Progressive Patterns

Around Glacier Peak, part 2

We have all watched the opening scene of The Sound of Music with Maria spinning and singing. The bad news is that we cannot sing like her. The good news is that we do not need to go to Austria for mountains like that. A hike to the flanks of Glacier Peak puts us in the midst of Sound of Music country. That is where I spent the next two days of my hike last summer.

Part 1 ended after the first two days that brought us from Stevens Pass to Cady Ridge. We had been walking through forests of tall pines and firs and larches, but in this stage we would be mostly ridge walking. I love ridge walking! There is nothing like hiking for miles on top of the world with views all around. It is like your whole world expands from office to forest to almost endless landscape. I am not exaggerating when I say I can feel my brain change. It is wonderful! Just look at the pictures to get a glimpse.

to White Chuck River

I expected a lot more animals than the few I saw, and there were strangely almost no birds. However, Wednesday morning on Cady’s Ridge I got a picture of this little fellow enjoying the sunrise.

Abel on his way to Glacier Peak

Endless ridges!

Most of the day we spent ridge walking at or above tree line. The views were just outstanding!

From time to time the sky would haze up a bit with smoke from a fire on the east side of Glacier Peak. We were on the west. I tried to clear some of it in Photoshop, but the experience was still vastly superior to the pictures.

Looking northwest to Mt. Sauk, a mile high set of bumps in Mt. Baker’s backyard

The highlight of the day was definitely the White Pass area. (Not to be confused with the other White Pass on Hwy 12.) Abel and I agreed that this was Sound of Music territory. It is not hard to believe in a big, beautiful God who lays out lavish landscapes with the ease of an artist!

You know you want to camp here!

It is so much better to be swallowed up by nature than by city

Are you tempted to disappear with your backpack into the wilderness? I hope so!

We did not walk or hike through here. We strolled. We stopped to take pictures. We ate lunch. We just sat and gazed and took it all in.

Life just turns inside out up here. At work I would often take walks on the quietest, greenest streets I could find, but I was always in town, surrounded by noise, cars, and buildings. City was in control. However, up here, out here, in the midst of grand greenery, snow capped peaks, and icy mountain streams, nature is in control. Nobody yells at each other. Nobody plays loud music. Nobody litters. We all tread softly and reverently through God's spacious cathedral.

I cannot find words big enough to describe the internal feeling or the external environment. It is simply impossible not to be awed and to be filled with wonder and to be grateful beyond measure. It is not heaven, but places like these are the closest to heaven that we have. That means we are looking at the Creator's handiwork through the least clouded filter possible. If this is only a dim view of what eye has not seen nor ear heard, then what kind of God will we walk with and worship for all eternity?!!

The Ruler of the universe could be any kind of God He wants to be and He chose to be a God of personal love, exquisite beauty, and awesome grandeur! It baffles my mind and moistens my eyes every time I think about it. I am thankful, extremely, utterly, overwhelmingly thankful. This is salvation to the max!

After White Pass came a late afternoon descent from Red Pass into the wooded White Chuck River valley where we would camp by one of its tributaries.

to Mica Lake

For the first several miles from camp, we were in the deep woods, filled with shade and wet underbrush. With the ten miles in the Suiattle River drainage, these were the only low stretches on the entire trip.

Bridges on different trails in different areas of the country vary greatly and interest me. It brings out the architect in me. Before switching to teaching, I studied for architecture in high school and college. My area of focus was solar and earth sheltered housing, but I could find no program for it after the Arab oil embargo of the 70’s faded away. After building my own house 15 years ago, I satisfy that design urge by looking at other structures. Trail bridges are of special interest. You can’t just bring in a truck and a crane. If nearby trees and rocks are not usable, then materials must be hauled in by pack animal. Every pound counts! I am impressed by some of these structures that had to be built by small groups solving many variables. All so we can walk over the water and keep our feet dry!

The famous Kennedy Creek broken log bridge.

Yes. The water tasted as good as it looked! No filtering needed.

A couple hours of hiking brought us once again to the high ridges with incredible views and little treasures like mini-waterfalls tucked away here and there.

This Cascade Crest Trail sign might be over 50 years old! If I have my history right, this section of trail was incorporated into the Pacific Crest Trail back in the 70’s. Why the sign was left at Fire Creek Pass is a mystery to me, but it is a neat piece of history nonetheless.

I approached Mica Lake at sunset and this was my view of Glacier Peak as I turned back east. It presents such a mix of beautiful peaceful colors in the quiet of the evening, and yet there is clear evidence of powerful forces shaping and carving the mountain.

I confess that sunsets on trail are a mixed bag for me. There is often the colors and the peaceful exhale of the day before it tucks in for the night. Yet, there is a sort of loneliness that attaches itself to those moments, even when I am not by myself. (Abel was ahead of me that night.) The sun becomes a good friend through cold and hot days alike, making everything come alive. Then it must leave us in the dark. Like the Son who had to leave to prepare mansions for us, the sun must journey back around to the east to make another sunrise. Ah well, one day we will live in that place where the moon is as bright as the sun and the sun shines seven times brighter, and in the city of God we will not even notice the sun because of the glory of the Son!!

to Miners Creek

I slept a little bit below Mica Lake in a small meadow. In the morning I awoke to ash all over my tent from the fire that was burning in a valley on the east side of Glacier Peak. Because it was contained by a wall of rocky topped ridges, it was left to burn itself out. Since the second day of our trip we had seen smoke drift this way and that, as you may have noticed along with bugs in some of the photos. Now that I was approaching the north side of the mountain, the smoke was heavier. It made for a great sunrise.

But before getting back on the trail, there was business to take care of. A little sign carved with “toilet” was at the bottom of a path over a little hill. After getting on the other side of the trees, the view opened up northward over the Milk Creek valley.

Why not enjoy a fabulous view while sitting on your throne!

Just before sunrise

Fire and smoke sunrise

I have no pictures of Glacier Peak today for two reasons: too much smoke, and too close. After winding down to Milk Creek then winding back up, the trail traverses the northwest flank of this dormant volcano. Snow fields and crevassed glaciers are in your face. (I suppose I should have taken pictures of that and not worried about getting the whole mountain. Sigh.) For about 5 miles you feel like you are actually walking on top of the world!

While eating an early lunch at the top of the climb out of Milk Creek, Nobody’s Friend caught up to me and we chatted for a while. Along with several others, he was one of the people I was playing leap frog with. Now I had a chance to ask my question. “You seem like only a friendly person. Why are you nicknamed, Nobody’s Friend?”

The story took place several years ago in the Sierra. A buddy of his was hiking there when a ranger asked him for his trail name. The humble introvert replied, “I’m nobody.” A few days later the guy I am now chatting with comes through the same place with the same ranger. While they chatted the ranger discovered that these two guys were friends and blurted out, “You’re Nobody’s friend!” Now I knew! (Stay tuned to hear more of this story in a soon coming article!)

After traversing around Glacier Peak, there is a third set of switchbacks that takes you down to the Suiattle River. In this 20 mile section of trail you descend over 8500 feet and climb over 3500 feet. It is often declared as tough or tougher than any section in the Sierra! It can be a knee killer if you go to fast!

Right at sunset, I set up my tent at Miners Creek. While washing in the creek guess who should come along but Andy and Laurie! I had been following their blog since they started at Campo (at mile 0 on the Mexico border) and now I felt like I was meeting celebrities. They are the nicest, warmest couple I have ever met on the trail. They camped next to me and we walked and talked together the next morning. I told them how I really like the way they close each of their blog posts with two things they are thankful for that day. Also, another glimpse into their personalities was provided a month later when Andy proposed to Laurie with a candy ring. Why? Because that is what she had dreamed of! She ate it within a mile. That was a definite YES!

by Ed Lyons, 10/13/17