Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cascade Pass/Sahale Arm Trail

Adoring fans have been writing in all week wondering, "If Marblemount is the 'Gateway to the American Alps,' then what are the American Alps?" The long wait has ended, and you may now begin basking in the splendor that is North Cascades National Park. Largely because of its inaccessibility to the average motoring tourist, North Cascades is one of the least visited national parks. That's not a flaw; it's a feature. If you're willing to work for it, North Cascades will reward you with solitude and jaw-dropping beauty (and amazingly, all without entrance fees!).

Jeremy's favorite hike of the Washington expedition was the Cascade Pass/Sahale Arm Trail. With no exaggeration (or the usual Stewart-roundup), the views from the trailhead parking lot are some of the most beautiful we have ever witnessed. Towering peaks, hanging glaciers, about a dozen waterfalls, and a black bear meandering through the hikelberries . . . not bad considering we hadn't strapped on our hiking boots yet.

The views get even better. But first you have to step into the dense forest and ascend a couple miles of switchbacks. Of course, that's beautiful too, but really we just wanted to get back to the views.

Ahhh, the views. After about 3.5 miles, the trail climbs out of the forest and onto Cascade Pass. The views from the pass are stunning -- the peaks that tower overhead seem like they could topple over at any minutes, and the enormous valleys seem to fall right out from under your feet.

After climbing several dozen more switchbacks (and having Tennyson yell "switchback" at every turn), we reached the ridge leading to the Sahale arm. This would have been the perfect place for a snack break, except it was quite difficult to chew and sing "The Hills Are Alive" at the same time. And singing took precedence.
Unlike other chameleons, Tennyson cannot fully blend in due to his volume knob being stuck on high (got that from his dad). Not a bad attempt, though.
The trail follows the winding ridge for another couple miles. On one side you can enjoy views of Sahale Peak and glacial waterfalls feeding into Doubtful Lake. Look the other way and you can see Switzerland.

And this is the Sahale Arm (the huge ridge leading up to the summit of Sahale Peak). Tennyson had reached his limit, so we didn't make it to the summit. Instead, we spent a couple hours up on the arm enjoying the beauty, snacking, and relaxing in the sun.

It's not an easy climb, but the Cascade Pass/Sahale Arm Trail is magnificent from start to finish. We'll be wandering this trail in our dreams for a long time.


Katie said...

for sure - the coolest family ever. "the hills are alive" is meant to be sung there. what beautiful pictures. re-awakening your little urban souls. i like the comment about tennyson's volume dial being stuck at maximum and getting that from his dad. funny.

Jay & Pat said...

I am sufficently motivated to go here someday. Maybe with my family backpacking team members? Absolutely incredible sights. I knew the PNW was beautiful, but not to this extent.