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Tag Archives: North Cascades

This is another great fall hike! We started at the Cutthroat trailhead and hiked five and a half miles to the pass where we connected with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and hiked down another five or so miles to Rainy Pass where we had left a second car in the morning. We did not have the blue skies and sunshine of the previous week’s hike and that made the dogs a lot more comfortable. Also there were numerous stream crossings, especially on the Rainy Pass side, where the dogs could wet their whistles. At the pass we saw quite a few PCT through hikers who were nearly to their goal on their hike from Mexico to Canada. The ones we talked to said they should reach the border in just four more days. They were all cheerful and looked healthy and hearty. After such a long journey on foot, I think I expected them to look gaunt and tired.

The Maple Pass/Heather Pass loop hike may be one of the best, easily accessible fall hikes in the North Cascades. The fall foliage colors are outstanding. Combined with endless blue skies and surrounding mountain peaks and throw in a couple of brilliant tarns and it is sure to take your breath away.

My friend Cindy drove 2 1/2 hours to join me and all along the hike she kept saying – look at that, isn’t that just the prettiest sight. She was right. We did this seven-mile loop in a clockwise direction. This took us up the steepest part and down the more gradual sloping trail. We find that this is better for our feet, ankles and knees. Most other hikers went the other direction. We heard lots of pikas and got good looks at one of them. At the top of the ridge, a dark falcon went whizzing by us at top speed. It was so close we could almost feel the wing beats.

This is a lot of images. You should see what I left out!

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.


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