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Tag Archives: North Cascades

To the mountains. The season to visit is short and seems shorter each year. Maybe because of aging and the sense that time flies ever faster each year, or maybe because of the impact from fires on our small community. Whatever it is, I always feel like I don’t get enough time in the mountains. So on Friday I left at noon, knowing it would be a long drive and I’d not have too much time, but it was worth it. The dogs were ecstatic to play in the old snow and I relished the early summer mountain wildflowers – some so similar to what bloomed here months ago and others much different. The weather was cool and there was a little bit of rain. We didn’t care.

The dogs really enjoy running and playing in snow. They take turns being the chaser and the chasee but Luna gets to decide when it’s game over.

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The flowers and the views were outstanding. Swainson’s and Hermit Thrushes sang from the tops of trees and under the brush.

The girls and I hiked to Black Lake on Friday. This hike is more about the trail than the destination. It follows Lake Creek which is really roaring with white water now. I was pleased that the girls stayed away from the rushing stream. The area burned about ten or fifteen years ago and is a recovering forest with standing silver snags, numerous species of shrubs and wildflowers and in some places there are thick stands of small pine trees and aspens. Every year lots of those silver snags fall, often across the trail, and it hasn’t been logged out yet. According to the information at the trailhead, there are 48 downed trees along the route. This certainly slows a person down. Most I could get across; some I had to go under and in at least one case I had to go around a big log.

Another feature is a series of beaver ponds near the lake. These efficient engineers have dammed up a tributary creek and created some really good habitat but also have flooded the trail in places. It proved to be a bit of a challenge for me to get across a series of downed logs over the pond to return to the trail.

The flowers and bird song slowed me down too. I was able to identify four different warblers by their songs alone. I stopped many times when the trail was away from the stream, so I could listen to the birds and photograph the flowers. Needless to say, I did not make good time on this hike but like I said, it’s more about the trail than the destination.

And here’s the list of birds I heard and saw:

Ruffed Grouse

Mourning Dove

Calliope Hummingbird

Hairy Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Hammond’s Flycatcher

Dusky Flycatcher

Warbling Vireo

Common Raven

Black-capped Chickadee

Pacific Wren

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

American Robin

Nashville Warbler

MacGillivray’s Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Chipping Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Song Sparrow

Spotted Towhee

Black-headed Grosbeak

Red-winged Blackbird

Pine Siskin

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!

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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