Are you ready for Larch Madness?!
I’m going to tell you about a place straight out of a fairytale, but you have to promise to keep it between us, OK?
Roughly 3 hours northeast of Seattle lies one of the least visited national parks in our country – the North Cascades National Park. Carved out by glaciers, the North Cascades boast some of the steepest mountains in the lower 48, and is one of the snowiest places on earth. And in the fall, it’s one of the best places to view the larches.
A few weeks ago, my friend Adrienne and I took a day off work to get out in the mountains before the rain and snow hit. We had tried the previous few weekends, but that PNW weather just wouldn’t cooperate. Taking a day off seemed to be our only choice. And a good choice it was. It ended up being the last nice day of the season.
The drive takes about 3 hours from Seattle, so we set out at 6am. At that hour, talking is optional, coffee is mandatory. It’s nice that we’re both on the same page.
The drive out is almost as beautiful as the hike itself. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But it sure doesn’t suck.
We reach the parking lot for the Blue Lake trailhead around 9:30am. It looks beautiful and sunny, but it’s freezing!
Already we can see the larches above. I can’t wait to get a closer look.
We layer up against the cold, sign in to the log book and start on our way.
Keep an eye out for those pesky mountain goats. Over the summer, Adrienne brought her parents on this hike. Her mom found some mountain goat fur on a tree, and later knit it (with other yarn) into a hat. We look for more along the trail, but it must be too late in the season. The mountain goats need all their fur to keep them warm for the winter.
Like I mentioned above, it’s quite cold despite the sun. But it makes for some beautiful frozen plants.
Adrienne’s co-workers were a bit baffled at our determination to wake up early and drive for 3 hours, just to see some yellow trees. But LOOK at these yellow trees! Worth it, right?
It almost looks like the mountains are on fire.
Fortunately, Adrienne doesn’t mind stopping for frequent photo ops and the hike to the lake takes a little longer than anticipated.
Adrienne said I had to give her art director credit for coming up with the below shot. I may have clicked the shutter, but the framing is all her.
Finally, just as we’re both starting to get hungry for lunch, we arrive at the aptly (if uncreatively) named Blue Lake.
We find the perfect spot in the sun to set our packs down and snack on our lunches.
After lunch, it’s time for some exploring. Leaving my backpack behind and only taking my cameras, I set off to take as many pictures as I can.
There’s Adrienne soaking up the sun and the views.
I love seeing the larch needles up close. They look spiky, but they’re really quite soft.
As we’re getting ready to leave, the wind dies down and the lake lights up with the reflection of the larches. Gorgeous.
The hike down is fairly uneventful, with the exception of me slipping and falling on an ice patch. My elbow still hurts today! But we still make good time, and decide to head over to Washington Pass for more stunning mountain views. We just can’t get enough of those larches! I’ll share those photos in another post.