There's just one drawback to having a group of girlfriends who are intelligent, interesting, and chic (okay, yes, leave it to me to find one) – and that is that they are liable to be doing intelligent, interesting, and chic things with their free time, which makes it hard to get them all in one spot, for an entire weekend. So after a few failed attempts at various back-to-nature trips with my homegirls this summer, I decided to take matters into my own hands and take a solo camping trip before the Seattle gloom descends for the winter.
The North Cascades seemed like the spot – a beautiful drive, not too far, dependably good weather, and lots of great hiking.
(Sorry, ladies, I really couldn't resist...)
I had some girl time at Bar Ferdinand on Friday night, and then Saturday morning exchanged Pierre Hardys for hiking boots and drove north in bright, early fall sunshine. A quick shopping trip in Sedro-Woolley stocked the cooler.
Thanks to two extended cross-country road trips and lots of car camping trips all over the east and west coasts and even down south, I've seen my share of beautiful highways – but the North Cascades Highway has to be one of the most gorgeous drives ever. It's beautiful in the summer, of course, but there is something magical about the early fall in the mountains. It's mellow and melancholy and crisp all at once.
This is a little off-topic, but I love how rusted guardrails look,
like they could be a natural part of the scenery.
I guess they don't work so well once this happens (?)
but it's a small price to pay for aesthetics.
I was a little worried about getting a spot in any of the campgrounds because the national park is mobbed in the summer. But I got a great site on the end of one of the few loops at Newhalem that was still open (love it when that happens).
Home away from home for the weekend.
A quick hike to Pyramid Lake on Saturday afternoon...
Logs in the water.
...and a drive up to the Ross Lake overlook just before sunset, always a gorgeous spot, used up the rest of the daylight. Evening comes early in the mountains.
Dinner on Saturday night was one of the old camping standbys I grew up with: canned chili and tamales (don't knock those tamales till you've tried them). And come on: Nalley Chili and Carlita tamales (with a side of green beans from the Skagit valley): true Northwest chow. Take that, Matt Dillon. What.
I was pretty happy with my fire. I mean, yes, it was so dry up there that you would have had to be functionally useless not be able to get one going...you probably could have lit a match and burned down the whole forest without too much trouble. And even then it still required the entire Saturday issue of the New York Times. But all of that being said...success. Really girls, men – who needs them? (Just kidding, guys.)
Anyway, I spent an enjoyable evening reacquainting myself with our communal past and pondering future plans.
Just an aside, but I love my new sleeping bag.
The next day I got up early and made a pot of coffee while I waited for the sun to come up. I got caught up on some magazines (most notably the September issue of Artforum, always great to receive after a long summer without, and especially good in preparation for an upcoming NYC weekend – more on that later.)
Eggs are always a good bet when you're off to hike.
(If you think some of these ingredients look like a
reprise of dinner, you would be correct.)
After breakfast I packed up camp and headed further east in the mountains.
Because it was a Sunday, I went to church – by which I mean the 8-mile loop over Maple Pass, which starts at the Rainy Pass trailhead.
The last time Strath and I tried to do this, a couple of years ago in July, there was so much snow we lost the trail and had to turn back. It was worth a second try. The sun was warm, the breeze was cool, the air was clear, and the views were amazing.
They were even better from the very top of the pass, but you'll just have to take my word for it. Thanks to this creepy dude up there whom I'd run into on the way up and who kept trying to strike up a conversation, I didn't want to stay too long to enjoy. (Creepy dudes: don't bug a girl who's rolling dolo on the trail. She wants it that way.)
I did the loop in just under three hours, a pretty good clip considering the elevation gain. There's a certain kind of euphoria that goes along with being physically exhausted in the middle of this kind of beauty. It was the most peaceful I'd felt in a while. Even my brain was too tired to do anything but take everything in.
Fall colors were on their way out.
As a bookend to the day I stopped at the Twisp River Pub for a pint of local IPA and the last quarter of the Seahawks game before heading back to Seattle. The Hawks thrashed the bane of the NFC East 27 to 7 – making it basically a perfect weekend all around.
Next summer this will be happening much more often.