There are some trails that have a special place in my heart. Whether because of the scenery or just fond memories, they stand out among all the rest. Big Four Ice Caves is one of those special places for me. My husband took me here the first time when we were dating, and I have brought several friends here. I’ve come here when I needed time to recharge and heal spiritually. It was Annika’s first hike at seven weeks old. Yeah, I know it’s a big tourist destination, but I love it anyway. It’s like visiting an old friend.
I was in the mood for an easy outing, allowing plenty of time for the kids to play while out. We took our time leaving the house, and had lunch at the picnic area before beginning our hike. The high clouds that had been scattered in the sky burned off and it became warm while we ate. We slowly started up the boardwalk, enjoying the flowers and the birds singing and swooping above. We stopped to watch cottony willow seeds floating in the air, and came across a bunch of Cascade Frogs in the wetland. Annika said, “I wish I was a frog so I could live here.”
Then it was up the trail some more, to cross the gleaming bridge over the Stilly and begin the gentle climb up to the ice cave basin. The forest was luminous and green, mossy and dense. Annika was dragging her feet for much of this part, but we made it soon enough to the bridge and avalanche swath below the basin. Once the waterfalls were in sight, our pace picked up and there was no more complaining. The kids were excited to be close to the snow and waterfalls. Annika said, “It’s so beautiful here. I’ve never been this happy!” Be still my beating heart!
The trail ends abruptly at the edge of the avalanche cone. The snow covers the last part of the trail, and the rangers have put signs up warning people not to go in the ice caves. Well, there aren’t any caves that we could see from that position, but the signs did keep folks off the snow, except at the edges. We went down and crossed the stream and found a spot to sit for the afternoon. The kids played for maybe two hours. Gabriel stacked up rocks and then started trying to make refrigerators to hold snow balls to keep them from melting. Annika pretended to be a hawk and made a nest, complete with rocks for eggs. She also built bridges and was back and forth, on and off the snow, over the stream, up and down. Groups of people came and went, providing continual interest as I lounged. I was glad that I had packed warm clothes, including gloves and hats for us, even though the temps were in the 70s. Almost every time I have come here, there has been a cold breeze funneling down over the snow, and I end up putting layers of clothes on if I spend any amount of time sitting around. We had the biggest packs of anyone on the trail, but we were comfortable and well fed.
Finally it was time to go, so we packed up our stuff and headed back down the trail. Annika was adamant about leading the way down, and Gabriel had a hard time giving up his role of leader. But she walks pretty quickly downhill, so we made good time getting back to the trailhead. Another visit to the frogs in the wetland, and we said goodbye to them. We were one of the last groups to leave, as the normal people were already gone to get dinner.
This day was just what the doctor ordered – a large dose of nature, enjoyed with sunshine and birdsong.
Do you have any special places in nature? Somewhere you go to recharge, or a place you have fond memories of from years past?