November in the Cascades
Fall in the Pacific Northwest lingers. It’s almost three weeks into November and many of the quieter streets in my part of Seattle seem to be not long past peak foliage. It’s comforting, in some ways: the persisting soft glow of big leaf maple offers a welcome symbolic resistance to lengthening dark and the onset of omnipresent rain.
This fall in particular seems slower than I remember. Despite a teasing forecast a few weeks ago, temperatures have stayed warm enough to keep the snowline well above convenient levels. I’ll probably cave and go to Muir or Heliotrope soon, but it’s far from the after-work trips to get some quick laps in at Snoqualmie I was dreaming of once the weather turned last month. Shoulder season it remains.
Meanwhile, Kate’s new to town, so it seemed important to leave it. Two years ago we tried to sneak a late-season backpacking trip in on the west side of Glacier Peak Wilderness, and while heavy snow rebuffed our attempt at a high country loop, we did get to ogle Big Four from the Mountain Loop Highway.
I thought it’d be a nice way to introduce her to our extended backyard to do so again. We headed up Mt. Dickerman (5760′) across the valley, wreathed in shifting clouds. It’s a straightforward grunt, but a gem.
Now and then, Big Four did emerge from the mist. Its sheer north face drops 4000′ from summit to highway, and was the objective of one of the the most inspiring ski mountaineering projects I can think of.
The following week, Luke concocted a graduate-level dayhike in the Chiwaukum, one of the Central Cascades’ intriguing eastern subranges. We were rebuffed by whiteout conditions and deep snow (“0% chance of precipitation,” he said…) but still logged 20-odd miles in complete solitude.
We’ve been blessed with cold and perfect weather, lately. Unfortunately, it’s due to come to an end just as my schedule loosens. Time to sacrifice a goat to Ullr.