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Before hiking in the North Cascades this holiday, check a few things first

A view from the Lake Ann Trail off Mount Baker Highway in Whatcom County. This popular hike likely will be a busy place this Labor Day weekend, provided the sun can push away the rain.
A view from the Lake Ann Trail off Mount Baker Highway in Whatcom County. This popular hike likely will be a busy place this Labor Day weekend, provided the sun can push away the rain. krelyea@bhamherald.com

It’s Labor Day weekend, the unofficial last hurrah of summer.

If you’re itching to get out into the North Cascades, here are a few things rangers at Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and North Cascades National Park said you should keep in mind:

▪ Check road and trail conditions before you go – either online or at the ranger station that serves the area you’re heading into – to make sure you can get to them.

For example, Mount Baker Highway is closed from Silver Fir Campground, milepost 46.5, east to Picture Lake at milepost 54, until Thursday, Sept. 1, basically preventing road access for Artist Point between 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. until crews are done with paving work. The project should be done in time for the weekend.

Questions and current conditions for Mount Baker-Snoqualmie? Call the Glacier Public Service Center at 360-599-2714, or go to fs.usda.gov/mbs.

For North Cascades National Park, go to nps.gov/noca or call 360-854-7200 and 360-854-7245.

▪ Expect lots of other vehicles, especially if it’s a sunny weekend (though weather forecasts tell us that the sun won’t poke its head out of the clouds until Sunday). Be prepared for slow-moving traffic and bicycles riding along Mount Baker Highway east of Glacier.

Parking lots will fill up, so the earlier you get to a trailhead the better. With so many hikers and visitors expected, park your vehicle so you’re not blocking others from getting in or out.

▪ Take your pet’s poop with you.

“We have noticed an increase in people bagging pet waste and leaving the bags behind. Please pack the bag with you, do not leave it behind to pick up later,” said Magenta Widner, forestry technician for Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

▪ Do you have the right pass? Most trailheads and the Heather Meadows Area, including Picture Lake and Artist Point, require a Northwest Forest Pass, which costs $30 a year, or Interagency Pass – at a cost of $80 a year, unless you’re 62 years or older and then it’s a one-time fee of $10 – to be displayed in the vehicle.

Buy them at Forest Service offices and local vendors. Heather Meadows also has cash-only fee tubes available for day passes, which cost $5.

▪ If you’re camping, check before you light that fire. The recent cooler weather and light rain haven’t eased burn bans imposed by the state and Whatcom County.

All outdoor burning, including campfires and charcoal cooking fires, was banned Aug. 17 on state lands – including campgrounds – a restriction that’s in place until Sept. 30.

There is no blanket ban at developed campgrounds on federal land in the Mount Baker Ranger District, for example, but many trails and campsites have permanent fire bans.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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