Day 34: North Cascades National Park

Two things are certain. I can’t wait to return to North Cascades and I’m so tired.

After a few pieces of beef jerky and a couple handfuls of trail mix, we got into our tents for the night. It was drizzling, which is a great sound to fall asleep to. In fact, Zoe said I was asleep before 8:15. I stirred a few times during the night, only to peacefully doze back off to the sound of the rain. (It was no longer a drizzle, but a rain.) At 3:30 I woke up, looked at the clock, and realized that it had been steadily raining for hours. In that not-lucid thinking that happens in the middle of the night, I panicked. I had this fear that it would never stop raining, at least not by morning when it was time to hike out. Our hike in had been rough and I knew going out was going to be more challenging. In my head, I was listing all the ways to survive in the wild with half a bag of beef jerky and a quarter bag of Cheetos. I just knew that it would be too slick, too slippery, too dangerous to hike if the rain continued. I eventually dozed back off, and when I woke up at 7:00 it was not raining. Crisis averted.

We packed up the insides of our tents and got dressed. (It was then that I was glad I had the ingenious idea to put all my clothes into my dry sleeping bag. Every article of my clothing was dry and warm. For the time being.) Zoe and I crawled out of our tent at the same time Zak and Ellie did. We had a delicious breakfast of a Clif bar and two cans of coffee before tearing down camp. Just as we were finishing up the rain started. And it didn’t show any sign of letting up.

The first part of the hike was about 50 feet straight up a series of boulders. We named this section The Boulder Death Trap. (Don’t worry, none of us died.) The rock was slick and so hard to navigate, especially with the added weight of our packs, none of which would get onto an airplane without an added charge for their heavy weights. Zak led and took our bags as we passed them forward. My unspoken job, the one in the back, was to catch anyone who fell. Slowly, but surely, we took one step at a time, a couple of inches up each step, using every muscle, all our strength, all our power and finally made to the top of that first insane part. The next half mile was just crazy. Almost totally vertical, and the rain was falling quite hard. Each step had to be skillfully placed. The mud was slick, as were the rocks and tree roots. It was really, really hard. But we did it. We finally got to the lookout that we celebrated being at the top yesterday. Once again, we rejoiced in our strength. Yesterday we could see for miles, today it was complete clouds. Clouds we were in.

From that point we had a few miles of decline, but the rain was heavy, the fog was thick, and everything was slippery. We all landed on our bums at least once and all used our trekking poles to catch ourselves many, many more times. It was challenging and required great focus. I had to pause many times, just to assure myself that we could finish safely, and take in glimpses of the beauty that surrounded us. The forest felt alive in a different way as the rain fell. Drops hung to branches and leaves, only to fall as we walked by. All the plants seemed so much brighter than yesterday, so much greener. Wildflowers were more in bloom and fragrant. It was a different kind of beauty.

We finally made it back to the car and realized that not a thing we had brought along with us was dry. Everything was drenched. Since it was still raining, we just threw everything into the car and figured we would deal with it once we got to the hotel. The drive through the park was fairly quick and we made it to Winthrop, home of our quaint hotel. First stop was a hot meal, then the hotel. It took a good three hours to unpack everything, set up all our tents, sleeping bags and mats, completely empty the packs, and rotate the items in the patch of grass outside our room. Zak went to a laundromat so our clothes didn’t get mildewing and the girls and I took care of all the gear. It was exhausting, especially on top of already being so exhausted.

Dinner was low-key at a local pizza joint and we’re counting on a good night’s sleep. Inspite of our fatigue, I wouldn’t change a thing about the day. We had another great adventure. We laughed, we overcame fears, and we accomplished something not many families do together. We’ll be back, North Cascade, but next time can you do less rain?

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