Shortly after Aubrey and I settled into our new home in Seattle, we embarked on our first backpacking adventure in the Cascades since we left the Northwest 3 years ago. I wanted to jump right in, with a trip that really embodied the Northwest experience: crisp alpine lakes, steep vegetated slopes, bushwacking, adventurous route-finding, and views of glaciated volcanoes. After staring at maps for many hours, I finally located a suitable trip in a little visited corner of the cascades.

Aubrey, making the critical log crossing at the start of our trip.

The hike started with a log crossing over a milky colored and fast flowing glacially fed river. Soon after that we were following the faintest of trails up 50° slopes. At times, we lost the boot track and found ourselves swimming through dense trees and salal. To make progress, we channeled our inner bear, a spirit that we had not called upon since our time in Alaska. Slowly, but surely, we gained 3,500 feet in less than a mile. Our hard work paid off when we ultimately emerged from the bushes at the shores of a spectacularly blue and secluded alpine lake.

For the next few days we relaxed on the polished rocks beside several nearby lakes. It was (for the northwest) remarkably warm out – enough so that we made the occasional plunge into the frigid water. There were still some icebergs floating in that particular lake, hence the yelping 😉

This particular lake did not have any fish in it. Instead, it was populated with plentiful diving beetles and caddis fly larvae. The caddis fly is a fascinating creature – the larvae construct an underwater cocoon of sorts from small bits of material that they find on the lake bottom. The larvae in this lake prefered pieces of mica, resulting in golden glittering casings. Unfortunately I did not have my macro lens, so you will have use your imagination. They are such beautiful creations that some artists have figured out that the insects can be coerced into producing jewelry.

Most of the lakes, however, did have fish, the descendants of a long ago fish stocking program. Aubrey spent the mornings and evenings braving the plentiful bugs to try to catch us some dinner. Unfortunately, the bugs were plentiful enough that the fish did not seem to be very hungry for dry flies.

Fly Fishing, Cascades, Alpine Lake

Fly fishing

Aubrey lands a nice cast on a remote alpine lake, as swarms of flies envelop us. (The flies were compiled from 3 consecutive exposures.) 

Our camp on the ridge (note the tent in the middle right shadows). The blooming heather was everywhere, adding a wonderful accent to the green landscape.

Nearly every day we had perfectly blue skies (this was before the massive wildfires in Canada destroyed our air quality for over 2 weeks!). However, we were treated to a classic northwest inversion layer on the one morning we camped on a ridge near a viewpoint I had scouted during my map exploring. The combination of rugged slopes covered in healthy green conifers, crystal clear alpine lakes, glaciated peaks, and the clear mists of the inversion layer so perfectly capture the cascade experience that I had missed while living in Southern California. It feels good to be back!

Alpine Lakes, Cascades, Mountains

Cascade Wilderness : Prints Available

Remote alpine lakes, rugged mountains, lush evergreen forests, low lying clouds, glaciated volcanoes... this is the wilderness of the Cascades!

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