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Summer has come to an abrupt end. The good news is that wildfires no longer threaten people and their homes and soon the smoke will be gone from the valley.

Last week Mary and I and our pack of dogs headed for Harts Pass and the Pacific Crest Trail. We had a good hike to Grasshopper Pass, going past many PCT thru hikers who were anxious to keep walking. If everything went well for them, they’d be in Canada, 35 miles away, the next day. A few flowers were still blooming and we heard marmots and pikas and we ate a few huckleberries along the way. We had a little sunshine, some breezes, a little misty rain and ever-changing light. It was really lovely.

Honestly, this is my favorite hike. I’m pretty sure. We did it with Molly and Mary in August and you can see it here. It was very different in mid-October with another Mary, and Marcy and Gus and Guthrie too.

Near the end of the hike, I lingered in the sunshine, not ready to let this moment go. I was rewarded by a tiny pika perched within ten feet of me. No doubt, this little guy was relishing the moment in the sunshine too. Pikas, the smallest members of the rabbit family, live in the harsh environment of talus (rock) slopes and they do not hibernate. During the warm months, they gather greens and make ‘hay’ piles, letting them dry before storing them in a dry place under the rocks, to consume during the LONG winter months.

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.

Last weekend Marcy and I hiked to Windy Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a pleasant hike – never steep – with outstanding views all along the way. In addition to the fantastic views of the North Cascades a hiker gets to see evidence from the mining adventures dating back to the 1890’s. Given the rough and narrow road that we have to drive nowadays to get to the trailhead, it is amazing to imagine miners traveling to these distant mountains on foot or horseback and hauling immense loads of equipment too. One spot in the road is called Deadhorse Point and scares the beejebers out of some folks in cars.

Guthrie, Marcy’s dog blew out his knee last year and is just a year out from surgery and injuring his other knee. It’s good to see him running and grinning with the other dogs. Even with three dogs we got to see a little bit of wildlife including lots of ground squirrels and a few grouse.

As we finished our lunch and got ready to head back, we heard a familiar voice and saw a friend from the Okanogan. He had scaled nearby Tamarack Peak and joined us for the hike back to the parking area.

The weather was cool and sunny – perfect for a late summer hike on the PCT.

This last week has featured temperatures over 100 degrees, Fahrenheit! Our house is not designed for extremes of heat and it is difficult to keep it anywhere near a comfortable temperature. Outside, it’s been too hot to do things that need to be done. While we ignore them, the weeds grow gleefully upward, blooming and spreading their seeds. What’s a person or dog to do?

Ignore the weeds; that’s for sure.

Sunday the thermometer topped out at 110! In the morning we took the dogs and a PFD and some floaty toys and went to the lake. We got an early start so we could find a coveted place big enough for us and the dogs without bothering other recreaters. There were several rowing sculls on the water and a canoe and some people swimming for exercise or fun. The dogs were ecstatic and we threw and threw their bumpers. When I thought they might be tiring, I put them away. Sky disappeared into the bushes and came out with a brand new tennis ball! That dog has a nose for tennis balls. If you ever lose one, call on Sky and she will find it for you. But then you have to throw it for her. Again and again. We floated around in the water with PFD, just relaxing and enjoying the cooling lake. Back at home, we all felt somewhat rejuvenated and got a little bit of work done.

Late in the afternoon we packed up a picnic and drove to Harts Pass at about 6100 feet elevation. It was much cooler up there – in the sixties and it felt SO good. There was a threat of thunder storms and we had a little bit of light rain but nothing that chased us away. Ken chatted with a fellow who had just started the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), traveling north to south. He plans to arrive at Mexico in November. We wished him good luck. The mosquitoes were annoying when we ate our picnic so we ate fast. Then we headed out for a short walk on the PCT. We were greeted by pikas, hoary marmots, Swainson’s Thrushes and a few wildflowers. There were small patches of snow – nothing like last year. It’s already very dry. Many of the creeks are quite low or even dry and it’s not even July. Compare that with a day on the same part of the trail last year in July here.  The flowers are not as floriferous either.

 

 

 

 

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