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Last weekend I spent a day hiking on Mount Baker: Railroad Grade, Trail #603.2 (Forest Service, no Hiker Bob link (site was down)). The trail starts at 3300 ft (according to Green Trails #45), and Kiel and I estimated that we hiked in 4 miles and lunched at 6000 ft-ish.
Railroad Grade is cool for a few reasons:
-- It just is. You’re above the tree line, and the views are sweet. Go on a sunny day for best results.
-- There are two other trails that share the trailhead: Scott Paul; Park Butte. One is just 1.5 miles more, the other is 6 miles more. You can do Scott Paul as a loop.
-- Nostalgia. 11 years ago, we summer interns got a hot tip from Sam and took a Saturday off (we worked... a lot...) up on the Railroad Grade trail. The party included Russell, Brian, Eric, and me. Being a home-body from Michigan, this was new. Mountains in the horizon were not part of everyday life, nor was the ability to make yourself part of that horizon.
I’ve lived 9 summers in Washington since my first trip up Railroad Grade, and not one has gone by without my thinking about “that trail I took back then.” Finding this trail was something of a quest of mine. Thanks again to Sam and his mad memory skillz for helping me re-find it last week.
There was always one scene from the trail that really stuck out, and I was able to re-experience it:
The trail follows the top of a ridge for nearly a mile and leads to Easton Glacier. On one side of the trail, there’s a steep drop-off to the rocks and dirt of the Metcalf Moraine; on the other side, there is a fairly steep slope of green ground cover, sporadic trees, scurrying marmots, and spots of snow that hadn’t got the memo that it was 80+ degrees F. And all this competing with Mount Baker itself which is right there in front of you.
Another thing I remember was the cool chain and wood bridge over Rocky Creek a little over a mile from the trailhead. When I heard the trickle of the creek, I pulled my camera out to capture the bridge coolness only to find that, after rounding the corner, there was no bridge. It had been washed out in the spring floods. All that's left is one of the bridge's supports (see in the picture on the right).
For your FYI: because this trail is so cool, lots of day-trippers visit. There were at least 70+ people on the trail that day. This isn’t the trail for people looking for solitude--this is the trail for people looking for fantastic views-itude.
Holy smokes, folks. You gotta check it out. The trail lives up to the hype.