a snowmelt tarn in the north cascades below the Hidden Lake Fire Lookout

This is a picture I took August 2011 when I probably should’ve been high-tailing it down the mountainside to beat dusk, it was a couple hours before sunset. I had thousands of vertical feet and four miles to go before reaching the trailhead. But it was so lovely having the mountainside to myself for this day-hike that I was lured into complacency. I did carry a headlamp. I didn’t particularly want to resort to it because the first mile of the Hidden Lake Fire Lookout trail was a big mess this year, all kinds of windfall and confusing reroutes. Nevertheless, I do love hiking down late in the evening on a dewy mountainside.

It felt spooky a lot on this hike. It was scorching hot like an oven and I worried I chose a simply bad day to hike. To make matters worse, the horseflies down lower in an endless section of brushy meadows (by far the best-smelling of the summer) were peculiarly relentless, forcing me into a faster pace than was comfortable. I couldn’t see the trail or my feet because the steep meadow was overgrown so I was worried about a misstep with bad consequences. And then I brushed up against someone’s lost bear-bells and jumped ten feet into the air because I wasn’t wearing my hearing aid and the jingling sound was remarkably similar to something carnivorous. I was happy to attach the bear-bells to my backpack, they’re a prize possession now. They have a little magnet-feature that allows me to turn the jingling off.

Then the sky made me nervous because it looked like there was a possibility of thunderstorms in the afternoon and I was down deep in an avalanche basin and felt like I couldn’t see far enough in any direction to make a real assessment. And then there was a lot of snow up high, I worried about having to cross a sketchy spot. And then, and then, and then……

But don’t worry, I made it to the Hidden Lake Fire Lookout. It was a huge reward for all my toil and trouble. It was my first visit in six years. The lookout above Hidden Lake is one of my favorite places in the North Cascades. It cooled off dramatically during my visit. No bugs. Incredible views in every direction. Very hazy, though (especially on the eastern side of the crest). At that time it was the peak of our wildland fire season.

The fire lookout has a well-stocked library. It’s well known Jack Kerouac spent a summer in a Pacific Northwest fire lookout. He stayed on top of Desolation Peak.

I would love to get my hands on a copy of this. Fire Lookouts of the Northwest, by Ray Kresek:

Not much happened today.

  • Mom made a huge pot of chili.
  • Almost threw my back out lifting two lawnmowers into the back of Wil’s pickup truck. Gas-powered lawnmowers weigh a lot more than electric lawnmowers. Wil told me he doesn’t get that excited about Christmas anymore. He said it might have started when he was in the army and was on watch one night, Christmas Eve.
  • Ate a bunch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that were meant for the neighbors, Diana was not happy with me. But if Wil isn’t that excited about Christmas, what’s so bad about eating a few of his cookies?
  • Delivered a junky old Ikea sofa to Goodwill. The Danish people have unusually flexible spines from all the lutefisk they eat and that is why they are able to design such uncomfortable furniture and yet have relatively few orthopedic surgeons in their country. Since there are a lot of Scandinavian people living in the Seattle area, no doubt someone will find our sofa tomorrow and treasure it. While at Goodwill, I took a few minutes to look around. I found Greedo and two clone troopers in a plastic bag filled with lots of laser guns. It’s always good to have extra weapons. Greedo is one of my earliest Star Wars memories. I also found some good hiking guidebooks for my friends Lance and Kelsie. I found a nice copy of the 100 Classic Hikes in Washington for Lance, one of the newer editions with good pictures. For Kelsie, I discovered another copy of 100 Hikes in Mt. Rainier National Park. She did the Wonderland Trail last summer and I think she should have a collection of musty old Mt. Rainier guidebooks (i’m just kidding, they’re not musty). For my brother, I found a guide to architecture in Chicago.
  • Read a very good version of Black Beauty (Troll Illustrated classics) to Adam.
  • Adam’s mother is making a huge batch of molasses cookies as I type this. I’m eating them as they come out of the oven!
  • Added this post to my blog.

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