Hiking the North Cascades: a fairy tale

When it’s gloomy in Western Washington, we head over the pass to the magical kingdom on the east side, only 2-3 hours away. Let me give you an example:

Pass looking west

Hwy. 20, Washington Pass looking west

Just a mile farther down ye merry path:

Pass looking east

Hwy. 20, Washington Pass looking east

It’s worth six hours in the, erm, carriage to me, especially if I can spend a luxuriously long day traipsing about in the spring wildflowers with my dogs. Which I recently did. Joshua picked out a seldom-traveled trail called “Driveway Butte” near Winthrop, WA, that promised scads of blooming balsamroot and fairies dancing in the trees, and it delivered.

The trail passed through some different ecosystems on the way to the butte. It meandered up through a short segment of enchanted woods, then up switchbacks of wildflower meadows with grand views of the North Cascades. Chipmunks frollicked, I tell you, frollicked, through the meadows, and chickadees flitted merrily.


Ursula the Cantakerous, frollicking. Princess Gwen looking on.

But then after about 3 miles, the trail entered a section of forest that burned in 2004. We’ll call this the Forbidden Forest.

The Forbidden Forest

The Forbidden Forest

Gives you the shivers, right? I have never felt my presence so obviously unwanted by nature. The trail that had been so open was now blocked every few yards by fallen and charred trees, and the scrubby undergrowth (always the first thing back) grew right at the edge of the trail, scratching and clawing at our legs and arms and eyes as we passed. The dogs got the worse of it, and even they started to get grumpy. My memory might be dramatizing things a bit, but I swear it was also silent. Our bouyant mood shifted, we got crabby and snappy with each other. Mud holes covered the trail, and the snag of fallen branches prevented us from going anywhere but through them.

Josh bravely pushed on, but after about 3/4 mile of this, I, the princess, spoke up in my usual voice of regal calm and reason and said, “$&%#@!, this sucks, I’m done.” Josh sighed in frustration–we were less than 1 mile from the butte, and he is nothing if not determined–but there’s no reasoning with me when my feet are wet and my eye is scratched. We turned around and walked back through the Forbidden Forest in sullen silence.

But as soon as we reached the open meadows of balsamroot blooms, the heaviness lifted, and we were able to laugh about it. “Weird, right? How oppressively gloomy that was?” Ursula the Cantankerous sneezed in assent.

We took time on the return to spread out our jackets and have a nap in the wildflowers and sunshine. And peace was restored in the magical kingdom.

The Magic Kingdom of Driveway Butte

The Magic Kingdom of Driveway Butte


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