Truly a superlative hike and one well worth doing as an overnighter. But as all the guide books say, seriously think twice about doing this trail in poor visibility. We were fortunate that our faith in the weather forecast paid off: we had persistent drizzle and poor visibility all day until a brief clearing just before sunset, and then it cleared overnight to treat us to a spectacularly beautiful sunrise.
Our plan was to set up our tents at Camp Kiser, but since the map was ambiguous, the camp wasn’t marked on the GPS track, and the fact that we were hiking in mist and drizzle, we walked right past it and ended up camping near the end of the trail in an area that’s often under snow until late in the season. Oops. Well, kinda. With no snow, there were a maybe a dozen flat, clear spots for camping. Most of them are close to the trail, though.
At least hiking in on a drizzly day meant that it was quiet, and we shared the camping area with only one other person. (The trail was very busy on the hike out on a fine sunny day – do not expect solitude.) Good thing because there is virtually no privacy at that camping area! There are also no trees, so bring rodent-proof food storage. This area is also very exposed to the weather, and there is nothing to break the wind if it gets up.
We encountered zero snow on the trail, and as such were able to safely hike to the end of the trail at the East Portal. But there is no doubt that crossing some of those slopes with snow present would be extremely risky without the right gear and experience. The view from the East Portal down over the glaciers on Mt Baker was absolutely incredible. Just be aware that there is an almost vertical drop-off on the south side of the portal – scary!
The flower show is well and truly over, and the berry bushes are beginning to show signs of changing colour.
Remarkably for an August hike, there were no bugs to contend with. Just a pesky chipmunk near our campsite that chewed its way into an unattended bag of trail mix.
Note this area is a “blue bag” area (aka poop and scoop). Pick up one at the ranger station in Glacier or at the trailhead. Confusingly, the blue bags do *not* go into the blue bins at Artist Point (which are for recycling).
Next time we’ll take it a little easier to enjoy the view at Camp Kiser, explore the plateau near it and scramble up Coleman Pinnacle. Fun awaits! :-)