Day Hikes in the North Cascades

While visiting Tom, Yee, Nate and Tee in Redmond, Washington in late September, I really wanted to visit again the North Cascades. We’d been there to Heather Meadows once before when Tom rented a house for a long weekend. On that trip, the clouds were low. It was foggy and drizzly but at least I did get a nice shot of Mt. Baker on a different day and from a different direction.

I plotted out some day hikes in the North Cascades using Photographing Washington and a Photographing Oregon guide books. They were an invaluable resource. I focused on a few spots that were among the highest in photographic interest for that season. [Since I’ve gone to Mt. Rainier in September before and only wanted to make a few side trips during the middle of the week when the boys were in school, I skipped Rainier and the Olympic Peninsula this time.]

The first outing was a two day, one night route to the north. The hiking and the pace would be too strenuous for Kathleen so she stayed with Yee.



Trip 1A: Heather Meadows – Mt. Shukan – Mt. Baker

Since the guide book said the afternoon and evening light would be best, I dropped Tee off at school which was on the way and took off to drive to Heather Meadows. Arriving in early afternoon, I started with pictures of Mt. Shuksan from Picture Lake, one of the iconic shots.

Mt. Shuksan from Picture Lake
In the Heather Meadows portion of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Of course, one shot is never enough.

With time before sunset for some short hikes, I tried the short hike right from the parking lot to the top of Table Mountain. I guess I didn’t think about fact that it was mostly vertical but 600′ elevation change wouldn’t be so bad. There were nice views of Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker from the top.

Back to the parking lot for a short walk to Artist’s Inspiration Point. With a name like that, how could you not go?

Time to get into position for sunset back at Picture Lake and Mt. Shuksan. Alas, clouds had drifted in partly obscuring the mountain and dulling the sunset light.

Mt. Shuksan from Picture Lake

So finally I hopped in the car and as I looped around Picture Lake climbing in altitude, I glanced behind me and immediately pulled over to the side of the road when I saw this.


It only lasted a couple of minutes but was quite a sight while it did. I hopped back in the car and headed out for a 2-3 hour drive looping around back to a motel in Marblemount further south in the North Cascades on Highway 2.

Trip 1B: The Cascade Pass

What led me to that tired foolishness? The “Photographing Washington” guide book said if there’s only one long day hike you can take, then go to the Cascades Pass. The book was invaluable in several ways. There were no signs so I needed its directions. From Marblemount in the morning, you drove 23 miles on a fire road back to the very nice trailhead parking lot. I took the shortest out and back loop of 6.4 miles but you could go much further and backpack in overnight which some on the trail did.

The scenery was terrific at the parking lot and eventually got even better.

But first you had to hike up the opposite side through forest and lots of switchbacks for an 1,800 foot elevation gain before you could head to Cascade Pass itself. My planning up to this point was pretty good but on the ride in, I convinced myself that since a key purpose of the hike was photography, I should bring all the gear I “might” need. When I was almost to the top elevation gain, I’d had it. I left about $5,000 worth of the gear I had carried up under an overturned tree to pick up on the way back. I had lost sight of a cardinal rule:

What a relief without the extra weight on my back. I got to Cascade Pass and it was worth the hike.

Cascade Pass

Hiked back down picking up my unused gear along the way and headed back to Tom and Yee’s house in Redmond, Washington after a fine two day outing. Of course, I did have to stop on the way to the main road to take a few shots I didn’t have time for on the way in.

Trip part 2 in the Cascades focused on waterfalls will be in the next blog post.

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