Friday, July 23, 2010

Yellow Aster Butte

The Yellow Aster Butte trailhead can be found five miles from the Mount Baker Highway and lies to the north of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan with fabulous views of both peaks.  I hiked the trail Monday, July 19th, with a friend.  We hit the trail at about 7:30 am and returned about 1:00 pm, a round trip of about seven miles.

False Helleborine

The first part of the trail leads through open avalanche slopes with several seeps.  We found penstemons, tiger lilies, thistles, monkey flowers, both yellow and purple, spirea and numerous other wildflowers in bloom, including the well-known houseplant, native to the Northwest, Tolmeia menziesii, the Piggyback Plant.

Piggyback Plant

Indian Thistle and Hardhack (Spirea douglasii)

Columbia Lily

Rosy Twisted Stalk

The areas was alive with butterflies and insects and I managed to get a couple of good pictures of a Bee Fly on the flowers of the Piggyback Plant and a butterfly which I believe to be a California Tortiseshell (Nymphalis californica).  I was not able, however, to get a picture of the butterfly with its wings opened.

We also found two orchids growing in the wetter areas, the Tall White Bog Orchis, Platanthera dilatata var. dilatata, and the Slender Bog Orchis, Platanthera stricta.  We had seen both of these in the ditches along the road up to the trailhead as well.

The trail brought us into a cool shady old-growth forest.  There we found one more orchid, the Northwestern Twayblade, Listera banksiana, only about eight inches tall.  These were only starting to bloom, but the open flowers were distinctive.

As the trail brought us to the end of the woods we began to find a lot of snow covering the trail and had to find our way by following the footprints of others, not always so easy since some of them lead away from the main trail.  There, even in the bare areas little was growing since the snow was only recently melted.

Where the trail came out of the forest and curved around to the west and then the south the trail was mostly free of snow.  These on the slopes above the trail we saw what must have been millions of Glacier Lilies, far more than I had ever seen before in one area.

We also found the Western Pasque Flowers, Anemone occidentalis, and a tiny yellow violet, probably Viola glabella, the Stream Violet.  We saw a Northern Waterthrush but were unable to get any pictures.

All this brought us around to the south and to spectacular views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan.  Here, however, we had to hike across snow, which in the sunlight was blindingly bright and very hard hiking.  Only where the trail finally ascended the ridge did we leave the snow behind.

Mount Shuksan


A short steep climb brought us to our final destination where we took photos, enjoyed the scenery and turned back for the hike to the car and the ride home.  We couldn't have asked for better weather, better scenery or anything better wildflowers than the Glacier Lilies.

Note: Most of the scenic views were taken by my friend, Judah.  My son had my 17-85mm lens and I had nothing along for taking pictures of the scenery.


  1. Oh you need a little Cannon SD 1200 IS for those lack -o-equipment moments.

    Tuck in pocket

    Aren't Piggy back plants fun. They always amaze me with their bounty of details

  2. Marti,

    We used to have a bunch of Point and Shot cameras and we don't have a single one around any more. Probably should get one.

    Didn't realize how intricate the flowers of the Piggyback Plant were until I saw the photos.

    You going on the Lk. Elizabeth hike next Saturday? It's well worth the trip if you've not been up there.

  3. Yea. Almost missed the Piggybacks, they're so small. We didn't see them on the way up.

    We could have had something better: we could have seen some morels! Haha.

  4. Wouldn't have minded some morels to saute for our supper.


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