75 – Heliotrope Ridge

Do you like glaciers? Adventure? Wildflowers? Mountain views? Creek crossings? Forests? Marmots? If so, this is definitely the hike for you!

Fireweed . . . Coleman Glacier and Mount Baker

On our way to see the Coleman Glacier, right from the start the Heliotrope Ridge Trail held a sense of adventure when we were detoured around the bridge over Grouse Creek not far from the trailhead. The first of the many creeks we would eventually cross along the way, this was the only creek said to have a “real” bridge. With that bridge in the process of being re-built, we followed flags marking our way down stream from the fenced off construction site and crossed on a “temporary” bridge. While that temporary bridge looked rather like a log jam, nearly every step felt solid, and it was surprisingly more stable than it appeared.

Make-shift bridge over creek

Once on the other side of this creek, the trail led us through the wild and scenic Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Through the forest . . .

Then on past a refreshingly misty waterfalls.

Waterfalls . . . along the trail

Not far from the site of the old Mount Baker Club’s Kulshan Cabin, the next creek we crossed was Kulshan. With the aid of trekking poles, a hand from Kent, and plenty of logs and rocks on which to hop, I was successful at keeping my boots dry.

(pic by Kent) Stream crossing . . . along the trail

Soon enough our destination, the Coleman Glacier, came into view from along the trail.

Coleman Glacier . . . from the trail

As the trail cut around a side slope, we were surrounded by fields of beautiful wildflowers.

Wild flowers . . . along the trail

Then we approached Heliotrope Creek, the most difficult of the creek crossings along this popular Heliotrope Ridge Trail, and were met by a family of fellow hikers. Not a swimmer, and rather afraid of dangerous creek crossings (really, more like most bodies of water!), I forced my thoughts on the fact that if those kids could make it, so could I.

Trailmates . . .

This was one of those creek crossings pretty much guaranteed to get your boots wet. Not wanting to have to slog around in heavy, soaked boots for the remainder of the hike, I came prepared – with water sandles. The creek was flowing fast, icy cold, and in places up to my knees. With my sandles on, Kent gave me a reassuring hand, and I made it safely to the other side.

(pic by Kent) . . . crossing Heliotrope Creek

Proud of Kent as I watched him offer a hand to another hiker as she gave pause before working her way across that swift current, remarkably, even though somewhat intimidating – and definitely icy cold, everyone seemed so happy and invigorated by the experience.

Kent offers assistance to trailmates crossing Heliotrope Creek

Once on the other side of Heliotrope Creek, in no time we had reached our destination and were climbing along a ridge on a more primitive trail right along the edge the Coleman Glacier. With Mount Baker just above, it was absolutely beautiful!

Coleman Glacier . . .

Listening to the whistles of marmots as they played on the rocks and watching climbers as they practiced maneuvering around on the giant pillars of ice below us, we sat on huge bolders at the edge of the glacier and ate our lunch. Live entertainment at its best!

Climbers practicing on the glacier

Then it was time to turn around, and make the hike back down to the trailhead.

(pic by Kent) . . . along the trail

For more information on this hike, including driving directions and recent trip reports, go here – http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/heliotrope-ridge. The hike, in and out, is approximately 5.5 miles in length and gains approximately 1,400′ in elevation. Be prepared for creek crossings, and most importantly, enjoy!

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

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