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Short hikes on the long PCT

By on November 24, 2020 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments
A snow tarn gives an opportunity to express unity with its entire circumference.
Spectacle Lake, set in a basin of glacier-polished rock, is well known to thru-hikers at mile 2,412. Mile 8 for short hiker Brad Brisbane. It’s one of many lakes in the southwest corner of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Story and photos 

by Brad Brisbine

Other than some extreme-sports, one of the most agreed-upon measure of athletic physical endurance is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. 

The 2,653-mile journey from Mexico to Canada takes several months, and is just as mentally grueling. Those that complete the winding path through beautiful country in full immersion with nature, have their outlook on life changed forever.

For those of us not physically and mentally motivated to be thru-hikers, the good news is we can still enjoy visual highlights of what they see. 

The PCT has numerous access trails from west and east. I passed a PCT thru-hiker once who had 2,500 miles under his belt. 

He asked how far I had hiked, and I said six miles from the car. He couldn’t believe it! What I couldn’t believe is how tiny his pack was compared to mine, and I was only out for two nights. 

Our beloved Alpine Lakes Wilderness contains an exceptionally scenic section of the PCT, between Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass. This is known as Section “J” to PCT’ers. 

I’ve accessed portions of this stretch many times, using it as a launch pad for lakes above. 

For late-season hikes, I prefer to venture to the west side of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, for lusher groundcover. Carpets of red huckleberry leaves make for idyllic landscapes.

Autumn hikes are always the most unpredictable, trying to match the peak color with the best weather and fit in with a work schedule. When everything comes together, it’s magic.

Photos here show fall-to-winter hiking variability. We arrived two days after the first snow of the season. Much of the red huckleberry carpet was under six inches of fresh snow; a new beauty.

As Washington’s sixth highest peak and the nation’s largest exposed mass of granite, Mount Stuart’s prominence dominates the eastern side of the Wilderness.
Autumn and winter colliding. And Brad had the good fortune to see it.
Triple-summited Three Queens, presiding over the snowy basin. First climbed in 1925.

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