Excelsior Pass – High Divide

Link to full album.

Again, considering Boomer, we looked for easy backpacking trips that either he could walk, or we could carry him to enjoy. The trail to Excelsior Pass is pretty short and less than 2,000ft gain to great views of the north side of Baker. Friday night we drove the long and shockingly paved road up the Cascade Creek valley, stumbling upon a huge open area along Cascade Creek that was ideal to claim for the night.

With another fairly early start, we had some skepticism about scoring a decent campsite on the trail up near the pass, so we thought there might be some spots along Damfino Lakes, just a short mile or so from the trailhead. However, there weren’t any that seemed eco-viable, so we took our chances and continued to the pass, which was only another mile or two above us. The last bit was steep (as it usually is), and we checked out a campsite off to the side before the pass, but it was occupied, so we continued up to the pass, hopeful.

Up to the pass, where views of Baker were stunning, we were shocked to find the primo campsite was open; the site is in a private but large copse of trees; plenty of room for a few tents and hammocks. It was early in the hunting season, so every fourth hiker seemed to carry a bow, rifle, or shotgun. We talked to several of the hunters and few saw any bears, and even if then, they were on a too-distant ridge and were gone by the time they got there.

It was prime berry season and Becka was focused on her harvest, so she spent hours foraging from a great patch adjacent to camp. The camp is at the intersection of Excelsior Pass on the High Divide trail, which heads seven or so miles to the east towards Yellow Aster Butte (YAB), one of the most popular areas for hikers and backpackers. That day, though, there was a bike event on State Route 20 over 3,000ft below us which limited access to YAB, so many folks that were headed there diverted to Excelsior Pass via the same route we took. This meant there was a constant stream of visitors coming through. Baker eventually realized that all the folks coming through were fine and not invading our campsite. Boomer was content snoozing or wandering around, though we had to keep an eye on him because a few times he wandered out of sight, and we had to track him down.

Mt. Baker glowed in the clear sunset and we settled in our wind-protected camp spot. Next morning, Becka took (dog) Baker east to traverse the High Divide trail before sunrise, heading up Excelsior Peak before meandering up and down 5 miles or so each way to Welcome Pass and back. Meanwhile, Boomer and I managed to get up and down Excelsior Peak, snapping sunrise pics and then started to pack camp while we relaxed and waited for Becka’s return.

We headed down with Becka carrying Boomer and me carrying an equitable portion of her payload to offset Boomer’s 25lbs, passing many dayhikers along the way.

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