Posted Fri, April 3, 2009 - 10:03 AM
travel, photography, mountains
After a couple of days just hanging around town, Annie and I got up early today and drove out to Wallace Falls State Park, near Gold Bar in the North Cascades. This is a centerpiece of the park; Middle Wallace Falls. Notice the dusting of snow on the trees at the top of the picture.
We arrived at the park around 10 AM and pulled in to a near empty lot with only a couple other vehicles. I looked around for a place to pay, but it appears that Washington State Parks don't require a vehicle permit. No one else had one. We looked around at the trailhead info, and it was interesting to see that they had posted a couple of "Please Help Your State Parks" posters, talking about how funding per capita for the state park system is the third worst in the nation, and further detailing the impacts of the budget deficit faced by the state this year. So I felt obligated to make a donation - but I think they need to make a few changes.
After a short walk down a wide grade in a powerline cut, the trail cut north into a forest along the north side of the Wallace River. About a hundred yards in, there was a large hand-lettered wooden sign posted on the right side of the trail:
INTO THE LIGHT
OF THINGS. LET
(from The Tables Turned, 1798.)
We continued until the narrow, rocky Woody Trail split off to the right to follow the north bank of the river. The trail went up and down quite a bit, since it needed to weave around the many small creeks and tributaries flowing south into the larger river. About a quarter mile up we came to the Small Falls spur trail and stopped there for a while.
The next mile or so was a gradual climb up the increasingly narrow river valley. Many trees were almost completely covered with thick moss, much of which was catching and dripping down the wet air, which alternated between light fog and heavy mist every few minutes.
Finally we arrived at a picnic shelter at the base of Lower Wallace Falls, where the trail took a turn to the north. The shelter was placed on a cliff above the falls in the perfect way to frame Middle Wallace Falls, another quarter mile upstream, between the two vertical rows of trees hemming in the river. At this point the trail got steeper and rockier, and we continued up to the lookout point at the base of the middle falls.
Now the trail got even rockier and even steeper, and there was starting to be an not inconsiderable amount of slushy snow from a recent fall. The trail was very mushy, wet, and slippery, and Annie opted to stay down by the middle falls while I hiked another half mile to the upper falls in a light snow. I powered up the sloppy trail at a good pace to the final lookout before the trail becomes backcountry. The upper falls was quite pretty, but not as spectacular as the 200-foot drop of the middle falls. So I took a few shots and headed back down.
Now it had been snowing at this elevation for the last half hour, but as I started down, the clouds thinned out and I even started to see peeks of sun. The newly revealed light through the mist and evaporative fog made for a nice contrast.
The terrain was so steep that the trail switchbacked several times on the way back down to the middle falls, and as I turned back on one of them towards the ever brighter sun, I had to stop for this view:
I finally made it down to the middle falls, but Annie wasn't there. I jogged down to the shelter, but she wasn't there either. I got worried I had accidentally passed her, and joining up again would have been a hassle. I ran further down, out of the snow and into brighter and brighter sunlight. At a junction with a connector trail up to the railroad grade, I saw a family hiking up and asked if they had seen Annie - it turns out they had, and she was just a little ways down. I figured this was the case, but was relieved at not having to search along a two-mile section of trail to reconnect.
We finished the hike and drove up a ways, stopping at the Mount Index Cafe & Lounge for a couple of half-pound burgers. The clouds were mostly broken up by now, and Mount Index for clearly visible for the first in several days (according to the proprietor.)
Today's trip was the kind I was hoping for - just long enough of a hike, with great coastal forest scenery.