July 15th, 2018
Mica Lake mm 2521 to Reflection Pond mm 2500
Distance: 21 miles
It was another big day with over 6000 feet of elevation gain and loss. We had agreed to sleep in a bit to let the snow soften but I was a awake at 5 am as usual, so I caught up on my blog. The sun began hitting my tent at 6 am, being that we were so high and exposed. I had a leisurely breakfast and enjoyed my views of the lake. It was already so warm, I didn’t mind taking my layers off as I packed. I left camp around 0745, my latest start yet. This was just the kind of place that you didn’t want to ever leave…at least in this fine weather!
Lucas, Zeek, and Taylor set out first. Skybird, Jose and I stuck together to negotiate the bowls and Fire Creek pass. There were some steep sections all covered in snow but it was soft and slushy, and our feet held firm. Traversing steep snow fields has gotten to be a very mechanical thing for me. I concentrate on the steps ahead and don’t look down. Regardless of the consequences, you have to stay focused.
Snow angels are hard to make with a pack still on your back!
We all made it up to the pass safely, took in the views, and started sliding down the other side. We tried some glisading but the snow was almost too sticky. I had some success foot skiing.
Still magnificent views of Glacier Peak.
The next section had lots of obstacles. The trail was overgrown, had deadfalls, stream crossings, and even some mud. The sides were steep and it was easy to slip in places… I almost went over the side after jumping off a log and sliding in mud. Jose did slide off the trail but fortunately skidded to a stop after about 20 feet. He got all muddy, poor guy. I found out that he had also slid down the snow at Cutthroat Pass. After all that sliding, he’s pretty timid about the snow. He earned the trail name Plants, both for all the falls he’s taken and also because he’s a vegan.
We had lunch at the bottom of the valley, near Kennedy Creek. Then it was a peaceful walk through silent forests. There were more gargantuan trees. And lots more creeks to cross, some with bridges and other without. My shoes had basically been wet all day so I dove right into the crossings. There are lots of drainages coming off Glacier Peak.
A series of switchbacks led up a bluff and then into the narrow chute of the White Chuck River. The trail followed the stream up this chute, where a magical meadow suddenly opened. I was so impressed by this feature, as don’t recall ever seeing anything quite like it. It was like a magic portal.
The meadow rose and pretty soon I was back in snow. A huge basin finally became visible and I could see how much climbing was still in store.
Marmots were all over the place, a couple that let me get close. They are cute little buggers. I got to the top of Red Pass and caught up to Zeek and Lucas. I stopped to rest and take in more views of mountains in 360 degrees.
Rounding a corner, I could even see Mt Rainier at 90 miles away, as the falcon flies. In a week or 2, I would be passing it. How amazing to see such long distances.
I had started to pass many weekend hikers and it was clear that there were several intersecting trails in this area. There was even a group that looked like Outward Bounders…teenagers having a snowball fight and screaming at the tops of their lungs. It was a group of mostly girls and I was happy to see them being care-free and having fun in the wilderness. Later, when they walked by my campsite with their huge packs and no trekking poles, they weren’t having as much fun.
I finally made it to my planned campsite, where there was only 1 other tent, the occupants hiding from the bugs. The rest of my group decided to stop at Red Pass. I found a nice spot under the evergreens, perched on the ridge. It was another great night. I’ve been sleeping soundly every night, a sign that I’m truly at home in the wilderness.