Today only seven Senior Trailblazers headed up Welcome Pass to this wonderful view, for several reasons. One, when we met this morning at the Senior Center, four people who talked with us about the difficulty of this hike decided to go instead on the easier hike to Heart Lake. I've done Welcome Pass twice before: the first time I could not walk for three days, my legs were so sore. And last year, we got to the pass on a cold foggy day, with no view. That was not what we met today!
Shuksan and flowers
This is by far the latest time in the season that we've tried this hike, and the weather could not have been more beautiful. By the time we had climbed the 67 switchbacks to the pass, the weather was not only cooperating, but the snow levels were far lower than last year's. (Of course, last year we hiked it in mid-June, not mid-August.)
The pass (below us in this picture) was still covered with snow, but bore little resemblance to what we had encountered in previous years. Today, when we hiked up this ridge to get a better view, the vista that opened itself up to us was nothing short of spectacular. The flowers were not only amazing, but the light breeze that greeted us while we sat and had our lunch was perfect: not too much, and with the sun shining I was in perfect comfort. Although it was not an easy day, by any means, we were all smiles and filled with gratitude for our beautiful day by the time we headed back down to our cars.
Here you see Al beginning our trek back down, with the view of Baker and Shuksan (and so many other peaks) so amazing that we lingered for quite awhile on this ridge. We knew we had 3,400 feet (more than 1,000 meters) of elevation to descend before we would be back to the trailhead and our cars. We started down with lots of excitement, but by the time we had only a short mile left to go, nobody was talking: we were all hoping our bodies would make it before we collapsed. I myself was wondering if my knees would continue to carry me, and I fear that if it had been just a bit longer we would have been reduced to several whimpering Trailblazers, vowing never to do this hike again.
But the views we had today carried us for quite a ways, and the flowers and vistas that I saw on the summit kept me moving forward when the going was tough on the way down. Although we only covered seven miles today, the elevation was so steep, both ways, that I think we should be allowed to add another three miles or so onto the trip! Now that I am home, looking at my pictures and sipping my wine, life feels almost back to normal. But tomorrow: will I feel like heading to the gym or not?