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Backpacking, Sunshine, and New Gear in the North Cascades

Summer is always a great time for exploration and adventure. Unfortunately, many people have the same idea and that leads to crowded destinations. I’ve been spending a lot of time near Mount Ranier but usually the least crowded places are the ones furthest away, so I decided to look further.

For this, I decided to take a 4 day trip to Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest which is north of North Cascades National Park and just south of Canada. The 542 heads all the way up to the Mt. Baker Ski Area and during the summer months you can drive up over 5000′ elevation to Artist Point. This part of the park has snow almost year round and is only open for a few short summer months.

The first night we stayed at Silver Fir campground. It’s along the highway and closest camp ground to Artist Point. We arrived late in the afternoon so decided to spend sunset at Artist Point on the Huntoon Point trail. It’s a light and easy stroll but gives great panoramic views of Mt. Shuksan, Table Mountain, as well as Mt. Baker.

I brought my new camera body (Sony A7R III) for this trip, but also brought along the A7R II. I kept the 16-35 on the III and used the 70-200 on the II. It was nice not having to change lenses. I definitely noticed a difference in the user experience of the two bodies. The III feels more refined and robust, although the II still feels great and delivers uncompromising results.

Read more about the gear in my recent post about all my camera gear.

The next day we were headed to Lake Ann. It’s a moderate 10~ mile hike with around 2400 elevation but boy was it hot! Washington was in the middle of a ‘heat wave’ week and temperatures under the sun were close to 100F. We were overnight backpacking to the lake and all the weight was not kind to me. I ditched the second body at the trailhead and decided to just bring a single body, 16-35mm, tripod, filters, and all the other essential backpacking gear.

I don’t think I’ll compromise on the camera gear but I will rethink some of my backpacking gear for future trips. A lighter tent would be a good start.

The trail quickly descends through a light, but shaded forest. Most of the streams on the descent had already dried up, but as we got down to the meadow, we could see and hear water flowing from other sides of the meadow. You quickly get glimpses of the meadows below – wildflowers were in full bloom and the meadows were still lush. I would imagine in a few weeks when the snow is gone, that this will mostly dry up though.

The meadows go by pretty quickly and soon the ascent to Lake Ann begins. There’s plenty of photo opportunity on the way (if you can bear the overbearing heat). There’s panoramic views of Mount Baker and the surrounding mountains. Looking back we could see the forest and meadows we crossed. Due to the heat, we kept most of our photography to what our cellphones would allow. On a cooler day I would have loved to spend some time shooting and exploring the area around.

Baker in the distance
Taking a break well deserved break in the shade

Since most of the trail is exposed, I would recommend plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses, and definitely a hat and long sleeves. It’s easy to forget to drink water as well, so pack enough to keep cool.

I wouldn’t worry too much about overnight water, there’s a lake (hence the name) and plenty of streams along the way to keep your reserves topped off. I counted only 3 or 4 shaded areas on the way up, so be sure to take advantage of them to help cool off and catch your breath.

Other than the heat, the ascent isn’t too bad. There’s some loose rock, some small snowfields and stream crossings, but nothing the average hiker wouldn’t be able to handle. I brought traction and never had to use them. Trekking poles were definitely helpful though. After the ascent up the saddle, you’ll peer over and be looking over Lake Ann. It was mostly frozen when we arrived, but boy was it beautiful. Mt. Shuksan looms right over the lake and you get a great view into the glacier and the hundreds of falls that stem from it.

You’ll periodically hear small chunks of ice and rock breaking off the glacier that rumble off the side of the mountain.

There were plenty of campsites available and we were the only ones at the lake that day. We choose the one at the end of the trail. I think this one has the best views and gets some good shade as well. It’s also a great location to access the lake for sunset and sunrise.

That morning, I captured one of my favorite images of the year.

The lake was so calm and the morning was so quiet. There were a few clouds in the sky that just made excellent colors as the sun came up. I’m really happy with how it turned out, but let me know your thoughts below!

Sony A7R III with 16-35 F4 @ 18mm

After that, it was time to head home.

I can say I really enjoyed this trip. I didn’t take too many images but the few that I did turned out great. I’ll have to leave it for a follow up post to talk about the equipment and gear I used on the trip. I have some thoughts on how to better transport all this camera equipment – definitely not fun to carry too much stuff!

There’s a few more shots from the lake sunrise and sunset that I have to share, but I’ll save that for another time!



Hey there, I’m Jon! I love landscape photography which is why I travel all the time! On my blog I’ll share all the best spots for epic sunsets and sunrises as well as some photography tips and tricks. I also have a interest in game design so you’ll find the occasional post about that too. Thanks for visiting!

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I’ve always gone too late in the summer to see the lake like this, I thought the trail would be snow covered until later. Beautiful capture!