Monday, August 19, 2013

Backpacking North Cascades National Park

This past Friday I got my carcass out of bed early.  I wanted to be on the road on my way to the Glacier, WA combined National Park Service / US Forest Service center there.  I was hoping to be there right when it opened at 8 AM to obtain a back country permit for North Cascades National Park.

I was able to get a permit, but, not what I was hoping for.  You see a short time ago a rock slide closed a portion of Washington highway 20.  This road cuts through the park and is the only way to get to a popular part of the park.  So, it seems everyone that was planning on visiting the park at the same time I was made an assault on the area I wanted to go.

My hope was to get a permit for Copper Creek for Friday night and Silesia for Saturday night.  No go.  Due to the overwhelming interest in the area of the park that was accessible, I was only offered a permit for US Cabin campsite.  I took it for both Friday night and Saturday night.

I made my way a bit farther east on the highway and then took the gravel road to the Hannegan Pass trailhead.  The parking area was overflowing with vehicles.  I did find a spot, parked, hung my pass, and hit the trail.  I had ten miles of hiking for the day ahead of me.

The first five miles were generally uphill to Hannegan Pass.  I stopped periodically to take pictures or a break.  I stopped at the top to enjoy the views and rest.  I took off down the other side of the pass.  The next five miles were almost all downhill to US Cabin camp.

I was right at tree line at the pass.  Decending down the other side I passed through open areas of wild flowers and a scree field before entering the woods once again.  Though the parking lot was full, and I did meet several people on the trail, I did not have the "crowded" feeling.

North Cascades is home to both black bears and grizzly bears.  There are estimated to be between 10 and 30 grizzly bears in all of Washington.  They are all supposed to be in this National Park, though from what I could read, farther north and east from where I was and was going.  Once again, for my entire stay in the wilderness, I did not see any bears.  I saw one (maybe two or three day old) poop pile, but no tracks, and no bear sightings.

I arrived at the campsite at about 4 PM that Friday afternoon.  The campsite is right on the Chilliwack river.  It was flowing well and water was easy to obtain.  Another dude was already there.  Another showed up later and a chick a bit later than that.  The campsites are well spread so we were not in too close proximity to each other.

That night I was mulling options.  I did have a permit for this campsite for two nights.  One option was to hang there for another day and do some out and back day hiking.  Another option was to head back the way I came and stay at the first-come-first-served US Forest Service campsite just the other side of Hannegan Pass.

I decided to start heading back on Saturday morning.  But, not too early.  I was thinking I'd stay at the US Forest Service campsite that night.  I figured I'd do all the climbing hiking on Saturday and then all the descending hiking on Sunday.

When I reached the pass on Saturday I stopped for a break and to eat.  I was enjoying the view but also noticing the clouds building.  The forecast was for off and on rain that day.  This looked more like rain was moving in for an extended period.

I made the decision to hike the rest of the way back to the car that evening.  I figured I'd avoid needing to dry stuff out and / or be confined to my tent.  I'd seen enough of this area of the park to know I'd be back.

My travels took me over the pass and down in the Chilliwack river valley.  An area I did not get to, but will in a future trip, is to take the left fork up the trail to Copper Ridge.  The other backpackers I talked to said the views from up there are amazing.  Crews will get the road re-opened and there will be less pressure on this area of the park.  I might get back there yet this season.

Though my trip was self shortened by a day, I still had a great time.  I will be going back.  North Cascades National Park is stunning and diverse.  To see all the pictures I took, unedited and out there to look at, click HERE.  My next trip might not need to be solo.  I've joined a couple of organizations.  More on that Wednesday.

1 comment:

  1. Spectacular photos! I want to explore the North Cascades someday.

    The permit issue is one that definitely influences where I go. Once you figure out the process, it's not that hard, but it can be a hassle to figure out which office handles which area when you're going someplace new. This frequently has me traveling to wilderness with no permits or trailhead permits,and places that have no quotas. This rules out some of the most popular places around Tahoe and Yosemite, but there is still plenty left.

    If you're going to be hiking by yourself, you should get more self portraits / action shots. A tripod, or I've seen some people attach a camera to the end of a trekking pole.