My first January hike was a solo 7.2 miler to Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls in the Cascades (map). Everyone who I normally hike with had previous engagements, so I took the opportunity to set out on my own and explore somewhere I’d never been. The first two miles of the hike is rather easy, following sections of old forest service roads and wide trails. Then there is a junction where you can either head up a half mile spur to Bridal Veil Falls, or continue on the main trail up to the lake.
Washington’s version of Bridal Veil Falls
The falls won out, as I figured I might as well go now, and if the lighting isn’t very good (it was just after noon) I can swing by again on my way down the mountain. Bridal Veil Falls can easily be seen from Highway 2, but it seemed much smaller up close. That being said this is only the upper section and I’m sure only accounts for about half of the total height of the cascade.
As more people showed up at the falls and started getting in my pictures I turned tail and ran back down the stairs to the junction.
So. Many. Stairs.
Turning the other direction this time led me up the main trail, and I was soon confronted with an even steeper slope, complete with level after level of switchbacks and stairs (sometimes even switchbacking stairs), at least five of which can be seen above.
Looking out on a Serene Scene
Let me tell you, this was a very grueling stretch, and it didn’t help that I was hiking at a very brisk pace. I started with a sweatshirt, windbreaker, and gloves on at the bottom but everything was off by this point and I was still sweating up a storm, even in the just above freezing temperatures.
I really like Lake Serene in black and white.
All the exertion paid off in full when I made it over the crest into the bowl of the lake. The temperature immediately dropped (significantly) and another frozen shell of a lake silently greeted me.
Hikers taking it all in.
There were a number of other groups enjoying the location. One hiker commented that he was impressed I made it to the end in only running shoes due to the ice and snow over the final half mile. Another group took in the scenery around them, allowing me to catch them taking pictures and petting their dog, as seen above.
Geology on all scales!
A really neat boulder serves as the terminus of the trail. Many dikes and sills crisscrossing its surface, almost as if the rock had been stitched together like a quilt. The lake itself lies in a basin very similar to Lake 22, with high bounding peaks surrounding half of the lake with low rolling hills on the other side.
A circumzenithal arc above Mt Index and Lake Serene
WARNING: GEOGRAPHY CONTENT AHEAD
When I first arrived in the shadowed basin the sky was a uniform whitish grey, with a few sporadic clear blue sections. As time passed these lower clouds burned off, resulting in a some cool atmospheric conditions in the higher cirrus clouds, including the circumzenithal arc seen above. I mistook it for a sundog while there, so I apologise to my fellow hikers who I unknowingly misled, I learned something new today as well.
Clouds whiz by above the glowing ridge.
The higher clouds were moving extremely fast, but lingered just long enough to be captured by my camera forever. If you look closely you can also see sunlight pouring through a thin layer of snow along the ridge-line. It was much more prominent in person, only adding to the list of interesting phenomenon we witnessed.
A log bridge above logs.
The outlet of the lake has a narrow wooden bridge crossing it, carved from trees and propped up on other trunks driven into the riverbed. A large logjam exists here, so naturally I jumped around on them for a bit trying to find a good shot of the bridge. The one above was my favourite of the bunch.
Streams of water fall into a crystal clear pond.
By this point I’d spent nearly two hours at the lake and really needed to get going if I was to revisit Bridal Veil Falls. I practically ran down much of the staired section, but was distracted by another set of small waterfalls I decided to skip on my way up.
Cascade after cascade…
I took a number of pictures here, using my lens cap and flat surfaces as a sort of tripod to stabilise my camera and prevent blurring (handy things lens caps).
Closer look at the upper reaches.
Because I now had a lot more pictures of waterfalls I decided against visiting the larger falls a second time. Plus all the stairs had worn me out and, as per usual, it was almost dark before I was close to the car. This is another hike I strongly recommend, there are all sorts of unexpected treasures to be found.
Photos taken 26 January 2o14 with Nikon D7100