The hike from where we camped to the pass was about five miles in length with an elevation gain of approximately 2,000′. There were lots of familiar peaks to view along the way and the trail was very well maintained.
Rock formations often lined the trail as we climbed in elevation.
Here is a great view of Cutthroat Peak and Cutthroat Pass, our destination, (to the right of the peak) from the trail. Seeing the pass up ahead provided great motivation for us to keep on trekking!
There were snow fields at the pass, but they were easy to cross. This is where the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) joins the trail we had followed to reach Cutthroat Pass. Our trail ended there, and the Pacific Crest Trail continued on over the pass. Often when we are out hiking, we intersect with the PCT, and I can certainly see why some say that some of the most scenic sections of the PCT are said to be right here in Washington State. For more information on the PCT, go here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Crest_Trail. Wouldn’t the PCT be a marvelous through-hike to make some day?
Enjoying the spectacular 360 degree view, we explored all around the pass, then pulled out our picnic lunch in order to refuel before making the hike back down to our camp.
On our way back from an afternoon business meeting in Twisp, we came prepared to backpack in to Cutthroat Lake for the night rather than make the long drive all the way back to Bellingham. Here we are at the trailhead ready to begin the hike.
This was an easy trail with very little elevation gain. At less than two miles from the trailhead to the lake, this made the perfect hike for us since we had not even reached the trailhead until around 5:00 p.m.
There always seems to be a stream crossing (or two!) along our wilderness hikes, and this trip was no exception. Here I am, ready to cross a log bridge over Cutthroat Creek.
Camping is not allowed along the shore of the lake, so we found this wonderful campsite right above Cutthroat Creek. The roar of the creek below was music to my ears as I drifted off to sleep that night. The bugs were bad, but we came prepared with our bug nets, and were extra carefull not to allow any of those big black biting critters into our tent. I highly recommend bug nets!
After setting up camp, we followed the trail to Cutthroat Lake. So beautiful!
Here’s a great shot of Kent, the camp cook, in action. He’s preparing a high-protein, quick-cooking pasta with carrots and broccoli (that we dehydrated ourselves) and tuna. We recently took a backcountry cooking class at our local REI (see: REI – Bellingham – Events) and, while none of the recipes they shared or any of the pre-packaged, dehydrated foods they used as samples in the class sounded remotely like anything that we would want to eat, we were greatly inspired to branch out more and become more creative with our backpacking meals. We now dehydrate our own coleslaw and mix it with rehydrated lentils and/or beans to roll in a high-protein tortilla for lunch, we add packets of cream cheese to our pasta dishes, and we dehydrate lots more vegetables (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) to mix in with pasta or potato dishes. We even make a extremely delicious and hearty vegetable soup for dinner. We are eating very well out on the trail now while still managing to keep the weight of the food in our packs down to a minimum.
Vegetation along the trail was still wet from all the rain the day before, and the streams were running high. Stream crossings for the day turned out to be quite easy and with proper bridges though. This make-shift bridge of small logs that we encountered not long after we started out was not even much of a challenge.
The trail, often took us high above the shore of Lake Chelan and then dipped down right to the waters edge as we continued on to Stehekin. There really barely a couple feet in elevation difference between the beginning and ending of this hike, but there were certainly many, many ups and downs along the way.
The views were great the entire day.
And then we reached Stehekin!
Stehekin is quite a remarkable little town. Really just an “unincorporated” community, there are only about 75 full-time residents. There is no road access to Stehekin. The only way in and out of Stehekin is to take a boat, a float plane or hike in – or some combination or those options like we did (boat and hike).
Downtown Stehekin, now we’ve been there – done that.
We arrived in plenty of time to check out the town, eat our lunch, have tea and coffee and rest and relax before it was time for us to catch the ferry back to the town of Chelan.
The boat, the Lady of the Lake II, arrived and we dug our tickets out of our packs so we could complete our trip.
It was a four and a half boat ride from the Stehekin at the northern most end of Lake Chelan to the town of Chelan at the southern most end of the lake, and oh so beautiful. As we headed south, the clouds (which, by the way, never did rain on us as during our final hike to Stehekin), lifted to expose beautiful snow-capped peaks. By the time we reached Chelan, the sky was clear.
We tossed our heavy backpacks in the back of the car once we got off the boat at Chelan and made the one-hour drive back to son Brian’s to spend the night, then hit the road in the morning to complete the five and a half hour drive back home. What an exceptional adventure this was!
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.
Deciding to begin at Patterson Lake and hike to the top of Patterson Mountain as we sipped our coffee and soaked up the morning sun from the deck of our Eagle Pine Chalet, at that point, I had absolutely no clue just how beautiful the wildflowers would be, or how outstanding the view from the top of the mountain would be, or that I would have western tanagers and mountain bluebirds practically posing for me – or that I would pass so closely to a four foot long snake – but that is exactly how it turned out.
Beginning near the boat launch at the lake, we walked across the road to the trailhead, and right from the start, the trail was absolutely beautiful.
Sometimes the wildflowers, like this bitterroot, drew me off the trail. Bitterroot, the Montana state flower, was so pretty as its delicate buds and blossoms poked out from the gravel that I found myself stepping closer in order to get a better look.
It was not long after spotting those first few bunches of bitterroot that we found ourselves again stepping off the trail. This time because of a snake. There it was, a four-foot long snake, shading itself under the leaves of an arrow leaf balsam root. I had encountered a rattler at the base of a sage brush some years back when on a hike through Douglas Creek Canyon, so I recognized that this was not a rattle snake. This guy was too large and had the wrong coloring – plus it wasn’t shaking a rattle on its tail. But we didn’t know what kind of snake it was. We didn’t know if it was poisonous, nor did we know what its next move might be. So off the trail we went, carefully allowing the snake plenty of room.
Shortly after that, we met up with hikers heading down the trail toward where we had seen the snake. They had a little dog running along with them, so we shared with them about the snake. As we described the snake to them, they assured us that it was probably just a bull snake and not poisonous. Whew!
And just like that, we continued on – and up.
The view continued to get better as we climbed higher. That’s Patterson Lake where we started our hike down there in the background.
Then we started spotting birds. First a western tanager.
Then a mountain bluebird!
Nearly to the summit of Patterson Mountain here, he’s pointing out another bluebird, or maybe it was a pair.
We made it! Here we are at the summit.
The view of the mountains was impressive up there. We easily spotted Lookout Mountain where we had hiked the day before (see Hike # 57 – Lookout Mountain). It’s behind me in this photo.
Then, with map in hand, other peaks were identified.
We headed back along the same trail that had taken us to the top, then switched to a loop trail that lead us through a more forested area as we continued on down the mountain. After crossing a small creek, we came to a ladder that we climbed over as the trail continued on through a pasture.
The Patterson Mountain Trail is part of the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA), a private, non-profit corporation dedicated to developing and promoting non-motorized, trail-based recreation in the Methow Valley that works in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to create and maintain public trails on the National Forest lands, many of which connect to well-established Association trails on private lands. To learn more about MVSTA, go here – http://www.mvsta.com/.
After our hike, a tailgate picnic while getting the fishing hook wet seemed the perfect finish to a wonderful afternoon.
Surrounded by the beautiful Methow Valley, this hike took us along the popular early Spring mountain bike route through Pipestone Canyon. The canyon walls, lined with natural rock columns that are topped with caps, called hoodoos, were naturally formed millions of years ago.
An easy, approximate 5 mile (in and back) old jeep trail used for hiking, horse riding and mountain biking in the fair weather seasons, and those that snow shoe and cross country ski in the winter, the trailhead for Pipestone Canyon is near Campbell Lake.
An “open range” area, we passed cattle grazing in the grass near the lake as we walked along the road to reach the trailhead.
The canyon walls reach heights in excess of 1,500 feet, and, lined with rock formations that almost resemble medievel castles, are very impressive.
The trail first lead us through the rock-lined canyon, then onto a more forested area and ended with rolling fields of grasses.
Peaceful and serene, except for the lone horseback rider we passed along the trail, we seemed to have the entire canyon to ourselves.
To reach the trailhead for Pipestone Canyon, from Winthrop, head south on Highway 20. Do not cross the Methow River, but continue straight for one-quarter mile to the first cross street. Turn left and go one block, then turn right onto the Winthrop-Twisp East County Road. After two miles, turn left onto Upper Bear Creek Road, and follow this road to the end of the pavement where it intersects with Lester Road. Continue up Lester road, staying right at all intersections until you reach Campbell Lake. Park near the information sign at Campbell Lake and walk a short distance to the trailhead.
With near airplane-like views of the giant valley below, it was a bumpy drive as the gravel road hugged almost too closely to the edge of each corner as the car climbed steeply up Lookout Mountain. Finally landing us at a parking lot near the trailhead, we were greated by fields of wildflowers the moment we got out of the car, and I knew right away that this would be a spectacular hike.
Even though the views would increase significantly as we continued along the trail to the very top of Lookout Mountain, because we had already driven so high just to reach that trailhead, right off the bat, we saw snow capped mountains.
But forget about the great views for just a moment – there were wildflowers. All along, on both sides of the trail, lots of wildflowers, everywhere. Indian paint brush, calipso orchids, the yellow flowered arrow leaf balsam roots, glacier lilys, shooting stars, lupinss, and many more. Sometimes we couldn’t identify them, so out came the wildflower identification book. If we couldn’t find them in the book right away, we took a photo so we could look them up later.
A beautiful clump of shooting stars right along the trail.
The trail was steep, I’d call it a steady grunt, and kept us very close to the edge as it continued around the mountain, and after awhile, we started running into patches of snow. In some places, the snow was ankle deep, in others thigh high, but it was patchy and nothing we couldn’t manage to get through.
Sometimes when I took a step, chunks of snow broke off from the edge of a drift. Watching those snowballs tumble ten or so feet over the edge of the mountain before they smashed against the trunk of a tree felt just a little frightening, but Kent led the way and did an excellent job of plowing a track through the deepest drifts to make my going much easier. (Thank you, thank you, Darling!)
A wonderful reward along a steep trail that starts at a relatively high elevation is that before you know it, you are near the top. As if to offer encouragement, in no time the fire lookout tower came into view.
And we continued our climb.
We climbed the steps of the fire lookout tower, sat and had our lunch and tried our best to absorb the incredible view. The view, so vast, was definitely a “WOW”. Go here – http://youtu.be/CxZzXm5DM00 – to see my video showing the 360 degree views from the top of Lookout Mountain.
The hike back down went much faster than the climb up, and once again we were amazed at the number of wildflowers. We took the time to walk through the fields of wildflowers on the hill just behind the parking area in order to enjoy them even more. Early spring is the perfect time to do this hike.