Heather – Maple Pass Loop – August 2015

So I’m waaaay behind on blog posts (yes by about 15 posts!) but thought I’d catch up in reverse order…starting with the newest and working my way backward. Jared and I went hiking yesterday in the North Cascades. We both managed to get the day off from work. Originally we intended to hike Alta Mountain, but seeing as how the forecast for the Snoqualmie area called for rain and clouds, we diverged north instead.

The trail according to the map in the parking lot
The trail according to the map in the parking lot

Monday. August 3, 2015. Hike: Heather-Maple Pass Loop. Distance: 7.2 miles. Elevation gain: 2000 feet. High point: 6650 feet.

We get a smidge later start to the day after an exhausting (but great!) social day (we hosted a random PCT hiker the night before whom we bade farewell, met friends for breakfast, sailed, and hosted music club). We left for the mountains around 10 am.

Looking down on Lake Ann
Looking down on Lake Ann

Drive the 3 hours north to the North Cascades, realizing along the way that we’re going right by Ross Lake and Diablo Lake – a place we hope to canoe/camp later this summer! Diablo Lake is the most beautiful shade of slightly cloudy turquoise…

From Heather Pass
From Heather Pass

Jared and I each eat our half of the QFC sandwich we picked up along the way – not a ton of food, but somehow so dense and satisfying that we have no desire to eat another crumb until later that evening.We read about ptarmigans on the way and hope we see one. We arrive at the Rainy Pass trailhead just after 1. We hop onto the trail that points us toward Lake Ann (we think it’s counter clockwise around the loop? seems to be the direction most people travel) and start hiking!

Just above Heather Pass. Look at that silly smoke
Just above Heather Pass. Look at that silly smoke

Through woods, past a few people, and out onto a beautiful scree slope. A pika squeaks at us. Bog remnants below. Vast views beyond. We start to see a touch of haze above and beyond – wildfire smoke?! A faint smell of campfires permeate the air. Up switchbacks. Views of Lake Ann just below – a photogenic cirque with a tiny island in the center.

Just over Maple Pass. Cute lil' cirque and teeny snow field
Just over Maple Pass. Cute lil’ cirque and teeny snow field

Up to Heather Pass where two women with a dog tell us about the good views to be had down the short social trail to our right. The social trails lead to the further, more rugged peaks that require scrambles (Lewis and Wing Lakes, Black Peak, and beyond). We meander a few hundred yards down and admire the badass looking peaks from a distance. Lovely wildflowers.

From near Maple Pass
From near Maple Pass

Continue up the ridgeline toward Maple Pass. The higher we go, the smokier it gets. The smell of smoke gets stronger too. We chat with an older couple about the smoke and fires. A few ash flakes dust down from the sky occasionally. One lands in my eyelash.

Jared walking down along the ridge
Jared walking down along the ridge

Despite the smoke, the views are still beautiful! Jagged, rugged peaks in all directions. Many glaciated peaks. We keep climbing until we’re finally at the pinnacle of our hike – Maple Pass. I surprise Jared with 2 beers I have stashed in my pack. We sip and chat from our glorious vantage point.

A middle aged couple inquires about the trail down – have we been down before? is it steep? We haven’t been there before, but it’s supposed to be a bit steeper that the first half. The return from whence they came.

Beers empty. Time to descend. Switchbacks down. There are a few precarious spots with significant exposure, but we make across the hairy spots easily. We spy a tent perched at the end of a ridge just past Maple Pass, it looks like an awesome spot to camp. Switchback down more. This portion of the trail reminds me of the Ohanapecosh Park of the Wonderland Trail, on the east side of Rainier with it’s exposed, beautiful ridgeline.


Down down. Bathroom break. Continue down. And suddenly… Ptarmigan! Wha!!!???!!!! The chill bird skidders slowly then hangs out at the edge of the trail. Can’t believe we found one!

Back into the woods. A few jaunts of running. This trail is too fun not to run. More roots lead to more stumbling lead to walking again. Before we know it, we’re on the flat, paved portion of the trail near Rainey Lake. A flat half mile out.

Back at the car sometime between 4 and 5. On our way back to Seattle we compose poems. In my brain I was thinking haiku, but said limerick. Jared came up an awesome limerick. I came up with a sweet haiku. Please enjoy…

There once was a couple from Seattle
Who went to the North Cascades to do battle
They hiked up a peak
Saw a bird with a beak
And spent the ride back home with the atl’ (atlas)

Drove by Diablo
Hiked up high, drank beer, saw bird
Home to Seattle

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