I was up early the next morning, as I had a big hike to Cascade Pass and the Sahale Glacier planned. Unfortunately, I hadn’t stayed up late enough for the previous night’s lunar eclipse. That was a shame, as the Colonial Creek Campground would’ve been an ideal place to watch it.
Pancakes got me going, and a 90-minute drive got me to the Cascade Pass trailhead. I knew I was in for a good hike, as even the views from the parking lot were impressive.
I left the trailhead at 9:45 and began the hike to Cascade Pass. I cruised through dozens of switchbacks as I climbed through heavy timber. The ascent was actually rather easy, as I covered almost 4 miles in less than 2 hours. At the pass, I took a short snack break and took in the view. From the pass, I was treated to nice views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers. It was a nice spot, but I knew that the real eye candy was still ahead of me.
Many folks hike to Cascade Pass, but stop there before heading back. This is a shame. Beyond the pass, the scenery goes from nice to outrageous. Now that I’ve hiked to the base of the Sahale Glacier, I can’t imagine turning around at the pass. It seems to me that it would be a little like getting to second base on your honeymoon night – pleasant, yet rather disappointing.
I followed the trail beyond the pass, before turning onto the spur trail towards the Sahale Glacier. Here I began the first serious climb of the day. I climbed exceptionally rocky switchbacks through open grassy slopes towards the ridge above. Along the way, I was treated to a brilliant assortment of wildflowers. I also spotted a deer browsing in one of the meadows.
I finally reached the top of the ridge, and the grade eased. From here, the views opened up in all directions. Hikers that aren’t up for the long, challenging hike to the Sahale Glacier would be well rewarded just climbing to the top of this ridge.
From there, I enjoyed a beautiful, easy stroll through open meadows. I was absolutely surrounded by rugged peaks and sparkling glaciers. At one point, I spun in a circle, trying to take it all in. Despite my best efforts, I could barely comprehend what I was seeing. The scenery was overwhelming.
This would’ve made a fine destination, but I wasn’t ready to stop. The last part of the hike was a grueling climb up a rock slope. The grind seemed to go on forever, but I eventually reached the top of the ridge at the base of the Sahale Glacier. I passed some exposed campsites, and climbed further, to the very foot of the glacier. There, I finally stopped at 2pm to take it all in.
I had a quick lunch and soaked up the scenery. Above me, a long swath of snow and ice tumbled down from Sahale Peak. The best views though, were in the opposite direction. To the south, I could see down the spine of the Cascades. The peaks seemed to go on forever. I could just make out Glacier Peak, although most of that bulky peak was hidden behind another mountain. The most amazing sight though was in the farthest distance. At first I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had to fish out my binoculars to confirm it, but there was no doubt – Mount Rainier, some 200 miles away, was clearly visible from my perch high in the North Cascades.
I lingered there for an hour, before beginning the long hike back. The first part of the return hike was delightful. After Cascade Pass though, it turned into a race. I ended up making it from the pass all the way back to the car in just over an hour. This was one downhill hike where you can really make good time.
Continue reading about my trip as I dayhike to Easy Pass.
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