Off to the Ice Caves

First, I want to apologize for last night’s post.  It was pretty pathetic.  Needless to say,I was very tired and the post was filler,  weak filler at that. I went to bed soon after.

This morning, we awoke to what the weather folks were touting as the end of what has been an unseasonably warm week, and just to add some hyperbole, our last glimpse of the sun for nine months. 

With no plans or obligations for the day, we had a quick breakfast and decidied to go for an impromptu hike.  In fairness, Alissa’s idea was to go for  walk on the Centennial Trail.  I had a greater vision. 

People who know me know that that’s usually code for “be afraid, be very afraid.”

A few internet searches later, we piled into the car and hit the road. Our destination was the Big Four Ice Caves. 

I had kept seeing this hike posted and have been wanting to give it a shot.  It’s not too far from home, just twenty-five miles east of Granite Falls, although a bit off the beaten path…a necessary destination for interesting things at times.  The hike is only a mile each way, rated as easy and only has an elevation gain of 200 feet.  Yet it has a variety of terrain and a pretty cool payoff.

The payoff is the Big Four Ice Caves.   Big Four is a mountain, and the base of its north face is sheltered enough that it sports a year-round snow field at only 1900 feet of elevation.  Melting snow from higher (and less sheltered) elevations forms waterfalls that bore through the snowpack, forming caves that increase in size and number throughout the summer.  (It is exceedingly dangerous to enter the caves.) 

(Photos by both Alissa and Me.)

To get to the caves, you depart the site that was once the Big Four Inn but is now a USFS picnic area and trailhead. Under sunny blue skies with scattered white coulds, we started off along a boardwalk, crossing wetlands, that were still pretty wet after a cool Pacific Northwest summer.  The kids were fascinated by the water striders, and we even spotted several fish in the amazingly clear water.

After a brief foray into the forest, we crossed the South Fork Stillaguamish River which is fed by runoff from the snowfields via Ice Creek.

After crossing the river and the creek, the trail climbs over an evergreen forested ridge before emerging at a viewpoint that gives great views of the snowfield at what is probably the lowpoint of its summer retreat.

This is the biggest and probably oldest cave.

These two are considerably smaller, probably no more than waist high.

This is probably the newest, and it’s no more than knee high, if that.

The rock field left by the receding snow field is also home to a beatiful blend of flora.  Today, displaying late season blooms, berrie and changing autumn colors.

The best part about a hike like this is that the uphill portion is on the way in, so the return trip is easy.  By the end, the kids were tired.

But they had a great time.

By the time we returned to the car, the clouds had started to thicken up, and the skies were gray by the time we returned to Everett.  Were the weather folks right?  Is this it for summer?  I guess we’ll see, but if so, it was a nice ending.


About Andrew

I'm a Christian, American, liberal, geeky, thoughtful, Northwest-transplanted Angeleno husband, father, and pundit who writes about anything he can think of.
This entry was posted in Family Life, Nature, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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