Weekly Newsletter – Mashley’s Adventures – Cloudy with a chance of mountains

(Pictures are all available in an album in FaceBook.)

Current Location: Bremerton, Washington

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And we know the place for the first time.
~ T. S. Eliot

This week’s edition of Adventure-Some takes us to the North Cascades National Park! 🙂 We headed out Thursday afternoon for a new adventure, aiming to beat some weekend traffic, but apparently Thursday afternoon IS weekend traffic as everyone attempts to escape from Seattle! We took a ferry across the sound and headed north-east, aiming for the far side of the park. Between traffic at the beginning of the trip and too many stops along the way to admire the view, we didn’t quite make it as planned, stopping in a forest campground just outside of the park.

This is by no means a complaint. When you’re running behind on a self-imposed schedule because there are so many amazing views that you can’t help but stop and take them in… that’s a good problem to have! We were truly taken with the splendor of the park. It was like we’d driven into the setting for a fantasy novel or fantastical movie set.

The Cascades (mountain range) is named because of the cascading water everywhere – and it’s apt! There are waterfalls and streaming water around every turn, even on the drier eastern side of the mountain range. You can tell the difference in moisture between the east and west by the flora – different types of trees and undergrowth with less plants on the east.

  • 25 national parks visited
  • 2 flat tires
  • 3 trails hiked

Our plans changed a few times on this trip (as they are wont to do). Jackie and Mikel were planning on joining up with us for an overnighter on Saturday, but with her heading out of town for work this week she had too many things to do around the house. That gave us some additional flexibility and we added some trails to our to-hike list for the weekend.

Friday morning we were up and on the road early, aiming for the highest spot you can drive to in the state of Washington, located in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. We made it up to a campground just before the pass, where we had breakfast, but since it was cold at the higher elevation and we couldn’t see very far due to being inside the clouds, we decided not to continue on up the road to hike the trail. It is apparently a spectacular and expansive view of the Northern Cascades on a clear day, but, alas, Washington mountain weather strikes again! On the way back down, we were given the pleasure (ha!) of testing the in-truck emergency equipment. That’s right, we got a flat tire. Luckily, everything we needed was there and functional; we got the spare on and headed on in to the nearest town to get the flat tire fixed. One new-to-us tire later and we were headed back into the mountains…

The Lake Ann-Maple Pass Loop sounded delightful. “If your tasks list includes: find yourself in the midst of countless Cascade peaks, tiptoe through wildflowers exploding with color, peer down into sparkling lakes and tumbling waterfalls stunning beyond all reason, then check out the Lake Ann-Maple Pass Loop. … Definitely one of this book’s top five trails.” Who could pass that up? Not us! It was a bit early in the season for the flowers, though the ones we saw were amazing, and the top of the pass was still snow-covered so we had to watch our footing, but the hike was wonderful and the lakes were beautiful! Along the way we joined up with a young couple exploring the area on vacation. We hiked the second half of the loop with them and greatly enjoyed chatting as we went. This was our first experience hiking with strangers on the trail and it was a great way to start!

Finishing up the loop, we aimed to find a disbursed camp spot in the national forest along the way to our next trail. We found a fabulous little campsite just off the road, a mossy alcove tucked in beside a tiered waterfall. It was too good to pass up so we spent the night listening to the tinkling of the falling water. In the morning, we woke early and headed up for the next trail. Our stack of guidebooks all pointed to Cascade Pass as being one of the most beautiful in the area (it starts in the national forest and heads into the park). “The parking-lot view of Johannesburg Mountain is enough to spike the mountain mojo of most folks, and the views are only better at the pass.”

Just before arriving at the trailhead the Tire Pressure Monitoring System beeped at us – announcing another flat tire. Bah! We changed out the spare once more at the trailhead parking lot and then went ahead and headed out on our hike. Unfortunately, it was another rainy day and the clouds precluded any views, but the lack of visibility helped us enjoy the trail itself. We spotted lots of flowers and a couple of marmots on the way up. We definitely could tell there was likely some amazing views just beyond our vision, as much of the trail was along the rocky side-slope of a mountain.

At the pass, we stopped for a rest. While sitting, a pika ventured out of the rocks nearby and we watched it watch us. The wind had blown some of the clouds around, giving us a glimpse of the valley below on the other side of the pass – it was definitely worth the hike! Along the way back down, we shared the trail with a couple of mule-deer does. One in particular walked right up to us, meeting face to face on the trail, and then stood unblinkingly, trying to decide where to go and what to do as there was nowhere for either of us to go. She finally backtracked a bit and clambered up the mountain to avoid us. Back at the parking area, the sun finally started to peek through and we were treated to a more expansive view of the valley and the Mountain. It truly was stunning!

With adulting responsibilities to tackle, we aimed for the nearest tire shop, hoping to make it before closing time. No luck, but we found an auto parts store and picked up a plug kit. Matthew fixed the tire and swapped it out. With promises of more inclement weather and two flats thus far we decided that was enough excitement for us and reluctantly headed on back to Bremerton, though we did stop to enjoy another view of the spectacularly blue Diablo Lake.

    Lessons Learned (or relearned):

  • We love seeing people of all ages on the trail – it gives us hope for future generations and for ourselves later in life.
  • Carry our plug kit and air compressor!
  • Apparently it is common knowledge in Washington that if Sasquatch exists, he lives in the Northern Cascades 🙂

We stopped at the park’s visitor center Saturday afternoon and watched the really interesting park video – it focused on grizzly bears, their dwindling numbers and their place in U.S. ecosystems. Grizzlies used to be native to the Cascades but have all mostly been pushed out. Less than 20, perhaps only 2, currently live there. There is debate about trying to re-introduce them, and the Northern Cascades National Park has begun a grizzly rejuvenation project within the park. It may take 100 years before they have repopulated the region, but it is in the works. On the one hand, we love the idea of them living in their native habitat and are all for the idea. On the other hand, Grizzlies scare the snot out of us and we don’t want them to be in the area we’re backpacking…. Interesting conundrum there, we’re ultimately not sure where we stand.

The Cascades are beautiful and they’ve definitely captured our attention. We only completed three of the five planned hikes, and there are plenty more that we want to explore but didn’t have time for during our visit. The trip didn’t go as planned, but we still can’t wait to get back for further adventures!

Adventuring away,

Matthew & Ashley