I am forbidden to enter the North Cascades National Park, but it is only because I almost always travel with my 12 year old border collie/lab Bodhran. He is an old backpacking hand and capable partner; still strong and interested in fresh quiet places. Being a long-time Bellinghamster, the Northernmost Cascades are familiar to me, but this destination and vantage offered new perspective on the neighborhood. From Hannegan Peak, I could peep-in over the National Park fence to that wild and forbidden Range of Glaciers as Becky has called them.
Hike-in day was forecast to be a wet one so I easily dallied about the comforts of home, packing the last as the storms cleared the peaks. The drive east on 542 underscored the wisdom of patience; creeks and rivers that would normally be sleepy and cyan with rock flour were raging brown with the night’s downpour.
Lounging in the living room
Time to get up
The evening hike was rain-free and thankfully cool, especially for the last mile that rears up like a wild bronco. A dry carry kept the pack a bit lighter; I drank directly from a few side streams on the way in. The crucial question of snow was answered as the summit came into view. Yes! There was a remnant of winter to sip off of during my stay. Camp was set during last light as clouds broke with promise. Stars dominated by midnight. I was in the right place at the right time.
Blue hour crescent
Each day started with the faces of Ruth, Shuksan, and Kulshan shouting morning greetings just outside the tent door. Slopes beyond were plush with pink and white heather. Days were spent exploring the ridgeline in both directions, and mulling the maps of the North Cascades NP. There were plenty of day hikers, but only a couple of other resident groups. I spent time glassing the vast white flanks of Ruth watching climbers seeking the grand summit. Nearby, a pika scampered about gathering and tending to bails of fodder drying in the sun.
Mt Blum in background
Departure day promised to be quite warm so I was on the trail by 8. The upper flanks of Hannegan were spectacular with flowers and views, but the heat soon gathered in the valley miles as predicted. The black flies relentlessly lashed dog and backpacker without pause for the remaining 4 miles back to the truck. A frosty rinse in the becalmed North Fork was precious to man and beast. The quick drive home reminded me of all the wild beauty just an hour away from home. A precious thought indeed.
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