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Yesterday the girls and I joined with Molly (remember Molly from last year?) and Mary for a nice hike, mostly above tree line in the North Cascades. We drove through a layer of wildfire smoke to get to the trailhead and found perfect blue skies with fluffy clouds. Ground squirrels and hoary marmots and pikas gave their warning calls as we walked by.  At the end of the hike we could see the smoke column from the Diamond Creek wildfire east of us. In the meantime we were treated to vast vistas of mountains in all directions. We all felt grateful to have this in our ‘backyard’. The dogs were most grateful for the last of the snow and a creek of snow melt leading to a clear refreshing pond for cooling off.

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year here. So far. It reached 100 on the valley floor. Sheesh. Did I mention that we are completely without air conditioning for at least another couple of weeks? It’s enough to make a girl and her dogs crazy.

We drove up Boulder Creek to the Freezeout Pass trailhead and headed up the trail to 8242 foot Tiffany Mountain. It was 73 when we started. I was soon sweating on the steep trail through the burned forest. Many trees have blown over since last summer (sort of like the situation at my house) so there was quite a bit of clambering over and around the deadfall. Once we got out of the trees, it was the same steep, rocky ascent to the summit. Horned Larks were all around us. This is a place where they nest each summer. The snow has only recently melted up there but already it’s very dry and dusty most of the way along the trail. Wildflowers are just getting started. They could use a little bit of rain but none is in the long range forecast. At the top, the view was the best I’ve ever seen up there. Not a cloud in the sky and little haze either. I could see Mount Baker and Glacier Peak to the west and Moses Mountain to the east. And there wasn’t much wind either. On the way down, the wind picked up and I didn’t linger in the burned forest. The trees groaned and creaked and swayed in the wind.

We stopped at Boulder Creek to cool our feet on the way home. The dogs probably enjoyed that part more than the hike. I experimented with using my knee as tripod to get some pretty water images.

Back at home, it was 87, in the house.

The girls and I have not been getting out enough lately. Both of them are still in bed, not even asking to go outside or have breakfast. That is nearly unheard of around here. We had a lovely outing to Slate Peak yesterday but I didn’t think it was overly strenuous. Must have been all that fresh mountain air and the cold streams.

I was told that the road to Harts Pass was open although not all the way to the trailhead near Meadows or to the lookout parking lot. Sure enough, that was the case. Several cars were parked at the last PCT trailhead with lots of hikers and walkers heading north on the well-worn path. Luna and Sky and I simply walked over the snowbanks and up the road to the lookout. It’s only a mile and a half walk and we had it all to ourselves. The flowers were amazing and the mountain views were beyond beautiful. Later we walked near Meadows and saw more wildflowers and clear mountain streams.

It was a nice day.

Yesterday was our sixth wedding anniversary! To celebrate, we hiked to our wedding spot and then on to Aspen Lake. It was a gloriously warm morning – we are finally getting nice weather. The wildflowers are at the peak of their bloom. Yes, it really was that vibrant. Bird song filled the air.

Last week Marcy and I and Guthrie and Sky hiked over Cutthroat Pass, starting at Rainy Pass and ending at the Cutthroat trailhead. We knew the weather was iffy and carried extra clothes and gear. The first half of the route is on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and several through hikers passed us, moving at a pretty fast clip aiming to be in Canada in just three days. They had only seventy miles to the end of their long journey from Mexico. I always wonder about the long-distance hikers and, if by the time they reach this scenic area, do they even care how beautiful it is? Or are they just walking with their heads down, hoping to get this grueling hike over as soon as possible? No doubt, they have seen lots of wonderful mountain scenes along the way.

We took our time. It was ten and a half miles and we both made many photos along the way. We stopped for lunch before the pass thinking it might be too windy and cold on top to be able to relax. It never did get terribly cold. There was some frozen precipitation before the pass but it was hard and dry and we never needed our rain gear. Near the top we were treated to splashes of blue sky but the sun never materialized til we were almost finished. We did stop at the pass where it was not windy and were treated to a flock of Mountain Bluebirds!

The blue sky and bluebirds were a great contrast to the fall colors of the larch trees and mountain ash and other deciduous plants.

As we headed down, I was surprised that Sky remembered there was a lake down there. She has only done that route downhill twice before. That dog never forgets an opportunity to jump in a lake after a stick.

Winter is coming quickly to the mountains. Now the passes and peaks are snow-covered. I hope to get up there another time or two but it might not happen. So glad I went last week.

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