Spider Meadow

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.

Phelps Creek in Spider Meadow

Phelps Creek flowing through Lower Spider Meadow

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.

A marmot, king of all he surveys

A marmot

A cute but very loud marmot, a family with children lives in the lower meadow. I had only a 24 mm lens with me, so no close ups.

It got chilly when night fell, but not cold.

Starry Night

Moonlight illuminating the meadow and peaks

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.

I wonder who signed me in?

Trail register

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.


11 thoughts on “Spider Meadow

    • Maybe! A friend suggested that somebody with my first name and most of the letters in my last did the same hike on the same days as I did, also driving 100+ miles from the same home town … sounds like being struck twice by lightning. It’s a vexing mystery.

      But it was a fantastic hike, and a beautiful night.

  1. The photo of the Moonlight Illuminating the meadows and peaks is absolutely stunning. I love my ancient mountains here in Appalachia but I often find myself jealous of your tall and striking giants. The Pacific Northwest is definitely my favorite place to visit!

    • Thanks for the visit and the comment…!

      You should definitely visit the Pacific Northwest when you can find the time. If you love mountains, I’ve always felt like ours are hard to beat, and you can see the tide water (if that’s your kind of thing) from many of them. If you do make it out this way, drop a line and I’ll recommend some places to see.

    • You should, it’s very gratifying (when the stars align and everything works out … this usually follows 20 minutes of mild frustration). And it looks like you have unbelievably stunning foregrounds to give some context to the stars with. Plus you have much higher elevations than are typical here.

    • Thanks so much! (And sorry for the long delay, I’ve been backpacking across the North Cascades. More pics to come. =D)

      I’ve been doing photography in general for about 15 years. I’ve always been interested in night photos, I’ve got a lot of them from the city, and star trails. I was lucky enough to get some very nice gear about a year ago and I’ve been trying to push myself to another level with shots like this since that point…

  2. Forrest,
    Reading through your blog–absolutely beautiful pictures…I just moved to Seattle this summer. Spider Meadows and the Phelps Basin was easily one of my favorite overnights. Did you wander over to Phelps? It’s the textbook cirque. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sadly, I didn’t make it beyond the meadow – this time. I have vague plans for a trip from the Spider Meadow trailhead to Stehekin next summer, but I’ve got a lot of grandiose plans to explore deeper into the Cascades, so I’m not sure which of them will actually happen. But it’s stunningly beautiful country.

      Thanks for the complements, and for dropping by and sharing your experience at Phelps!

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