January 12, 2015

North Cascades National Park

Images and words by Luke Gram

Believe it or not, every good trip does not necissarily begin with good planning. Arguably, some of the best hikes I’ve had have been when we picked a park, packed our bags in a rush, threw ‘em in the car and just headed in the right direction. No overthinking, no route planning, just good vibes with good friends. When we got to North Cascades National Park in Washington, we stopped at a gas station outside of town to grab a few beers, a bottle of whiskey and a park map. As we entered the park, we hastily broke our trip into two legs and headed off into the woods.

The one problem with coming to America to explore is the way our Canadian brains seemingly fail to wrap around the fact that miles are significantly longer than kilometers, especially while on foot. We realized when we looked at this sign that our goal of doing 12 kilometers in the first afternoon was actually miles, and in turn was actually 19.2 kilometers – a fair bit to do since we started our trip at 3:30pm.

We finally reached our camp site, soaked from the dew and rain, and exhausted with full packs. We set up camp next to the river, created a fire and dried our boots. Falling asleep to the sound of rain beating down on the tent, and the river surging by was incredibly soothing.

For the second day the sun shined down mercilessly on the most grueling part of the hike. Sore from the continual uphill 20km hike the previous day, we now had to go another 13, but this time straight upwards for a huge elevation gain. One thing we learned quickly: Camel packs are essential. We were constantly sweating out the 3 liters and filling up at any river or stream we could find. The views were worth it though, and the freshness of mountain air is more rewarding than any drop of water.

The top of the Goode Ridge was stunning. It was with this view that we realized we were probably the only people in the entire vastness (especially true since we only passed one Park Ranger, who was on his way out of the park). Being behind the camera so often, I learnt that it’s important to sling the camera over your shoulder, sit back, and just enjoy the view once in a while.


Despite it being mid-summer, it was incredibly cold in the middle of the night. It’s always hard to get out of your sleeping bag, into your cold wet boots and into the crisp-mountain night air, but believe me, it will always, always be worth it. Nothing in this world is more humbling than the stars.

There is nowhere better to wake up than on top of a mountain. That’s a fact, and until you’ve done it, it may not make much sense, but once you feel the warmth of the sun warming your skin, the breeze blowing throwing your hair, and the sheer silence of life without city, it will all make sense. This was the final day of our trip and we still had the entire way back to make it to the car. This day alone we hiked 33km, and at some points we genuinely didn’t think we could keep going. That, with the fact that it was scorching hot, the bears were out, and the miles just kept rolling, it really did seem unendurable. But we did it, and in 48 hours on the dot we had trekked 66km. Blisters are a small price to pay to enjoy what’s left of the untouched beauty of the wilderness.

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