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Category Archives: North Cascades

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!

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.

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