76 – Heather Pass – Setting Up Camp (Day 1 – Heather-Maple Pass Loop Backpacking Trip)

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.

At the trailhead . . .

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.

(pic by Kent) . . . along the trail

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.

Lake Ann

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.

Snowing . . .

Out came those warmer, waterproof layers.

Me, modeling my stylish new rain jacket

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!

Camp cook . . . making hot chocolate

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.

Purifying water . . . in the snow

Night at camp.

Snow 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.

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