Moving to Hawaii • Driving through Eastern Washington and the Cascades • Hiking Mount Pilchuck • September 11 & 12, 2017
After leaving our campsite in Colville National Forest, we began to notice the haziness was back in the air. We had considered hiking to a nearby peak and got as far as the trailhead, but decided we didn’t want to do so with the poor air quality and the reduced views. Instead, we stopped at several vistas along the Highway 20 on our way West. One of the best views we had was while letterboxing in a cemetery in Republic.
Once in Tonasket, we began following US 97 South. This drive really surprised me — whenever I think of Washington, I picture lush green mossy forests, big trees, and snow capped mountains. Here, the scenery honestly reminded me of Cochise County in Arizona. It appeared more dry and desert-like with yellow grass and mountains on the horizon. Perhaps we would have had a much different experience had we driven through in the spring. We eventually came across the Columbia River and followed it to Wenatchee. It was such a beautiful scene; the river was absolutely still and the reflection perfectly mirrored the landscape. It definitely felt out of place from the desert vibes I had been feeling. We also passed by many fruit orchards on this stretch of highway, and despite the temperature being in the 80’s it definitely looked like the area was ready to be in the fall spirit.
We made it to Wenatchee and stopped for lunch. As I mentioned in my last post, our mood had turned more melancholy as we entered Washington, as we were constantly reminded that we could have lived here and enjoyed this area for several years. While we were getting lunch, Curtis noticed he had been receiving phone calls from unfamiliar numbers. It turned out to be from the first boat that he was originally supposed to be stationed on in Washington — they were wondering where he was and why hadn’t he checked in yet? We were confused, and maybe a little too hopeful that this was all a big mistake and we would end up here after all. However, when Curtis returned the call, he found out that the other boat simply had not been forwarded a copy of his order modification, so they weren’t aware of the changes that had occurred almost 4 months prior. Curtis resolved the issue, and things remained the same. We honestly thought that we wouldn’t care if they changed our orders right back. We were loving the area and believed that even with the added complications of getting our belongings shipped back to us that staying here would still be easier than moving to Hawaii.
With great reluctance, we carried on with our plans and drove West on US 2. It was still very hazy while driving on much of the Eastern side of Steven’s Pass, but as we approached the Crest of the Cascades we were falling more and more in love with this area. We had originally planned on camping on the East side of the pass, but we missed the turn and decided it was for the best. We could camp closer to Seattle, where we needed to be by Tuesday afternoon, and would still be able to go for one more hike.
We stopped along US 2 to hike the one-mile loop on the Deception Falls Nature Trail, and were instantly captivated by the rainforest scenery. This was exactly what we had pictured Washington to look like, and it was even better than we had imagined: the trees were bigger, the greens more vivid, and the waterfalls were so much fuller even considering the season. Every part of this forest was so fascinating to us, we didn’t want the trail to end.
After our hike, we drove to Monroe where we ordered a pizza. I won’t ever forget the moment when we were first able to see Mount Baker in all its snow-capped glory, standing high above all else. I think this is the first time we’ve really seen glacier, even from a distance. I’m sure it would be an incredible experience to hike that peak (and many others in this area!) but we had neither the skills nor gear to do so, and right now the whole concept is quite intimidating to me. Someday, friends…
Once we got our pizza, we went North to camp in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. It became very evident that we were now in close proximity to a major city, as the campgrounds in the area were rather full for it being a Monday night in mid-September. We were just happy to find a spot!
The next day, Curtis presented me with two hiking options for our morning: We could either do a 6 mile hike around a lake, or a 5 mile hike up to a peak. I wasn’t sure that I felt up to a peak hike, but neither of us could resist the idea of being up higher and have better views of the surrounding Cascade Mountains. So we decided on hiking to Mount Pilchuck, and we were not disappointed.
After the slow drive to the trailhead, which was at the end of a long winding dirt road, we began hiking through the woods on the trail to the peak. The drive took care of a lot of the elevation gain, but we loved being able to start in the forest and walk between the giant trees, then ascend above the tree line and be completely surrounded with mountains, ridges, and valleys as far as the eye could see. We saw our first glimpses of Mount Rainier, though I didn’t even realize it was Rainier in the moment — I was just blown away by how much that “peak in the distance” stood out.
The trail was constantly gaining in elevation and became rockier the higher we got, but with every turn and new clearing we came to, we were blown away again and again by the expansive view. There was a fog in the valleys, but we were able to see the other peaks on the horizon and the big blue sky so clearly. I have never before been on a single hike that made my jaw drop so many times, and there were so many moments where I was on the verge of tears just taking in the beauty that was all around. By the last saddle before the peak, I was sold: this was the most incredible view I had ever seen on a hike and I was convinced that nothing in my life could ever top this.
Even though Mt. Pilchuck is under 6000′ in elevation, we felt like we were on top of the world and had a great view of all surrounding peaks. We knew those peaks were higher, but from this perspective it sure didn’t feel that way. The last bit of trail to the fire observation tower was just a scramble over these giant boulders, and sadly the last stretch was just too much for Charlotte so we took turns climbing the ladder up to the tower to take in the view. We returned to the saddle for sandwiches before beginning our trek back.
We were so thankful we did this hike and were in awe of the beauty of God’s creation. I can’t wait for the day when we can return and hike to all those other peaks we could see. This hike also made for some great memories to make up for the next hurdles we had to face…more on that, coming up next!