Thursday, August 29, 2013

North Cascades 2013

my fave photo of the trip – Rich en route to Easy Pass

What is easily becoming a yearly tradition, I went to the North Cascades Institute (in the North Cascades National Park) for 4 days to hike, eat meals cooked for me, socialize and learn a bit about the natural world.

Rich and I left Seattle on Friday, hiked near Baker Lake on the way up and checked in to NCI in the early evening. A word about driving to NCI: the access road takes you across Diablo Dam which is owned and operated by Seattle City Light. Each afternoon, between 4:15 and 5:00, the gate at the turn-off from Hwy 20 is closed. To gain access, you have to call a number on the call box (which goes to Seattle), give them your name and wait for them to open the gate remotely. It's a little bit of a pain, so I try to time hikes, etc so that I am back before the gate comes down. On the drive up, we were racing time, as I was taking corners faster and faster, pushing myself and my car to perform. Alas, I was too late and Rich jumped out to make the call.
Mt Azurite from Easy Pass

Fisher Basin and Black Peak

After a quiet night sleeping in Fir Lodge, we set out for the trail to Easy Pass. Memories of hikes always get distorted as time passes, leaving me with only the best memories of the trail and destination. However, as we got closer to the trailhead, I did recall that there was a section of rocky footing and switchbacks that were etched into the side of the mountain, though I didn't recall having any problems.
Fisher Creek and Mt Logan

The journey through trees and blueberry bushes ("hey bear", we called) was steep in places and there were plenty of downed trees to step over or squeeze under (18, to be exact). When we broke out into the open, it was a grand view. The rocky area had become a little more treacherous, as there had been some washouts and rockfall so that we also had to hike over moving waves of rock. With careful foot placement, however, it wasn't much of a problem.
time to rock 'n roll

We saw and talked to several groups of Germans who had come to these American Alps to hike and explore. I always gush with American pride when I hear that people have come a great distance to experience our National Parks – they really are a national treasure, so when you finish reading this post, start making plans to go visit one or more.

That evening at dinner, one of the NCI staff, Carla, was taking ideas for where to hike the next day, Sunday. Since I am always ready to tell people where to go, I strongly suggested the trip to Cutthroat Pass that starts from Rainy Pass and travels on the PCT. Lucky for me, she had never been there and wanted to check the trail out. She put up a signup sheet and four other names besides mine and Rich's appeared.

say cheese

The other names were a family: mom, dad, 2 boys age 8 and 10. My first reaction was that these kids could probably not handle a 10-mile hike with 2,000' of gain without a lot of whining or even being carried part way. I was kind of dreading the experience. When we met the family the next day, I sized the kids up and, although they looked pretty energetic, I was still skeptical in regards to their strength and stamina. Silly me! The 8-year-old was a constant talker about everything and anything, having sponged up every bit of information he  came across and his legs moved as fast as his mouth. The 10-year-old was no slouch either and both kids were standout athletes in their school. The parents were pretty amusing and laid back, making the experience a really positive and fun one and enforcing the belief that kids aren't so bad after all.
Rich at the Pass

I, however, was starting to feel really tired and sleepy, probably from a whole lot of hiking right after classes ended and not nearly enough sleep and naps. It was time to remedy that. Nap time started once we got back to the van and continued at NCI. Dinner that night was the best of the weekend: pork tenderloins with kale and onions and dessert of chia pudding (ch, ch, ch... chia!) topped with strawberries, chocolate chips, ginger and coconut. I was in heaven and personally thanked the chef.
Rich looking out to Pyramid Pk

reflections in Diablo Lk

Good thing I like chia pudding, because there was more for breakfast the following morning (why don't more people like chia pudding – give chia a ch, ch... chance)! Monday was a sad day; it was time to leave NCI, their peaceful surroundings, their super staff, fantastic food and lovely lodging. We wandered around on the trails behind campus, me feeling exhausted still, and planned a slow day of progress in returning to the city.
Red Cedar on NCI campus
coming in for a landing at Cascadian Farms

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