After the awesomeness that was the April Alpine Trails Book Club camping trip, our May outing had a lot to live up to. May has always felt to me like an awkward time to plan a hike. Do I stick to the low altitude trails I've been hiking through the winter or contend with potential avalanche danger and the annoyance of postholing in the mountains? Thankfully, the sunny eastern slopes of the Cascades provide a few options for snow-free hiking early in the season. Instead of lowland mud, on our Sunday hike to Icicle Ridge we found a dusty trail lined with ponderosa pines and sprinkled liberally with an assortment of wildflowers.
The last time I hiked Icicle Ridge in on a hot, cloudless day in May 2012, I was attempting to break in an unbearably stiff pair of leather Timberland that in my memory must have weighed two pounds each. Halfway up the steep switchbacks, I was cursing the boots, the unrelenting trail, and anything else I could think to blame for my miserable mood. Once Andy and I reached the top, eating lunch while surrounded by golden balsamroot and panoramic views, the drudgery of the steep climb was quickly forgotten, leaving me with mostly fond memories and a desire to return. Happily, while I was certainly sweaty by the time I reached the ridge, the climb was much less grueling than in 2012. Maybe it really was those horrible boots!
After reaching the ridge, our group spent plenty of time soaking in the views of Leavenworth below and distant peaks all around. We split up, taking turns snapping photos of tumbling seasonal falls in the distance and the vibrant blooms scattered among the snags. Before heading back down, we reconvened in the shade to discuss our book for the month – The Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs. With so many fascinating details and poetic accounts of the author's encounters with animals, there was plenty to talk about! We each tried to name just one favorite chapter, but found ourselves recalling passages from many – porcupine, raven, mountain goat, hummingbird, mountain lion, and coyote. On the short hike back to the trailhead, I kept an eye out for any non-human movement or sound, hoping for an animal encounter of my own, but the only wildlife I spotted was a sleepy rubber boa stretched across the trail in the shade. So long as I remain watchful on my hikes, I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities to connect with the fascinating fauna of Washington!