This 4th of July was my second one in the United states. Although it was a long weekend, we did not plan a multi-day vacation, mainly due to the Covid fear. The fireworks were also cancelled across the US for the same reason. Nevertheless, the missing joy of having an awesome weekend getaway or witnessing the spectacular fire-works was all quenched by our visit to the North Cascades National Park! 🙂
My brother Amit is here in Seattle for the second time owing to his remote summer internship. In an attempt to continue showing him the beauty of the Pacific North-west, Nikhil has been planning hikes. We went on a relatively easy hike on the Iron-Bear trail. This was a very good warm-up – a largely simple terrain with uniform ascent yet beautiful views at the summit. After having visited the Rainier National Park during Amit’s first visit, we thought it would be apt to venture out to the North Cascades this time since we were sure its beauty would never cease to impress him. This would be my second visit there and Nikhil’s second just this year! Yet this visit turned out so good since we were accompanied by my friends, all of which surprisingly worked out in a short period of time. It was this long pending get-together of Me-Nikhil, Priyanka-Varun and Charu-Ankur. More the merrier indeed!
Given the long drive and the limited parking owing to the weekend, we had planned to start early. After gearing up and packing the food and other essentials for the hike, we met at Charu’s place and left Seattle early as planned in two cars. Amit also drove some distance while Nikhil stretched his foot for a bit. We stopped half-way at Darrington for a quick break. This place has a very scenic view of the White Horse peak that stands tall and magnificent. After adoring its beauty while chit-chatting and having Ankur’s variant of the marble cake, we continued our journey towards the mighty North Cascades. Amit was already liking the scenic drive and the country-side scenes. As we merged onto the SR20 and neared the national park, his joy grew manifold. I was excited to be back here and every checkpoint reminded me of the previous visit and its adventures. And Nikhil was of course cherishing his nostalgic memories here while sulking over the fact that we will soon be moving out of Washington and that he is going to miss PNW big time!
Soon we crossed the town of Newhalem and Diablo (where we had to take an emergency break due to Amit’s troubling tummy 😛 ), and the views kept getting better and better. After around 3hrs of drive from Seattle, we reached the trailhead for the ‘Blue Lake’. Given that this is a famous hike since it is close to Winthrop as well, the parking lot was full and the vehicles had overflowed on the roadside. But Varun was lucky to find a spot as he had gotten in at the right time when that spot opened up near the trailhead. We squeezed in as well. Changing into the hiking shoes and gathering everything needed, we started our hike.
The initial mile was easy and consisted of multiple narrow board walks, surrounded by tall pine trees on either side. It was cloudy and whatever little sunlight was out was being blocked by the tree canopy. We all were high on energy, kept talking and making merry all along. After a couple of switchbacks the trail started gaining elevation as well as showcasing some spectacular views of the cascade ranges all-around. The very first views were of this mountain – the rocky peaks with scattered snow, with some patch of green grass half-way down and the tall lush green pine trees towards the lower end. We stopped to capture the beauty and take some insta-worthy pictures. As we proceeded further we could spot better exposure to the same views. This was my first hike in the North Cascades and I was loving it already!
As we continued, we had to cross a couple of fallen trees on the trail. Further ahead, we had to maneuver through muddy portions of the trail as well as the small patches of snow that kept appearing. Almost in the final mile, there were multiple short snowy and slushy patches that needed careful navigation. Helping each other on the trail, pausing for pictures and chit-chatting continued. We could see the pleasing display of prominent landmarks like Liberty Bell and Winter Spires from unique angles as we approached the lake. After around 2 hrs we were almost at the end of our ascent and the final turn revealed this gleaming beauty! The very sight of it wowed me to the core! We were welcomed by this sub-alpine lake feeding the creek, surrounded by lush green trees and the mighty mountains. The lake was frozen with an interesting pattern of ice all over. The peripheral portion revealed the blue tint and the super-clean water showing what was underneath 🙂 As we sinked in this beauty, we walked further ahead to cross the creek and find a relaxing spot. There were many tree logs fallen and we chose to walk over them and reach the other side, giving ourselves further thrill and adventure! We took multiple group pictures as well as solo shots on and around these logs as the location was indeed picture perfect!
After reaching the other side of the Creek we found a wide beautiful snowy frozen patch on the lake shore. Scenes were getting prettier and our cameras were getting busier! Amit took a group pic of us three couples and we joked upon it saying it’s the ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ pose! Incidentally we found two kannadiga guys around; they offered to click our group picture when they overheard us conversing in Kannada. Why would we not oblige! Once we were done capturing the serenity around, Nikhil went on to find a quiet secluded space for our lunch break. We climbed up a bit to reach this spot and the elevated view made the lake look at its best! The blue color was more prominent, and this spot was like having a wide angle view through our eyes! While our eyes had their feast, we grabbed the food for our tummy’s feast 😛 Sevaiya, crunchy poha and cake was on the menu! We had plenty of time – eating and talking and having fun amidst nature. It was indeed an amazing time spent, given that almost all of us were North karnataka people and talking our heart out in the hubli kannada accent was such a joy 😀
As the time passed, more and more people were coming in and the place was becoming crowded. It was around 2:15pm. We had our share of joy witnessing the pristine lake, and decided to walk back. But surprises weren’t over yet! We overheard a lady point out that there was a person walking on a rope between the two tall mountains! And yes, we could spot him! As tall as the Liberty Bells stood, between two peaks, we could see a rope tied, and a person walking on it! This left us spell-bound – adventure at its peak (metaphorically and literally too 😛 ) Of late, we have been witnessing more people venturing outdoors and doing something so daring that it becomes one of the few highlights of our trip 😀
After packing up and getting down, we decided to simply cross the creek this time instead of jumping on those tree logs. The initial half of the descent was slow especially with those snowy patches all along. As we crossed these rough areas and those fallen trees, our pace increased. Walking and talking and getting down, we reached the trailhead at almost 4pm. Nikhil decided to take us all to one of his all-time favorites, the Washington Pass overlook, hoping the roads would be open at this time and we could drive all the way up. We reached the viewpoint parking area, walked a bit to get to the look-out. Everyone loved the spot, it is indeed one of PNW’s best! Standing at an elevation of around 2000ft and looking at the highway SR20 winding amidst pine trees on both sides, with liberty bell on the right, snow-dressed mountains in the middle and those jagged peaks of the Kangaroo ridge on the left. This is truly a soul rejuvenating sight! Some more work to our lenses, and some peaceful moments followed.
We then headed back and drove to the Diablo Lake Lookout. Priyanka was keen on seeing this, Amit hadn’t seen it either. While we drove back through the SR20 towards Diablo, we could see so many trailheads with over-flowing parking lots, especially the Ross Dam one. There were similar scenes at the Diablo Lake – a lot more people! The clouds had cleared around noon and we had a nice and clear view of the lake, beautiful as always. But I guess Blue Lake had won our hearts as it was a complete package! Also probably because the efforts to get to it made it further more pleasing. Diablo was good, but you know what I mean! 😀 After spending a few minutes here, we decided to visit the ice cream as planned. There is a family owned farm called the Cascadia Farms in the foothills of the North Cascades and it has become a ritual to visit it whenever we are near-by. It would close by 6pm and we raced against time through those curvy roads, to reach there at 5:57pm! Literally! And to note that the last 5 mile drive was to be retraced owing to a road closure. We rushed in and ordered something in the nick of the time! Although due to Covid the experience wasn’t great – there weren’t many options, nor there was any seating in the farm. Nevertheless, we decided to have more food – Priyanka’s special pulao this time alongside some more cake. This time the ice cream shop’s parking lot became our lunch spot. After finishing up, we saw that everyone around had departed, and we decided to play frisbee! It was good long frisbee time and was such a nice way to end the day! It’s rare to get a chance to play beside tall lush green hills on a beautiful green grass, and we made the most of it 🙂 It was around 6:30pm when we decided to call it a day.
It was around 9pm when we reached Seattle, met at Charu’s place again to bid good-byes. Cherishing the wonderful moments and pledging to go on more such hikes, we departed and were back home after a day that was totally worth it! 🙂 🙂 Amit claimed this to be his favorite outing till now in the PNW and we couldn’t agree more! We absolutely love love love this place and will keep coming back to it frequently! 🙂 🙂