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Backpacking in North Cascades National Park

Aaron Zagrodnick

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Aaron Zagrodnick

After the landscape itself, the memories made with companions, and the wildlife seen, the weather is usually one of the most memorable parts of a backpacking trip. Bluebird skies, sideways rain, scorching heat, unexpected inches of snow – these are often the things which come to mind when reminiscing on trips where weather was either a blessing or a curse. In much of the West, another weather phenomenon also has an outsized influence: smoke. Even if you’re hundreds of miles from an active wildfire, the mindboggling amounts of smoke created by tens of thousands of acres burning can creep into the area you’re backpacking and case an eerie pall over the area and into your lungs. Unlike rain or snow or cold, there’s no clothing or gear that can mitigate the impact of smoke on a trip. The only options are to cancel the trip altogether or adjust your expectations and embrace the unique atmosphere created by the obscured views and filtered lighting. While I’ve been on a handful of trips where smoke has been a noteworthy characteristic, a traverse of the northern part of North Cascades National Park stands far and above as being the only I’ve been on that has been almost completely defined by the presence of smoke...

In Issue 42, @Mark details a smoky trip in North Cascades National Park - take a look at the article below:

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Backpacking North Cascades National Park During Wildfire Season

Issue 42 Page 1

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  • 1 year later...

I went to forestry school at the U of Washington.  We hiked in the Cascades all the time.  The North Cascades NP is particular is one wet place.   I have been on trips and camped next to a lake and never seen it due to fog and rain.   The weather is the biggest challenge.  There is no more beautiful place than the High Cascades in clear weather.   Now a lot of the good places require permits for camping over night. 

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