Sunday, September 6, 2015

Day 5-Northern Cascades National Forest

Always have your sleeping bag; even if you think you don't need it. My liner clearly was not enough, I froze my ass off and more specifically; my feet. I woke up at one point with my flannel over my head trying to keep warm, the next time I woke up I grabbed the keys to close the cracked windows. I rather die of lack of oxygen than freeze to death apparently. When it was time to get up, Anna headed over to the gas station to get a coffee and I remained in the car trying to keep warm. Eventually, I too went in the gas station to brush my teeth and get changed. From here we had about a 2 hour drive into the Northern Cascades. We passed through Bellevue and then the weather turned foggy and overcast. The drive in wasn't bad at all, very scenic; though it did seem more like a town rather than a national forest when we arrived at the campground we put into the GPS. As we pulled in, I googled Northern Cascades and found Diablo Lake; looked gorgeous, and had a camping! We decided to drive the extra 30 minutes to be able to camp with a view. This is when we actually entered the park and it looked more like wilderness rather than the occasional houses. The first chance we got, we pulled over to walk up a short trail to a view, to the most amazing water ever. When I tell you it was the most beautiful green/blue color I am not lying, it was as if we were on some tropical Caribbean island and yet we were high up in the mountains. Later we would learn that the glaciers would produce silt that when it settled on the riverbed and reflected with the sunlight, it would produce such a color. As we walked up the paved path, we heard a loud squaking noise coming from above; there was a guy with some fancy camera capturing the rather large Raven sitting above us. Since I didn't bring a longer lens for my rather fancy camera, we proceeded onward. The walk was just as amazing as the water, reminding us both of being on the trail last year multiple times. The smell was the sweetest pine and the earthiness of the dirt beneath our feet, it felt good to take a walk again. We hopped back in the car and resumed our drive to the campground, while hoping there would be vacancy after driving all the way out here. We arrived at the ranger station for the campground and parked the car, seemed there were sites still available, unless people had reservations and had not shown up yet. We walked over to the board to register for a campsite and must have looked confused since the ranger window opened asking if we needed help. We expressed how we needed a site for the night and she said it was real simple; we would just go find one we liked, fill out the paperwork, put in the money, and if we found one later we liked better we could always just move out stuff. We wrote down for 67, a site that wasn't directly near the water, but had a great view from the site. After our site was all picked out and claimed, we laid out our tents in the sunny grass up by the ranger station and decided to make lunch. We shared an Atomic Ramen Bomb which consisted of mashed potatoes mixed with Ramen (your standard Ramen Bomb) but then added kielbasa which we browned up in a pot, so good! After the tents were dried out, we packed up temporary camp; and moved to our actual camp to set up. We decided on a loop hike out of the campground as well which turned out to be a beautiful, relaxing warm up hike. Being in the woods of Washington is surely surreal; a lot of attributes remind me of the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies and up North towards the Whites and Maine, but there is something so much bigger out here. Our hike lasted maybe an hour or so; we did the loop, and then walked on the main path before turning around. On our way back, a couple asked us how much further the path went, not knowing we told them we had just gone a bit further and turned around, though we were pretty sure it went on for awhile. This made us think back to the trail when day hikers would ask "where does this trail go to?" Or "how far does this trail go?" Or "how far are you headed?" Well, the trail goes from Georgia to Maine depending on which way your heading, and I came from Georgia, and am headed to Maine. Rubbing off their "yeah ok" looks as they stare at you in disbelief like you don't know what you are talking about. Wanting to see more of what the park offered we went back to the trusty 'ol ranger station to ask them what would they recommend for sights to see. She recommended overlook at Diablo Lake which we could drive to, as well as about a 3.5 mile hike in elevation round trip to get a nice view. Since we had just been walking, we decided to drive to the lake view first so we could sit and snack (surely we hiked all day everyday for up to 6 months last year.) It was god awful windy, but the views were spectacular. Again, the waters were an unreal color, and the mountain peaks gave a nice contrast. It would help if my lens had not fallen out of the right side of my sunglasses to see the beauty in it. Anna wanted to take my photo and I posed with no recollection that I was missing a lens, though something did seem off I just didn't acknowledge it in the moment. She turned to me and said, "you do know your missing a lens right?" I poked my finger through the frame and realized it must have popped out when my glasses fell off my head back at the car. Running back, I quickly popped it back in and went along my way; the looks I must have been getting if only I knew. Getting back in the car, we drove down the road to the trailhead. We grabbed our packs and headed in towards the trail. This trail was very different from the one we walked earlier, it started out almost like a rocky beach. There were river rocks all along the path and a river adjacent. It was so beautiful. We were only about 5 minutes into the hike (still on the river rocks) when I felt this odd sting to my ankle, ow! I thought. I looked down but saw nothing. I tried to ignore it but the sting persisted. I told Anna to hold up while I looked at my ankle and squeezed at where I thought something may have stung or bit me. I sat down for a moment and it was a stinging, tingling sensation which was beginning to welt up a little. We decided to go back to the car so I could take some benedryl and put on some cortisone cream. Back at the car it seemed even more swollen, I hadn't been stung by a bee in years so I didn't even know what to compare my symptoms to. I popped two benedryl and rubbed some cream on the area. We decided to go check with the Rangers to be sure there was nothing poisonous out here that could have bitten or stung me. We drove up, and she gave me a big smile (she must think we are the most inexperienced hikers/campers with all of these questions) I showed her my bite and asked what she thought it could be. She said it looked too small to be a wasp or bumble bee sting and that they only have two poisonous spiders here but that would be two dots not one. That didn't quite reassure me, but she said to come back in a half hour if I was experiencing any pain. We decided to walk down to the dock near our campsite so I could stick my foot in the freezing glacier water, and it sure was cold. I stuck my whole foot in for a minute or so, and it was so cold upon coming out. A few minutes later, I tried to stick just my ankle in and it didn't seem as frigid the second time around, though my foot still seemed to go numb. Relaxing on the dock and icing my foot in the water did me well, but we decided to drink a Redds at our campsite just to be sure before trying to attempt a hike. We had bought a 12 pack of Redds back at one of our Walmart stops and it was nice to kick back and relax a bit after all of our traveling. We got to the point where we either could use a nap, or had to get moving soon before we decided to call it an early night, we decided the latter. Before coming to the Cascades we had Googled some gorgeous waterfalls within the park, why not try to find some of them? For the last time, I ran over to the ranger station a few minutes before their shift ended at 5:00; she thought I was coming over due to my ankle. I reassured her it was looking better, but I had a question about the waterfalls in the park. I showed her the photos and at first she was having a hard time recognizing them, and then between the two of them they were able to spot out a few places for us. One was a mile paved loop trail she said to the falls, the other was roadside along the route we came in. We decided to hold off on the 3 mile original trek and scout out some waterfalls. We hopped back in the car and drove to the trailhead for the mile long hike. If by paved she meant boardwalk, then we had found it. We walked along well built bridges within the forest, reminding us of New Jersey and Maine on the trail. It was gorgeous, and easy, and exactly what I had in mind. Until the loop continued back down, or you could carry on up trail on exactly that, trail; not paved. We continued on, and at first it was great, a nice hike, some great views, and then it seemed to go on, and on, and up, and up, with no waterfall in sight. We wondered if there would even be a waterfall, would we just end up at a dead end and have to turn around? We slowly hiked up what seemed like a vertical ascend, not just a walk in the woods sort of hike that's for sure. I noticed how out of shape and tired I was even with a nearly no weight on my back and my camera in hand. I was working up a sweat and out of breath, Anna the same. "Paved my ass" I thought. We passed some kids jolting down the trail and they assured us we were close to the falls, about 10 minutes; oh good, there was a point to this treacherous hike. Then we saw the same couple from earlier and I only knew this because she greeted me, "oh hey, we already met." I seemed confused by our encounter until I saw her husband and realized they were the couple from earlier. We pushed on, and finally came across the waterfall. It was nothing extravagant, but it was something we were working towards which made it more beautiful in its own. I took a couple long exposure shots of the water before deciding to head back down. It was in this moment where I wished I had brought my poles for the downhill. My knees were already starting to talk to me and say, "you hiked over 2000 miles last year, what more do you want from us?!" But I ignored them and bounced down the trail. Laughing at the thought that we thought we could do both waterfalls and still have the time and energy for the 3.5 mile hike, we arrived back on the boardwalk bridges. In no time we were back at the car and decided to head towards the enterence of the park to check out the other waterfall, I mean we're going to be spending two days in the Olympic Wilderness, leaving plenty of hiking opportunities for the future. It was about a 20 minute drive or so before we reached the falls off the side of the road. Wondering how we had missed them on the way in, we got out and took some photographs. Right then and there we saw the guy from earlier and I nonchalantly asked, "are you following us?" We all chuckled and he carried on to the falls, and us to the car. We drove back to camp with heavy eyes and empty stomachs. As soon as we arrived we cooked up our dinner which for me was Mountain House Chicken Fried Rice and kielbasa and Anna had Chicken A La King and kielbasa. With full bellies we climbed in our tents right before the rain began to fall.

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