Hikes: River Loop — Pyramid Lake — Thunder Knob
Perhaps it was because we were in an actual room and not a tent, but John slept in while I listened to podcasts and read in bed. Soon we were up and at ’em. Our first stop was for ice, and a nice man asked us how we liked our Yeti. It’s cool how many conversations get started because of it. (See Rainier 2).
After ice and small talk, John and I went to the North Cascades Visitor Center, not that we could actually go inside, though; it’s closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Instead, we did the River Loop and a 300′ boardwalk for a view of the Pickett Range. The Skaget River is very swift and green from “rock flour” from rocks that have been pulverized by glacial movement (you’re welcome, nerds!).
We miraculously got an “open” spot at Newhalem Campground. It had some of the nicest bathrooms of any national-park campground we’ve visited. Tall trees were blackened from the Goodell fire in August 2015. Because of that we had views of some of the mountains surrounding us.
This was somewhat of a “rest” day, so we opted for a couple short hikes. On the way to one of them we stopped for a view of Gorge Creek Falls.
The hike to Pyramid Lake via the Pyramid Lake Trail is 2.1 miles, but the gain is quick, and my heart rate was up; it felt like home! The lake was really pond-sized, and I wouldn’t want to swim in it, but it was still a beautiful spot. On the return trip, we passed a woman who asked if we swam, and I said, “No, it just looks like we did.”
Next we accessed the Thunder Knob Trail from the Colonial Creek Campground. It was 1.8 miles of switchbacks to reach Thunder Knob and an amazing view of Diablo Lake. The green of the water was almost fluorescent! Just like with Pyramid Lake, we encountered only a handful of other people on the trails.
We rinsed off in Diablo Lake, but literally only for a second for me; it was so cold it actually hurt.
There was still plenty of day light, so we took a drive down Highway 20 to the Easy Pass Trail head, though with no intention of hiking. It was just as beautiful on the drier side of the park. The sky was dark, which I thought was from smoke, but a storm was making its way toward us.
On our way back to the campsite, we passed a hiker but didn’t stop because our car was a mess with most of our stuff. I know how grateful I was the few times I had hitchhiked after a hike, so we pulled over to make room, then did a u-turn to stop for the guy. I’m so glad we did! Turns out he literally just finished the Pacific Crest Trail and was walking to town. He was from Mumbai, India and had spent the last four years getting his undergraduate degree in L.A. Doing the PCT was his last hurrah before moving to Boston for a Ph.D program at Harvard for neuroscience.
We brought him all the way to town, then went to our campsite eat before the rain started. From the look of the clouds, it was going to be an interesting night.
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