Monday, September 29, 2008

Blue Lake - North Cascades Highway

I'd been looking forward to this trip all week. I was on a quest to see golden larches and if I had to drive 150 miles to see them then I would. I wanted to get to bed early the night before, however I ended up being out a bit too late. A bunch of people from work went out to Nectar in Fremont and Casey joined me in a long night of gin and tonics.


Luckily I woke up bright and early at 7:30 am, sans hang over. I quickly showered, put my gear together and headed to Starbucks. The drive was long, longer than I thought it was going to be and as I came upon Mt. Vernon I realized it was going to take a bit longer than I had thought. Highway 20 ran through quite a few towns and speeds slowed considerably. As I drove through fields and small towns I started to wonder if I was heading the right direction. I did not see any mountains and there was no elevation gain at all. Finally I reached Concrete, and here things started to get strange. Many buildings and homes were abandoned and I would see strange signs like "Beer Crossing" and "Got Wine?" and then very large highway signs with full size pictures of families killed by drunk drivers and the warning "Beware! Drunk Drivers are out there!"

I drove passed a sign that said "Gateway to America's Alps" and I almost laughed. I still hadn't seen any mountains and where were all the lakes I had heard so much about?


Then, it hits. Waterfalls higher than the tallest mountains, jagged snow covered peaks, lakes...oh the lakes. North Cascades National Forest is like Disneyland for hikers. Each trail was clearly marked with signs etched with the trail name and set in stone at the trail head. Clean rest rooms at the beginning and trail maps marking the way.

why don't we do it in the road

I stopped quite a few times before I made it to the trail. I was close to having the road to myself and as I crossed it I snapped a quick picture. I really like this shot. Although the clouds had cleared to a bright blue sky, it reminded me of the solitude I was craving on this adventure and felt the only way to do it justice was in black and white.


The beginning of the Blue Lake trail gave me glimpses of what was to come. Meadows bursting with fall colors, peek-a-boo views of Liberty Bell and not a soul to be seen. It was a gradual 2 1/2 miles to the lake and I took my time. The peaks surrounding me are a rock climbers dream and there were little off-shoot trails all over leading up to Liberty Bell and Early Winter Spires.


I followed one such trail to a boulder field where a curious little chipmunk tried to each half of my sandwich. I looked up to see a bald eagle gracefully soaring over the sky. I grabbed my camera to follow it and noticed two large dust specks in my view. What proceeded that finding was an all out assault on my camera that not only made the situation worse but made me so frustrated I almost forgot that I was surrounded by beauty and that I was there to enjoy the trip.

shoe shot

Reaching the lake I remembered why I was there so I kicked back, ate the other half of my chicken salad sandwich and pulled out my iPhone, which all the rest of the pictures are taken with.Blue lake is aptly named. A gorgeous alpine lake nestled at the base of a ridgeline that still had traces of snow and surrounded by vegetation and my precious larches that were alas still pretty green.

Blue Lake

There were two men out in little rafts in the lake and every once in a while they would yell in delight as they plucked another fish from the lake. Soon others started to join me on the trail and then I heard children which was my signal to head out.

Early Winter

One last look at the spires then I was on my way. I got to the trail head quickly, 2 1/2 miles flying by fast. I vowed to myself that I would return the next day to capture what I had not been able to and as I drove back down Highway 20 I kept a mental image of the strange little things I saw through each town, excited to make the trip again and thinking maybe I'll do a whole post devoted to the road leading up to the mountains.By the time I hit Everett and the Saturday night Seattle traffic I wanted nothing to do with that drive ever again. I was exhausted by the time I made it home and passed out at 9:00.

last look

320 miles driven and a whole new world discovered. I wrote the post in my head as I drove, but now that I've written it down and left so much out I'm actually glad that there are still somethings I'm keeping to myself. I can't wait to come back.

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