Living the High Life
Aldo Leopold defined wilderness as a place where you could take a two-week trip and not cross your own tracks. Mix that with a love of the high country, and where do you go? Is there a place where you can get high and stay wild for 100 miles?
Follow the Pacific Crest Trail as it winds its way through the Glacier Peak Wilderness in Washington's North Cascades. This 98-mile stretch of trail features some of the wildest, craggiest terrain on the 2,600-mile-long route. But you have to work for the views. To avoid avalanche chutes, glaciers, and permanent snowfields, the trail descends into valleys and climbs back up to passes, so expect a lot of ups and downs.
The character of this hike is unadulteratedly high country. Even when the trail descends, you are constantly aware that it is the powerful forces of the high country volcanoes, avalanches, storms, glaciers that have scoured and shaped the land. Sure, there are panoramic views (highlights include the views from Red Pass, elevation 6,500 feet, and from Fire Creek Pass, elevation 6,350 feet). But you can also expect to be awed by hundreds of glaciers, intimidating ice-slopes, swirling cirques, thrusting outcroppings, and the towering volcanic cones that dominate the other peaks like giants among people. Rangers sometimes sound frankly gleeful on the subject of things like bridges taken out by avalanches, campsites under snow in the middle of August, and man-eating mosquitoes. These are remote, high mountains in a northcountry wilderness, so take their warnings seriously: Go in with plenty of warm clothing and a healthy respect for the elements.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication