Easy Pass

I joined Gwen for a larch trip. We changed destination the day before and again Sunday morning. Gwen picked me up and we headed north. Our new destination would be Easy Pass. Gary and I hiked over the pass and into Fisher Basin in 1992. Our target was Silent Lakes. That was summer. This would be a trip to hopefully see golden larch after a recent snowfall. I switched over to my larger winter day pack with microspikes and gaiters along with heavier boots. It is a 3 hour drive from North Seattle. We were on our way at 6:00 am heading north to Arlington. We then went to Darrington and on to the North Cascades Highway. Just past milepost 151 is the signed turn. The lot is small but there were only two other cars in the lot. In 1992 it was a short dirt road with no amenities. Now it is paved with an outhouse, picnic table, and big signboard. At the 3600' trailhead it was about 33 degrees. Welcome to fall in the North Cascades. We arrived just after 9:00 am. There were only two cars in the lot.

It was cold enough that I put on a polypro layer. Soon after we arrived another group of four arrived. They started ahead of us and hiked much faster. We started down the trail at 9:13 am.  I say down because the trail quickly drops a little to cross Granite Creek. The bridge is fine but one of the side rail posts is broken. Since the posts angle outward the broken one left me a little uncomfortable. No problem crossing just not as good as it should be. The first part of the trail is a nicely graded forest walk. Quite a few mushrooms just like most hikes the past few months. When we came to Easy Pass Creek there was enough water to make it a rock and small log hop but was easy enough to get across with dry feet.

Soon enough we popped out of the forest. Above was a near vertical wall. The trail began a contour far to the right. It was not yet clear where the pass is located. The trail is now rocky as there is not much dirt this high up. Gwen noticed a small larch tree just below the trail. It was getting golden. We ascended to a thin forest patch. Along here a lone hiker passed us going down. That accounted for one of the two cars that arrived earlier. A couple groups caught up and passed us as well. As we reached far to the right we could now see up to where the pass is located. The second earlier hiker passed us coming down already. He was in town for a few days and was trying to hike all three national parks. The conditions were a little different for him as he is from Cleveland.

As the last forest was left behind we had some low bush berry leaf colors. The sun was now too high to fully backlight them but they still looked good. With blue sky above photos looked good too. We were now high enough to see peaks to the northeast across Highway 20. Tower and Hardy Mountains appeared the largest and had enough recent snow to really highlight them. The trail became more and more rocky. The higher we went the narrower and rockier the trail became. The last part is on a steep slope and makes several switchbacks to the pass. With the pass at 6500' I expected more snow. The trail goes up the northeast side of the ridge where there is little sunlight this time of year to melt snow. In fact, we had some patches the last 700' or so but not much. We never considered gaiters or microspikes. There was only 4-7' at the pass.

We arrived at Easy Pass at 12:25 pm. Views north are great. Views to the south are much better. We stepped for lunch first. There are quite a few larch trees at the pass. Most were changing color. Few were fully golden so far. Also, clouds came in very suddenly. Blue sky and sunshine turned to white sky very fast. We had some good larch photos but were too early and had to little sunshine to get great shots. Was I disappointed? Not really. Even partly golden larch look good. Also, the recent snow really made the peaks to the south look great. From the actual pass the views are almost unobstructed. At left is Fisher Peak above Fisher Basin. The valley of Fisher Creek goes from near Fisher Peak all the way to Thunder Creek way to our right. The steep slopes on the south side of the valley were plastered in white. Rea;;u stunning views.

We spent quite a while at the pass. We did not head down until 1:56 pm. A 1 1/2 hour stay at the pass did not seem long enough. The rocky top part of the trail was slow going down. Views to the north continued to be terrific. With my zoom lens I could even see a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail. Heading down we passed several groups coming up. One group included two men and an 8-9 year old girl wearing rubber boots She was having a great time. Some kids are tough. We made much better time coming down. When we crossed Easy Pass Creek we went from rocky to soft duff trail. The grade also lessened. From there down it was fast and easy hiking.

We reached the trailhead at 4:05 pm. Just a little over two hours to come down. It would have been faster but there were many more mushroom photos to take. One of them looked like mushrooms several feet up a tree had melted and the goo was running down the tree trunk. I don't recall seeing that before. Now we just had a three hour drive home. Fortunately there were no slowdowns all the way home.

This was a great trip. Much different than the summer trip I did 27 years earlier. There was enough snow to really highlight the mountains but not much to have to hike through. The larch trees were not at peak and the blue sky turned white but any larch trip with some golden color is worthwhile. Unlike, Maple Pass and Cutthroat Pass a little farther down the highway this trail was not crowded. That was a huge plus. We saw just over 20 people over the entire day. Not bad for a larch hike. I would not mind visiting the pass in summer again or even for another larch hike.

Bridge Over Granite Creek
Orange Fungus
White Fungus
First Mountain Views
Out Of The Forest
Blue Sky
Frosty Leaves
First Larch Trees
Rocky With Fall Colors
Golden Horn
Snowy Trail
Pass Is In The Gap
Nice Fall Colors
Snowy Below
Getting Closer
Snowy On Trail
Snowy Easy Pass
Larch At Pass
Looking Southeast
Larch Needles
North Side Of Pass
Lots Of Larch
Broken Dwarf Larch
Golden Larch
Better Larch Colors
Mt. Logan
Fisher & Black Peaks
Fisher Basin
Peaks To SE
Larch & Peaks
Lots Of Larch Colors
More Views
Heading Down
Great Colors
More Colors
Big Mushroom
Mountain Ash Colors
Purple Mushroom
Lots Of Mushrooms
Melting Mushrooms
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2019