Late Spring Snow and Seasonal Transitions: Week 14

Oh that’s right, I’m supposed to write about last week now. That’s a little difficult as I come up on the end of a long weekend, and feel like I could ramble for hours about all the beautiful sunshine I had the chance to bask in over the last 72 hours. But instead, let’s talk about the snow!

So, if you’re not familiar with the Northern Cascades, you may not know that a good portion of the trails remain snow-covered into July, if not year round. While it’s been warming up here at sea level (it reached a whopping 70 degrees today!), if you wander 2000ft above, you have a decent chance of running in to a few feet of the icy cold stuff.

As we move into June, a lot of this will change as warmer weather reaches higher altitudes, and the sun reaches it’s highest point in our sky. June also brings changes for me in terms of a shift in employment, and my 24th birthday! (Though I keep accidentally saying I’m turning 23) I love the work I do in the summers, and though it takes me away from my patient-care job at my clinic, I get to shift my daily routine with the warming weather and it feels a little bit like a summer vacation.

This is also the time of year that everyone in Washington starts peaking out from their closed curtains and hanging out on the countless brewery and tap house patios, just like I did last weekend with great friends up in Snohomish. Shout out to Trails End for being delicious, having endless beer and cider options, and a remarkable veggie Pizza! It made for a marvelous evening spent with the best company.

– Week 14 – 

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While it won’t truly feel like “summer” until my classes end in two weeks, last weekend’s hike at Heather Lake was certainly a step in the summer direction. After going up Lake 22 a few weeks back, I decided Heather Lake was an absolute must, as it’s in the same beautiful region, and the former was just stunning.

I can tell you I was not disappointed! The hike up was very moderately graded, and the trail offered a fair bit of variety in terms of creeks and tiny falls, larger falls, gravel, dirt, shale, and of course, snow. The trail head was not quite as busy as Lake 22 had been, or maybe there are just more parking spots, but even at about 10:00 on a Saturday morning we were able to pace ourselves well behind fellow hikers. I will admit that this didn’t last long, as Bryce suffers from a bad case of the no-I’m-going-to-be-the-first-one-up-the-mountain syndrome, and I hustle along behind him so I don’t get left at the car. So I huff and puff up the mountain behind a very at-ease, and not at all winded Bryce, as we pass all of the other Cascade patrons taking their time. (I love taking my time, but my short-legged meandering is near torture for my lovely long-legged boyfriend.)

The weather was heavenly, warm enough to go without a jacket, but cool enough to not sweat profusely (if you’ve seen Miss Congeniality, it kind of reminded me of April 25th). In the last quarter mile or so, we came to the familiar packed snow banks currently prolific in the region, though this time I was smart enough to bring my crampons so there was significantly less slipping than before. I will say that the snow on this particular trail is starting to get a bit sketchy as it’s melting out underneath and causing a lot of cave-ins. The tree wells are also melting quickly, and are serious traps for unsuspecting feet.

After huffing and puffing for just about 2 miles, the trail leveled out and opened up to the gorgeous Heather Lake.

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The most stunning aspect of this alpine bowl was the massive waterfalls which made their way from the very tip of those peaks, all the way down to the melting lake shore. Unfortunately I (of course) forgot my camera and my poor little phone can’t see that far, so perhaps you’ll just have to adventure up there and take a look for yourself!

20170520_122315A few other unique aspects of Heather Lake were the boardwalk and the melting lake ice. Compact snow and ice do magical things when they’re submerged, turning a wonderful sky blue color that makes you want to jump in, just to find out if it feels as magnificent as it looks! (I do not recommend jumping into icy water) We did not get our feet wet, though we did meet some sweet dog friends as we watched the waters near the shore bubble, releasing the air that has been trapped below the surface since last fall.

The Boardwalk served not only as a respite from the slippery snow trails, but also as a great sitting spot for snacks and lake chats.

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I’m not sure if Heather Lake has campsites, but if it does it may make my backpacking list for this year. Unfortunately I missed what it usually my first chance to take a pack on the trail this weekend, but I’ll get into that more with next week’s post.

Washington Trails Association mentions Heather Lake as an awesome first backpacking trip with kids… AKA perfect hike for everyone else too, because it’s easy enough without being boring, super rewarding, and let’s be real, who doesn’t want to make dog friends while looking out over a beautiful, partially frozen lake?? The trip ended up being about 4.6 miles round trip and we gained just over 1000 ft from the trail head. A good hike for a warm (almost) summer day!

 

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