Mt. Baker Blueberry Fields Forever
About this time last year, Jen and I went hiking on a trail to the east side of Baker Lake on a wet and bitterly cold day. The only thing that was remarkable about that day was the abundance of wild blueberries which we found whenever the trail crossed an alpine meadow. We didn’t take full advantage of nature’s bounty, unfortunately; we hadn’t brought any sort of container-vessel to bring back some berries with us, and we weren’t going to sit for very long in the freezing rain to pick them from the ankle-height plants.
When we realized that last week would probably be the final gasp of the abbreviated summer which we had this year, and that the blueberries were probably as ripe as they were going to get, we decided to return to Mt. Baker and partake in the bounty of our great land.
So after a bit of a drive, including a very enjoyable 5+ mile climb up Forrest Service road 13 to the trailhead (which the old Sue-baru ate up like a piece of apple pie a’la mode), we started walking uphill. We began on the Park Butte trail, which took us through the Schriebers Meadow, and then off to the Railroad Grade trail. Overall it was nothing too intense, only about 2600 feet gained over three or four miles, but since much of the hike was on relatively flat meadows, when you start going up, it is becomes, um, lightly challenging. Schrieber’s Meadow had some blueberries and huckleberries, and had a rich, ripe-berry fragrance throughout, but seemed fairly well picked through, since this was the closest part of the trail to the road. We hardly paused at all to snack. When we arrived at Morovitz’s Meadows after almost two miles, then we started slowing down to enjoy the berries.
Looking south towards the central Cascades:
It would have been nice for the photos if the weather had been a little clearer, but it was a great day. I’m not going to complain too much. Here, Jenny harvests some blueberries. She’s a little faster and more diligent about not eating the profits of our efforts than I am.
After about a half quart, we continued on.
Here is the beginning of the climb up the moraine. It is narrow, steep, and quite stunning to look from.
Looking up at Mt. Baker, with the Easton Glacier furthest down from the peak of the mountain:
It wasn’t really that cold, but certainly windy enough to warrant some long sleeves:
Ana was probably glad to have the fur coat which she carries with her everywhere:
Eventually we came to a nice little spot for lunch:
Looking at the pretty scenery:
The Easton Glacier:
As it turns out from my subsequent reading, we could have gone further up the trail to the point where Alpine climbers begin their ascent on the glaciers up to the summit. Aside from the scenic views, general-outdoors-enjoyment-stuff, and exercise, we had a more important task on our agenda: the collection of wild blueberries. So we turned back down the slope and got a pickin’.
Finally, after much effort and a little snacking. we departed with a quart and a half of berries! Most of them are very small, 1/4″ in diameter or less, so it took a while. But they’re soooo worth it:
Here is a grove of trees which are dying from Pine Bark Beetles. Thanks, global warming! You’re the best:
And as the light was fading, we hopped back across Rocky Creek:
Yes, Jenny made it across without getting wet, it was very easy; having Gore-Tex shoes are a nice assurance, though. Also, Ana went across before I could get my camera out to photograph her.
This was one of the most stunning hikes that I’ve been on in the past few years. Mt. Baker is definitely not the iconic peak of the state, but it is still completely spectacular to see it from so close. All the other times I’d been to it in 10+ years, in both the summer and the winter, it has been concealed by clouds. Rain and/or snow has usually been falling out of these clouds, to make the experience all the more enjoyable. So, for me, hiking up it’s base with decent visibility was a visual revelation.
So, more importantly, what did we do with the blueberries?
First of all, “we” (as in, “I”) snacked. Then, the next morning we had blueberry pancakes, made from scratch. Which were awesome, but went un-photographed.
Then, on Saturday morning, I made scones. The (ahem, Cook’s Illustrated) recipe I used called for an entire stick of butter (!!!), which works out to one tablespoon per scone. Yikes! Not to mention two tablespoons of sour cream per scone that was included!
After many miles of running the past few years, I’m nearly back down to my high school soccer playing weight, and I didn’t want to backslide just to make follow the formula for perfect, buttery-flaky scones. So, I substituted apple sauce for half the butter and used some skim milk and yogurt instead of the sour cream. Despite the substitutions, the scones were still pretty good, mostly carried by the awesomeness of the world’s most perfect blueberries:
Any suggestions on what to do with the final pint of berries we have in the fridge?