Thor, Bear dog, and I seize a lucky day between very welcome rain showers and very unwelcome, choking wildfire smoke. Our annual hike to Lake Ann!
Despite the “new normal” of climate change and the terrible wildfires all over the West, we still count ourselves blessed to live in the Pacific Northwest and close to the Cascade Mountains for refreshing escapes to the wilderness. Lake Ann is one of our favorite destinations, with the trailhead near the top of the Mount Baker Highway. It’s a down/up, down/up hike that takes us first down into a lush alpine valley, especially green after the recent rains. Ahead of us, Mt. Shuksan and its glaciers beckon. And along the way, we feast on wild blueberries.
Sara: “Yum! The blueberries are sooo good!”
Thor: “Some poor little baby bear tonight is going to be crying to his mother about that mean lady who ate all his berries, and he’s starving.”
Sara: (chomping) “Plenty for everyone.”
Bear dog: (chomping) “Woof!”
Thor: “Well, maybe just a few….” (chomping)
Down in the boggy valley, after grazing on berries and fresh grasses, Bear takes one of many opportunities for a cooling dip and drink. (And to repeat my assurances from last time, he’s had his summer trim and undercoat brushouts — his long outer coat actually insulates him from the sun and protects him.)
Another lovely sign of late summer, Twisted Stalk berries. They must be related to Solomon Seal, which has a similar structure, without the kinks.
On through the valley…
…and then more climbing up rocky slopes alternating with meadows. Still snow-clad, Mount Baker/Koma Kulshan presides over the skyline.
Many snowmelt seeps support pockets of moss and other lush meadow plants.
Almost to the top, looking east to the glacial moraine slopes. The trail involves hiking over a lot of jumbled rocks, so it’s a relief to the feet when they get to walk on dirt back in the valley.
Over the crest of the trail, beautiful Lake Ann, an infinity pool spilling south toward Skagit Valley.
Looming over the mountain lake, Mt. Shuksan with its glaciers. Mountain climbers often take a route across the top glacier. Over many years of hiking the Cascades from my childhood on, I’ve seen these glaciers recede significantly with the warming climate.
Approaching our favorite picnic spot!
Crystal-clear waters invite us for a Brisk swim after we shed our sweaty gear.
Thor is ready for a plunge. We swim very quickly back to shore for the requisite skin-tingled hooting: “I’m alive!”
Monkey flowers marking the path of another snowmelt seep:
Thor the geologist admires this folded, metamorphosed gneiss boulder:
We wend our way back in the late afternoon sunlight slanting across an iron-rich cliff. Taking a deep breath of the clean mountain air and listening to the silence punctuated only by an occasional marmot whistle, we’re renewed and ready to return to the lower world. And to the next chapter of my novel-in-progress, after the characters have been chatting in my head as I hiked. As my character Ariadne says, “Chairete! Rejoice!”
You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here every Saturday. Sara’s latest novel from Book View Cafe is available in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection. It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?” The novel has received the Chanticleer Global Thriller Grand Prize and the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara has recently returned from a research trip in Greece and is back at work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect. Sign up for her quarterly email newsletter at www.sarastamey.com