USA: WASHINGTON Cascades: I90 to US2, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Wenatchee

The Central Cascades of Washington are easily reached for spring, summer, and fall hikes and winter snow sports via Interstate 90 and Stevens Pass Highway US 2. Hike, snowshoe, or ski to see diverse ecosystems, mountain vistas, lakes, streams, flowers, ferns, and mushrooms in Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, Wenatchee National Forest, and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Mountains

  • Mountain photos from hikes near Stevens Pass Highway (US 2) include: Baring Mountain, Beckler Peak Trail, Carne Mountain (with views of Glacier Peak, Buck Mountain, Liberty Cap, Fortress Mountain, Chiwawa Mountain and Spider Gap, hiking from Phelps Creek Trailhead), and yellow larch needles in October in the Enchantments (trailhead off of Icicle Creek Road, Leavenworth).
  • Photos from hikes near I90 include: Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, Mason Lake/Ira Spring Trail to Mount Defiance, Granite Mountain (with views of Mount Rainier), Snoqualmie Pass, Snow Lake, Polallie Ridge, Ingalls Pass (to view Mount Stuart, the second highest non-volcanic peak in the state), Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) bird.


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Winter snow

  • Photos from snowshoeing near Stevens Pass Highway (US 2) include: Leavenworth Bavarian Ice Fest and Icicle Creek Road.
  • Photos from snowshoeing near I90 include: Snoqualmie Pass, Kendall Peak Lake, Snow Lake, Commonwealth Basin, and Ingalls Pass (to view Mount Stuart, the second highest non-volcanic peak in the state).


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Water, lakes, streams

Abundant rainfall in the Central Cascades of Washington creates many unique water features accessible from hikes in Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, Wenatchee National Forest, and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, accessed near Interstate 90 and US Highway 2.

  • Water photos from hikes near Stevens Pass Highway (US 2) include: Skykomish, Lake Serene, Barclay Creek Trail to Barclay Lake under Baring Mountain.
  • Photos from hikes near I90 include:  Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park in the Issaquah Alps (Far Country Falls, Coal Creek Falls), Mason Lake/Ira Spring Memorial Trail to Mount Defiance, South Fork Snoqualmie River, Twin Falls Natural Area, Ollalie State Park, Snow Lake, Rachel Lake, Rampart Lakes, Box Canyon, Ingalls Creek Trail.


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Flowers, fungi, plants

My plant and fungi images from the Central Cascades are documented in each caption, including:

Tiger Lily or Columbia lily (Lilium columbianum), Glacier Lily, Columbine flower, Bunchberry Dogwood flowers (cornus canadensis), Monkeyflower (Mimulus), Columbia Monkshood (Aconitum), Bear Grass (tenax, genus: Xerophyllum, family: Liliaceae), pink thistle with camouflaged Crab Spider (Family Thomisidae), Woolly Chanterelle mushrooms (Gomphus Floccosus), False Chanterelle (Clitocybe aurantiaca), Admirable Boletus mirabilis, Coral Hydnum mushroom (Hericium coralloides), white oyster mushrooms, Pinesap (monotropa hypopithys L.), bracket fungi (shelf fungi), Pine-drops (Pterospora), Western Coral-Root (Corallorhiza mertensiana), Five-Finger Fern (or Western Maidenhair, Latin name Adiatnum pedatum aleuticum), White Veratrum (Veratrum Californicum) leaves, vine maple, larch (yellow needles in fall, genus Larix), Salal (Gaultheria shallon) with water drops, foggy forest on Wilderness Peak Trail in Squak Mountain State Park.


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USA: WASHINGTON: favorite photos

View Tom Dempsey’s favorite photographs from his home state of Washington in two galleries:


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The following favorite Washington panoramas are stitched from several overlapping images (for wider angle of view and more detail in larger prints):


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The state of Washington is one of the most ecologically and scenically diverse in the USA. In altitude, the land varies from sea level to 14,411 feet at the summit of Mount Rainier, an awesome active volcano covered in glaciers. The Carbon Glacier flows to a lower altitude than any other glacier in the Lower 48 states. A huge glacier actually covered Seattle 3,000 feet deep in ice only 15,000 years ago, gouging the scenic fjord of present-day Puget Sound. 

The state lies in a transitional latitude between sub-Arctic northern forests and warmer drier regions. Moist temperate air masses sweep onto the west coast and hit the spectacular Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, dumping heavy rain on the southwestward (windward) slopes, creating dense temperate rainforest. The mountains wring the air dry, creating extensive rain shadows to their east and northeast, such as in the sunny San Juan Islands, and in the desert lands of Eastern Washington, irrigated by the mighty Columbia River.

Washington boasts a tremendous variety of landscapes, native plants, and wildflowers, as illustrated in the following articles:

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USA: WASHINGTON: Mount Saint Helens

Mount Saint Helens is an active stratovolcano in Skamania County, Washington, and is one of 160 active volcanoes that comprise the Pacific Ring of Fire.

The May 18, 1980 eruption was the most deadly and economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed. 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways and 185 miles of highway were destroyed. A massive debris avalanche during the eruption reduced the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9677 feet (2950 m) to 8364 feet (2550 m), leaving a mile-wide horseshoe-shaped crater. The debris avalanche, of up to 0.7 cubic miles (2.3 km³) in volume, was the largest in recorded history.

As the crow flies, Mount St. Helens is 96 miles (154 km) south of the city of Seattle and 53 miles (85 km) northeast of Portland. The mountain, part of the Cascade Range, takes its English name from the British diplomat Lord St Helens, who was a friend of George Vancouver, an explorer who made a survey of the area in the late 18th century.


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USA: WASHINGTON: Goat Rocks Wilderness

A very scenic hike visits Snowgrass Flat and Goat Ridge over a 13 mile loop with 3180 feet total gain in Goat Rocks Wilderness, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington, USA. Ice still covers most of Goat Lake in late July, but the trail should be mostly free of snow barriers by then. Hike Goat Rocks on a clear day to admire several nearby Cascades volcanoes: Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Rainier. Watch for lenticular (lens shaped) clouds hovering in standing waves of wind sweeping over the volcanic cones.

The following wildflowers bloomed abundantly on July 28, 2006 (see photos): subalpine mariposa lily (Calochortus subalpina, or mountain mariposa lily), pink heather, lupine flowers, Bear Grass (Latin name tenax, also commonly called Indian Basket Grass, Soap Grass, or Squaw Grass), Indian paintbrush (Castilleja), and Western Anemone flowers with hair-like seed heads.


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The Goat Rocks Wilderness is a unique area characterized by high alpine terrain centered around an ancient volcano which dominated the area some two million years ago. The mountainous terrain is between 3,000 and 8,184 feet elevation, much above timberline. Elk, mountain goats, marmots, deer, and a variety of birds reside here.

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USA: WASHINGTON: Mount Rainier

Scenic trails in and around Mount Rainier National Park are revealed in the following photo galleries.

Mount Rainier: Paradise hikes

Several spectacular hikes start at Paradise Visitor Center in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA. Walk the stunning Skyline Loop Trail any good summer day, or view spectacular fall foliage colors peaking in the first or second week of October. A good loop or car shuttle hike starts at Paradise along the Skyline Trail to Lakes Trail, along Mazama Ridge, and downhill to Reflection Lakes where you meet the Stevens Canyon Road. Optionally loop back high or low.


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Spray Park and Tolmie Peak hikes from Mowich Lake trailhead

Spray Park and Tolmie Peak are some of the best hikes in Washington for enjoying fields of blooming avalanche lily flowers (Erythronium) in mid July.

After a dozen hikes to Spray Park splendor since 1982, in summer 2020, I discovered an adventurous loop return to Mowich Lake via Knapsack Pass Trail (external link to Washington Trails Association) (6.7 mile loop with 2600 feet gain), in Mount Rainier National Park. However, slippery exposure on steep scree and snow scared my wife Carol, who vowed never to hike Knapsack Pass again! Fortunately, the snow was soft enough to cross safely on our warm day, August 17th. I delighted in this beautiful circuit, done counterclockwise, as described in my article “2020 Aug: Spray Park–Knapsack Pass Loop trail, Mt Rainier NP.”

Beware, the unmaintained and unmarked Knapsack Pass Trail exposes hikers to steep scree and year-round snow which could become dangerously icy. The trail is best navigated by experienced hikers only, in late summer using a good map, GPS device, and trekking poles (or an ice axe if icy). The worn trail, marked with cairns and boot tracks, may become difficult to follow in the half mile of scree and snow fields southeast of Knapsack Pass.

Look for lenticular cloud caps (see photos) which occasionally condense from water vapor in standing waves of wind flowing over Mount Rainier. Such lens-shaped clouds over Mount Rainier probably led to invention of the term UFO (Unidentified Flying Object). The first widely publicized UFO sighting in the United States came from private pilot Kenneth Arnold flying over Mount Rainier in June 1947. Arnold’s report of nine flying shapes like pie pans and half moons soon led press to popularize the term “flying saucer.” Then, in 1952, the term “UFO” was first suggested by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt who headed the US Air Force’s Project Blue Book, the official investigation of UFOs.


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Mount Rainier: Sunrise hikes

Several classic trails depart from Sunrise Visitor Center in Mount Rainier National Park. Walk the aptly named Wonderland Trail towards the vast flower fields of Berkeley Park or Skyscraper Pass (7.5 miles with 1440 feet cumulative gain). Many like to wander past Shadow Lake and Sunrise Camp to stunning glacier views from Burroughs Mountain.

Once you’ve done the main view hikes, a worthwhile option is Palisades Lakes Trail (6.2 miles with 1630 feet gain to Hidden Lake, but be ready for dense mosquitoes in July).

For vigorous physical conditioning and altitude training, we like to day hike the Burroughs Mountain Trail starting from White River Campground in a clockwise loop of 10 miles with 3200 feet gain. Follow the rambunctious White River along Glacier Basin Trail, climb steeply to Second Burroughs Mountain (7400 feet elevation), then return via Shadow Lake. Fields of yellow glacier lilies made us smile in mid-July. Other flowers show up later, until snows returning in late October discourage safe hiking. Beware a few steep snow banks remaining in July and new slippery snow after mid October.


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Mount Rainier: Summerland hike

Hike from White River Campground to the flower fields of Summerland and further to scenic Panhandle Gap, the highest point on the Wonderland Trail of Mount Rainier National Park. Summer wildflowers include gentian, lupine, and Lewis’s Monkeyflower. Mount Rainier looms large to the west and Mount Adams appears on the southern horizon.


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Mount Rainier: Naches Peak loop

Hike Naches Peak loop trail in the first half of October for good fall foliage color in Mount Rainier National Park. Park your car at Tipsoo Lakes on Highway 410 just west of Chinook Pass, between Enumclaw and Yakima. Easily walk the Naches Peak Loop Trail from the Tipsoo Lakes picnic area to Chinook Pass, cross the highway, and continue clockwise for best Mount Rainier views to the west. View Mount Adams in the distance to the south.


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Global warming: climate change on Mount Rainier

From 1913 to 1994, Mount Rainier’s glaciers shrank 22% by area and 25% by volume in conjunction with rising temperatures (Nylen 2004). Monitored glaciers are continuing to retreat as of 2009 (NPS). Over the last century, most glaciers have been shrinking across western North America (Moore et al. 2009) and the globe (Lemke et al. 2007), in association with increasing temperatures. Mount Rainier’s glaciers make up a quarter of the total ice area in the Lower 48 states. Read more about global warming and climate change.

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USA: WASHINGTON: Seattle

Visit diverse neighborhoods of Seattle, Washington in the following colorful photo galleries.

Downtown Seattle

The following photos of downtown Seattle include: sunset reflection on building skyline and Space Needle seen from Kerry Park, fireworks, Pike Street Public Market fish-throwing tradition, Seattle Public Library architecture, Seattle Center monorail.


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Seattle Center

The following photos from Seattle Center include: the Space Needle, International Fountain, Pacific Science Center, Seattle Monorail, EMP (Experience Music Project) reflective metallic building architecture, fanciful pig sculpture:


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The Space Needle (605 feet tall) annually hosts more than 1 million visitors, making it the number one tourist attraction in the Pacific Northwest. When the Space Needle was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. The entire Space Needle saucer does not rotate, only a 14-foot ring next tthe windows rotates on the SkyCity restaurant level. The 100 foot, or SkyLine, level was built in 1982. The original name of the Space Needle was “The Space Cage.” The original name of the restaurant was “Eye of the Needle.”

Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park

Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park opened in 2007 at the southern end of Myrtle Edwards Park (near both Seattle Center and the waterfront/Elliot Bay/Puget Sound). Free entry to the public. Address: 2901 Western Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98121.


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Seattle Public Library

Seattle Public Library was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and finished in 2004:


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Seattle fireworks

The Fourth of July firework displays on Lake Union in Seattle make an exciting photo subject:


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University of Washington

Admire handsome architecture and attractive landscaping on a walk through the University of Washington in Seattle. The following photos include: Hutchinson Hall, Meany Hall auditorium, Meany Studio Theater, Chihuly art, Jones Playhouse, Japanese Garden in Washington Park Arboretum.


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Seattle art

The following photos of fascinating public art works in Seattle include:

  • Warren G. Magnuson Park on Sand Point Way NE
  • Seattle Center International Fountain
  • Seattle Public Library
  • Experience Music Project (EMP) and Seattle monorail
  • individual art studios
  • found art
  • Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park, opened in 2007 at the southern end of Myrtle Edwards Park (near both Seattle Center and the waterfront/Elliot Bay/Puget Sound). Free entry to the public. Address: 2901 Western Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98121.


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Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo

The following photos from the excellent Woodland Park Zoo include: jaguar, pink flamingos, Red Panda, hippopotamus, bald eagle, grizzly bear, Komodo dragon, Eastern Rosella, Bourke’s Parrot, budgerigar, Crocodile, Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, butterflies, tapir, Spangled Cotinga, plains zebra, female lion, African Wild Dog.


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Seattle Aquarium

For a cheerful splash of color in midwinter or any time, visit the Seattle Aquarium:


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Indoor plants, flowers

Cheer up year round by visiting the following warm, inviting places in the Seattle area:

  1. Volunteer Park Conservatory(telephone 206-684-4743) is located at 1400 E. Galer Street, Seattle, WA. The City of Seattle first acquired this land at the highest point (444 feet elevation) of Capitol Hill neighborhood in 1878 from a sawmill engineer. The Olmsted brothers, famous landscape architects, helped redesign the park. In 1901 City Park was renamed Volunteer Park to honor the volunteers who served in the Spanish-American War (1898-1902). The Conservatory was completed in 1912, and has been entirely renovated from 1980 to the present, showing 6200 square feet of public plant displays. The oldest plants on display now are probably the Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) and the Jade Tree (Crassula argentea), both over 75 years old.
  2. Molbak’s Garden & Home is a spectacular plant nursery in Woodinville. Let Molbak’s dazzle your senses with orchids, exotic plants, and seasonal plant displays such as a vast spread of Poinsettias around Christmas season.


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Seattle Parks

Miscellaneous photos from Seattle Parks: partial solar eclipse over Puget Sound, Discovery Park lighthouse, ferry, fire hydrant, trees seen from above, iris flower, collapsing barn, red-orange sunset:


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