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Getting to Trail 1052
Take US2 to the township of Index. Turn north onto the North Fork Skykomish River road and drive 15 miles, keeping the river to the south. Just before the road crosses the river is a four-way junction. Turn north onto Road 63 and travel about 2 miles to the trailhead. There is a largish gravel carpark here.
The book we used to help plan out trip was:
100 Hikes in Washington's Glacier Peak region: the north Cascades
by Ira Spring, Bob Spring, Harvy Manning
April 1996, Mountaineers Books, 3rd edition, Paperback, 240 pages, (non-fiction)
Cities and Towns of the Central Cascades
by Anne Maxwell
Sunny skies above Seattle enticed us to undertake the hike we were considering, despite forecasts of light wind and rain at higher elevations. So, after a leisurely breakfast our party of four was in the car and headed for the trailhead to Blanca Lake. Along the roadway from US2 to Index, we encountered the results of the previous night's storm in the form of much leaf and branch litter. We did pause to consider whether blow-downs would be a hazard this day, but figured we would be ok. Turning off onto the narrow, winding, unpaved Road 63, our appetites for being in the lush forest were well whetted by this lovely drive overhung by mossy trees.
It is nearly a two-hour drive from Seattle to the trailhead. The drive time and doubtful weather certainly made a difference to the crowds compared to other hikes. Apart from two other small parties we had the trail to ourselves this day. In retrospect I am glad weather and distance did not put us off this hike. I came away from the day, much rejuvenated.
Blanca Lake is within Snoqualmie National Forest, in the Central Cascades region and drains into the Skykomish River. It has the added attraction of being just below Columbia Glacier, surrounded by the jagged peaks of Keyes, Monte Cristo and Columbia.
This I must mention by hearsay, for in our no-stress approach to the hike, we did not reach the lake. Our legs and stomachs decided it was time for lunch about twenty minutes in from the ridge where the first clear views of the surrounding peaks can be had. Two of our party of four continued further to see the peaks. We made our lunch stop our turn-around, at an elevation of about 4,200 feet which had taken us about two and a half hours to reach. In retrospect it might have been more comfortable to stop at a lower elevation, as the temperature of 38ºF (3ºC) chilled the extremities soon after we stopped moving.
It is a steep hike of continuous switchbacks. However the ground was an accommodating surface for leg joints - soggy and bouncy without being muddy. The weather overhead was very changeable; occasional rents of blue in the gray, and at one stage we were showered lightly with sleet, like nature's own confetti. Through the trees we watched the nearby peaks catch at wisps of cloud and stir them about like cream in a coffee cup. (How's that for Seattlite imagery?!)
In the forest of fir and cedar, the damp brought out the smell and color of the lush undergrowth. We were able to sample huckleberries and salmon berries on our way, although this has not been the best growing season due to the short summer. This is also the time of year for fungi. All along the trail and up on trees we were presented with a variety of "alien" shapes. Unfortunately someone before us had energetically taken successful swipes at many.
We took about one and a half hours to make the return trip. We began the descent more slowly, giving ourselves time to examine these sights and smells. Eventually some of our party felt the need to take off the "brakes", and we gave ourselves the rush of pounding down the mountain for the last 500 feet.
(c) Go Northwest! Photos by Brian High
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