This weekend I found myself in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, chasing the best of the summer weather. While Seattle had foggy mornings and afternoon burn off, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky east of the Cascade Crest.
Spider Meadow is a glorious flower garden, a lush opening in the forest (Wenatchee NF) surrounded by big, craggy peaks and huge waterfalls. Naturally, it’s a popular spot. The meadow itself is nothing but Indian paintbrush, lupine, western anemone (which make gorgeous seed pods), mountain daisy, and many other wildflowers whose names I don’t know. My nearest camp neighbors were marmots. I had no idea they could whistle so loudly! They sounded like the battle cry of a flock of 8-foot birds of prey coming to scoop me up in the night.
The hike in is long, but gentle; it gains 1,700 feet of elevation, but very slowly, over the course of 6.5 miles. (I should point out that Ira Spring and Harvey Manning lied to me, if you read 100 Hikes please be aware the distance is longer than they suggest.) There’s so much water I didn’t need to bring my own, I’d cross a creek every 20 minutes or so. Many of the crossings were trivial, but several required choosing a good route and hoping carefully across slippery rocks.
There are many camps on this hike, several in the forest, and plenty of sites scattered across the meadows. Because this is national forest land, you can technically sleep anywhere you like. But flat spots with nearby water were at a premium, and the ones in the meadow enjoyed superb views. There were fire pits made of rocks, but wood was scarce.
The basin is stunning. A classic, U-shaped glacier carved valley with a few boulders, bits of talus, and a creek flowing down the center, taking a meandering path.
The trail continues on to Upper Spider Meadow, and then climbs steeply to a small gap on the ridge, facing into Cascade Crest peaks. There’s a permanent snowfield, slowly turning into a glacier but not one yet, and for this reason most hikers brought ice axes. I was among them, but after staying up very late into the night and stargazing, I didn’t make it that far in my explorations before hiking out.
It got chilly when night fell, but not cold.
The Milky Way came out above the trees behind my camp. Satellites raced across the sky, while the stars moved at a slower pace. The moon came up to the northeast, just the right place to light up the basin and the snow fields in the mountains while I sat stargazing.
At the trailhead is a register, you’re supposed to “sign in” with your destination and some other info. This in theory helps rescuers find you if the need should come up, but its main purpose is helping the forest service with their land management needs and planning. I went to put myself in the book, but to my great surprise I found I was already there. Whoever signed me in misspelled my last name, but got everything else right.