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Volcano Quest III : Glacier Peak
Day 4 : Foam Creek Trail to Trailhead - Sunday, July 21
My open-air bivouac went well - I wasn't accosted by any animals or insects and I had a reasonably good sleep (the only slight negative was that my sleeping bag + overbag combo was just a wee bit underpowered for the cool night air, and there were a couple of times where I felt a bit cool - otherwise, though, a great experience). I awoke with the gradual brightening of the sky, which was once again completely clear. A slightly more waning gibbous moon shone brightly, high up in the sky above me.
Pre-dawn Bivouac
Pre-dawn Alpenglow
Monte Cristo Range, pre-dawn
The task for today was pretty simple. Follow the Foam Creek Trail back to White Pass, then head back down along the North Fork Sauk River trail to the trailhead. It was about 17km (11-12 miles) in distance, but it was almost entirely downhill. And on good trail. We'd make it back in pretty good time, I was sure.

When I had originally planned this trip, I had hoped to have a day or two extra to do some hiking with Jenn, who was currently on one of the Gulf Islands in B.C., visiting her parents. Unfortunately the weather had kept pushing our Glacier Peak climb ahead, and now we were nearly at the end of our last weekend and it was looking like we weren't going to be able to do any shared hiking at all. We still had to coordinate to meet up and fly back together, though, and to do that we needed to arrive back at the trailhead at a decent hour. All that to say, we were hoping to break camp, leave early, and arrive back at the trailhead around lunchtime.
Morning Light on Cascades
Breakfast, Day 4
Glacier Peak from Foam Creek Drainage
We made breakfast as a glorious morning broke over the Cascade Mountains. It looked to be another day of cloudless skies and good visibility. The temperature was cool, but we knew the sun would soon change that, and there was very little wind. In short, a perfect summer day.

We started off from our Foam Creek Trail campsite shortly after 6:30 a.m. Big fat industrious marmots were out in full force during the hike back along the pleasant in-and-outs of the Foam Creek Trail. We took a brief break at White Pass (which should have been called Windy Pass today, for there was a fairly strong breeze right at the pass).
Johnson Mountain and distant Rainier
Beautiful Morning on Foam Cr. Trail
Beautiful Foam Creek Trail
Chubby Marmot
Terrain of the Foam Cr. Trail
Brian, Foam Creek Trail
Another Chubby Guy
We then briefly headed north on the Pacific Crest Trail, where several trail crews were doing more excellent work (on an already excellent trail), then branched off to the left, heading down the North Fork Sauk River trail. The gentle descent through the open subalpine meadows was easy and scenic - you could almost coast down the trail without effort.
North along the PCT
Steep Mountain Meadows
Pacific Crest Trail
Down the North Fork S.R. trail
Modest Wildflowers
Sloan Peak
To the western skyline
All good things come to an end, and soon we came to the top of the switchbacks on the North Fork Sauk River trail. That meant we'd soon be descending into the trees and having to deal with some steeper grades and a bit rockier of a trail. I knew the exact number of switchbacks to go to get down to the Mackinaw Shelter, and used that as a kind of countdown to pass the time. When the number of switchbacks got to zero, we'd essentially be down at the shelter (sorry, former shelter).

At about 9:45 a.m., we arrived at the Mackinaw Shelter and took a good long break. Although it had been all downhill, it was still nice to be done with the steep bits. I was also getting a little weary of my clunky mountaineering boots and it was very nice to be able to retrieve my stored light hikers (from 3 days before, you may recall) and get those on my feet. It was now time for the final trudge (there's always the "final trudge", isn't there?) back to the cars - about 10km / 6 miles of slightly downhill - but mostly flat - trail.
Descending into forest
Suddenly cool and shady
Tree Moss
Back into the deep forest
Mackinaw Rest Break
There's no switchback count, no elevation milestones, to use as a measure of progress on the trail back from the Mackinaw Shelter to the cars. Just a lot of walking, seeing some familiar landmarks go by, like some of the avalanche scars, the big wooden log bridge over red creek, certain recognizable boulders and trees, that sort of thing. One is tired and weary and a bit sweaty, and just wanting the creature comforts of a cushy car seat and a nice cold drink from the nearest gas station.
Back to the flats
Slowly being eaten
Soft and springy
Sloan Peak Closeup
Sloan Peak
It takes us two hours and forty minutes to hike the length of the valley portion of the trail. We didn't make it quite back by noon, as I had wanted, but eh... not too bad. The parking lot is packed with cars now, which matches well with the large number of parties we've been seeing camped everywhere in the wilderness. Busy weekend in the Glacier Peak wilderness, that's for sure.

But more importantly, we're back - we're in one piece, and WE DID IT! Yes, Volcano Quest III - aka The Successful Climb of Glacier Peak - is now complete. There's a round of hand-shaking as we mark the accomplishment. Well done, everyone.
Trailhead at last
Job well done
And the final video re-cap of day 4 of the climb:
Glacier Peak Climb Day 4 - Re-cap Video
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Glacier Peak Day 4 - Foam Creek Campsite to Trailhead - click map to view

Foam Creek Campsite to trailhead - Day 4 - Hike Data
Start Time:
Start Elevation:
6259ft (1908m) *
End Time:
Max Elevation:
6285ft (1916m) *
Min Elevation:
1999ft (609m) *
17.03 km (10.58 mi)
End Elevation:
2009ft (612m) *
Average Speed:
2.6 km/hr (1.6 mph)
* : +/- 75 feet
We parted ways with Rosty at this point - he wanted to get back to do some family stuff in Seattle, and we had to get ourselves back to Vancouver to meet up with Jenn, who was coming in on the ferry from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver).
Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal
It took us the rest of the afternoon to drive back to Vancouver and over to the ferry terminal, where we picked up Jenn. We apologized for having messed up her opportunity to hike with us before the end of the trip, but she understood and in any case got to spend some quality time with some of her childhood friends (and also some extra time with her parents). We did manage to have a nice sushi dinner at one of the great sushi spots in Richmond.

The next morning, we caught our flight back to Ottawa, getting some great shots of Mount Baker and even of more distant Glacier Peak. Based on the weather we could see from the plane, it looked like that stretch of great weather that we had been privy to... it was continuing on into the week. I wonder briefly about how sherpa-guy and his companion are faring....

Looking forward to another backpack in the great stretch of mountains that are the Cascades. And I'm glad that whatever it is that we do.... it won't be Volcano Quest IV.
Bye-bye Baker
Bye bye, Glacier Peak
Note: if you'd like to see the full sequence of all of the video re-caps from all days, all strung together in one long video, please click here.
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