Friday, August 31, 2012

Wonderful Wandering Week

I hesitate to extol upon the great virtues of the North Cascades Institute for fear that they will become so popular that every weekend will be booked and I won't be able to stay there again. However, it was such a wonderful and blissful week that I'm willing to take that risk.

We (Nicole, Jennifer, Mark, Lisa, Fran and I) arrived Sunday afternoon and were just in time for dinner. Well, that's not completely accurate, as Jennifer and Mark were late and were given free reign to pig out from the "light" fridge (which I bet was a lot lighter after they got their hands on it).

After breakfast at 8AM (meal times were my only complaint about NCI – I had to have a pre-breakfast snack each morning) and assembling a sandwich, we set out for the Rainy Pass trailhead after dropping a car at the Cutthroat Pass trailhead and stopping for some views at the Washington Pass Overlook.

I'll let the photo do the talking:

Liberty Bell from the WA Pass Overlook

From Rainy Pass on the PCT, we continued north to Granite Pass, then returned to the Cutthroat Trail and down to our cars. We had to hustle on the last couple of miles, as dinner-time was drawing near. Then we sped along Hwy 20 to pick up the other car, then headed back to NCI, dropping our packs outside the dining hall and grabbing plates on the way in.

Golden Horn and Tower Mt

Celebrating 25 Years in WA at Granite Pass

Totals for the hike: 13 miles, 2400' gain


I said goodbye to everyone after breakfast (they went on the Maple Pass hike), as I was taking a rest day after 3 days of hiking. I had a full schedule ahead of me: napping, shopping in the bookstore (bought a great wildflower book), wandering on the trails with my camera, reading by the lakeshore and more napping.

Here are some photos I took along the Diablo Lake Trail:

After dinner, which was the best of the week: salmon, curried carrot mash, roasted beets and blueberry pie for dessert, we joined the NCI trip to Ladder Creek Falls in Newhalem. Our guide and environmental educator, Josh, told us the history of the colored lighting they use at the falls. When trying to convince the city to build a dam for hydropower, JD Ross created a light show and piped in music to show the great powers of electricity. He got his wish of a dam (Ross Dam) and Seattle City Light moved into town permanently.
light on water at Ladder Creek Falls


We awoke to cloudy skies and, not sure what the weather had in store for us, we decided to stay low, hiking the Happy-Panther Trail along Ross Lake's Ruby Arm. The trail was lush with moss, ferns and salal and it was evident that not too many people hiked it, from how much moss there was creeping in from the side of the trail. We were able to hike it from point to point, with a car at either end. Along the way, we vowed to take groups of Mountaineers there so that the trail would be used more which would help to maintain it and keep the encroaching moss at bay, plus it would make people fall in love with the lowlands along the lake.
along the Happy-Panther Trail

a moss forest – where are the fairies?

In the afternoon, we once again joined Josh and other NCI Basecampers for a naturalist stroll up Thunder Creek. We learned about the 4 main varieties of ferns found in the national park and what exactly comprises an old growth forest. While standing on the bridge that spans the creek, a guy from PA was flyfishing and, as if on cue, caught a foot-long Rainbow Trout before our eyes.
he caught a trout!
 Totals for the day: 10 miles, 500' gain


The one trail that had come with extremely high recommendations was the Hidden Lake Lookout, accessed from the Cascade River Road outside of Marblemount. Nicole and I were on our own, as the others chose a hike of many miles at Ross Lake. As we climbed higher and higher, we hoped the clouds would burn off, but they did lend some drama to the photos. When we reached the lookout, however, the clouds pulled in tight leaving us with no view and a significant drop in temperature. On the way down, we hiked through a dark cloud, then emerged into the light of the valley and again sped toward "home" for dinner.

lookout is atop that peak

Hidden Lake
 Total: 9 miles, 3300' gain


Although we had planned a hike near Baker Lake, we were hesitant to leave that morning, as we had to say goodbye to our friends, our chef at NCI, our guide, our beautiful surroundings that had been our home for the past week. It was time to head toward home. But first, a hike at the Mt Baker NRA to the Scott Paul Trail where the Lupine were blooming and giving off a wonderful scent. If only my camera had a smell function!

Lupine smells wonderful!

fields of flowers and a moraine
What a wonderful week we all had! I highly recommend a stay at NCI, whether for one of their classes (I have taken a photography class) or for their Basecamp. But leave a space for me!

1 comment:

Rich DuBois said...

Great photos! I must see liberty bell. 'Light on water...' is beautiful, the water looks like a force coming down and spreading