I’ve hiked many miles since my last post about Snow Lake and I’ve since gone back and hiked that lake in vastly different conditions. I don’t usually hike the same trail twice because I’m attempting to hike the entire state of Washington and I’m a real sucker for lofty goals but I’ve come to appreciate hiking the same trail in different seasons. Two distinct trails emerge when the seasons change and the landscape is swept in magnificent color in Autumn. In late fall the mountains become white and serene while underfoot the sound of crushing snow reminds you that seasons have changed.

I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news

John Muir

This year had a lot of challenges but I did everything I could to stay outdoors and keep the momentum up. I added Marley to the mix and she’s happy to trek by my side for miles. She needs to burn the energy and I want to stay out year round so she can get trail experience in different conditions. We are both training for bigger multi-day trips next spring and summer. Down below are just a few of the dozen or so hikes we’ve done together.

Coldwater Lake is a two and a half hour trip but pushed to three hours this time because of snow and ice on the farthest stretches of the scenic Spirit Lake Memorial Highway to the crater of Mt. St. Helens. The drive is worth it even if you’re not into hiking because you can drive all the way to Johnston Ridge Observatory and gaze into the open crater of a volcano without any real effort. A few miles from the trailhead I hit a patch of black ice that made my car jolt back and forth and gave the steering wheel that airless floating feeling that smacks you with vulnerability.

Marley and I started at South Coldwater Trail at 11 a.m. when temperatures were warming up to the high 20’s. The daytime high was around 35 degrees and the air certainly had a chill to it but the day was cloudless and bright and the sun felt warm. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer day to be trekking along a ridge. The views were abundant almost the entire way. The first 5 miles was a winter wonderland while the last 7 miles had all the markings of a fall day. We even spotted one Elk as he blazed through the snow before dropping out of sight down the hill.

It’s nearly impossible to say definitively which hike would be my favorite but visiting Maple Pass in the North Cascades in the fall is an experience that beat out all expectations. All summer I had been looking forward to seeing the fall colors on full display sitting among the expansive and ever present jagged peaks that encompass the entire park.

I decided to hike Maple Pass alone and left Marley with a friend. I’d been taking her on some longer hikes that my vet advised against and I wanted to give her a break. As I approached the pass I felt the urge to look up and sure enough there was a black bear eating berries. I wanted some berries too but I didn’t think he stuck to the whole sharing is caring concept. He mostly ignored me but as I stopped he looked right at me and that alone made my heart race.

Twice during fall hikes I came across a helicopter searching for missing hikers. The first time was on my return to Snow Lake. There was a helicopter actively searching for Brendon Nepon. Long before I saw the helicopter I could hear the unmistakable sound of the rotors. It’s the quickest way I’ve been zapped back to reality while out in the woods. The other time was at Coldwater Lake. I watched as the helicopter lowered the safety line and dipped down below the ridge. All you can do is watch, wonder and hope for the best.

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