Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tapto Lakes

A good friend and I recently got back from an excellent, albeit rainy 4-day backpacking into the Whatcom Pass-Tapto Lakes area of North Cascades National Park. I was first inspired to visit this particular spot after seeing photos some years ago by, Marc Adamus, one of my all time favorite photographers.

The two most common routes into this remote area of the North Cascades are via Hannegan Pass and Little Beaver Valley. Our time was limited so we opted for the shorter and easier hike up Little Beaver. To get to the trailhead we hired a water taxi from Ross Lake Resort which took us 7 or so miles up Ross Lake to the lakeside trailhead. From here it was 17 miles to Whatcom Pass and another mile with some decent elevation gain to Tapto Lakes. I'd heard the last section of trail from the Little Beaver trail-Big Beaver trail junction to the pass was brushy and overgrown. I guess we lucked out as the trail crew had been working in this area recently and did an awesome job clearing the way. I was really grateful because the climb up to the Whatcom Pass was hard enough as it was.

Our second night was spent at Tapto Lakes. We arrived just as the weather was turning. Fortunately we had ample time to hike around and explore a little bit before the rains came.

I made this 3-photo series showing the area in the evening, night and morning. Neither one has anything too dramatic going on but I did like the quiet beauty of the sequence when viewed together.

'The Calm I' 
'The Calm II' 
'The Calm III'

The weather went downhill pretty quickly the following morning so we decided to abandon our plan of staying two nights at the lakes and head back down into the shelter of the forest along the Little Beaver Trail.

'Rained Out'
My buddy, Nate, sporting his old school A-frame tarp. Thankfully he stayed 'dry enough' and didn't have to crawl in with me. Neither one of us wanted that...

It was a beautiful descent back down into Little Beaver Canyon. It felt nice to get out of the cold wind and rain. The gray, misty conditions provided the perfect light for viewing the emerging fall color from above. What a beautiful canyon!

'Little Beaver'
The 100mm lens I used to make this image was accidentally left at this off trail viewpoint. Poor me...fortunately it was inexpensive. It'd been a lightweight workhorse for me for a decade... 
Our last night was spent along the Big Beaver Trail. I thoroughly enjoyed going back this way instead of following the same trail back. It also saved us some money on the return water taxi. Some of the giant cedar groves along this section were the highlight of the trip for me. They're pretty magical.

'Happy Place'