Back In The High Life

We’ll have ourselves a time
And we’ll dance ’til the morning sun
And we’ll let the good times come in
And we won’t stop ’til we’re done

Steve Winwood

We may only be at 5,000 ft above sea level, but we climbed 2,500 ft of that on foot, with packs. It feels as mountainous here in N Cascades NP as anywhere in the Rockies. Our campsite tonight at Thornton Lakes feels a lot like our site at Odessa Lake in Rocky Mountain NP last year.

We’re at the South end of the lower lake and are surrounded by towering rock walls. The water in the lake is crystal clear and there is stream flowing out that will give us a beautiful sound to fall asleep to tonight. The hike that we took to get here was super legit. It took both hands, both feet, and an occasional assist with a bum as well. We climbed 2,500 feet in just 5 miles. That puts it in the ballpark of some of Colorado’s 14ers, and we did it with full packs on!

To get to the trailhead we first had to cross the border back to the US. While it wasn’t too awful for us it was still more of a hassel than getting into Canada. Whereas the Canadian border agent seemed a bit bummed we were only staying for two days the American one only decided not to search our trunk when he realized the mountain of stuff it contained may collapse on him when we opened it. After he somewhat reluctantly let us back into our own county the rest of the drive was a breeze.

Like our climb of Yosemite Point a few weeks ago, today’s hike really wasn’t too bad. I think at this point in the trip we’re all in pretty good hiking shape. It was a lot of work though, I’m really glad I took Ellie up on here bandana loan offer. I think without it I would have had a hard time seeing where I was going through all the sweat I produced.

The trail was perfectly what we like to hike. It was rocky with some fun scrambling bits and we only saw two other parties on the trail all day. The last half mile was an intense 500 foot drop over just a 1/2 mile. We’ll start tomorrow by climbing back up that way, so we’ll get our wake up call early. Even with that out of the way our biggest challenge of the day still lay ahead of us. As we got our first glimpse of the post that indicated we were at our campsite we all spotted our final challenge. To reach the final goal we would need to cross the outlet of the lake.

The problem was that the outlet was guarded by a 30 foot cliff of boulders we would need to scramble over and down, and then a 30 foot wide flotilla of fallen logs piled up in the water. We carefully picked our way through the boulder field, backtracking when necessary and guiding others when we spotted better routes. The final boulder was a 10 foot long slide that We ended up rolling a couple bags down separately to lighten loads. Fortunately, the best path through the log field was pretty obvious so we finished out that section with little fanfare.

After dropping our packs at the campsite we returned to the lake to take in the views and enjoy a coldish beverage. We noticed dark clouds moving in so returned to camp to set up tents just as the drops started falling. We’re still hiding out from the rain now, but have our fingers crossed we’ll get a brief reprieve to go out and eat dinner. Tomorrow we’ll have to do the whole hike in reverse, and although it’ll be 2,500 ft downhill I’m expecting it to be just as hard as today.

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