Cascade Pass, Washington, August long weekend
It seemed a crazy idea to cross the border on a long weekend, but Seawallrunner, Q and I decided to go for it anyway, the goal being to backpack the Cascade Pass trail in Washington State.
Wait at the border: about an hour and 15 minutes. We passed the time watching the U-Haul truck in the other lane as a gauge as to whether the other lane was moving faster. When we weren't looking it disappeared and we never did figure out if it got way ahead or way behind. Ah, the great mysteries of life.
Seems the border official didn't find three women with backpacks a threat to U.S. national security and soon we were on our way, passing through oddly named towns like Acme (isn't that where Wile E. Coyote shops? I half expected to see a place that specializes in explosives), Sedro-Woolley, and Concrete.
At the Marblemount ranger station, we obtained permits for camping overnight at the Sahale glacier. I have to say, there is a very well-organized reservation system in this park to prevent overcrowding and full campsites. The permits are free but you do have to register.
It was late in the day so on the first night we car camped at.....oh, the name escapes me right now but it's a pretty campsite over a rushing river. Such a relaxing sound! That night it made me dream I was canoeing straight towards an alarming waterfall.
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The next day we drove to the trailhead via a long but fairly good (ie my Honda sedan made it) gravel road.
But I had to wonder what it was we weren't being warned about:
This is the view from the trailhead. The trailHEAD!! It's already really good and we haven't hiked anywhere yet:
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The distances here are in miles. I keep forgetting that. This is America. Restaurant portion sizes are huge and distances are in miles.
The trail rises gradually through the forest by a series of looooong, gentle switchbacks (I think Seawallrunner counted 37 switchbacks?) and then opens up with more spectacular views:
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We ran into a couple of friendly rangers who managed to convince us that the Sahale glacier camp was still really, really far and involved a brutal climb. They suggested we "drop down a bit" and camp instead at the Basin Creek camp and do a side trip from there sans packs. We agreed and they called down and changed our permits for us. This turned out to be very strange advice.
Here is a shot from Cascade Pass itself, where we had lunch:
After that, the trail was gentle, offering stellar views along the way:
Can't think which way Q went:
"Drop down a bit"??? Turns out Basin Creek camp is waaaaayyyy in the valley below, behind that mountain. We're going to have to come back up this!!!!
Q crossing some beautiful pools below a waterfall. I wanted to jump right in:
After descending interminable switchbacks, we reached the camp which was situated by a beautiful river and surrounded by towering mountains.
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Seawallrunner set up her camera on a tripod for a star trace, but the battery died in the night as temperatures reached freezing. This came as a surprise to me as I was roasting in my sleeping bag and slept with half my body out of it.
The next morning we slogged back up the brutal grunt of death in the searing heat, back to Cascade Pass. You can see some of the switchbacks in the extreme right of this photo, in the green in the distance:
There was no time (or energy...except for Q) for a side trip to Sahale glacier. We figured that our trek to the Basin Creek camp must have been at least as hard as our original plan for Sahale glacier. Not complaining though, gotta go back for a repeat visit anyway!!!
A few more pics from the hike down:
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A "dinner" stop at Cascade Farms on the way home proved worthwhile; yes, we DID have nothing but ice cream and Pringles for dinner. And finally, to our amazement, there was NO line-up at the border going back on a holiday Monday. Not one single car in front of us. I think the customs guy was even more amazed that three women hadn't done any shopping at all save for a bottle of wine each.
Great trip for a taste of the area and I will definitely return.
Great trip, beautiful area :)! Too bad about missing out on your trip to the glacier, I wonder how much further up it really was ...
Nice trip:) Wonder why they didn't tell you to camp at Pelton and then you'd be closer to Sahale for the next day?? At least you had fabulous weather!
I love that Hwy 20 area! Great TR!
awesome trip report Tracy! Gosh that was a FUN trip. I am still smiling.
We camped at Mineral Park on the first night. Cool camp site, with one of the many forks of the Cascade River raging just past our camp - and a big fence to prevent us from tumbling down a short cliff to the waters below. The camp is quite nice, with lots of trees and foliage between sites, so noise from other campers is at a minimum.
Charlene - Pelton was full that weekend. Too bad, because I could have just parked myself there and photographed Cascade Peak, Magic Mountain and Trapper for days on end.
The hanging glaciers, the thousands of water falls, the verdant meadows, the play of light against lifting clouds... aaah.
Instead we went to Basin Creek. There was that moment when we caught up to Q sitting on a rock; she was pointing down through the trees into an impossibly low drainage - "our trail is way down there".
"Where?" as I spy a trail across a mountain side far across some valley.
"no way, our camp has to be before that" (ever the optimist I am)
"no, we will have to walk all the way around"
"at least it's downhill"
"whoa that's ... far"
"tomorrow it ain't downhill anymore"
But we made it, we crossed Basin creek and passed all the other creeks that form Stehekin River which eventually becomes Lake Chelan. The campsites were nice, and we set up for the night.
While Q, Tracy and I were watching the billions and billions of stars above us, huddled together in a stonehenge-like circle of rocks, I took two test shots of long exposures. These worked out well (about 20 to 30 minutes each). However, after I verified that my battery was full and I set up the camera for a few hours' of exposure, I went to bed - then got up after 2.30 am for a little campsite walkabout. My battery was flat out. Oh well, I popped in the spare battery and noted that the camera did try to capture the stars before dying out, but the raw image was noisy and unusable.
During my night time wander I noticed that temperatures had dropped. A lot. Whereas during the day temps hovered in the 80s mark, my altimeter watch now stated 33F which is a thitch above 0 centigrade. I walked to the creek, checked the foliage for beady little eyes staring back at me (there were none, as usual) then returned to my tent for a cold sleep till morning.
We packed up early in the morning, then returned from whence we came. I tried to keep my mind off my burning feet by counting switchbacks -- 14 from Basin Creek to the bowl below Cascade Pass, and 38 from Cascade Pass to the parking lot. Tracy and I stopped to take many photos and wondered aloud about the beauty that surrounded us.
Gosh what a beautiful place. So accessible (that road is golf-course grade) and the views are absolutely stunning, right from the road.
I'll definitely return there to explore some more. Thank you again Tracy and Q for sharing this adventure with me !!
I love that area too....I actually spend more time hiking in Washington State than I do in Canada.
Thanks for the info great photos!I am looking to hike,climb,ski in this area soon.
vic,you and me both
Nice report and gorgeous pictures! But wait - these were posted at 3:36 a.m.? Beautiful hikes like this are supposed to cure, not induce, insomnia!
Wow, what an utterly fantastic place, it's really great to see a TR from a new (to me) area. Thanks for sharing your adventure
Hey, Seawallrunner, where are YOUR photos? I bet they are fantastic and I want to see them!!!
Tracy and company..
Great venture described so neatly in your TR, love your usual and entertaining style. Keep it up..
Spectacular pictures! Should be put in a book or magazine.
(Posted - 08/07/2008 : 4:15:45 PM Nice report and gorgeous pictures! But wait - these were posted at 3:36 a.m.? Beautiful hikes like this are supposed to cure, not induce, insomnia! lol Greywall
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