Cascade Pass

Thursday, July 26, 2007: Once again I started the day with some early birding. I hadn't planned this, but it was somewhat overcast and I wasn't sure whether I should head up toward Cascade Pass or not. My birding took me out the Rockport-Cascade Road, where I found a surprising number of Willow Flycatchers. Some areas looked promising for sapsucker, but the only woodpeckers were Flickers. I then headed up the Sauk Mountain Road. I found another Snowshoe Hare. I was hoping for MacGillivray's Warbler, but the area mentioned in the guide didn't have any and doesn't look as suitable as it may have been.

By then, the weather was clearing so I decided to head back toward Marblemount, then out Cascade River Road toward Cascade Pass. Normally, the trip to Cascade Pass is a 7.5 mile round trip. Right now it is much farther. The road has been damaged and is closed about 3 miles from the trailhead. There's a heavily-used parking area there (I could barely find a spot) complete with toilet. From there, you walk up the road (and I do mean up) to the trailhead. From there it is 30+ switchbacks up through the forest, then about a mile more to the pass. It totals about 13.5 miles and 3300' elevation gain.

The road part is out in the open. Since the sun had come out, it was a little warm. However, the road was birdy on the way to the trailhead. I heard a chip at one point, and stopped because it sounded like a MacGillivray's Warbler. Almost right. It was 2 MacGillivray's Warblers! A couple of Olive-sided Flycatchers and some Fox Sparrows were among the other birds seen along the road.

I took a 10-minute break at the trailhead, then headed up. It's a comfortable trail through the forest. There are about 35 very gradual switchbacks that eventually bring you to the level of the pass. There's not a lot of view on the way up, but at one break in the forest I was able to see the source of some booming noises I had heard a couple of times — an avalanche! In fact, I ended up seeing three avalanches across the valley as I ascended the trail (several others were heard). I think one snow patch completely disappeared in two or three avalanches. Not all followed well-trodden chutes. One took a new path, taking a number of trees with it.

The last mile or so of the trail passes through steep meadows before crossing a rocky area and snowfield to get to the pass. As this was a very long hike for me, the longest I've done in recent years, I turned back at the mouth of the pass. By the time I got to the car, I was glad I hadn't walked any more at the top. I was tired and my feet were tired, and it would be dinner time when I got back to Marblemount.

Buffalo Run Inn, Marblemount, WA