Backpacking to Winchester Mountain Fire Tower
Phew! Man these last two months have been an absolute whirlwind in the best kind of way. A few weeks ago Michael and I decided to spend some time in the North Cascades during his fall break and this overnight backpacking trip was at the top of our list!
While researching the trailhead to the Winchester Mountain Fire Tower, it quickly became evident that the road up to the top is treacherous. We were fairly confident with a high clearance SUV we would be okay, and we were, but just a fair warning to anyone else: be sure to have a vehicle with four wheel drive AND a high clearance; the road is as bad as they say it is.
After parking between Twin Lakes, we repacked our backpacks and we were on our way. We had planned to make good time up to the Fire Tower but with wild blueberries growing everywhere and expansive views every few hundred feet it was hard to hike fast.
The landscape was just starting to transition to fall with bright reds, oranges and yellows popping out everywhere. The clouds were spectacular, rushing past us and obscuring our view only to quickly pass and expose beautiful scenery. When we arrived to the summit around 2:00pm there was already, unfortunately, another couple in the fire tower. So instead we pitched our tent nearby and had a “front door view” of the show the clouds were putting on for us (we ended up being thankful this was the case).
It's my professional opinion that mountain summits are always better with a piping hot bowl of mac and cheese. So after setting up camp and taking some pictures we poured a glass of wine and fired up the backpacking stove to make some grub. At this point the temperatures were slowly dropping and they continued to drop all the way down into the mid-twenties that night (and we woke up to a tent covered in ice!).
The sunset cast soft golden light across the landscape and onto the clouds swirling around us. Towards twilight, Mount Baker’s summit popped out over a sea of clouds. Soon after, the stars began to emerge in the hundreds twinkling all across the sky. We finally retired to our tents with happy hearts to escape the cold and snuggle into our warm sleeping bags.
The next morning we awoke to bluebird skies and ice covering everything, transforming the landscape into a glittering oasis. After enjoying the sunrise and making some coffee, we packed up our bags and headed to our final destination before heading home.