Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thunder Creek

My youngest brother, who travels a great deal for his work, has been in our area several times this spring and was here again the weekend of the 26th of May.  We try to do some hiking when he is around, since he is an even more avid hiker than we are, and on the 26th we decided to do the Thunder Creek Trail in North Cascades National Park.  After several hours of driving we were on the trail before 8:00 am and did about five miles each way, arriving back at the car around 3:00 pm.

The trail begins at the Colonial Creek campground and follows the creek through old growth forest for about a mile before a bridge crosses to the other side.  From there one can choose several trails including the trail to Fourth of July Pass, which we did not take.  The Thunder Creek trail goes up above the creek, which is more like a small but very powerful river and crosses a number of streams which empty into the creek, some of which can be crossed on foot, but one of which has another bridge.

We went nearly as far as MacAllister Camp where we began to catch glimpses of the surrounding peaks.  The trail is well maintained and in the five or six miles we followed it gains less than a thousand feet in elevation.  Beginning at about 1200 feet elevation it is one of the earliest trails in the North Cascades to be free of snow in the spring and a very pleasant hike at any time of the year.  We have done several backpacking trips on the trail and taken it further than we did this time.

We found a lot of wildflowers in bloom.  The Western Trilliums were nearly finished but the Western Bleeding Hearts were in full bloom.  We found, as we expected, a lot of Fairy Slippers and thousands of Western Heart-leaved Twayblades.  The Fairy Slippers were in the shadier, better drained and mossy areas along the trail, but the Twayblades seemed to be everywhere.  They are so small, however, than most hikers would not even notice them or think much of them if they did.  Close up they are delightful.

By early afternoon, however, we were tired and turned back (I had been on a three-day camping trip with a group of school children Wednesday through Friday).  We hiked out much more quickly than we had gone in and were back home around supper time.  The day was sunny and beautiful, the trail was one of our favorites and we would recommend it to anyone who has a day to spare in the North Cascades.  There is always something to see and enjoy on this trail.

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