North Cascades National Park 1

Sahale Glacier

After an emotional morning of saying goodbye to Aspen at the airport, John and I spent a couple hours at the Museum of Pop Culture (see Seattle) before heading north to find a campsite in the Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Marble Creek campground

It had rained in the area earlier in the day, and when we arrived at the Marble Creek campground everything was vibrant green; it was also pretty humid and buggy. We got a site right on the water. It was a relatively small campground and quiet, which I loved.

The following morning we awoke to the sound of the Cascade River. When I finally opened my eyes John said, “Thank God you’re up.” I guess he’d been awake for a couple hours already and was bored out of his mind.

Our plan for the day was to hike to Sahale Glacier via Cascade Pass. The drive down Cascade Road to the trail head was long and sketchy at parts, but we made it, and there was even pit toilets!

We started our hike around 9 AM with a series of long switchbacks (superfluous was the word John used). At one point we had switched back and forth for a mile and had only gained 500 feet. Very different from the trails we’re used to in the White Mountains of New Hampshire (efficient is the word I use for those trails).

As we approached the pass and got above treeline, the views were breath-taking. Massive peaks and glaciers in every direction. Some call North Cascades the Alps of North America. The air was hazy from the smoke of wildfires, so we weren’t seeing it in all its glory, but we got enough of the picture to know that we wanted to come back in the future.

first mountain goat of the trip!

As we continued toward Sahale Glacier the trail became more strenuous, and we had plentiful wildlife sightings. Marmots everywhere (Hoary, not yellow-bellied marmots, like we’d seen in the Tetons). We also saw our first mountain goats of the trip.

one of many hoary marmots
The Alps of North America
Shale Glacier in the distance
Doubtful Lake (I wonder why it’s called that)

The final half-mile was steep and on scree. We spent a while at the base of the glacier (we had no intention of actually going onto it). There were multiple spots one could set up a tent and even a pit toilet. Remarkably, there was also cell coverage!

John and me at Sahale Glacier

We returned to the trail head and parking lot the way we had come, superfluous switchbacks and all. The black flies were super annoying by this point, and I was just ready to be done. Our next mission was to find a place to stay for the night.

When we researched for this cross-country road trip, we read in multiple places that North Cascade National Park was rarely visited and one could get away without making reservations at the campgrounds. That was cool to us because we like to be flexible. Well, it was quite the ordeal. After driving to each of the park’s campgrounds – Newhalem, Colonial Creek, Gorge Lake, Goodell Creek – we were out of luck. We went back to Marblemount and got a room at Buffalo Run Inn. It was an inexpensive option and nice, despite not having air conditioning and having to share a bathroom; we wouldn’t have had those anyway if we were camping, so it all worked out. We went to bed not knowing where we would be sleeping the following night. That’s just part of the adventure, right?

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