Last weekend, we decided to go camping, hiking, and generally adventuring in the Northern Cascades – part of the mountain range that goes from British Columbia through Washington, Oregon, and ending up in Northern California, and includes Mount St. Helens, Mount Ranier and Mount Baker (yes, I did check Wikipedia for the details).
Despite not having been camping for a while, it was pretty great. Washington is a very outdoorsy state, and you can get into the middle of nowhere in less than an hour (we had no phone signal all weekend. . . . honestly, I’m surprised we’re still alive). After hiking up Little Si a couple of weeks ago, we decided to go all out and get our camp on in the Northern Cascades – specifically in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Like the city types we are, we had virtually no gear – save a Dunnes €10 tent which would *probably* not cut it. Having rented everything we needed and zipcar’d a jeep, we set out for adventures.
On our drive up, we passed a Masonic campsite. This did, initially, make me a little apprehensive about the kind of folks that hung out in the Cascades of a weekend. Thankfully, those fears did not come to pass.
It was actually pretty fucking awesome. We did two shorter hikes on Saturday – the Big Four Ice Caves and Heather Lake, and a longer one on Sunday – the Lime Kiln trail. The scenery was stunning, to be frank (pictures at the bottom, just to make you jealous). Also kinda bizarre, at certain points. On the walk up to Heather Lake, there were trees growing out of other trees. And trees growing sideways, or at right angles. I know so little about trees, that I cannot tell if this is normal tree behaviour or not.
The ice caves were odd – let’s face it, it’s always odd to see snow in midsummer. Due to some weirdness about snowfall and melting and things, there are ice (or snow) caves at the base of the Big Four mountain. Technically, you could climb inside them – but people have died doing so as they are massively unstable and tend to collapse, so this is not a smart idea. There used to be a hotel out there, complete with golf course, artificial paddling lake, and a train line. Now, there’s just a chimney in the picnic area; but there was also a few rangers there, with beaver pelts and pine cones and that poster about forest fires. It was an easy wander up to the caves, but as we got closer it was almost like someone was turning on the air conditioning – just kept getting cooler. Fun, but odd.
After lunch, we headed up to the inappropriately named Heather Lake – there is no heather, and apparently there never has been. A somewhat more strenuous climb, but totally worth it for the view. There were people camping around the lake, and to be honest I was kinda jealous of them. Next time, we shall camp at a lake, says I. It was on this walk that we saw our most unusual trees, as well as a few that clearly had housed druids, or dryads, or other such wonders. Perhaps I should have camped out in one, just until they got home. But the fungi growing out of the older wood kinda freaked me out, so we moved on.
That evening at the campsite, we made fire, and kebabs, and even ‘smores. SMORES! I feel as though our first time partaking in such a quintessential American tradition should have been a more epic moment. But we were mostly concerned with not burning the marshmallows, yet making them gooey enough to smoosh. Tasty, and strangely satisfying, but oh so sweet. I’m not certain that feeding masses of these to kids of an evening would be the smartest of ideas.
After sleeping incredibly well, feasting on eggs, and packing up camp, we headed to our final jaunt of the weekend – the Lime Kiln trail. This slightly longer hike took us up to, aptly enough, an old lime kiln that used to be the hub of industry in the oddly named village of Cut-Off Junction, which was abandoned in the 1930’s. The kiln itself is overgrown, and looks a little bit like something Lara Croft might investigate. There are also remnants of this community littered all over the place – bits of saw, ironmongering,bricks, pottery, – some of it bunched together, some just lying around the trail. Definitely added to the whole “haunted forest” vibe that we were feeling. After the lime kiln, we went on another mile or so following the Stillaguamish (do not ask me to pronounce it) river, finding an amazing spot for lunch along the way. All incredibly picturesque, and so forth. But, I must confess, none of this was my favourite part of the trail. No, my favourite part was the noticeboard at the trailhead. There was the usual stuff – plan carefully, bring water, etc. Also a warning not to take any artefacts, and a warning about wild animals in the area. The animal warning described what to do if you met a bear, or a mountain lion – and pointed out that both could be around, although there hadn’t been sightings along the trail. But do you know what HAS been sighted there? Sasquatch. That’s right, we were being warned to keep an eye out for Bigfoot. I love that, for all its insanity.
All in all, a pretty damn successful weekend.