Keeping the sky bright all through the night, the beautiful harvest moon setting behind Tomyhoi Peak greeted us our last morning at camp.
Having feasted on so many ripe mountain blueberries the day before during our hike to the old Gargett Mine (see Hike # 80 – Gargett Mine), we combed the bushes around our campsite so we could add some to our morning oatmeal. Blueberries for breakfast – absolutely delicious!
After breakfast, we folded up our campsite and repacked our backpacks in preparation of the hike back down to the trailhead.
After hiking back to the trailhead near Twin Lakes, almost immediately, we managed to hitch a ride with some nice folks heading back down that bumpy old logging road to where we had parked our car at the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead. Thanks so much! That ride saved us a 2-1/2 mile walk down a gravel road!
Above Even Higher Pass, the trail turned into not much more than a shovel track as it switched back and forth up the steep slope of loose scree.
Looking at first like waterfalls in the distance with just the naked eye, through the binoculars and zoom lense of my camera as we continued to climb, we had a birds’ eye view of Mount Larrabee and could clearly see that those streaks were actually veins of white quarts.
We continued climbing the trail above Even Higher Pass, but turned back just short of reaching the ridge above the pass. Having climbed that high along the trail, it was a welcome relief to head back down again – to High Pass.
This was our last day at camp, so after returning from the hike to Even Higher Pass, we ate breakfast and broke camp, so stay tuned for the report of yet another fun day along the trail.
This hike was so much fun! We had set up camp on High Pass (See Hike#79 – Low Pass/High Pass – Setting Up Camp) near the same location as the Garget brothers might have passed. This photo shows the brothers dragging a load of supplies over a snowfield in the early 1900s at High Pass – and happy camper Kent at our camp near a similarly located snowfield on that same pass.
We saw remains of that gold mine through our binoculars as we looked out to the lower left of Mount Larrabee, so decided to hike down to it and have a look around.
Following the trail from the pass down to the mine ruins, we were amazed by the color of the mountain blueberries,
Many blueberries were ripe and we feasted on their sweetness.
Still some unsafe snow bridges along the trail, we hike off trail around this one, but couldn’t resist checking it out as we passed by.
Here we are, at what remains of the mine.
The mine shaft was flooded with water and obviously unsafe to enter, but it was still very interesting to look in and explore the area.
Here we are, hiking back up to the pass, and snacking on more blueberries as we go.
With no snow in the high country – yet – and the rare weekend off, we packed up and headed to the mountains.
More often than not, the days we are available for hiking and backpacking trips are during the week when there are fewer people out and about, so it often feels like we have the entire wilderness practically all to ourselves. For this particular backpacking trip, because of the condition of the last couple of miles of an old logging road that must be traveled in order to reach the trailhead for High Pass, there was a big advantage to being out there on a weekend. Only high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles dare make that drive, so for those of us who drive an older model Volvo station wagon, we must park below, near the Yellow Aster Butte trailhead (we’ve been that far before – see Hike #68 – Yellow Aster Butte) and hike along the road for another 2-1/2 miles as it continues to gain in elevation to Twin Lakes, and the trailhead for High Pass. So that’s what we did, we parked the car, loaded our heavy packs on our backs and took off on foot – with our thumbs out. This is why being there on a weekend worked to our advantage, because in no time, we were climbing into the back of someone elses pickup truck for the bumpy ride to the lakes.
We were dropped off at the parking lot for Twin Lakes, and in no time had registered for overnight camping.
It was a great day to be out hiking – not too hot, not too cold.
There were clouds in the valley below us and overcast skies above. With plenty of stunning mountain peaks at which to gaze as the trail made its steep climb from Twin Lakes to Low Pass, we had a great time as we hiked.
Having packed in slices of homemade pizza left over from the evening before, we stopped for lunch near Low Pass. Seems like such a treat to me to get to enjoy such gourmet treats – especially with a view like this!
We continued our climb along the trail, and in no time had reached High Pass where we set up camp.
As the full moon rose over the distant mountains, the clouds above began to clear.
It gets cold quickly in the higher elevations once the sun sets, and darkness settles in early this time of year, but we were prepared with plenty of warm layers to wear. He’s cooking us a dinner of Annie’s Mac-n-Cheese with tuna, a very tasty treat on a cold evening.
Although it is not possible to call any one hike our favorite because they all seem to be so wonderful, from the moment the early morning sun glowed on the mountain peaks surrounding our camp, this may have been our most beautiful day on the trail – ever.
After spending two nights camping just below Heather Pass, we had a most enjoyable morning at camp before it was time to pack up and finish the loop along the Heather-Maple Pass Loop Trail.
Sharing the trail with members of the Skagit Audubon Society Hiking Group, we had several opportunities to chat with some of them along the way. There was a large number of their group on the trail that day, but because they had divided themselves into small groups of two to four hikers, they did not make the trail feel over crowded even when we meet them along some of the most narrow or steep sections of the trail.
Once we had hiked from Heather Pass to Maple Pass, the trail followed high ridges for several miles – up and down each ridge with stunning views of distant mountains. Here’s Kent, high above a tiny-looking Wing Lake next to a large snow field.
The blueberries were just beginning to ripen along the trail. How could we resist snacking on a few as we passed by?
This is one of my favorite photos from the hike! Taken at about the highest point of elevation along the trail, it felt like we could see for ever!
We had started this backpacking trip from the parking area for the Rainy Lake Trail near Rainy Pass, and with our heavy packs on our backs, it felt pretty good when Rainy Lake came into view from along the trail. It was a steep trail down hill from this point – but at least it was downhill, rather than up!
The trail soon led us back into the forest, and became a series of very steep switchbacks down as we continued back to the trailhead.
Morning greated us with clear skies, a trace of snow and clouds in the valley below our camp. Sipping coffee and eating oatmeal from a porch made of giant rocks, I watched in amazement as the forested wilderness in the valley floor slowly came into view as those clouds climbed up and then disappeared.
In no time that blanket of snow was gone, so we set our sights on hiking to Lewis Lake, a tiny looking lake barely visible from camp.
A small footpath led us from camp to the edge of a talus slope where the occasional cairn marked the tedious route meandering through its miles and miles of boulders. Spending a good hour working our way over those jagged rocks had not gotten us even close to the shore of Lewis Lake, so once we realizied just how far away that lake was and the effort it would take to get there, we turned around and and worked our way back to camp.
Camping is not allowed on Heather Pass itself, so as we hiked over the pass the evening before, we took a side trail that had dropped us down a little below the pass in order to find a suitable campsite. We had not been able to enjoy much of a view when we were at the pass as it had been snowing (see: Hike 76 – Heather Pass – Setting Up Camp), so after lunch we decided to hike back up to the pass to have a look around. Back at Heather Pass, the view of distant mountain peaks was incredible in the afternoon sun.
Then we hiked back to get yet another look at Lake Ann.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent lazing around at camp. With the total distance for this entire three-day backpacking trip set to log in at just over 10 miles with an approximate 2,000 foot elevation gain up (then back down), I appreciated an afternoon of reading and relaxing.
The days are getting shorter with the sun setting earlier and earlier each day this time of year, so with headlamps, we were ready for another night at camp.
Stay tuned, there is more to come! Day three finds us greeted with a brilliant sunrise as we pack up camp and continue on our way. Meeting up with members of the very active Skagit Audubon Society Hiking Group, we complete the loop along the Heather-Maple Pass Trail.
We knew ahead of time that snow was expected at the elevation where we planned to camp. With that snow predicted to last only one night and the promise of sunny skies after that, we stuffed our packs with extra warm layers of clothing and took off along the North Cascades Highway. We began our hike about 25 miles west of Winthrop, Washington at the trailhead for Lake Ann and Heather – Maple Pass Loop Trail. With plans to camp for two nights near Heather Pass, there were several day hikes we could do from there – Lake Ann, Lewis Lake, Heather Pass, and many other short trails to explore before packing up to continue on to Maple Pass and completing the entire Loop Trail.
It was hard to believe that snow was expected later that day as it was warm and sunny when we began our hike. As the trail gained in elevation, in no time I had to shed some of those warm, outer layers.
After hiking about 1.3 miles, we reached the turnoff for the trail to Lake Ann. The trail to the lake, less than a mile in length is said to make a nice side hike, so we stashed our backpacks along the main Loop Trail and took off in the direction of Lake Ann. We had not gone far along that trail though before a chilly wind came up and clouds were started to move in. Our jackets were stashed with our backpacks back at the main trail, so we decided to skip the hike to the lake and headed back. As it turned out, Lake Ann was beautifully visible almost constantly along the trail as we continued to follow the trail up to Heather Pass, so we really had not missed much.
With the clouds continuing to move in as we gained elevation along the trail, sure enough, we hiked right into that predicted storm – and snow began to fall.
Out came those warmer, waterproof layers.
We reached Heather Pass in plenty of time to set up camp before the snow had started to accumulate much on the ground. It was fun sitting under the rain tarp (I guess it should now be called a SNOW tarp) as we sipped mugs of hot chocolate. What a wonderful way to experience the first snow of the season!
Water was scarce in the area where we were camping, and all we could find was what remained of a small stream. With two barely-trickling branches, the dishes were washed in one and water for drinking and cooking purified from the other.
Night at camp.
To reach the Heather-Maple Pass trailhead from Marblemount, follow the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) east for 51 miles to Rainy Pass near milepost 158. Parking is available at the Rainy Pass Picnic Area.