Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Early Season Hiking in the North Cascades

After the Olympic peninsula, we turned east and started heading home.  I always notice that point in the trip - when I am the farthest away - and that first step that takes me back the way I came.

That step took us through Seattle.

Like, literally, through.  We drove right through and didn't stop.  Yeah, it's cool, and it's a city and it just wasn't that interesting. I did see the Spacey Needle from the ferry, which was all I wanted.

On to the North Cascades!

The North Cascades are AWESOME because there is NO way to experience them from your car. The drive through Rt. 20 shows tall green hills - and that's it.  The landscape is SO rugged that it's simply impossible to build roads through it (like Nepal!).  The mountains reveal themselves only to hikers, climbers, and skiiers.  In contrast to Yosemite Valley, the North Cascades is one of the least frequented National Parks.  Le sigh.

not building a road across that for sure.
The downside to the ruggedness of the landscape and the higher altitude?  Most everything is still snowbound.  Axe and crampons and the experience to use them properly are strongly recommended, if not required.  None of which we had packed in The Matrix's turtle shell top.

we did not cook dinner at this trailhead. because we could not get to the trailhead.
We were able to do two moderate day hikes (9-10 miles, 2-3000 feet elevation gain):  Cascade Pass and Fourth of July Pass.

Cascade Pass takes you past up to the shoulder of Johannesburg Peak and/or The Triplets (don't have a map at the moment) and gives you views of the Pelton Basin.

johannesburg panorama
The hike itself is super easy.  I like how these western trailbuilders use switchbacks.  No erosion, and you can chug along at a steady pace.  Adirondacks, take note!

The last switchback had several snowfields, one of which covered a talus slope.

this was a little sketchy
We had microspikes, and I had poles.  It was late in the day and the snow was mush, so Dave punched down steps for me, and we were fine.

And we got views like this:

looking into pelton basin
at the foot of the triplets (?)
On the bright side, because it's so early in the season, we were able to hike the most popular trail in the park without seeing more than a half-dozen people.  Score!

The next day, we hiked up to Fourth of July Pass.  This is a lower pass, and we didn't encounter any snow at all.  But holy switchbacks: this trail was pretty steep, and we had The Day Three Blues (third consecutive day of hiking to mountain passes = tired legs).

holy switchbacks batman
From the top, you get some nice views of the Neve Glacier and Klawatti Peak and Klawatti Glacier.

klawatti peak and glacier
neve glacier
Honestly, it wasn't as pretty as Cascade Pass.  The color of Thunder Creek was so cool, though - a pearly turquoise green blue.  The glaciers grind down the mountains to dust, and this "rock flour" gives the water it's color.

neat color, eh?
I'd love to come back here when there is either a) less snow (=awesome backpacking) or b) more snow and the right gear.

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