This past weekend, Andy I finally made it out for our first backpacking trip together. We'd had plans fall through for several trips so far this summer. Once, in June, because we realized we weren't prepared, then again twice because of weather - thunderstorms in the Cascades caused by the crazy heat wave we've had for most of the summer. With all these cancelled plans, I didn't quite believe we'd be going until we were actually on the trail.
At the Lake Ann trailhead, it was a cloudy, cool morning. The trees were sparkling with dew that stuck around all day, and we were constantly passing through clouds. I'd been expecting to be pretty miserable for most of the hike, since I hadn't been out for anything more than a day hike with a light day pack in many years, but the stunning scenery kept me very happy. After a short walk downhill through damp and dripping woods, the sun broke through the clouds and we stepped out into a grassy, spring-filled basin.
Even after we were through the basin, the beautiful and constantly changing scenery of the trail kept us going. By the time we were making the final climb to the lake, I was beginning to get tired, but in the open, heather filled scree fields, there were plenty of places to pause to catch my breath and soak in the scenery. Before I knew it, we were at the ridge looking down at Lake Ann.
When I picked this trail, I hadn't realized how busy it is, so when we arrived at the lake, we were surprised to find nearly all the campsites at Lake Ann were already taken. We'd seen very few other people on the hike in, and arriving on a Friday afternoon we had expected to have the lake almost to ourselves. Luckily our tent is small and we were able to grab a pretty site overlooking the lake that the larger groups were unable to use.
After setting up camp, we spent the afternoon wandering the basin around the lake, taking photos, and reading. My main motivation for backpacking is my desire to experience the gradual changes in weather and light that can be so dramatic in an open alpine setting. On day hikes, I normally only see the one condition: noon sunshine. I love a good sunny afternoon, but on this trip couldn't wait for the golden light of dusk and the beautiful changes it would make to the landscape.
Saturday morning, we were in for a big surprise, in the form of heavy smoke that rolled in from the North Cascades fires. The difference in visibility was astonishing. By noon, the smoke was so thick that we could no longer see Shuksan. Friday evening, we'd made plans to spend Saturday hiking the climbers trail to Lower Curtis Glacier, or up to the ridge on the west side of the lake for views back toward Mt Baker. With the heavy smoke, those plans were canceled. Instead, we spent the day playing cards and reading.
By Sunday morning, the smoke had mostly cleared, so we took our time eating breakfast and enjoying the view before packing up and heading home.