Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mountain Wanderlust

It all started with a little whine. When Brian got my message about how I just had to get out of town and into the mountains, he quickly returned my call and we began planning our escape. My wanderlust had been restricted lately due to responsibilities, injury and poor weather but the need was building and I was getting cranky so we packed up the car and headed north and east on Monday morning. Our camping destination was Newhalem, home of Seattle City Light in the North Cascades National Park and also where there was a great car-camp area and a visitor's center and views to the Picket Range.

I got out of the car to check out our chosen spot, #37 (my lucky number) and my eyes had to readjust to the brilliant greens of moss, ferns and leaves of many different shades. It was as though the forest was aglow – it was the right spot to be in. Once we set up camp, we headed out on a walk, first along the Skagit River which was moving at a dizzyingly fast speed, then into the woods, then up Newhalem Creek, over to Ladder Creek Falls and back through the booming metropolis (not really, just a small store with fresh fudge and SCL housing) of Newhalem and to our home for the night. Several hours of easy walking with cameras and tripod, shooting as we went.

It was dinner time and I suggested we eat out... at the Diablo Lake overlook along Hwy 20. I have done a lot of cycling along that highway, up and down in both directions (in the same day, even) and so I am always amazed when I drive it because it seems tough even in a car with 160 horse-power, though we were going a bit faster. The overlook turned out to be just right for dining: light wind to keep the bugs away, lingering sunshine from the west, views to Colonial Peak and Paul Bunyan's Stump to the south and Jack Mountain to the north, all from where we were perched, beneath a pergola. We opted for the no-cook dinner of tortillas with pesto, mozzarella and prosciutto which seemed to excite the raven population which was either going to wait for handouts or would dive-bombed their intended treasures, we weren't sure which.

After returning to our camp from dinner, we weren't long for sleep and all I had to do was read about some backpack trips I'd like to do from the WTA magazine I had brought along and eyelids started to droop. In the morning, it was incredibly clear but cool at our corner of the woods so we drove to breakfast at the Visitor's Center, firing up the Pocket Rocket for oil-dark coffee and oatmeal in the sunshine. The sun warmed up quickly and we shed clothes, then broke camp and packed up for an easy day of hiking, though we weren't sure yet where.

We considered Ross Lake overlook and there was some confusion about where exactly that was, since there is a large parking lot for the Ross Lake Resort, but it's not an overlook so we kept going and going... and going. Soon, Brian commented that the overlook seemed like it should be within a few miles and I casually mentioned that we were long past Ross Lake and it's only, oh,
about 20 miles to Washington Pass and it's so lovely out and what a scenic drive and ooh, aah, check out those peaks and, hey, I've hiked that trail and that one, until suddenly, we were turning in to the Washington Pass Overlook.

At the risk of sounding like all we did was drive, take strolls and eat, I will admit that we pulled out the cooler and found a seat with a view of Liberty Bell and Early Winters Spire and had lunch; it was that time of day. Then, we headed up the trail that was supposedly closed, but the man with the machine was on his lunch break, so we were free to wander, which is exactly why we came in the first place. We quickly made our way to the highest point and sat down, feeling dizzy. It wasn't just from the altitude – the mountains rose up in front of us so close and clear and sharp that the sight was one that made me dizzy (and for the fact that I could see straight down to the highway below, about 800 feet or more). It was so beautiful and just what I needed, like the antidote to city living, a mountain girl returning home.

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