Maple Pass North Cascades

Maple Pass North Cascades

Hikers on trail North Cascades Maple Pass North CascadesHikers on Maple pass Trail, North Cascades  #61268

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit a few of my favorite areas along the North Cascades Highway. The first being a wonderful day hike up to Maple Pass. It’s been quite a number of year since I did this hike, and since the trail was extended into a loop trip I was excited to check it out. I won’t get into the details of the trail except that it quickly gets you up into the alpine and offers some of the best views in the North Cascades. Being one of the first to the pass it wasn’t long before a steady procession of hikers appeared. I usually try to avoid weekend hikes due to the crowds but in this instance it was nice to meet lots of nice folks. In addition I was able to include hikers in some photos to add to my recreation files.

Hikers on trail North Cascades Maple Pass North CascadesHikers admiring view from Maple Pass Trail, North Cascades  #61284

As you’ll notice in the photos I mixed up the processing a bit from my usual style. Since these were all made during midday it seemed a good opportunity to try out a high key look. I’m a firm believer of photographing in all types of light and getting creative with different types of processing to fit the occasion. Beautiful dramatic evening light is great but you’re not stretching your artistic boundaries if that all you do. Of course my next post will most likely include some of that very style!

North Cascades Maple Pass North CascadesNorth Cascades from Maple Pass  #61260

Black Peak, Lake Ann North Cascades Maple Pass North CascadesBlack Peak and Lake Ann, North Cascades #61302

Maple Pass North Cascades

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Glacier Peak and Image Lake

Glacier Peak  and Image Lake:

Glacier Peak and Image LakeGlacier Peak and Images Lake #58235

Glacier Peak Image Lake Glacier Peak  and Image LakeGlacier Peak and Images Lake #58240

Recently I made a five-day backpacking trip to one of my all time favorite areas in the North Cascades, Glacier Peak and Image Lake. Located in the Glacier Peak Wilderness this is one of the classic views of lake mountain glacier in the Northwest. The view at Image Lake is rivaled only by a few other spots such as Picture Lake/Mount Shuksan, and Tipso Lake/Mount Rainier. The big difference here is that you’re not likely to run into crowds, or more than a couple other people for that matter. My last visit to this outstanding location was back in 2000 and I’ve been wanting to get back there ever since.

Glacier Peak and Image LakeGlacier Peak and Images Lake #58248

Due to a series of winter floods, subsequent lack of repair funding, and environmental studies, the Suiattle River access road has been closed for nearly 12 years. I’m not very optimistic that the road will remain open for long. The whole length of the river valley is made up of ancient volcanic debris from past eruptions of Glacier Peak. During the rainy fall and winter months the river routinely eats away at this easily eroded material. Despite extensive repairs there are still several areas where the road is still very vulnerable. It won’t take much, I’m afraid, to put it out of commission again.

Image Lake on Miner’s Ridge is a fairly long backpacking trip that requires at least several days to justify the effort. The total roundtrip mileage is about 32 miles with 4500′ of elevation gain, most of it in the last five miles. Of course there is much more to see than just plopping down at the lake so figure on adding several more miles and another thousand feet or so of elevation to that. On all three of my visits I encountered parties that did it in two days. However, I really don’t see the point of carrying a full load that far and high to take a quick look around and head back the next day. I consider three days a minimum.

Hiker on suspension Bridge North Cascades Glacier Peak and Image LakeBackpacker on Canyon Creek Bridge #58176

The first nine or ten miles travels along the Suiattle River through gorgeous old growth forest with massive trees. One of the highlights comes when crossing Canyon Creek on a very well built suspension bridge. Generally such a large and sturdy structure is rare in the wilderness but this trail is shared with horses so it needs to be able to stand up to heavy weights. At around ten miles the real work begins, non-stop switchbacks from the river valley to the top of the ridge. Fortunately the upward grind is in the shade of forest almost all the way up. On this trip it was fairly cool with heavy overcast and fog. However, the intense humidity had me sweating like a pig while just putting my packing on! By the time I got to camp everything I was wearing was soaked.

North Cascades Old Growth Forest Glacier Peak and Image LakeOld Growth Forest Glacier Peak Wilderness #58192

Image Lake itself is nothing to go out of your way to see. It’s a very shallow lake with soft sediment bottom, and usually covered with hatching insects in summer. Image Lake is not the best for swimming, but good to cool your toes off. The real reason that makes the lake so special is its situation on Miner’s Ridge. At about 6000′ high it has a perfectly placed front row seat view of the heavily glacier-cloaked NE face of Glacier Peak.  At 10,541′ Glacier Peak is the most isolated of the five volcanoes in Washington.  It is definitely one of those views you could just sit for hours or days and admire, and since it so far you’ll most likely have it to yourself! On this trip I had the whole ridge and lake basin to myself for two whole days.

Hiker Glacier Peak wilderness Glacier Peak and Image LakeUpper Suiattle River Valley from Miner’s Ridge #58279

If you are looking for a truly extraordinary wilderness experience then spend a day or two at the lake before heading east along Miner’s Ridge. This route traverses through high meadows to Suiattle Pass and beyond to Cloudy Pass and glacier fed Lyman Lake. Nearly the entire length is above treeline and takes you through some of the most astonishing mountain scenery in the North Cascades accessible by trail. Seven to ten days would be perfect to enjoy such a trip and you’ll have memories to last a lifetime.

To see more images from this trip check out my New Images Portfolio.

If you’d like to purchase prints or license any image for commercial use just click on any image or search by keyword.

North Cascades backcountry camp Glacier Peak and Image LakeMiner’s Ridge camp, Dome Peak in distance #58268

Glacier Peak backcountry camp Glacier Peak and Image LakeMiner’s Ridge camp, Glacier Peak in distance #58317

Image Lake Glacier Peak Wilderness Glacier Peak and Image LakeMiner’s Ridge and Image Lake #58322

Glacier Peak  and Image Lake:

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Methow Valley Winter

Methow Valley Winter

Methow Valley Washington in winter Methow Valley WinterClearing fog near Mazama, Washington #56617

Last month I made a quick trip to the Methow Valley in north central Washington for some much needed fresh air exercise and photos. The weather in western Washington had been fairly warm and rainy, so I headed to the east side of the North Cascades for a quick fix of crisp winter conditions.

The Methow Valley is renowned for it’s extensive network of perfectly groomed cross-country ski trails and dependable snow cover. The area is also very popular with snowmobilers and backcountry skiers accessing the high country via the seasonal closure of the North Cascades Highway. On this trip I stayed in the upper part of the valley near Mazama area where I knew of several good spots for photographing if the light was right. Here are a few of the highlights from this trip.

Methow Valley barn, Washington Methow Valley WinterBarn near Mazama, Washington #56601

 

North Cascades Highway closure Methow Valley WinterNorth Cascades Highway winter closure, near Mazama, Washington #56605

 

Cross-country skiing North Cascades Methow Valley WinterCross-country skier on Methow Valley trails #56646

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