Sunday, September 7, 2008

Summer redemption

Wait, it's back! Summer has taken pity on us poor Northwesterners after months of being coy (ie non-existent) and given us a redemptive week of beautiful weather.

Not without working for it however. Our 6-day hike of the Northern Loop trail started with a hike out of Sunrise in the sideways-blowing snow. Welcome to Washington! Ten folks from around the country joined Kim and I for a week of deep forest and alpine meadows and generalized mountain appreciation. Unlike many groups, this one had no decompression time, no day or two of wondering where their Blackberry was or learning to look around. And (coincidentally or not) many of them had never been backpacking before, ever! But also unlike many groups, this didn't seem to make a difference - those who were new dived right in and came up looking like they'd been doing it for years.

After that first day, the weather was cold at night but otherwise nearly perfect. The summer was so cold and wet that wildflowers are still in full bloom and we even had to cross a patch of snow! This also meant that the blueberries were late in arriving, so we not only got to see amazing flowers, but lots of bears! Presumably they're still looking for food as autumn approaches and their berry supply has yet to materialize, keeping them searching closer to trails. Everyone in the group saw at least 6 bears, and one near Mystic Lake put in several appearances. Marmots, a deer, and the occasional pika - a good week.

On the last evening we hiked up to Skyscraper Peak for sunset, which has been an amazing after-dinner adventure every time I've led this trip. True to form, the mountain drew clouds around her to accent color and contour, obscuring and revealing for the hour or more that we watched the light change and fade. It's nice to see the mountain from below occasionally - sitting in a field or on a lower peak, looking at the snow slopes of camp and crevasse. A nice change, and beautiful end to a beautiful trip.

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