Lake Sally Ann to White Chuck River – 14.2 miles
My third day on trail was a day of epic proportions. I travelled through incredible alpine meadows, climbed through a transition zone and was stunned by the vision of Glacier Peak.
The day started out with a beautiful sunrise over the lake. I delayed getting on trail a few extra moments to enjoy the changing light. A short way down the trail I was greeted by the “whoomph whoomph” noise of a grouse. He decided that I wasn’t much of a threat and wandered down the trail ahead of me for a minute.
Not long after the trail turned upward. I had good climb over Ward’s Pass and through a saddle called Dishpan Gap. The trail then meandered through more beautiful meadows and under unique rock formations. Partway through my morning I crossed into Glacier Peak Wilderness. I was at the top of a large meadowy bowl looking across at the impressive Indian Head Peak. I also had some great peak-a-boo views of Glacier Peak.
Of course the trail dropped from there to cross another saddle and then climb up the other side. Unfortunately that section of trail was a bit wet and I managed to slip and plop myself into a mud puddle. I stopped at a creek in another meadowy bowl to rinse the dirt out of my shorts. I almost wished someone had come along the trail to wonder at me standing there in my hiking shirt, boots, and undies!
Once I was somewhat clean and mostly dry, I continued the climb to gain the next ridge line. After a couple more miles I popped out of the forest. Not long after I came to Reflection Pond. I was hoping that it would be have a reflection of the mountains (similar to Mount Rainier’s Reflection Lake) but sadly it only reflected the small forest and hillside it was tucked behind. It was a tranquil spot though, with some shade to cool me off and a breeze to keep the bugs down. I sat and took a good break.
The next couple miles took me along the shoulder of the ridge. Wildflowers filled the meadows, creating a carpet of pinks, blues and white. I also had fantastic views of some of the ridges surrounding Glacier Peak, though the mountain itself was now hidden behind them. I also spied one of the mountaineer’s routes along the nearest ridge, giving me inspiration to come back to this area.
The trail eventually led me to White Pass where I stopped to have my lunch. White Pass has a large campground and is a steep 9 mile hike from the west. I chatted a bit with a couple who had come up for the night. They said the trail was challenging but an incredible payoff at the end.
I was not about to bail out to civilization though. Onwards and upwards I went, this time hugging the western slope of a ridge. Two miles from White Pass I came to Red Pass (They sure are creative with names around here…) The west side the ridge was full of wildflowers and the occasional stand of trees. I certainly had a few moments of wondering if I’d even get to the pass. Finally it came into sight – a narrow notch in the ridge.
I passed through and was blown away by what I saw. It was a completely different landscape. Gone were the meadows and trees. Instead it was barren and rocky with a few remaining snow patches. While I couldn’t see Glacier Peak, I was treated to excellent views of the ridges.
After a good long break in the pass I started my descent. I passed first down the rocky slopes and then into more wildflower meadows. As I came around a corner there was (finally!) a full view of Glacier Peak. It’s impossible to describe how perfect that view was: rolling green meadows, forest below, majestic glacial mountain above. Maybe it was the challenging trail or the sun exposure but I nearly burst into tears. This was what I’d been waiting for.
The rest of the trail was pretty anticlimactic. The trail quickly descended from the meadow into thickets of trees. I had the option of stopping at a campsite just below the meadows but felt that I could press on another mile or two. The next campsites I came to were pretty buggy so onwards I went. As I descended further I ended up in a gradually thickening forest. I followed alongside White Chuck River, which had it’s source in the bowl below Red Pass. The river was flowing high. My guide book said that this section of trail was often covered in water early in the season and had seen some washouts. About 3 miles from the pass I reached a bridge across the river and decided to call it quits. I started hunting for a campsite and found a lovely forested camp a hundred feet off the trail at a bend in the river.
I was thrilled by my day. I’d seen such varied scenery that it felt like I’d hiked even further than my 14 miles. It had been a day of awe and wonder, and a million photos too! As darkness fell over the forest I dozed off to sleep feeling proud and accomplished.