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Trip Report

Yellow Aster Butte

North Cascades

Trip Report By

Hiked Oct 5, 2010

Type of Hike

Day hike
Left Seattle at 6am and found gravel road on north side of Fire Station at 9am. 5 mile ascent on bumpy gravel road to trail-head - nice to be travelling uphill in car. Out of car and scanned above with binoculars, for signs of wildlife - spotted what looked like an elk or deer? grazing at base of rock face directly above. Neat to see wildlife right away. Chilly outside - 38 degrees. Started hike at 9:20. Trail starts off with couple switchbacks then heads north west through evergreen forest. First 45 min was quite steep and I had to remove a couple layers of clothing along the way. Trail leveled out and opened up for bit, lots of frost around. Climbed again for 20min to Tomyhoi Junction. Plenty of warm sunshine as the trail flattened out and curved west around a basin. Foliage is amazing at this time of year - lots of berries around, saw few marmots near trail and snapped many pictures. The most difficult portion of the trail was behind me. The trail meanders around a few basins - mostly flat, occasionally up and occasionally down and there are stunning views of Mt Baker and Mt Shukshan along the way. Lots of places to stop and have a bite to eat. Continued onwards and after a short ascent up a ridge, I arrived at a plateau above the tarns(total hiking time 2hrs 15min). Perfect place for lunch. Numerous tarns below, large meadows with a gazillion berry patches and clear views of Mt Baker, Mt Shukshan, Mt Baker ski area, Mt Tomyhoi. No bugs, no wind and plenty sunshine. I considered dropping my pack and wandering down to the tarns and exploring a little bit. The trail up Tomyhoi peak was also appealing but that looked like it would take at least another hour. Maybe another day. I heard a very strange, loud sound that I thought was a few hundred yards away - almost like a tree falling or something, but there was no wind whatsoever. It was a sound I hadn't heard before, so I took out my binoculars and started to scan the meadows below and beyond. I thought maybe there were some people camping nearby but I couldn't see any signs. Then I put my binoculars down and continued to scan the horizon and shortly afterwards I noticed two large shadows moving in a berry patch about a 100 yards beyond the tarns. I took my binoculars out and spotted a very large mama bear with a cub. She wasn't a black bear from what I could see - she was lighter in color, almost greyish on top and massive in size. The cub was darker in color and about 1/3rd the size. They appeared to be eating berries just west of the start of the trail heading up Tomyhoi peak. My heart was beating a little faster now - first time I had ever seen a mama bear and a cub out in the mountains. Being a little too close for my comfort, I stood up and very quietly put my pack back on and headed back down the trail. Thank god for having brought binoculars I thought. The meadows surrounding the tarns are vast and I was fortunate I didn't leave my pack and wander down there, on my own. My heart was racing, thinking about what could have happened. About a 1/4 mile along my descent I saw a couple other hikers and told them to keep an eye out when they arrived at the tarns. I was able to relax now knowing there were people between me and the bears. Saw many more hikers(all ages) along the way and a trio of border patrol guards in full combat garb. This was one of the best hikes I had even been on. Lots of sunshine, no humidity, relatively short(3.45hrs round trip) no bugs, berries galore, impressive fall foliage, occasional marmots, magnificent and unobstructed views of Baker and Shukshan and to see a mama bear with a cub just off in the distance. Wish I had taken a picture of the bears but will never forget seeing them up close, in my view-finder. Will be taking bear spray with me next time.


bear sighting

what you saw was most likley a black bear. black bears are not only black. They may be brown or blond or shades in between. she is getting her winter coat.

Posted by:

bounty man on Oct 06, 2010 06:37 PM

bear sighting

I think you are right - I found some good pictures of different bears on a hunter's forum and I am now certain it was a black bear. There are so many different colors - even white ones. Thanks for the feedback!

Posted by:

above the clouds on Oct 07, 2010 09:02 AM

Bear sighting

Hi, I hiked YAB yesterday (Wednesday) and saw the the two bears on the side of Tomyhoi Peak. I had binoculars with me and they are definately black bears. Both look to be in excellent condition. I suspect that the cub is from last year and has spent the summer with mom. Marty

Posted by:

Marty; Have saw, will travel. on Oct 07, 2010 02:00 PM

perhaps not good for dogs?

I was considering hiking up Yellow Aster for quite a while, with my Australian Terrier, sounds like that the wildlife might not be safe for dogs.

Posted by:

SeattleRain on Oct 13, 2010 09:22 AM

Bear reports

Hunters carried out a black bear to the parking lot on Saturday, Oct 16. Hikers are not the only ones clicking into these reports. With posting and reporting of bears the writer might as well paint a target on them. Hunting is allowed in this area. Give the bears a break and avoid posting where they are. Let hunters go out and look for scat the old-fashion way to find where bears are. Don't let them double-click their way to the bears location.

Posted by:

Mike Collins on Oct 20, 2010 04:30 PM

Bear reports

Posted by above the clouds at Oct 24, 2010 11:36 AM
Why single out bears? What about deer and goats and fish too? Let's not post reports about any wildlife sightings during hunting season(s). Seriously? I can't believe this is even an issue - regardless of what side of the fence you are on....
I think people that are opposed to hunting could instead be spending more time writing letters and educating our elected representatives of the benefits of abolishing all hunting in the State of Washington. These animals are far more valuable alive than they are dead. The WDFW points out that revenue generated from wildlife viewing is 5 times as more lucrative than hunting these beautiful creatures. Write letters, educate hunters, lobby for larger protected areas, and ALWAYS post accurate trip reports of wildlife - if you are opposed to hunting you owe it to the animals to post reports - this is their habitat and you should be letting everyone know where they live.

Posted by:

above the clouds on Oct 24, 2010 12:31 PM