National Geographic : 1968 May
Next morning we saddled up at first light and pushed for Whatcom. Breakfast, I am compelled to say, consisted not of trout but of pancakes topped with sun-sweetened blue berries and thimbleberries Jim gathered in dewy meadows. Trail traffic, for wilderness, was heavy. First we overtook a Forest Service crew car rying tools and camping gear on pack mules. They were bound over Whatcom to open the trail to Ross Lake, a job that might keep the men in the open for a week or two. Next appeared a man on horseback, flanked by a pair of huge hounds. These beasts un nerved our horses, which started kicking in every direction. The only casualty was a saddle box splintered by a flying hoof. Before we topped Whatcom at twilight, we had chatted with a dozen hikers. Two bronzed youths wearing backpacks filled with climbing gear said they were off to scale one of the many unclimbed, unnamed Picket peaks. Another pair had hiked in from the lake, and reported the Big Beaver Creek Trail in poor shape indeed. Hornets Pose a Hazard "Not only is the going bad, but the country fairly swarms with hornets," one of them said. Often Cascades hornets build nests beneath rocks, likely as not in the middle of a trail. You can imagine what happens when your mount steps on a nest. The horse puts its trust in speedy departure from the scene. Personally, I pre fer angry hornets to a frenzied gal lop down a mountain, but I have yet to ride a horse that saw it my way, and I have more than once charged willy-nilly into the wilder ness like a Light Brigade cavalry man at Balaklava. We spent a day on Whatcom Pass, feasting our eyes on the jagged Pickets we had ridden so far to see. To the south rose Mount Challenger, and in a cirque on its flank, Challenger Glacier, glory of the Pickets. Easy Time ou Peak frowned down upon us from sore sole the west; I wondered what hu- more pec morist had given this steep moun- all of th tain its name! their kni: Wild flowers bloomed in all the high mea dows. I recognized white avalanche and yel low glacier lilies, closely following the snow as it receded up the slopes. Two kinds of heather, bearing white and red flowers, shared the meadows with lupine, Indian paintbrush, and harebells, which are the bluebells of Scotland. Everywhere the wild phlox tinted the landscape with lavender and white. When finally we tore ourselves away, it was to ride back to our starting point in one strenuous day, for both Neal and Jim had temporary commitments elsewhere. In their absence I made a foreign voyage- it for tired feet: Hikers on Magic Mountain revive s in cold spring water. The North Cascades offer iks than a climber could scale in several lifetimes em "new" mountains not yet rounded by erosion, fe-sharp ridges still being chiseled by ice.