67 – Park Butte Trail (Backpacking Trip)

Having followed the Baker River Trail for less than a mile last Spring before we turned off to cross the river and hike the Baker Lake Trail (see: Hike #46 – Baker Lake), we knew it was beautiful there and felt it would make a great backpacking destination as we continue to wait for the snow to recede from the high country, so we loaded up our backpacks, grabbed our boots and hit the road.

Loaded up and ready to go . . .

We stopped in at the North Cascades National Park Services Complex in Sedro Woolley to register for one of the two campsites along the Baker River Trail. Informed that both sites were already in use, we inquired about current snow levels in the high country and what other trails might make a good backpacking trip, and learned that the trail through Schreiber’s Meadow, located in the Mount Baker Recreation Area, was about ninety percent snow free.

Park Service Office . . . in Sedro Woolley, WA

The trail through Schreiber’s Meadow goes on to join trails to Park Butte, Railroad Grade and to Mount Baker, so with sunny skies above and humid temps in the mid to upper 80s, we decided we would start at Schreiber’s Meadows and continue until we found the perfect spot to set up camp.

Trailhead to Schreiber’s Meadow

As the trail often followed boardwalks made from thick, hand-hewn planks through its more boggy areas, Schreiber’s Meadow was a nice surprise. With lots of trees, plenty of early spring wildflowers in bloom, ground huckleberries forming on the vines and mountain heather bushes about to bloom, the meadow seemed more like a sunny forest to me.

Along the trail . . . through Schreiber’s Meadow

Expecting a little snow, sure enough, we eventually found ourselves trekking over portions of the trail covered with snow.

Snow on the trail . . .

We often find ourselves on trails with hazardous stream crossings this time of year, and this trail as no exception. Floods took the bridge out several years ago, and now a make-shift bridge of logs and plywood is in place.

Crossing the stream . . .

Then the we started climbing in elevation as we continued on to the Park Butte Trail.

Along the trail to Park Butte . . .

It was not long before the entire trail was buried under snow, but with Kent’s advanced trail finding skills, we were able to stay on route fairly well. When we lost the trail, he would scout ahead to determine in which direction we should go in order to pick up the trail again.

Scouting . . . looking for the trail

After climbing up one snow field after another for what felt like hours in the hot summer sun, we finally reached the absolute perfect place to make camp.

Entering snowfield . . . to our camp site

We had the perfect view of Mount Baker right from our tent.

Setting up camp . . . Mount Baker

With a 360 degree view of mountains, peaks and valleys, it was one of the most stunning places I had ever seen. Really, it could not have been more beautiful.

(pic by Kent) . . . Mount Baker evening at camp

We boiled snow and sipped hot cups of tea as we looked out at the glorious view. Then we had a backpacker’s dinner of hearty bowls of mashed potatoes with bacon and cheese stirred in. We walked around identifying the landmarks, taking pictures and taking it all in.

Photo op . . .

Sometimes the world feels small as far as when and where people’s paths happen to cross, and that snow field by our camp felt like one of those small world places as Kent’s old friend came back country skiing through. Hanging the food bag on a cable high up in the trees as two guys came skiing through, he looked up and said, “Jeremy?” Moments later, there was a very happy reunion.

Kent and Jeremy . . .

The next morning, we were joined by Canada Jays right about the time we finished breakfast. It is obvious why they have the nickname of “camp robbers”, but so entertaining, it’s not like we weren’t encouraging them.

Hand feeding Canadian Jay

The next morning, we saw several groups of climbers pass through the snow field on their hike back down, and a couple of groups of hikers heading up.

(pic by Kent) . . . hanging out at camp

After a leisurely morning at camp, we packed up and started our hike back down.

(pic by Kent) . . . hiking out from camp site near snowfield

Hiking down hill always feels easier – especially when there are heavy packs on our backs.

Observing wildflowers along the trail . . .

With so many hikers along the trail, there was a bit of a wait to cross back over that stream where the bridge had washed out.

Hikers ready to cross the stream . . .

Waiting for my turn to cross as Kent carried my pack to the other side, I wondered just how many hikers that make-shift bridge would support at one time.

Hooked on hiking, heading out of Schreiber’s Meadow on our way back to the trailhead, we were already starting to discuss possible trails for our next hike.

Heading out of Schreiber’s Meadow

Such a wonderful backpacking experience this trip was!

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Categories: Hiking, Island County, Nature, Photography, Skagit County, Whatcom County | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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