In August, we went on a day trip northeast to the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, which covers part of the Cascade Ranges. We drove ninety minutes from Seattle for an easy hike with the kids, and to see the Big Four Ice Caves.
The hike itself is a super-kids friendly one. It's only a mile each way (from the car park to the ice caves), and not much in the way of incline. There is a path - and at one point, a boardwalk - to follow the entire way, with the only obstructions being tree roots here and there to step over. In fact, the hike is listed as wheelchair/stroller accessible, but I think that's slightly optimistic. I saw enough families lifting their strollers up and over the tree roots to think that it looked like a pain. In terms of ease for young kids though, they can walk it. Miss Pie managed fine on the way to the ice caves, only wanting to be picked up for part of the hike back to the car park - and that was mostly due to the fact that she'd run around like a lunatic at the base of the ice caves, and worn herself out.
The scenery was incredible and varied along such a brief trail. At the start, we could see patches of snow still at the top of Big Four Mountain. From my understanding, it's that snow which melts and trickles down a nearby glacier and creates hollowed out channels underneath, resulting in the ice caves at the base of the mountain. The trail continues across a marshy wetland area, over a river, through cedar-filled woods, gradually replaced by wildflowers, then out to an open gravel area in front of the ice caves.
Despite the number of people walking in and out of the ice caves, and letting their kids climb on the ice, there were numerous signs which pointed out the possible danger of falling boulders and chunks of ice (a young girl was killed by a falling boulder only a few years ago). I'll be honest though: my curiosity was pretty strong, and if we didn't have the girls with us, I probably would have gone inside for a wander. I blame Instagram.
Walking around the entrances was surreal, even from a few hundred metres away. You know when you're in the ocean, and you hit pockets of warm water, compared with the rest? The air around the ice caves was like that - for the most part chilly and refreshing on a warm day, with unexpected patches of warmer air.
It's a given that I took far too many photos. I brought the DSLR along, as well as my phone, and the images below are a mix from the two. With the exception of the first photo (Instagrammed), none of these have been edited or filtered. The clouds passed over and changed the light a fair bit, which accounts for the difference in brightness.
Beautiful, n'est-ce pas? Something about this landscape gave me flashbacks to being in the Swiss Alps - as in, so beautiful it brought a lump to my throat.