| December 29, 2016 |
The third and final National Park in Washington I had yet to visit was North Cascades National Park. It seemed like a faraway land north of Seattle that not many people talk about. Honestly, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I had seen photos of Diablo Lake and I just knew I needed to set my eyes on it. The mystical blue colors seemed photoshopped and entirely unrealistic.
I didn’t entirely understand the magic that would reveal itself to me. On three separate weekends, I wandered into the park for hikes–all in different seasons, and all uniquely enchanting. These hikes are beyond memorable to me, and actually quite precious. I experienced ALL of Mother Nature in these three trips: from snow & hail to sunshine & lush forests to waterfalls & glaciers… and more! I felt lost in the beauty unfolding around me, and invigorated by the forever changing landscapes. Even driving on Highway 20 was a journey in itself, from multi-faceted rocks to cascading falls in every direction. I found myself feverishly taking in my surroundings, hoping to capture every moment with my heart and soul.
This is part one in a five-part series of posts that will make you fall in love with North Cascades National Park yourself. Feast yourself…
My first voyage to North Cascades National Park was in the beginning of September 2016. My two travel buddies, Sarah and Sara, and I set forth on our trip early on Saturday morning with intentions to hike Saturday, sleep in Marblemount’s Skagit River Resort, and then hike again on Sunday. First to note is North Cascades National Park is actually free to visitors! You don’t even need a National Parks Pass (I didn’t get to shine mine in the eyes of a ranger). Pretty insane considering the awe-striking beauty contained within the park…
We stopped at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount en route to discuss trail recommendations based on current conditions with the park rangers. The clouds were ominous, and rain was a possibility (as it always is in the Pacific Northwest), but we were willing to accept any challenge. Our first choice for our two-day hiking extravaganza was… *drum roll*
Cascade Pass + Sahale Arm Glacier
Length: 12.0 miles roundtrip (we didn’t do all 12–see below)
Elevation Gain: 4,000 feet
Highest Point: 7,570 feet
Location: Highway 20 (click to see map)
This hike has a pretty awesome reputation. The road leading to the hike was jaw-dropping itself. I rolled down my window to hear every stream we drove past, as we meandered through mossy trees and dirt roads. My Jeep Renengade certainly was helpful where the pavement ended. In the distance, clouds offered peeks at glaciated peaks and snowy mountain tops. My anticipation for the hike ahead was growing rapidly… Once at the parking lot for the trail head, we took quick trips to the restroom (located right at the trailhead!), and packed up our bags and raincoats. The beginning of our day was a foggy fairy tale.
Between the trees and misty rain, we saw glimpses of peaks in the background with cotton candy clouds spiraling around them, teasing our eyes with views of mountains and glaciers.
The bright, white clouds contrasting the multi-faceted black rock was mesmerizing. As we came out of the forest fairyland, we were thrilled by our neighboring peaks as we wandered through rocky open valleys. The glaciers beside us were impressive to say the least.
We continued hiking toward Cascade Arm, and knew we were drawing closer when we began seeing a crowd of people ahead. The rain continued to wean in and out of the landscape, and as we reached the trail opening, all seemed to come to a halt. We were greeted by a misty rain, and expansive valley of mountains, greenery, and glaciers…We enjoyed some snacks and greetings from new friends, like the fly who didn’t want to let go of the caramel chocolate.
With the rain lightening up, we continued to the north past Cascade Arm toward Sahale Glacier. We began switchbacks up a relatively steep slope, pausing to remove rain jackets, donn mittens for frozen fingers, and make ridiculous faces at the camera…
After about 0.75 miles of switchbacks (distance according to WTA), we reached an entirely new viewpoint of breathtaking landscapes: Doubtful Lake.
As we looked ahead at the trail heading to the Sahale Glacier peak, we questioned the fluctuating weather. The peak was being socked in by immense cloud formations, and we opted to descend after climbing another 0.25 miles or so. Thus, we didn’t exactly complete the entire hike, but I think this was a wise choice! If we had been prepared to spend the night, we could have definitely opted to continue. But, with plans to return to Marblemount and spend the night, we left the summit to another day. On the descent, we soaked in the wildflowers, rain droplets, and reverse of changing landscape.
On my first journey into North Cascades National Park, I started embracing the Law of Attraction on the trails. As you see in these photos, we had the sun shining its powerful rays on our faces as we looked upon Doubtful Lake. A hike that started in misty rain and swirling clouds transformed into a picture-perfect day. As we ascended in the morning, one of my hiking companions was verbalizing her disappointment in the weather conditions. Sarah was saying how we wouldn’t have any views if the weather continued to stay so cloudy. I immediately thought of switching this verbalization with fear of Mother Nature hearing our exclamations of cloudy weather. Instead, we started thanking the Sun, despite it being hidden. As I hiked, I muttered, Thank you Sun – Thank you Sun, over and over… until it appeared! When we think of the things we don’t want, it actually attracts them. When we visualized what we DID want, it really created a magical shift!
Saying I feel grateful for this day would be an understatement. My first hike in North Cascades seemed like it couldn’t ever be paralleled by another experiences. And yet… there was more to come in this magical park.