Tag Archives: Glacier Peak Wilderness

Day Four: Rejoice and Be Glad

Mica Lake in Glacier Wilderness

My fourth day on the trail was a joyful one. As I climbed up to Firecracker pass, I passed Mica Lake, ice still lingering.  At the top I was treated a spectacular view both south and north. The cutting wind pushed me down to Fire Creek where I stopped for lunch. The wildflowers and blueberries were abundant and I enjoyed the break.

Fire Creek was ablaze with color.

Fire Creek was ablaze with color.

At Fire creek as (I was taking the picture above) a voice startled me with the question, “Is this Pumice Creek?” I turned to see an older woman with a broad hat and friendly face coming from the south. I responded, “I think this is Fire Creek. You already passed Pumice.” We consulted the maps and she agreed.

I quickly learned that her name was Mary and that she was doing the reverse of my hike, starting at Stevens and hiking north to Stehekin. She was hiking alone. In past summers she had hiked often with her husband, but he had died suddenly in the past year. Her voice caught for moment with grief as she described him. Hiking appeared to be part of her healing. She shared that  she would turn 65 in a couple of months and she wanted to see if she could still hike. She obviously could because we were near the half-way point for each of us.

I asked her if in the past her husband did the map reading. “Oh no.” she laughed. “He was as bad as I am. We could be looking at a map of Paris, see the Eiffel tower to our right and the Seine River to our left and still have no idea where we were. But somehow we got where we were going.”

We discussed some of the through-hikers that we had met of the trail. Mary remarked, “I sometimes wonder if in their hurry to cover miles if they see what beauty is around them?” We agreed that our more leisurely pace had value.

We exchanged information about the trail ahead for each of us. She told me where some great campsite were. After filling our water bottles, we lifted our packs and headed in opposite directions, yet holding similar joy.

Later that evening I stopped early at a great campsite Mary had shared and fixed a meal. The day had been filled with joy so I decided to have fun recording my meal prep. Below is a taste of what it is like to camp in the high alpine country.

This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24  That verse was certainly true for my fourth day.

Little did I know that the fifth day would be a test of my joy.

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Day Two: Finding the Holy

The primary lure of backpacking for me is the opportunity to visit isolated high alpine country: where a trail breaks out above the tree line and the vista opens up to snow-capped peaks. There are several place where one can drive to such regions. Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park near my boyhood home of Port Angeles is one such location.

Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

But simply driving to a vista takes away the challenge of the hike. As I started my second day of hiking, I knew that I would be entering my “sacred space” later that morning as I climbed towards Suiattle Pass, at 5800 feet. Shortly after starting, I needed to crossed Agnes Creek which had no foot bridge.

Already I was missing my trusted Leki hiking stick that I had used for years. I had forgotten to place it in my airline duffel when I packed my gear. Still I carefully waded across Agnes Creek without a problem, the ice-cold water reaching above my gaiters. In yesterday’s rain I had hiked in wet shoes; a stream crossing was no different. (Somehow I forgot that lesson three days later.)

As I climbed up towards the pass, some vistas did open up, especially towards Cloud Pass. I kept climbing towards Suiattle Pass and I looked forward to seeing deeper into Glacier Peak Wilderness. However I soon learned that Suiattle Pass, in spite of its higher elevation, is mostly forest with a few small meadows. The alpine flowers were gorgeous, the views less so.

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As I trekked down the other side of Suiattle Pass towards Miner’s Creek and eventually Suiattle River, I caught my first glimpse of Glacier Peak. Clouds surrounded the peak, but I could see a few of the many glaciers that cover it. Glacier is volcanic like Mount St. Helen’s and Mount Rainer and it is the fourth highest peak in Washington. It would take me two days to hike around it, mostly due to the arduous descents into and tougher climbs out of the deep river canyons that the melting glaciers feed. I was expecting some tough days ahead.

Glacier Peak from SuiattleAs I descended deeper into the forest, the trail became less rocky and more pedestrian. I found my pace quickening as I approached Suiattle River. I had heard stories about the old crossing of this river. In 2003 a rainstorm flooded the river and the bridge was wiped out, leaving fallen log for hikers to traverse.

Until 2011, the only way across the Suiattle River.

In September 2011 a new bridge was opened but it was built two miles downstream at a (hopefully) more secure spot. This added four miles to this section of trail, two miles down one side of the river and two miles up the other. I was anxious to get back to the high country, so I did not look forward to an extra four miles of river-bottom hiking. My disappointment turned to surprise.

After completing eighteen miles, I found a cozy camp site near the river. The next morning, I finished the hike to the new bridge and started back up the river along new trail.

As I trekked, I slowly realized that I was hiking through some old growth forest. Most of western Washington was heavily logged in the last hundred years, but for some reason this section was missed. Huge western red cedars stretched to the sky. I felt like I had stumbled into an ancient temple; the feel of sacred space surrounded and surprised me. I was awed and humbled.

A short video clip from the forest (you may need to “full screen” to see it.)

The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. Psalm 104:16

What space or place has surprised you with holiness?

Lord God, evoke within us the holiness of your kingdom.