North Cascades Washington

North Cascades Washington

As I’ve mentioned in many posts, North Cascades Washington is one of my favorite places to get out and enjoy a rugged wilderness setting, and since I live in Bellingham Washington it is also practically in my backyard. Over the past several weeks I’ve made a few leisurely hikes and backpacks to some of my regular spots. Below are some photos from these trips that help illustrate the wild and rugged nature of this magnificent range. Enjoy!

Nooksack Tower is, in my opinion, one of the coolest and most dramatic looking peaks in the North Cascades. Topping out at a modest 8268′ / 2520m it is an outlier of the Mount Shuksan massif. Nooksack Tower has also been famously  labeled by legendary climber Fred Beckey as one of the most difficult climb in the North Cascades, equaled possibly only by nearby Slesse Mountain (the “Fang”) in British Columbia. In this view from above Hannegan Pass a layer of fresh spring snow adds to the formidable appearance of the tower.

Nooksack Tower North Cascades WashingtonNooksack Tower #58069

Ruth Creek Valley and Nooksack Ridge. Also one of my favorite areas in the North Cascades, Ruth Creek Valley via the Hannegan Pass Trail has some of the greatest views of any low to mid elevation trail in the Northwest. Most other trails at this elevation are deep in dense old growth forest, however, the slopes in this valley are regularly swept clean by avalanches fueled by massive winter snows. This heavily traveled route is also one of the few trails that provide access to the heart of North Cascades National Park. Aside from the great views, Ruth Creek Valley is also notorious for plagues of black flies that swarm around hikers in the heat of summer, be prepared with lots of Deet if you hike here in July or August!

North Cascades WashingtonRuth Creek Valley, North Cascades #58068

Backcountry Camping in the Mount Baker Wilderness. This photo was made on the same trip as the two photos above. While it has the looks of a winter setting the amount of snow seen here is typical for late spring in the North Cascades. Most of the higher elevations are not snow free until mid-July, with wildflowers blooming in sub-alpine meadows soon after that. In the distance you can see Nooksack Tower and its relation to the rest of Mount Shuksan

North Cascades Washington Backcountry campNorth Cascades Backcountry Camp#58078

North Cascades waterfall. This is a typical view just about anywhere in the lower elevations in spring. Lots of snow melt streams and creeks rushing down the slopes into lush green forests. This nameless, as far as I know, waterfall is midway up the trail to Excelsior Peak.

Waterfall North Cascades WashingtonNorth Cascades Waterfall #58066

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North Cascades Washington

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Larrabee State Park Samish Bay Washington

Larrabee State Park Samish Bay Washington

Samish Bay, Larrabee State Park Washington, Larrabee State Park Samish Bay WashingtonSamish Bay #56660

Like in many previous years, during the lull between winter and spring, I’ve been making several visits to Larrabee State Park. Situated along Samish Bay a few miles south of Bellingham this is one of the best locations for photography in the area. Hikers trail runners and mountain bikers will find numerous trails into the Chuckanut Mountains, but for the photographer, the shoreline along the bay is the place to be. Facing out to the famous San Juan Islands the shore is lined with sandstone cliffs and boulders eroded into fascinating formations, there is even a small natural arch dipping into the water, if you can find it.

Possibly the best location for photos is Clayton Beach at the south end of the park. It is accessed by a trail approximately one-half mile long, once on the beach there are great rock formations to the left and right, my favorite being just to the left of the beach. Back at the main park entrance, a little to the north, a short trail takes you down to a sandstone formation jutting into the bay with more great compositions.

Clayton Beach, Larrabee State Park Washington, Samish Bay, Larrabee State Park Samish Bay WashingtonSandstone erosion patterns Clayton Beach #47151

If you go you will need to purchase a day use pass, unreasonably priced at $10, a yearly pass for all Washington State Parks, the Discover Pass is $30. The best time for photography in this park is late afternoon to sunset, when the golden colored sandstone glows in the light. Low tide is best since you’ll be able to access more formations, however since this is a popular park it will be next to impossible to get photos without the sand being tracked out. The good news is that in winter most people leave around sunset, during my last three trips I had the beach all to myself. It’s a different story though in summer when the park is packed with people.

Samish Bay, Larrabee State Park, Larrabee State Park Samish Bay WashingtonSandstone pinnacle Larrabee State Park #47154r

 

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