from My Life
By Wade Frazier
This web site isn't all about my intense writings. I have fun also.
I was born in Seattle, a third generation Washingtonian. Although the story of how Europeans "settled" this land is not pretty, here is where I came into the world. I am a hiking "fanatic," enjoying my time in the mountains and wilderness immensely. Below are some shots accumulated over the years.
I began developing my bad habits at a very young age. I am not sure if my first vice was smoking, gluttony, or drinking, but I obviously indulged all of them.
The first picture above was taken during the the second mountain hike of my life, hiking from the ski resort next to the Matterhorn down to the legendary village of Zermatt in 1974. It sure is a lot easier hiking downhill than uphill! My first hike was done the year before, when my uncle took me and my brother on a day hike in the Cascades. The next year, my uncle took me on my first backpack, and the next image is from that trip. I am standing in a meadow above Waptus Lake in that photo. I was hooked on hiking from that time forward, even though the mosquitoes swarmed us on that trip. The third photo is of me, hiking with that same uncle in 1998, on the backside of Mount Si, in Seattle's backyard. The fourth is me on on Sahalee Arm in 1986, above Cascade Pass. The fifth is one peak over from Desolation Peak, where Jack Kerouac spent a summer watching for fires, with Ross Lake and the Little Beaver Valley in the background, 1986 (I have hiked up the Little Beaver Valley twice since that picture was taken). The sixth is me resting on Trapper Peak in 1986, in North Cascades National Park. The last is a "meat-and-potatoes" hike on Rattlesnake Mountain in 2005 (there are no poisonous snakes in Western Washington - the mountain got its name from its shape), playing in the foxglove.
The first of the above two is of me in Spider Meadow in 1986, in Glacier Peak Wilderness Area. The second is my college roommates and me on Mt. Whitney in 1990. I spent a lot of time in the Sierras in the 1980s, and had some hair-raising experiences.
The first is a self-portrait on Sourdough Mountain in North Cascades National Park in 1998. The second is of my brother and me, above Spider Meadow, in 1997.
Meadows I have known. The first is on Sourdough Peak, 1998, on a pathless mountainside that nobody ever gets to. The second is on the way to South Pass Lake, in Lake Chelan Recreation Area, 1983.
The first image is below Shepherd's Pass in the Sierra Nevada range, 1990. John Muir Trail is in the distance. Awesome country. The second image records one of the more sublime moments of my life. It was taken at Blue Lake on October 16, 1999, on the back side of Liberty Bell Mountain in North Cascades National Park. The golden trees are larches, which are deciduous conifers. Finding larches in autumn foliage (the needles are very soft) on a clear day is not easy to do. Those were the first autumn larches that I had ever seen in person. After many years of longing for a sight of the autumn larches, I finally experienced it. The third photo is of a larch grove near Blue Lake. I climbed off trail and into a grove of them and hung out with the golden larches. It will always be a vivid memory. In 2011, I returned to the larches, and began to go every year, which I will likely do as long as I am able, and that next photo is from my 2011 trip to the same larch grove, and the last is my 2013 picture of Blue Lake from about the same vantage point as that 1999 image. It has not lost any of its beauty, and photograph technology obviously keeps improving.
The above photos were taken at both ends of the Lyman Lakes basin, which is surely one of the world's most beautiful. In the first photo, just below my left shoulder the snout of Lyman glacier is visible. People can walk up and touch that glacier. The second photo was taken the next day, in September of 1997, from Cloudy Pass, after we had hiked through that awe-inspiring valley. We got to the valley the "easy way," hiking 3,600 feet and eight miles over Spider Gap. We were on our way to legendary Image Lake. The blueberries were harvestable, and my brother and I suffered from purple mouth disease for several days. Somebody has to do it. The next is a global warming picture, comparing Lyman Glacier from 1997 to 2005. The next is of me taking a break from blueberry picking above Lower Lyman Lake. Cloudy Pass is in the background. One friend lived here for many years before really hiking in the Cascades. She used to live in the Alps and California, and although she had never hiked in the Cascades, she was skeptical that they could really compare to the Alps or the Sierra Nevada range. She made it to Cloudy Pass on her first Cascades backpack, and she likened it to the opening scene in What Dreams May Come, when Chris and Annie meet (that scene can be seen here). I will not disagree. The last is of me with Image Lake and Glacier Peak in the background. I hope I see that place again. Between 2003 and 2014, the shortest path to Image Lake was by hiking twenty fairly demanding miles, one way, as 2003 was when a one of those hundred-year-floods that we seem to get every five years lately washed out the road, and a 2006 flood did even more damage, about the time repairing that road was planned. In 2014 they repaired the road, and it returned to only being a thirteen-mile hike, one way, to Image Lake.
The first image above is on the way to White Pass, in 2000, with Sloan Peak in the background. The area was so spectacular that I returned the next year, with the next two taken from the top of White Mountain. In that middle image, that is a partially de-glaciated southern flank of Glacier Peak in the background, which was the first time that I saw dramatic evidence, with my own eyes, of the reality of global warming. The meadow in the photo's middle is where we camped for a few nights, and I picked a half gallon of blueberries. The next is looking back up at White Mountain, with me standing on the Pacific Crest Trail, next to the meadow where we camped, on the same day as the previous two were taken. That next photo was taken on September 8, 2001, about the last time I was emotionally "up," until my midlife crisis finally ended in 2007. The last photo is taken during my return trip to White Pass in 2006 (White Mountain is in the background), playing in the flowers (those Dr. Seuss-ish plants are Anemone occidentalis - AKA "Mouse on a Stick"). That was the third time that I had been there, and it surely wasn't my last, as can be seen below.
The first image above is of me on Green Mountain (near Glacier Peak Wilderness Area), on a dazzling day in late October 2002 (the same road that wiped out the approach to Image Lake also wiped out the road to that Green Mountain, and I hiked Green Mountain in June 2015). The second is on the trail to Hidden Lake Peak, in North Cascades National Park, in 2003. The third is my brother crossing a creek near Cutthroat Pass, in North Cascades National Park, in early summer 2004.
The first image above is of me a short walk from my home, a week before my 50th birthday in 2008, with a patch of Scotch broom behind me. The next is of my wife in a meadow on the Pacific Crest Trail near Hart's Pass. That is as good as my life gets. The next is on the trail to Hidden Lake Peak, which is a truly stunning hike (which I also did in 2015, for my fifth trip on that trail). That is Mount Baker in the background. The next two are taken on a September day in 2013. For many years, I had hiked a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail and a ridge that I hiked past looked like it might have promising views from on top. I finally decided to scramble up the mountainside and see what was there, and I was delightedly shocked to find my own private meadow atop the ridge, about a half-mile long in total. I would have to haul water up from the Pacific Crest Trail, which is why there were almost no signs that humans ever visited that meadow. I will be back one day to spend a night or two in that meadow. On some days, magic really happens. The next two are of places where I often take visitors. Both are in Mount Rainier National Park. The first is of Paradise Meadows, which is wheelchair accessible, and the next is of Grand Park, which is a pretty easy hike with a less-than-ten-mile roundtrip. That is Indian paintbrush in the foreground, and my college roommate is in the background, and further behind him is some mountain I once heard of.
The above are from the first and likely not last backpack trip that I took my nephew on, in 2013, up to the White Pass area once again. That first one looks like Hobbiton is in the distance. The second is my nephew coming down off of White Mountain, in meadows that were hard to believe. The third is looking toward White Mountain from the Pacific Crest Trail, with a lupin patch in the foreground. The fourth is where the headwaters of Foam Creek passed near our camp, and I bathed in its waters (the ecologically correct way, of course). That last image is of some more Mouse on a Stick near our camp. My nephew was duly stunned by that high country. The old man can still make it up the steep trail to the meadows but, for some reason, it takes longer than it used to. I doubt that that was my last visit.
As I get too old to do it anymore, I am going to document one of the most rigorous weekends of my life, during that happiest year of my life, in 1986, the year that I met Dennis. Just yesterday, I took my sixth trip to Hidden Lake Peak, and at age 58, I was about the oldest person on the mountain that day, if not the oldest. From the lookout, you can see across to Snowking Mountain, which is the first picture above. The second picture is the first one labeled. The third picture is one that I just found on the Internet, taken from Snowking Mountain, which showed most of our route on that epic weekend. The fourth picture diagrams that route. What you cannot see is before we entered that plateau. As I recall, we had to walk about 1.5 miles of road before we got to the trail, and then it was a 2,600 foot miner's trail, and miner's trails do not bother with such niceties as switchbacks, but go straight up the mountain. As you can see from the pictures, straight up the mountain in that part of the world literally means straight up. I doubt that I could do that 3,000-foot (including the road that we walked) "prelude" to our hike that day, if I tried it today (maybe after months of hard training, I could). My cousin and I slept in my Pinto wagon the night before, at the trailhead. After the 3,000-foot climb, we came onto the scene documented by that fourth image above. The trail began to get sketchy, as we lost about 800 feet to Found Lake, which I rafted in my space age raft, in the nude, which is the fifth picture above. After hanging out at that lake for an hour or so, it was trailless scrambling the rest of the day. We first scrambled up to Neori and Skaro lakes, which were the most "normal" lakes on the trip, with typical (and beautiful) blue water. Found Lake and Snowking Lake were light blue and milky, from the glacial milk (finely ground-up rock) from Snowking Mountain. After Neori and Skaro Lakes, it was a relatively easy scramble over to Snowking Lake, which was amazingly beautiful from the outlet, with Snowking Mountain looming over the inlet. Between those three lakes, it was maybe 700 feet of scrambling. From Snowking Lake it was a 1,100-foot scramble up to the basin where Cyclone Lake was, and was the hardest part of the day. I remember clinging onto heather as I scrambled up that mountainside. The sixth picture is one that I just got off the Internet, of Cyclone Lake, but as awesomely beautiful as that photo is, it still does not do the lake justice. It had a color that I had not seen before. No glaciers fed it, but it had a kind of Mediterranean blue color, incredibly beautiful, as did the nearby smaller lake that we camped at that night. My ambitious cousin, who planned the trip, wanted to climb the hill behind our camp, to see the sunset, which was another 300-foot climb. I was in mid-season shape of the best year of my hiking life, but I recall my fatigue as we climbed that last hill. The view was fantastic, as we looked across at a half-frozen lake in that sea of peaks. My cousin took a picture of me next to Cyclone Lake, with Snowking Mountain behind me, which is the seventh and final picture above. It was more than a 5,000-foot day, wearing a backpack for all but that last 300 feet, and only that road walk was easy. The next morning, it was an "easy" scramble across sidehills, to get back to that miner's trail and back down to the car. All in one weekend! If I could even do the trip today, it would take a week. Ah, youth!
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