Ptarmigan Ridge

October 3, 2020

Holly got hit with one of her evil headaches so John finally got to hike solo and loved it. Hiking together is fine and we get along well with few issues. John is the stronger hiker and often has to wait for Holly. He is patient and helps when needed with nary a complaint. Holly has suggested he hike on his own and offered to help him find a different hiking buddy for some of the tougher hikes but he repeatedly refused. Holly’s evil headache can be considered a bit fortuitous. We were shifting our home camp down river in a day so John either hiked alone or missed out on getting up close and personal to a glacier. He REALLY wanted to hike to that glacier so he finally agreed and took off on his own. It was a well-traveled out and back trail so his dismal sense of direction wasn’t an issue. It was a beautiful day. He wound his way up the mountain and hit the trail early to beat the crowds. He came home seriously happy.

To hike at your own pace, stop when you want, for as long as you want is priceless. You can find a little spot, sit, and let nature take you away. Sometimes it’s good to be alone with your thoughts. This hike was a very good thing.

(Holly wrote this. John’s review follows.)

At first I was reluctant to hike on my own, being directionally challenged. But the chance to see a glacier up close and personal won me over. So I packed up and drove to the trailhead at Artist’s Point. There weren’t too many hikers there yet, but I knew that wouldn’t last.

Mt. Shuksan and Baker Lake were shrouded in a layer of smoke from distant wildfires but the trail I took was clear.

Mt. Shuksan above Smoke Layer

The first mile of the Chain Lakes Trail took me to a split where I turned left onto the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail. Most of that trail is in the open, no shade, although there are a few short forested sections. The slopes were covered in ripe mountain blueberries, the bushes’ foliage a deep red. Stands of hardy firs crawled down the slopes.

Blueberry bush covered slope

As I hiked I could see Mt. Baker’s peak poking above the ridgeline. About 2-1/2 hours into the hike, I came to a large open area that offered a great panoramic view. The smoke that had settled over Mt. Shuksan had started to dissipate.

View of Mt. Shuksan at Hike Midpoint

Below me were several small lakes, snowfields, and a tent. Someone had made themselves at home the previous night. I envy their view of the night sky.

As I continued my hike, Mt. Baker appeared in the distance. And I caught my first glimpse of my glacier (middle right in image below).

Mt. Baker

Although I was getting tired and footsore, I kept walking. The trail led me through more mountain meadows, small snowfields, and rocky terrain. But I kept my eye on the prize…my glacier.

My Glacier!

It took over 3 hours to get there, but I finally made it. The slope overlooking the glacier was covered in small, light lava rocks. So I didn’t try to get any closer.

Up Close and Personal!

I sat for a few minutes and admired the glacier, wondering how many more years it had before it vanished.

As I expected the return trip was much more crowded. I was surprised at how many people were just getting onto the trails so late in the day.

Rush Hour

It was a long hike and I was exhausted. But I was glad I made the journey.

H & J

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