My friend Katie's family has taken their yearly family vacation at Ross Lake Resort for over 30 years. Ross Lake is a 20-mile long lake off Highway 20, with Diablo Dam at its south end and the North Cascades National Park surrounding it everywhere else. The resort is a row of floating cabins only accessible by boat or hiking over a mile from the parking lot. The family spends a week hanging out with friends, fishing, hiking, swimming, playing games, and cooking lottttssss of food. Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to join and definitely didn't want to miss it this year.
Last year was also when I learned that Ross Lake was where the trailhead was for Desolation Peak. Desolation has one of western Washington's many historic fire lookouts, but was made famous when Jack Kerouac stayed there as the lookout in the summer of 1956 and went on to write about it in his book Desolation Angels. As a Kerouac fan in high school, I had vowed to someday go there.
My "someday" finally came! I arrived at the lake resort in the early evening, with enough time to catch up with every one, eat a delicious dinner, and enjoy the fading light from in front of Katie and Alan's cabin. Here you can see the wooden skiff that the resort rents to guests, plus the dam and the beautiful peaks in the distance.
There was only one moment when I felt a little scared. I was on the way up, and passed a tree that looked like a Ponderosa Pine. "Wow!" I thought, "Is it really a Ponderosa? That would be weird to see one on the west side of the Cascades." I walked up to inspect the bark more closely, looking so intently at the colors that it took me a second to notice the HUGE BEAR CLAW MARKS on the trunk. My heart started pounding but I reminded myself that I've never seen a bear in the wild and probably wouldn't today. I did start singing though since I had no one to talk to and making noise I'd be less likely to catch a bear unawares.
The next morning I woke up to crazy fog. Like, only about 15 feet of visibility. I was so bummed at the thought of not having a view from the top. I did some reading in the tent and made breakfast, and by then the fog was burning off a bit. I left all my gear at camp except for a day pack, and headed off to hike the last mile or so up to the peak. The morning suddenly got really hot, and mostly cleared up except for some flat layers of clouds.
"Hozomeen, Hozomeen, most beautiful mountain I've ever seen, like a tiger sometimes with stripes, sunwashed rills and shadow crags wriggling lines in the Bright Daylight, vertical furrows and bumps and Boo! crevasses, boom, sheer magnificent Prudential mountain, nobody's even heard of it, and it's only 8,000 feet high, but what a horror when I first saw that void the first night of my staying on Desolation Peak waking up from deep fogs of 20 hours to a starlit night suddenly loomed by Hozomeen with his two sharp points, right in my window black..."
Back at the resort we started an "experimental happy hour" in which we amassed all our various liquors and mixers, and the proceeded to try brand new cocktails. The only rule was you weren't allowed to mix a drink you had ever had before. Some terrible and brilliant concoctions were born, and either way it's a game that comes highly recommended.