Suzanne, Bob, Kolleen, and I planned to get out for
the weekend. We just couldn't decide where to go or what to do. Suzanne temporarily
has a second dog and we weren't sure how Clover would handle snow. It took
until 9:00 pm on Friday before we settled on two day hikes with a car camp
in the North Cascades. Suzanne and I met Bob and Kolleen at the Glacier Ranger
Station east of Bellingham at 9:15 am. From there we headed on to the Hannegan
Pass trailhead. I put up a my tent to secure what looked to be the last available
camping site. Although it was still fairly early the parking lot was nearly
full. By about 10:00 we were on the trail.
The trail begins with a gentle grade and for the most part stays that way
for 3 1/2 miles to the hikers campgrounds. Flowers started immediately and
never let up. Lots of tiger lilies brightened up the lower trail. Lupine,
paintbrush, columbine, queen's cup, penstemon, wild rose, and more carpeted
the hillside. There was lots of water still running though all the creeks
were easy rock hops at worst. The forecast was for a cloudy morning giving
way to a sunny afternoon. It proved to be half correct.
Even with the clouds the temperature was comfortable. There were numerous
large waterfalls falling off the steep walls on the other side of the Ruth
Creek valley. As we ascended Mt. Ruth and Ruth Arm came into view. That was
one of our options for the weekend. We did not know how the dogs would do
on the steeper snow so decided against it. It sure does look like a fun climb.
Ruth was in view for much of the day.
At Hannegan camp we finally found some snow. About half the campsites were
bare and half still under snow. The snow will be gone very soon. There were
some bugs from the start but they were a bit more annoying here. We took food
and water break. As we were leaving a group of about a dozen women were arriving.
Several others were there earlier and all totaled it was quite a crowd.
After the camp the trail finally became steeper for the final half mile
push to Hannegan Pass. We encountered a little snow but not enough to be
any problem. Lots of flowers were blooming although the snow had blanketed
the slopes until just a week or two earlier. We arrived at the pass to find
that peaks to the east were also in the clouds. My old 101 hikes book talks
about wandering up the ridge to Hannegan Peak. I expected a boot path. We
found a regular trail all the way up. It starts out switchbacking very gently
but finally gets down to business higher up.
The summit views were good but I can see where they would be outstanding
on a clear day. We saw a few small slices of Shuksan and Baker. Granite Mountain
is just down the ridge. We did have a very nice view of both peaks of Goat
Mountain. The star of the day was Mt. Ruth. There were dozens of climbers
heading up and down all day. One person on the summit mentioned seeing 18
climbers at one time. It was not a day for any semblance of solitude on Ruth.
Hannegan, on the other hand, was not so crowded. There were one or two other
groups on top at any given time while we were there. There was still some
good sized snow patches which would make camping on the summit very easy.
If fact, two guys came up to do just that. The summit would make a great camp
site while the snow holds out. We considered scrambling up Granite Mountain
but decided to just stay put instead.
We must have spent well over an hour on the summit. It was much nicer than
the trailhead where we would be camping that night. We hoped that the afternoon
clearing would occur but there was no break in the clouds. Finally at around
3:30 we packed up and headed down. The mostly gentle trail was easy on our
knees. Coming down was a lot faster as we took far fewer photos. At 5:35 we
reached the trailhead. As usual the trail seemed much longer on the way down
Another group had managed to squeeze tents into a small area next to ours.
That was a little annoying but they did quiet down by 10:00 pm. For the day
we covered about 11 miles with 3200' gained. We were up early the next morning
for day two and Yellow Aster Butte.