Hiking · Local Adventures

Local Adventures: Fire & Ice Trail

Heather Meadows, below Mount Baker, holds a very special place in my heart. It was the first subalpine I visited as an adult, when I was new to hiking. It’s where I took my oldest as a preschooler, and we hiked all the trails in one summer/fall. It’s where I went the week my Mother was dying, to find solace from knowing I would never see her again. I’ve been there so many times. Some times, years ago, I would just drive up to Heather Meadows and just sit there. It grounded me.

And I love taking people with me, who I like. I want to show them why I love it so much. Even when the parking lot is full of people. For I have learned that…in this area….you lose 99% of the people within a few feet down a trail. Most are happy to picnic at one of the many tables, go to the visitor center or to just sit and look over the edge of the lot, at the views.

Remember: The entire area requires a National Forest Pass, which is $5 a day. You can buy it from a machine as you enter Heather Meadows, but can also buy one at the NF visitor center, in Glacier, Wa – and they have clean bathrooms (flush I might add – and heated too).

Fire & Ice trail is found by walking to the end of the parking lot down low. The visitor center is to your right, the trail to your left. You are not going downhill, that is the way to get to Bagley Lakes below (also worthy, as it can be a nice loop). The start of Fire & Ice is acessible, and paved. It does lose elevation so some assistance might be needed for the return, depending on the individual. The paved part ends at a huge overlook of the first Bagley Lake, with Table Mountain and Herman Peak above it.

Looking down Bagley Lakes (though the upper lake you see isn’t part of it, Bagley is down lower).

As wen entered the system I saw a bird. It was Ptarmigan. I had never seen one so low. They usually up far higher, another 2,000 feet higher. They do come down to eat though, if needed. With it showing the signs of fall coming, they may have come down to fatten up. These birds do not leave for the winter, and turn white.

Then we started listening. And realized we were seeing so many.

There was a Mama bird, a Daddy bird and omg…..4 of the cutest teenage siblings. We were glued to their coos.

They kept talking and running around in the meadows. It was so hard to leave them. This was an unexpected life bucket. On a paved front country trail. I have hiked so many miles in the backcountry in the North Cascades and only heard them. And to see 6!

The trail goes out into the massive basin, which even in mid September holds water.

Table Mountain ahead.

Looking down at lower Bagley Lake below.

One of the last flowers to bloom is Fireweed. It’s a frazzly looking flower, but none the less, is so very important.

The overlook. The paved trail stops here, but with a wide overlook and educational boards to learn more. Look across to the trail on the right side. It goes to the gap up high, along the shoulder of Herman. It crosses over to the Chain Lakes Trail and Iceberg Lake below. It’s an interesting hike.

One more view. There is an old trail on the lower left side that is now blocked off somewhat at the start, but it goes down to the lake.

Leaving the view.

The trail is dirt after leaving the overlook and winds through the meadows, touching a seasonal creek or two and crossing a couple small bridges. This tarn is as you start walking back uphill.

It’s a peaceful place.

The wind was picking up, and you could feel the weather shifting, just a bit.

A babbling brook in subalpine:

Alpine Aster. One of the last flowers of summer. These were still fresh looking.

One of the baby Ptarmigan birds, it was running to catch up with Mama and Daddy and it’s 3 siblings. There to meet us again!

Soon it will be covered in snow. Go soon to enjoy it! It’s worth the long drive, and so much of it is a quiet drive.


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