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Category Archives: North Cascades

Sky and I got an early start at a popular hiking trail last week, beating most of the swarms of hikers. We even got a great seat on the rock overlooking the lake and had it all to ourselves. And Sky did her traditional jump into an icy cold lake. Really icy. Most of it was still covered with ice! Much of the trail was snow covered or muddy too. Starting early, we avoided most of the swarms of the mosquitoes too. They were thick when we returned to the overflowing parking lot at midday.

It’s nice that more people are enjoying the outdoors but I wish they’d take better care of it and pick up their messes. And I wish the Forest Service had more money to maintain the popular sites.

My friend Mary came to visit from Montana last week. You might remember that we went to visit her and Brad last month when we went to Big Hole and Bannack. She brought her dog, Gus and we had our pack of black dogs to accompany us on our adventures around the Methow.

One day we hiked to Maple Pass, a perennial favorite hike in the North Cascades. It is a great loop hike offering some of the most easily attained stunning views of our rugged landscape. On the top of the ridge there was lots of snow to cool the dogs and even a nice pond for swimming. Unfortunately all this melting snow produced a bumper crop of mosquitoes and they were hungry for new blood – ours. Even the dogs were going nuts. All of used some herbal bug repellent which gave us a little relief but still we hardly ever came to a complete stop. That didn’t stop us from enjoying the sun and the views and having a good time.

On Saturday there was a lot of rain and I was able to finish up most of my work inside. Sunday I worked outside. And so that gave me a free day yesterday to go for a hike! What a relief to get out in the mountains again. Isn’t that what summer should be all about?

I guess today is the first day of summer and yesterday didn’t feel particularly summer-like, but on this hike, it is good to have a cool day. The trail climbs steeply, going pretty much straight up the north face of the mountain. It’s not a long hike – five miles round trip but for me it seems grueling even going down. My knees complained with every step on the downhill stretch.

But the views. They are terrific. And that’s fitting for the site of a historic lookout that continues to be staffed in the summer months. The trail also provides lots of opportunities to look at wildflowers early in hiking season. Later it will be dry and dusty. And there was lots of old snow to satisfy the dogs.

For more information about this hike the WTA website.

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!

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