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Tag Archives: North Cascades

It seems crazy to have two posts in a row about hiking to Blue Lake. And what if I said that I’d been there another time in between these two hikes? Getting to the Blue Lake trailhead is an easy drive, all on pavement and the trail is not too long – less than three miles – to a superb destination. It’s pretty heavily used but if you time it right, it is a sweet spot.

Highway 20 to the west of us had been closed due to a wildfire at Newhalem in the North Cascades National Park. That meant that most of the traffic across Rainy and Washington Passes was non-existent! Ken wanted to go this weekend and even though I’d already been there twice in the last two weeks, it seemed like a good idea. Weather had moderated and our lives were returning to normal as the wildfires burning all around us were becoming contained. The highway opened while we were hiking.

If I could I’d be up in the mountains most of the summer. But that’s not practical. There’s work to do, a house and yard to keep up, and various other commitments in this life. Yesterday I played hooky from the computer taskmaster and headed to one of my favorite places – Slate Peak. I’ve made up my own hike and returned to it each year in mid-summer. Combining two trails, a bit of a cross-country climb and a walk down on a road I’ve come up with a nearly four-mile loop hike through the high Cascades of northern Washington. Last summer Mary from Montana joined me on this hike and you can see images from that day here. As you can see, it’s vastly different this year. Even accounting for the two week difference in dates the differences are huge. Yesterday there was no snow. Anywhere. Most of the little creeks are already dry. The wildflowers are far less numerous.

Here are the images from yesterday’s hike.

 

A couple days ago, the dogs and I got up and out early in the morning to find some respite from the heat. We made the short drive to the Blue Lake trailhead and were on the trail by 7:30! The forest was cool and damp and there were dew drops on the shrubs. We haven’t had dew in the valley for quite a while. At home the temperature continues to linger in the high 90’s and low 100’s during the afternoon so we needed a break. ‘They’ say there will be a break in this heat but with that break we have the promise of lightning.

Wildflowers were lush along parts of the trail. Crossing an avalanche chute, the views opened up into the North Cascades. At the lake we enjoyed the sight of the back of Liberty Bell, the iconic rock formation that dominates the horizon at Washington Pass.

We were the first to make the 2.2 mile hike that morning and had the lake nearly to ourselves all the time we were there. Going down, after we passed the halfway mark, we saw numerous hikers going up in the growing heat of the day. I imagine a few of them enjoyed the waters of Blue Lake almost as much as Sky did.

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.

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