Monday, October 23, 2017

Fall Adventures: North Cascades

Washington Pass - view of Hwy 20

Trip date: October 14-15, 2017
Location: Maple Pass Loop, Lone Fir Campground, Washington Pass, & Blue Lake Trail in the North Cascades
Dog Friendly: Yes to everything we did this weekend!

Sarina mentioned to me a month ago how she was planning a car camping weekend with our friend Caitlin in the North Cascades and invited me along. She mentioned doing two day hikes in the area and camping at Lone Fir Saturday night. I am always down for a car camping weekend, so I told her I’d probably join.

The Wednesday before the trip, I called the Methow Valley Ranger Station to get some of my questions answered… are Maple Pass, Blue Lake, and Lone Fir dog friendly? (Answer: yes to all) Is there snow on the ground at the campgrounds? (No) Is there running water? (No, meaning bring all your water) How much is the campsite per night? ($12/night) Etc. If you can’t find up-to-date info online for the area, or it’s unclear, call the ranger station! They always have useful and helpful info. There’s a grey area with bringing dogs when going to a national park. Rule of thumb is, dogs aren’t allowed on trails in national park. But the grey area comes in when national park land mixes with national forest land, in which national forest land does allow dogs. 

Saturday morning 3 cars left Seattle around the same time, and we all met up at Diablo Lake first. From there, CJ took the baby, and headed to the campground to have some R & R, while Caitlin, Sarina, Ryan, and I headed to Rainy Pass to hike Maple Pass Loop. 

Maple Pass Loop
We got to the trailhead around 11:00 AM and the parking lot was full. Also, there was snow on the ground. We all found parking eventually and hit the trail around 11:30 AM. We went counterclockwise per the suggestion of others on the trail. They said if you go clockwise, it's harder. After completing the whole loop though, I don't think there's a huge difference whichever way you decide to start. There was snow from the start of the trail, so we all microspiked up! We saw some people without traction, and they were struggling come down trail. I even asked Cody to try to help one of the lady's but she ended up butt scooting down some parts of the trail lol. The hike was gorgeous! There were quite a few people on trail that day, but we all still enjoyed ourselves. It was slightly overcast, but the mountains, larches, and Lake Ann were out in all their glory. We finished around 4:30 PM, and headed to Lone Fir Campground. 

Maple Pass Loop hike: 7.2 miles/ 2000 ft elevation gain

Sarina picked this car camp spot because, location wise, it was 15 minutes away from Maple Pass, and 7 minutes away from Blue Lake, which we hiked the following day. The campground was relatively empty, except for a handful of campers. If you want to avoid crowds and don't mind the cold, fall camping is for you! There's no struggles in finding a campsite in the fall! CJ picked a site that was large enough to fit 3-5 tents. The rest of us setup camp and sat around, relaxing till it got dark. Our new friend Kaelee even showed up before it got dark to hang and camp with us. Once the sun set, we started cooking dinner. I made a penne vodka pasta for everyone on my Coleman stove, while Sarina, CJ, and Cody prepped some hobo chicken veggie dinners to throw on the campfire. After dinner, we made some s'mores, burned the rest of the wood we brought, and headed to bed. It ended up dropping below 30 degrees that night. CJ and Caitlin brought along their 4 month old baby, and she was such a trooper and did great!

Water: turned off for the season, so we brought our own
Restrooms: pit toilets were pretty clean with toilet paper

Our large campsite at Lone Fir Campground

Washington Pass & Blue Lake 
The next morning we all woke up pretty early, ate some Costco muffins, packed up camp, and were on our way to Washington Pass. Washington Pass is an overlook viewpoint that has amazing views of Hwy 20 and Liberty Bell. We made a quick stop there before heading to hike Blue Lake. The sidewalks were icy though, so watch your footing when walking out to the overlook. 

Blue Lake is right down the street, and we all found parking pretty easily since it was still early, around 9:30 AM. The hike was an easy one, with mainly forest walking till you get to the lake. A ton of larches here! Great lil hike for a Sunday. I think it took us about 2 hours roundtrip to complete the hike. Then we headed to Diablo Lake real quick to see if the lake was bluer than the day before (it wasn't sadly), and off we went back to the city!

Blue Lake Trail: 4.4 miles R/T/ 1050 ft elevation gain 

Overall, it was a great weekend in the North Cascades with a mix of fall and an early winter. I definitely want to come back in the spring to see how different it is when everything is in bloom. 

Until next time North Cascades!

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