Friday, August 17, 2012

Buck Creek Trail: Day 3

Morning arrived Tuesday, August 7 with a clear blue sky, one of those rare occasions in the North Cascades with nary a cloud in sight. “Oh, boy,” I thought to myself. I knew that the bright sunrise would ignite Glacier Peak’s white coat against an indigo azure (above).

Buck Creek Pass is famed for its vistas of Glacier Peak, but only if you can see it. I once heard that the mountain only reveals its summit somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-45 times a year. Maritime clouds from the west side tend to collect at the crest of the Cascades in the summer; I was well aware these opportunities were infrequent.

After hustling to a nearby promontory up the trail for a few shots, we had breakfast before preparing for our day hike to High Pass. The night before, I had prepared a meal of macaroni and cheese -- livened up with fried spam -- for dinner. The good news is that nobody complained. Indeed, the meal vanished rather quickly.

Backcountry cookware has also morphed over the years. Steel mess kits were the vogue back in the day. Today, cleverly designed and packaged titanium kits are lighter and more versatile. We use hard plastic “sporks” instead of steel knife, fork and spoon kits.

After breakfast, we hit the High Pass Trail for even more stunning mountain panoramas. It was springtime in August along the way, with beds of wildflowers –- including paintbrush, lupine and Western anemone –- blanketing the treeless hillsides above timberline.

About halfway up the trail, we encountered impassable snowfields at the 7,000-foot level, so we headed back to a saddle with views of both the Buck Creek Valley and upper Suiattle River, perhaps the most obscure section of the Glacier Peak Wilderness. After lunch, we headed back to explore more of Buck Creek Pass before dinner.

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