Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sahale Arm

On Saturday, I went up Sahale Arm, off Cascade Pass in the North Cascades, for about 13 miles of trail. The day started with limited expectations. However, due to aesthetic conditions beyond my control, I ended up hiking, sitting, and even strolling more than running, spending the whole day in the mountains. It was an amazing day, with all sorts of wildlife out, and stunning views. 

The big news:  I saw FOUR BEARS! I never see bears, but on Saturday, they were hanging out separately, on steep slopes, just grazing like deer or elk. Three of them were specks, but one was near enough to get a much closer view, and I sat and watched him/her for fifteen minutes. Others reported seeing as many as seven, as well  as a lynx. I saw a few goats near the pass as well.

Hoary marmots and grouse were all over the place. I whistled at the marmots, and they would stand up and look around. A couple of them hung out on this cliff, just looking down towards Pelton Basin. We in my family call grouse "dummy chickens" and nothing I saw on Saturday made me change that tune. I chased one down a trail for at least a 100 yards. All it had to do was leave the trail, but it ran ahead of me on the trail, as if it were terrified. I even found a bear den, or what I think was one—the hole was big enough to cram a few bears in it. It kind of scared me.

My theory is the animals were all out because they need to make preparations for winter. I've heard about this sort of thing on the Discovery Channel.

The high point on the hike/run was 7600 feet, and there was some pretty steep climbing on the arm. I saw one other runner, and he was taking things much more seriously than me, motoring. The campsites at the Sahale Glaicer are rings of stones--there's one in the pic below of me in the foreground, before the sea of mountains. I want to camp there now--the folks I talked to who camped there the night before, under a full moon, called it an experience of a lifetime.

There were clouds in the sky, but everything was visible for ten miles, and that was enough, with Boston Basin, Mt. Johannesburg, Magic Mountain, the triplets and who knows what else viewable. Doubtful Lake is stunning, with an island sitting in the middle. The views to the east, down towards Park Creek and Chelan speak to the imagination. Maybe Labor Day weekend. I saw and even began the Ptarmigan Traverse trail, which is an epic mountaineering experience in the North Cascades.

More pics here.

It was a great day out on the trail, lost in thought, taking pictures, turning corners. I missed out on Waldo, and my congrats to all my friends who did it. It just didn’t sound like a good idea for me this year. Some year, hopefully. My fitness is down, and I can really feel my back when I try to seriously run. I did run steady down from the Pass, and the whole of the day wore me out. I plan on doing Baker Lake as my next 50k, and I’ll have a fun run on Cutthroat Pass in the North Cascades with my family next week, and then volunteer at Cascade Crest.

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