In the middle of July, you don’t expect to find mountains engrossed with fog. Usually, this time of the year in the Pacific Northwest is filled with warm days and cool nights, but not much condensation. Here is where we should insert a little known fact; during the summer, Seattle and Washington State becomes one of the driest areas of the country. See, it does more than just rain all the time. On this particular day the rain wasn’t falling and the fog wasn’t rising. Since moving here, I’ve wanted to do two things while hiking. One was to go out on a trip with my good buddy, Duncan Robinson. Second, was to capture photos in foggy conditions. Luckily for me, I got to do both and neither disappointed.
Our trail to Snow Lake was inside Snoqualmie National Forest just east of North Bend. The drive from Seattle to the Cascades is hard to put into words. As you drive on I-90, the bustling and ever expanding footprint of Seattle and its suburbs gives way to mountains, bodies of water, and lush green. I have taken the journey many times during various periods of the year and every single time it takes my breath away. As the elevation begins to climb, I always have to pinch myself as a reminder that I live here and I am lucky beyond measure to be surrounded by such sheer beauty.
After some breakfast and great conversation, we headed for the trail. As you begin hiking on any trail, it takes some time to get acclimated or what I’ve heard called your “trail legs.” Your body has to become used to the pace, the weight, the elevation gain/drops, as well as the stability needed to traverse tricky areas. As my trail legs kicked in, we encountered what would be the first of many rock slides. For some reason, these kinds of things have a way of making me nervous. Probably, because I am not the most coordinated individual in the world and have on more than a few occasions lost my footing. As we slowed down, we took our time and gazed at the clearings leveled by falling rocks. After taking in the view, I felt lucky to have encountered such impasses.
I have written it before, but I never tire of finding a body of water buried within the mountains. Snow Lake was something special and didn’t disappoint. As we made the last turn and came over the hill, we found the beautiful lake pictured above. In every direction, the lake was surrounded with glorious evergreen trees and mountains. It too was succumbing to the fog that just wouldn’t rise. Together, they painted the picture of a vista I will keep with me for as long as my memory holds. Snapping away, we knew we had to get closer. Plus, we needed a place to break down for a snack. To do so, we needed a quiet place to eat, reflect and talk. This would prove to be a challenge.
In the Pacific Northwest, we are lucky. Without a doubt, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We know it and when weather is on our side, we do our best to take advantage of it. For those of us who hike year round, this really isn’t an issue. When things get wet in Western Washington, you learn to head east or south toward the Columbia River. When things begin to dry out, the competition for space begins. Those who only hike when the weather cooperates, love Snoqualmie. It is a short drive from Seattle and filled with countless things to do outside. If you are a year round hiker who decides to follow the masses, you will discover something you don’t encounter nine months out of the year; people. With people comes crowds, noise, and periods of waiting. Naturally, this takes some getting used to and can lead to moments of frustration, especially when others don’t exercise trail etiquette. In these situations, I try to practice the golden rule and lead by example, but I don’t always succeed. I usually fail when I am hungry and want some peace and quiet. After some trial and error, Duncan and I found a spot we could call our own, at least for a little while.
As we finished up, we began to make our dissent down the mountain. Soon, the lake was behind us. As was the rock slides and the crowds. Before we knew it, we were back at the parking lot where it all began. When we drove in, I noticed a sign for the Pacific Crest Trailhead. Before we left, I knew I had to snap a photo. For years now, I’ve wanted to conquer the trail which runs the length of the west coast from Mexico to Canada. I can’t imagine a more fantastic journey than spending months on the trail with nothing more than your thoughts and what you can carry on your back. The test of will and ability to reconnect with yourself and nature is almost too tempting for me to ignore. One day, I will give in and the trail will have me. For now, though, I have a picture and a constant reminder of something bigger than myself and a journey to be conquered.
Be good to each other,