Early snowfall in the North Cascades makes everyone happy around here. After two low snow years, we are hoping (against predictions) for lots and lots of snow for fun and to replenish the depleted aquifers and streams and maybe to give us a reprieve from wildfires next year.
MA and I loaded the dogs and various layers of winter clothes and drove to Rainy Pass where we found ten inches of snow on the ground and hardly any tracks. We were the first to walk to Rainy Lake. It looked like some folks had gone to Maple Pass – nothing we wanted to try in winter conditions. The dogs and especially Luna were delighted to see snow again! It seems like so much more fun for them to run and romp hard with a soft white blanket to cushion the crashes.
At the lake I attempted to re-create a portrait of Sky that I made two years ago when she was a three month old puppy. You can see the original here. It’s similar but she is looking the wrong direction. My fault!
Like a Christmas card.
Quincy and Luna
Everyone in one image
But mom, she took my stick
So quiet in the snow-covered forest
Rainy Lake looks cold
Please throw the stick
We’re not so sure about that idea
Throw the stick
Like two years ago
I’ll get it!
The older dogs slowed down on the way back
What’s over there?
An attempt at a four dog portrait
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.
Starting up the trail, not yet to Cutthroat Lake
Unexpected water on the trail
I love this enormous slab of rock. Can you see the face in it?
Quincy looks good in red
The start of our walk through the magnificent yellow larch trees
Left to Canada or right to go south. We went south.
Luna celebrated her 9th birthday the day after this 11 mile hike!
It’s so hard to get everyone to pose all at once!
Through hikers enjoying a grand view at lunch time. I wonder how many of these grand views they’ve had since spring?
Seems like one small earthquake could change the face of that mountain
Looking south into the central Casades
Lots of switchbacks make for an easy grade.
The golden larch season is fleeting. It’s best to enjoy it while we can.
Out of the larches and into the dark forest.
It was so nice to see small creeks in this drought-stricken year.
Frida blends into this creek
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!
Oh, it’s SO beautiful!
Lake Ann, one of two small mountain tarns we saw along the way
Red huckleberry foliage along the trail.
Ice crystals that emerge from the ground on cold nights.
Western larch needles. Larch is the only conifer I know that loses its needles every year.
Views, views, and more views.
See the tiny pika on the rock? Pika is the smallest member of the rabbit family. They live in talus fields like this and gather dry grasses, making little hay piles under the rocks, to eat in the winter.
You can see the downhill part of the trail above Lake Ann
The last stretch to the top
We walked up all those switchbacks.
Glacier Peak in the distance
Like being on top of the world!
Perfect lunch time view
And it was National Black Dog Day!
Already going downhill. The elevation slips away quickly on the downhill side.
Even Sky seems impressed by the color
The trail up was just on the other side of that ridge.
Last light on the peaks.
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.
It seemed too chilly to have her in the water very much. She was disappointed.
Stuff grows out of rocks
More stuff growing out of a rock
Stuff grows out of old wood
What is she saying to me?
Chipmunks on her mind
Smaller larches are already changing color
I like this rock
Two trees had fallen over the trail in this weekend’s heavy wind storm
Baby grouse at the trailhead as I arrived at the parking lot
Grouse – Dusky or Sooty? I think Sooty.
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.
Down that steep talus slope, across the basin, up to the ridge to the next trail and then up to Slate Peak. Follow the road on the other side of the ridge back to the car.
Quit fooling with your pack and let’s get going!
Oh gosh, she’s making another picture!
Looks like we’ve already gone a long way.
Gentian is one of my favorite wildflowers
I don’t know this one.
I used to know this one.
Paintbrush. There are so many variations in this colorful wildflower.
Mouse on a stick
Another one I’ve forgotten
Pretty umbel flower
Late for columbine
Normally this monkeyflower would bloom over a creek. This creek bed is dry
Downstream a few tiny pools for animals to get a drink
Waiting in the shade while I work my way slowly up to the ridgetop
This Common Raven has learned that people like to eat their lunch at the lookout
Sky thought she could put a sneak on raven
Raven simply unfolded her wings and was instantly airborne
Mount Baker, a semi-active volcano near Bellingham
Layers of mountains in the North Cascades
You can see a tiny view of Glacier Peak here. It’s another of our volcanic mountains.
North to Canada
Upper end of the Pasayten River which flows north into Canada
On the left you can see remnants of 100 year old gold mining operations
And looking down valley towards Winthrop you can see smoke from the Wolverine wildfire on the shore of Lake Chelan.