Mount Pilchuck

April Leftovers

I built up a little backlog during the month of April so here’s a quick hit series of photos.
Big Four Mountain
Big Four Mountain detail
Sunny spring day and Big Four Mountain
Skykomish River Valley near Sultan
Cumulus clouds over the summit of Mount Pilchuck
Mount Stickney and Wallace Falls
Mount Pilchuck summit detail
High above the Skykomish River valley near Sultan
Mount Stickney and Wallace Falls
Sunset from Monroe
Storm clouds over Mount Pilchuck from Fairfield County Park in Monroe, Washington
Sunset clouds over Lord Hill from Fairfield County Park in Monroe, Washington
Sunset clouds over Lord Hill from Fairfield County Park in Monroe, Washington
Full moon rising above Haystack Mountain
West Face of Vesper Peak (L), Glacier Peak (C), and Morning Star Peak (R) from Monroe, Washington
Mount Baker Ski Area Vicinity
Spring melt along Razor Hone Creek
Moss on Maples, North Fork Nooksack River valley
Moss on Maples, North Fork Nooksack River valley
I also made this timelapse from my lofty perch above the Skykomish River valley:

Waiting for Auroras

Late afternoon high above the Baker Lake valleyAuroras are trademarks of the high latitudes such as Alaska, Norway, and Canada. It is much rarer to see them at the lower latitudes of places like Seattle. After a tremendous solar burst last week, that’s exactly what was forecasted for the weekend. Sometime in the early 2000s, I saw some aurora activity from the front yard of my house in Everett and it was mesmerizing. I desperately wanted to capture the auroras above some of our fine northwest scenery.

There have been some near misses in terms of seeing auroras over the last couple years and that gave me some time to figure out where to go. Over time, I finally found my “spot” in the Baker Lake vicinity of Mount Baker. My location looked to have a great view of both Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker and was fairly accessible. Predictably, the weather slowly degraded as Saturday arrived. Clouds would be bad enough but persistent afternoon thunderstorms in the mountains really threatened to ruin any chance we had.

Clouds and the Twin Sisters range in late afternoon light
Partial view of Mount Shuksan in late afternoon lightAs the afternoon went on, the storm activity seemed to tail off and so we gave it a go. Surprisingly, the Forest Service roads were bone dry; the thunderstorms never dropped their payload in this area. Despite some concerns about having to hike on snow to our destination, everything ended up being snow free. Even better, the site I had researched turned out to be great. Mount Baker remained cloaked behind thick clouds but Mount Shuksan had a horizontal slit across its mid flanks. I think the struggling optimists inside of us hoped that the pockets of blue sky were the beginnings of a clear night sky.

Below us, the Baker Lake valley was filling with clouds and gradually creeping up the valley sides. Sunset drew closer and closer bringing color to the various clouds across the sky. As daylight continued to fade, so did our hopes for clear skies in this area. After sunset, the clouds finally swallowed us whole. It was still early enough to come up with a Plan B. It was tough but some reports of clear skies back down in Snohomish County lured us back closer to home. The Mount Pilchuck trail head was our Plan B and two hours of driving later, we were there.

View across the Baker Lake valley in late afternoon
Twin Sisters range and clouds as sunset approaches
Twin Sisters range and clouds as sunset approachesClear skies were directly overhead but clouds filled the northern skies. no auroras were visible to the naked eye. Or were they?…..While taking some night shots, my peripheral vision seemed to catch a shimmer in the sky. Clouds were still thick so I wasn’t sure what I saw. On one of my shots, there was a small green orb. The auroras! Sadly, that would be all that we would see. It was now pushing 2am; we now accepted the bitterness of defeat and drove home. Hopefully soon, the skies will cooperate and we will capture the auroras. One of these days…

Mount Baker's east slopes and a cloud filled Baker Lake valley
Mount Baker fades from view
Mount Shuksan at sunset
The summit pyramid of Mount Shuksan pokes above the clouds at sunset
Aurora borealis peeking through cloudy skies at Mount Pilchuck

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