Striking Gold (and Red) on Bald Mountain
Fall is a very special time in the mountains. Back in New England I used to crave fall because of the beautiful color from all of the leaves on the trees that changed. I used to love the season for its warm days and cool crisp evenings and most important the wonderful color displays that come through. When I moved to Seattle I was lead to believe by some that I would never see those beautiful red hues, and that fall was a time of transition and I though I was going to be missing the east during the fall. Over the past three years I have discovered that fall in Washington State is every bit as fulfilling as back east, just though you need to take a little more time to spot the wonders. One of the great wonders of this state are the berry bushes of western Washington. When fall comes around, these bushes and vine maples can really light up. And Saturday October 2, 2010 they really did on Bald Mountain.
Both Zephyr (from NWHikers) and I were both looking for great places to go but we could not really come up with a good area to head to. Finally he saw a bunch of information on a peak called Bald Mountain near Mount Pilchuck and after a quick look we both decided to give it a shot. He ask for information from a guy named Schroeder (also on NWHikers) who gave us the final details we needed to sure up the trip and off we went for the summit of Bald Mountain. At first as we start on the Cutthroat Trail from the parking area it seemed that we were a week too early. There was some color but no color that seemed very strong. That probably was due to the fact that the trail was very muddy and it was foggy. Okay well now it was time for us to get motivated for the summit.
We pressed on gaining a large amount of elevation up the side of a ridge only to lose most of it while heading to a pass right before the start of the true hike up to the base of Bald Mountain. Up we went on the trail when we both noticed that the fall colors were getting stronger the higher we went to Bald Mountain. Finally we hit Cutthroat Lakes where we were greeted with amazing berry bushes, delicious berries and amazing reds and yellow views. I looked right at my friend Zephyr and I “jackpot”. We clear hit the jackpot of the week on this trip.
Not all though was good with Cutthroat Lakes. The tarns look nice and beautiful but there are so many paths that travel through this area that one can clearly get lost and frustrated if they are trying to hit the summit of Bald Mountain. We were distracted by the berries but see Bald Mountain in our eyes quickly made us focus on the prize. Once past the massive maze of Cutthroat Lakes we reconnected with the main path and continued to the main summit of Bald Mountain. From there the trail meandered to the south ridge of Bald Mountain which really was the highlight of the trip.
The colors on the south side were very impressive and the fact that there was a cloud bank below us made us feel that we were truly “above the clouds”. Way off in the distance we spotted Mount Rainier and many other wonderful peaks in the area. We continued on though at a slower pace because we distracted by the berry bushes and the incredible views. We maneuvered through a couple boot-paths until we finally hit the east side of the summit scramble. We prepared ourselves for the scrambled and made our way up. The short scramble was quiet solid and the rock was very sticky for scrambling on. There was one small move at the end that was Class 3 where the rock at a lot of exposure of both sides of this section was quiet small and with a little concentration it was easy to maneuver.
Soon we were on top of Bald Mountain and enjoying the Olympics, Three Fingers, Glacier Peak, the North Cascades and many other mountains in the region. The views on the summit were simply amazing and the mountain. To be honest this was one of the best views I have seen in months and the weather was just perfect on the mountains. We took in the views took some shot and made our trip back.
On the way back we got a little caught in the maze of trails that go through Cutthroat Lakes. Luckily though it was clear and sunny and both of us knew where or ultimate destination was so the maze of trails ended up only being a small obstacle and not a major problem. We continued the rest of the way back, often taking a picture or to along the way. With a couple hours we were back at the car but a part of us were still on that mountain enjoying the awesome views that we saw. Bald Mountain proves that Washington State can have fall foliage that can with many other places, but you just have to do a little searching to find the trees.
I want to thank Zephyr or suggesting this awesome mountain and for driving a very sleepy me to this hike. Like all the other hikes we have been on, this trip was incredible and Zephyr played a huge role in the success. I look forward to doing many more hike, scrambles, and climbs with him. It was another unforgettable adventure on what is become a very good fall.