. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

After photographing the wildflowers from various angles (which prolonged our rest) we pushed to the top of the pass. We took in the marvelous views, rested a bit, and started our descent to Iceberg Lake.

Again, the trail was steep and rocky. The scenery was lovely, but there were few wildflowers to photograph. Besides, we were getting tired. At that point, it would have taken a great patch of flowers to get us to pull put our camera gear to photograph.

We knew there were flowers on the far side of the lake—at least there were last year—but because the hour was late, we decided to turn back after reaching the near side. By the time we climbed back up the pass and hiked back to the car, our legs were trembling. Still, it was a good day and a great workout for the legs. We didn't get the photos we were hoping for, but that just means we'll have to come back!

Wildflowers on the far side of Iceberg Lake—from last year. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes



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