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Old 08-12-2016, 10:27 AM   #1
Cycle61
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Washington sucks and it rains all the time (adventures in backpacking the PNW)

Long short backstory for those who forgot or never knew: April and I left the Bay area November of 2013 for western Washington. I'm from around here, I grew up hiking and camping in these woods and mountains, and it's good to be home. We're in the mountains every chance we get. I've posted picture threads before from Yosemite, Trinity Alps, etc, but this one is going to start with last week and work backwards to fill in a couple years and forwards as our adventures continue.

August 1-7 2016, North Cascades National Park. 60 miles and 11,400' of climbing in 7 days.

http://caltopo.com/m/HJNN

Early AM trailhead start on Monday the 1st meant a 3:30 start at my buddy's house in Seattle.

Get up to Diablo Lake, where North Cascade Highway 20 passes through the mountains, and are rewarded with a 6:30 golden hour across the canyon containing the lake. Diablo Dam and Ross Dam are major hydroelectric projects in this part of the state, and contribute significantly to our grid. Some are bothered by the power lines in the picture, I think they're beautiful in their own way. We won't be seeing much more of them for another week anyway.



Most of the group is from SoCal, and we make a handful of obligatory roadside photo stops to gawk at scenery.



A mile into the journey, the trail has dropped some five hundred feet and takes us across the Ross Dam.



And the view down-canyon from midspan.



We roll along the western shore of Ross Lake, heading north as the views continue to open up to the east and south.



The trail through at this point seems almost too perfect, a smooth earth footpath surrounded by mattress-soft moss covering the floor on both sides. It's like Disney created the forest here.



Six miles in brings us to our lunch spot around noon. The day is already quite warm, so we take an hour and swim off the mornings' sweat in the impossibly clear blue waters of the lake.



Returning to the trail, we head across the river and make our turn to the west, to follow the valley and then canyon up some 20 miles to Big Beaver Pass.



The path follows the valley floor into a wilderness that has never been logged, and rarely sees fire due to being buried under snow 8-9 months a year and rained on for the rest of the season.

Some of these cedar trees are 2,000 years old, and rival the Avenue of the Giants in scale. Truly awe-inspiring.



Night 1 starts out pleasant, camped under the stars and the old-growth cedars, but about 0200 it proceeds to dump rain and we set up our shelters by headlamp. In the interest of weight, I did not carry a tent on this trip, and the little walmart tarp served nicely to keep me dry when necessary.



Morning 2 we start to gain elevation, and find ourselves surrounded by nearly endless wild blueberries, huckleberries, salmonberries, and a handful(giggle) of others. Some we knew immediately were good, others I tried tentatively and waited until the following day to declare them safe for the group.

Good: Blueberries



Good, but wasn't sure at first: Red Currant



This is a lightly used trail, and parts of it were heavily overgrown. Entertaining bushwhacking through miles of this the morning after a heavy rain.

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Last edited by Cycle61; 08-12-2016 at 11:50 AM..
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Old 08-12-2016, 10:32 AM   #2
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Camped night 2 at the summit of Beaver Pass, still heavily enclosed by trees, so no real views. Day 3 takes us steeply down some 1500' into Big Beaver Canyon,



across the river where a couple of fallen trees saved us 3 miles of out and back hiking to a bridge downstream



and upstream, the trail interrupted time and again by the detritus of the previous winters' storms. The guy in red is 6'4" by the way. This is not a little tree.



Continuing to climb, we pop in and out of the trees to peekabo views of Mt Challenger and Whatcom Peak soaring several thousands of feet above our valley, but getting slightly closer with every passing step.





A the strange weather so far this year has conspired to create a rare trifecta of joys. It's simultaneously waterfall, berry, and wildflower season in the high N. Cascades. Normally these are several weeks separated from each other, but here we're treated to all at once.



As we near the top of the valley, a steep climb to Whatcom Pass looms above us, and with the team tired from the day, we make camp on the flattest spot available, which in this case is a consolidated avalanche path from the previous winter. LOL.



After some minor excavation to carve out suitable bed spots, we fall asleep under the stars and wake up to a low cloud cover teasing us with views of the mountains above.



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Last edited by Cycle61; 08-12-2016 at 10:54 AM..
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Old 08-12-2016, 10:32 AM   #3
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Whatcom Pass is little traveled, and the east side approach is a grind, with some of the gnarliest switchbacks I've seen short of an actual literal staircase, but the views at the top were worth every step. I wish only that we had timed our trip to end a day up here, and camped at the summit.

Large pictures and no apologies.









Camp that night, whiskey by the river. Bracingly cold, it was good to get fully submerged
in the icy waters and wash off a couple days' hard sweat and dirt.



Sometimes the trail crew volunteers get tired of cutting through giant logs and just take the easy route.



This guy hanging out, the size of a small dinner plate.



And a decent school of sockeye salmon, most 24-28" and looking for a place to spawn and die in the next month or two...



Our original plan included a couple of ridge traverses and local summits, but one member of the party was having knee issues, and we decided to stick to the valleys rather than split up. Slightly disappointing, but the views were still definitely okay.



One river crossing was by a rather entertaining cable car arrangement, very well built but still, dangling from a single steel cable thirty or fourt feet above a torrent of ice cold water tumbling down a cascade of boulders. Check these nuts...heh



Final morning dawns gray and damp, but our spirits are lifted knowing that we're mere hours away from a proper meal, a cold beer, and a flushing toilet



Five miles to go...



One last climb...



Over the pass, accelerating downhill through the now-steady rain towards the waiting truck



And we're OUT!



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If I didn't hurt your feelings, then I retract my apology. - bruceflinch

Last edited by Cycle61; 08-12-2016 at 11:25 AM..
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Old 08-12-2016, 11:45 AM   #4
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What a great trek! The pnw is so gorgeous. I have some friends in Bellingham and their Instagram feed is all snowy peaks and crystal clear lakes and amazing views.
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Old 08-12-2016, 11:52 AM   #5
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What a great trek! The pnw is so gorgeous. I have some friends in Bellingham and their Instagram feed is all snowy peaks and crystal clear lakes and amazing views.
My sister lives up there as well. Beautiful town, about three hours north of us, and very close to where this trip launched.
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Old 08-12-2016, 11:58 AM   #6
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Great stuff, but that frog! I wants him!
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Old 08-12-2016, 12:16 PM   #7
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Outstanding!
So the critter looks like a toad to me. Frog or toad?
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Old 08-12-2016, 12:18 PM   #8
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Outstanding!
So the critter looks like a toad to me. Frog or toad?
gotta lick it to find out
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Old 08-12-2016, 12:19 PM   #9
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I don't know. We didn't eat him.
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Old 08-12-2016, 12:34 PM   #10
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Wow ...
just epic ...

... thanks for
posting the
large pics!
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Old 08-12-2016, 01:01 PM   #11
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Awesome! All us Californians should move up there.

Thanks for the pics and write-up. Really enjoyed it.
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Old 08-13-2016, 09:05 AM   #12
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Red huckleberries. Currants have a 3 lobe leaf rather than single ovals.
Yummy. Used to have those in the lot next door before houses.

Thanks for the pictures.
When some get on the net, it's an occasion.
Usually it's too foggy to see anything if the rain isn't falling sideways.

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Old 08-13-2016, 01:24 PM   #13
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Woah Nick.
That first picture is beautiful.
Postcard status.
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Old 08-15-2016, 09:41 AM   #14
Cycle61
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Originally Posted by bcj View Post
Red huckleberries. Currants have a 3 lobe leaf rather than single ovals.
Yummy. Used to have those in the lot next door before houses.

Thanks for the pictures.
When some get on the net, it's an occasion.
Usually it's too foggy to see anything if the rain isn't falling sideways.
Thanks! I probably should know those a bit better before consuming. Yum.

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Originally Posted by carries an axe View Post
Woah Nick.
That first picture is beautiful.
Postcard status.
Thanks
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Old 08-17-2016, 06:00 PM   #15
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High Rock Lookout last weekend with my daughters. Spontaneous overnighter, planned at about 4pm on Saturday. It's a 90 minute drive and a 1.6 mile hike to these awesome views. Also about 600 feet down if you step a little too far North...

Evening view as we approach the lookout, just after sunset.



Our intention was to watch the last good night of the Perseid shower, but a nearly full moon and high hazy clouds meant that star viewing was okay, but not great. We stayed up until about 1 and called it a night.

The sun breaks over the eastern horizon bright and early.





Another view, I personally love these shots of the lookouts at sunrise/sunset with their respective mountains in the background.



Everybody gets this angle of the lookout. It's kind of comical. It's also basically the only place you can stand and get a picture with the building and the mountain. A drone would be pretty amazing in a place like this for some unique images, but I wouldn't want to bother any of the other climbers with the noise.



And Mt. Rainier as dawn turns to day and we head back to the car to drive home for a nap.

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