The limbs of fall kissed Cottonwoods danced across the side of the mountain, joined by towering Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs. The brisk air bit at the back of my nostrils, accompanied by the faint smell of distant smoke. I am dwarfed by my surroundings, feeling as if I have entered Honey I Shrunk the Kids.
The roar of water in the distance begs me to find its source so further I go, into the dense foliage. In the distance, through moss covered limbs of silver fir, I can see a river pulsing with life.
I’ve finally made it to the North Cascades.
I had woken up early that morning, just as rays of the sun started to break through the morning haze. The golden light gradually showcased colossal mountains where moments before, all there had been was darkness. With each curve, the landscape would open up to show another breathtaking glacier or snowcapped peak. My destination was Maple Pass, a ridge line hike with peaks, alpine lakes and dense forests and with this drive setting my expectations, I couldn’t be more excited.
Getting started while the sun is rising always has advantages when in a National Park, the foremost probably being beating the rush of people. The fall colors were quickly changing and I was sure that a later start would find the trail packed with hikers, even with it’s long length and the fact that Covid was still prevalent. I was sure there would be many people like me itching to see the views and getting to the trailhead by 7am, I was one of probably 15 cars in the parking lot. This time frame also had the added benefit of providing that amazing morning light for my photos.
Not long into the hike, I felt like I had escaped into a different universe. The sheer scale of the wilderness in front of me was intimidating and breathtaking, all in the same moment. As I came out of the forest into a ridge line clearing, I couldn’t help but stop in awe, seeing a perfectly glass reflecting the mountains off of its surface. A small island sat in the middle, adding a bit of disruption to the scene.
I couldn’t help but feel content.
I’m on top of the world.
I had reached the top of the pass and had decided to take a break and to be able to fully appreciate the wondrous world that surrounded me. Sometimes when I am out in these areas, I feel like I am in such a rush to move on to the next point, to exert myself in reaching the goal, that I am not able to fully appreciate the subtleties of the world around me. It seems to be an apt analogy for how we rush through our lives, always so concerned with what is happening next that we don’t realize how value is in what we are experiencing now. If there is any lesson that I have learned throughout my travels, it is that the future will always be there, but “now” will be over in an instant.
I still had a long way to go to get back to the lot. The hike was a full loop so I wouldn’t need to turn around, and although a bit more steep than the way up, I was looking forward to the decline.
As I made my way along the trail, I noticed an ever growing amount of people on their way up. It brought a smile to my face knowing that even with Coronavirus going on, people were finding the opportunity to explore the beauty that our nation has to offer. I was even more glad that I had made it early in the day to miss the crowds and have the trail (almost) to myself. Nonetheless, the value of being out in nature still stood strong.
Eventually making it to my car, I drove away with an ever growing feeling of contentment. I was already planning a longer backpacking trip in my head, making the map with areas I would like to go to. With winters grasp becoming tighter with ever day though, that adventure will have to wait.
Until then, I dream of my return to the North Cascades.
Closest Supercharger Burlington WA 59 mi
9384 Old Hwy 99 N, Burlington, WA 98233
North Cascades National Park
Marblemount, WA 98267