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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.