North Cascades National Park

The North Cascades National Park is situated in the northwestern corner of Washington State, along the Canada border. It’s a wonderfully rugged piece of wilderness, half a million acres of meadows, jagged peaks, glaciers, forests and wonder.

The North Cascades National Park does not get a lot of visitors, by National Park standards. That’s due in part, to the fact that the park is not on the way somewhere, unless you’re circumnavigating the US border! It’s a 3 hour drive, north from Seattle. In short, it’s an out of the way place. If you got there, its because you meant to!

Which is all fine with me. Less people means more solitude.

The park is bisected by the North Cascades Highway into two units. The North Unit is more remote than its southern sister. There are fewer trails.

The legendary Picket Range is here. Peaks like Mount Terror, Mount Despair and Mt Challenger tower over the deep, wet valleys filled with nasty things like Devils Club.

Trail access from the west side is via Hannegan Pass. Heading east from the town of Glacier on SR 542 (Mt Baker Hwy) for 13 miles there is a well marked turn off for the Hannegan Pass trailhead.

All sorts of important info about permits to camp overnight in the park, can be found here

Its about 4 miles to the pass, and from there you can do a short easy scramble to the top of Hannegan Peak, or a more involved climb of Ruth Mountain.

Just down the east side from the pass you enter the National Park. There is a campsite, Boundary Camp, and a trail junction. You can ascend Copper Ridge to Silesia Camp and Egg Lake, or follow the main trail down the Chilliwack River (there is a spot where you pull yourself over a chasm in a cable car) to a junction where you meet a turn off for the trail to Whatcom Pass.

This is one of the more remote parts of the park. The views of Mt Challenger and its namesake glacier are mind blowing. I have visited twice, the first visit was magnificent, and the most recent a total white out of gray.

From Whatcom Pass you can retrace your steps back to the car, or you can continue your trip east, and hike down along Little Beaver Creek to the shores of Ross Lake and take a water taxi to Ross Lake Resort,  or hike out via Beaver Pass.

A longer and more spectacular trip is to take the turn off for Copper Ridge. This is one of the few ridge hikes in the park, affording breathtaking views of Mount Shuksan, Mount Baker and host of other peaks. There are several camp site along Copper Ridge, Silesia Camp has the best views anywhere, and Copper Lake is a wonderful place to camp along the route.

The trail loops down the Chilliwack River, which you ford just south of the Canada border.

In early August expect to be wading through a river filled with salmon. It is quite a sight. From there its an easy hike to the junction with the Whatcom Pass Trail, and so you can make a loop out of the trek.

 

The Southern Unit has many more access points along Highway 20, Ross Lake to the east and Lake Chelan to the south. The Pacific Crest Trail passes through on its way to Canada.

In the next two posts we will visit some of the most spectacular areas in the lower section of the park.

Here is an image of Mount Logan from the North Fork Bridge Creek.

Mount Logan, North Cascades National Park

Five National Parks: Images from 2018

As I started to review images from this year, the theme of “National Parks” kept coming to me. So here are some of my best images from 5 National Parks this year…

Zion National Park

I visited Zion NP for the 4th time, always a marvel…

Here is an image from a new place, for me: Double Alcove Arch!

And for those who have not heard of the Subway…

“The Subway”, Zion National Park

The Subway, Zion National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

They say the night skies at Bryce are magical…they say right! This is from a short 2 day trip to Bryce in April…

Milky Way, Bryce Canyon National Park

 

North Cascades National Park

I have visited this park more than all others combined. I made the boat ride this year to Hozomeen, along the shores of Ross Lake near the Canada Border, and spent a night at Hozomeen Lake…

Hozomeen Lake, North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park turns 50 in 2018! Here is a link to a wonderful new book, by Lauren Danner, “Crown Jewel Wilderness: Creating North Cascades National Park” which chronicles the efforts of many to create NCNP.

And a shout out to my all time favorite camping place, Sahale Glacier Camp.

Sahale Glacier Camp, North Cascades National Park

 

Olympic National Park

My only trip this year, out west to the Olympic NP was back in February… as always dreaming of my return…

Sea Stacks at Point of the Arches, Olympic National park

 

Yellowstone National Park

I just returned from a Christmas trip to Yellowstone…Cold, crisp mornings, with no one about…I am still digesting the wonder of the place…

Oh, and here is my favorite image from 2017:

Winchester Lookout and the Aurora Borealis, North Cascades

Star Trails above Winchester Lookout, Northern Lights on the horizon

To purchase prints, here is the link.

For information on North Cascades Photo Tours, this is the place!

And, 2018 Calendars are still available! Get them while they last!.

Cascade Pass, Horseshoe Basin and Park Creek

Park Creek flows south from the slopes of Buckner Mountain, bound for the Stehekin River and Lake Chelan…

Buckner Mountain and Park Creek

The trail starts at the junction with the Stehekin River trail, once a road served daily by bus, the upper reaches fallen back to their native state.

After gaining almost 4,000 feet the trail tops out at Park Creek Pass. This is one of the most scenic and seldom visited passes in the North Cascades National Park.

I have visited twice and am hungry to return. The trip has been on my “must do” list for a while, but weather, fires of some other element distracted me. Now I was prepared to go…

Crossing Park Creek

The 40-something switch back to make Cascade Pass get you warmed up. We arrived before 9am, an early start. Heading down through Pelton Basin, the trail made a hard left and plunged down into a new climate. The headwaters of the Stehekin River bring dry eastern air far up this western valley.

Doubtful Creek bisects the trail, a welcome distraction…

Stehekin Valley and Doubtful Creek

A spur trail leads up to Horseshoe Basin…

The next day I am camped at Buckner Camp, along Park Creek. Here are the images from a magnificent trip!

 

Diablo Overlook Winter Night Sky

On Monday, Jan. 2, 2017 I made my way to the Diablo Overlook on the North Cascades Highway.

The plan was to see about a few sunset pics and then wait for the stars.

Here are the results!

diablo-winter-panoranaThis is 4 images, photo merged into a panorama.

And a few more. The 2017 dates for the North Cascades Night Sky Photo Tours are set. Here is the link to find out more, and if you’re interested, register for this years tours.

Stehekin Weekend

Stehekin Weekend

We’ve made it onto the ferry early, needing a seat with table so that the boys, Max and Dawson, can get their algebra homework done. A 4-hour ride on the Lady of the Lake II will get us into Chelan just before days end, and we’ll start the drive back over the North Cascades Highway, west to home.

I have been invited to spend the weekend here teaching photographic workshops. I get room and board for the weekend for me and my crew. 32 years ago, in what seemed like another lifetime I caught a greyhound to Chelan, hiked up and over Park Creek Pass and upon reaching the North Cascades Hwy at Colonial Creek, hitchhiked back home. I relive this tip briefly as I board the boat, time traveling as I sit.

My last 2 trips to Stehekin were hike-in affairs, once crossing Cascade Pass and hiking down past Cottonwood Camp along the now abandoned upper Stehekin Road, and more recently time hiking south on the PCT from Highway 20, to High Bridge.

Although hiking is by far my preferred mode of transport, the Lady of the Lake is pleasant, a small town community feel abounds as a theme from when we get on the boat. Seating aboard the lady is Open and you’re free to roam about, taking in the views of the newly snow frosted summits popping up above the lake. Orange larches form a necklace just below the snowfields of the peaks. Not for the first time today I wish I was up, hiking there along the Chelan Summit, among the larches and brown meadows.

The sky is interspersed with clouds and sky as we make our way north, stopping to pick up a few more people here, dropping off a handful of backpackers there. One last stop, in Holden Village, sees a lot of people and goods on and off the boat.

Arriving at Stehekin Landing the fall weather was warm and pleasant, and there was quite a festive group awaiting us at the dock. The permanent population of the village is about 100 souls, but during the season the numbers swell with lodge staff. This is the last big weekend in Stehekin for the season. Mid October sees the weather change, wetter and colder skies are ahead. I talk to several of the seasonal staff, asking where they will head off too next week, one is headed to Key West, another to Taos, New Mexico, to work the winter season at a ski resort, and another has plans that will take her to New Zealand.

Part of the reason for the swell of visitors this weekend is the list of cool events including the annual October Apple Harvest and the Buckner Music Festival.

The orchard is located about 10 miles north of town, along the river road. We arrive Saturday afternoon among a throng of busy apple pickers, slicers and mashers, all working in unison to press as much cider as they can. A camp stove sits nearby, a bottomless pot warming the cider beckons.

The look and feel of the farm is magnificent. The people living here have a marvelously genuine and friendly demeanor and one can’t help imagine life, living here in the valley. Yeah, I think I would like this.

There is a band striking up the music, a pot luck lunch and a bonfire. Besides drinking my share of warm cider I interest myself capturing images of all the old farm equipment scattered about. The boys are happy to be here, but soon are urging me to head out, they have a hankerin’ to visit the Stehekin Pastry Company as soon as humanly possible. We make our way back to the river road and hitchhike back to town.

You can’t drive a car to Stehekin. The ferry, float plan or afoot are the three ways to arrive. Any cars that are here were brought by ferry and generally stay here. The couple who pick up us 3 scruffy hitchhikers are from Chelan and have a cabin here, which the call home most all summer. This is there last weekend as well. Out on a drive looking for bears they have not seen any today.

We joyfully get out and head into the Pastry Company, luxuriating in the smells. Now hard choices are before us. Which delicious treat to choose? Mountain bars, Almond-Apple pastry, sinful brownies and much more entice us. Several of each sounds good, along with a triple mocha and 2 hot chocolates.

The red National Park Bus arrives and we catch a ride back to the landing along with a dozen or so people fresh off the boat who have just returned from a trip to Rainbow Falls. We are welcomed aboard with our snacks and hot drinks.

Things are nice and easy here in the North Cascades National Park!

The food at the lodge is awesome; we all order the Steak and Frittes, seeing how much we can eat before buttons start flying. The take home containers are full!

Friday night brings the Stehekin Valley Music Festival, we arrive at a new looking log cabin in the dark and there about 35 people crammed in, listening with rapturous intent to the different musicians. I am outside, circumnavigating the house, looking for the nice shot of the Milky Way above.

I am here to teach several courses one on composition and another on night sky imaging. My night sky class is scheduled for tomorrow night, but I am pretty sure we will not be seeing stars then, there is a storm forecast for Saturday. So I ask some two people outside in the dark for a nearby spot to go for a nice view of the lake and sky, they drop me off at the trailhead and point me on the trail. As I hike up the hill I am surprised to see I am walking through a camp site full of weekend revelers. Once my imaging is complete and I am on the way back I am accosted with questions of what sort of firewood I am toting. I explain that it’s a tripod and before I know it I am invited under a canopy tent for some scotch. My 4 new ‘ladies night out friends’ share stories and lots of laughter before I make my way back to the lodge and the boys.

The incessant rain on Saturday did little to dampen our spirits, we discovered a Rec Room for Lodge guests, replete with satellite TV, games, puzzles and a pool table. This is a welcome relief, because my aura of coolness faded a bit when we arrived and discovered that there would be no internet connection.

This morning I am up before sunrise, out to see what the sky may bring. Fall is a wonder of rich colors. I walk through empty Purple Creek Campground and north along the road. Another great meal and a short hike later we are ready to get on the boat.

Good-bye, North Cascades, you’ll see me again soon.

Sahale Camp Mountain Goat

Just back from a trip to the North Cascades National Park, 2 nights, 3 days, visited my favorite camp, Sahale Glacier Camp.

This morning I awoke at 5am, got some sunrise shots and then the camp got a visitor.

This goat was pawing the ground and I was nearby, snapping away, then he got a bit interested in me and the camera!

I was shooting with a 24-105mm lens, set to 30mm (on a full frame camera) so my furry friend was a bit closer than he looks on the pictures!