North Cascades National Park

North Cascades sign

North Cascades National Park is a remarkable place, combining the grandeur of the northern Cascade Mountain Range and all its attendant 300+ glaciers with both temperate rainforest in the west and dry ponderosa pine ecosystems in the east. For all of its beauty however, it seems the park may have been plotting against me: I was first deterred from one of my hikes by forest fire, then swamped out of my tent one morning by torrential downpour that was accompanied by a thunderstorm so loud it caused me to literally vibrate (it brought appreciation of the phrase “shook me to the core”), and then prevented from doing any of the three remaining planned hikes because of mudslides that closed the park’s main roads. So it seems that North Cascades and I have some unfinished business to take care of whenever I can make it back to this part of the country. And I will make it back because what majesty the park did reveal to me has me hooked; my hike up into the mountains via the Maple Pass Trail afforded me an intimate encounter with the peaks and glaciers that I am eager to repeat. The Maple Pass Trail winds through verdant cedar forest, crosses avalanche meadow, and then ascends above the tree line for a long stretch around the ridge above Lake Ann before a final ascent to the top of Maple Pass.

Passing Lake Ann on Maple Pass Trail above dense forest line, North Cascades National Park, WA

Passing Lake Ann on Maple Pass Trail above dense forest line, North Cascades National Park, WA

Close up view of waters and island in Lake Ann, Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

Close up view of waters and island in Lake Ann, Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

View of mountains on ascent, Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

View of mountains on ascent, Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

Flowers on ridgeline above Lake Ann, Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

Flowers on ridgeline above Lake Ann, Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

View of Corteo Peak from ridgeline, Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

View of Corteo Peak from ridgeline, Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

Rainy Lake on other side of Maple Pass as seen from the top, North Cascades National Park, WA

Rainy Lake on other side of Maple Pass as seen from the top, North Cascades National Park, WA

Lake Ann seen from other side of cirque on descent, Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

Lake Ann seen from other side of cirque on descent, Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

Rainy Lake from shoreline, Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

Rainy Lake from shoreline, Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park, WA

At the park I was also able to see views of the gorgeous turquoise Diablo Lake and the Skagit River, the latter of which is extremely cold, I can tell you. Both are a product of glacial outwash and thus have the characteristic blue-green hue from suspended silica and other minerals trapped in the glaciers.

View of Diablo Lake, North Cascades National Park, WA

View of Diablo Lake, North Cascades National Park, WA

Dead tree stumps in former bed of Skagit River show evidence of rapidly changing water levels due to glacial outwash, North Cascades National Park, WA

Dead tree stumps in former bed of Skagit River shows evidence of rapidly changing water levels due to glacial outwash, North Cascades National Park, WA