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Tag Archives: North Cascades

Last weekend I had a wedding to photograph at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake. It’s a beautiful location and a terrific venue for a wedding. There are rooms for guests to stay and wonderful food – much of it locally sourced. Diablo Lake is just over the crest of the North Cascades¬†via Highway 20. It is one of three dammed reservoirs on the Skagit River and its color is a wonderful turquoise from the glacial runoff of the high mountains. To get to the learning center, you have to cross Diablo Dam, an old structure, quite unlike the dams of the Columbia River. Sunday morning we had a nice hike to Sourdough Falls before returning home.

As the Cougar Flats fire began to explode I was high in the mountains with my friend Mary from Montana. The weather was hot that week – 100 plus degress so we were anxious to get someplace cooler. We packed a little lunch for us and the dogs and headed to Harts Pass. Indeed, it was a glorious day in high country and we were lucky to enjoy it.

Yesterday we hiked to beautiful Blue Lake in the North Cascades. What a relief from the 100 degree heat here in the valley! We saw some snow (much to the dogs’ delight) and found the lake still had a little bit of ice so that clear blue water was cold! That didn’t stop Sky from jumping off the rock in pursuit of sticks!

Every summer I try to get up to the Harts Pass area as early as possible to catch the start of high mountain wildflowers. I have to wait til the road is open and passable. There are always new washouts over the winter and the Forest Service works hard to get it open for use. Hot weather has settled into the valley so it was a great relief to get up high and enjoy the cooler mountain air and sweet little creeks flowing with melted snow. The dogs were excited to be in snow too! The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses through this region and can be accessed at several trailheads. We picked the one that goes generally south towards Grasshopper Pass from near the Meadows campground. It was a good choice with a cool breeze and enough water to keep the dogs hydrated and snow to cool their feet and bellies. The snow and water won’t last long with this hot weather. It’s too early for the through hikers to be here – they are the ones that start at the Mexican border and walk all the way to Canada. We had the trail almost all to ourselves except for the marmots, pikas and ground squirrels. We saw only three other day hikers. The wildflowers were over the top beautiful!

Once winter really settles in, the passes out of the valley to the west are closed to traffic and we find ourselves near ‘the end of the road’. So far this year, we haven’t had too much snow but it has been cold enough to freeze many of the lakes. On Sunday we took the drive up to Rainy Pass and walked through the snow to frozen Rainy Lake. Ken took his ice skates and I carried my cameras and we took the dogs too. Of course. It was mid-afternoon by the time we got up there and the sun had dropped behind the North Cascades but it was warmer up high than down here in the valley. This is a weather inversion and has caused a bit of air pollution in some places. It was a fun walk and Sky’s first real experience with snow! Nothing seems to slow her down. We did try to keep her from going to far off-trail for fear she would get stuck and we’d have to rescue her. The ice was pretty rough for skating and Ken thought it might be a little soft too but he gave it a try. The dogs loved running on it and I just tried to keep them all away from each other. Walking back to the car, the alpenglow light on the high peaks was amazing.

We are ever so grateful to live in this beautiful place.

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