70 – Cougar Divide

Seeking a view similar to the ever popular Skyline Ridge Trail, but not a crowded weekend trail, we chose the hike to the less frequented Cougar Divide. Met by only one couple rushing back to their vehicle as they swatted swarms of bugs from around their faces, they told us that with only tennis shoes and no bug spray, they were completely unprepared for such a primitive trail – and that they had completely lost it in a snow field barely a quarter of a mile in. Glad to have the entire trail to ourselves, we were prepared for bugs, snow and rough trail conditions, so we laced up our hiking boots, sprayed with insect repellent, grabbed our backpacks and map and began our hike.

Trailhead . . . to Cougar Divide

Sure enough, in no time, we were on fields of snow.

Snow along the trail . . .

With beautiful views along the way, we continued our hike from one snow field to another as the trail climbed through a sub-alpine forest.

Along the trail . . .

Soon we were hiking through an area scattered with rock debris from ancient volcanic erruptions. That’s the ever popular Skyline Divide as a backdrop in this photo. (Do stay tuned as in a week, we make a three-day backpacking trip over the Skyline Divide ridge and set up camp in the Chowder Basin!)

(pic by Kent) Along the trail . . . Skyline Divide in the background

Continuing along the trail, soon the top of Mount Baker comes into view.

(pic by Kent) Along the trail . . .

Reaching a rocky knoll on the top of the ridge of Cougar Divide, we stop for a break. With a 360 degree view from on top of those rocks and clear skies all around, we could see mountain peaks all around us.

On the ridge of Cougar Divide . . .

Some peaks maybe as far away as Canada, others perhaps on the Olympic penninsula. Oh what a spectacular view!

Identifying peaks . . . from the ridge of Cougar Divide

Many wildflowers were in bloom and we identified as many of them as we could. Having packed in a picnic, we dined, then explored the rocks for a while longer. Here we are with Mount Baker and Chowder Ridge as our backdrop.

On the ridge of Cougar Divide . . . Mount Baker backdrop

With the opportunity to hike for miles and miles, the trail follows the ridge along Cougar Divide. To get to the trailhead from Bellingham, go east on the Mount Baker Highway. Just past milepost 40, turn right on Wells Creek Road (#33) and continue past Nooksack Falls to a junction. Make a hard right and follow this for six miles to a bridge. Continue for six more miles to another junction and stay left. Soon you will come to a fork in the road. Take the right fork to the the trailhead.

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