The well manicured trail to the ice caves, one of the nicest in the Cascade Mountains, began at the base of this mountain. Once home to an elegant hotel, the meadow was now only inhabited by a lonely brick chimney. People have been coming here for over a century to make the short hike to the famous Big Four Ice Caves.
As you wander through the immense flush of evergreens and thick, swampy mosses, swatting at mosquitoes and sticky in the heat, you can’t help but disbelieve the possibility of snow just a mile away.
Each year, these massive piles of snow, built up by the almost endless Cascade winters, begin to whither away, spring devouring them from the inside out. Snowmelt from above seeps down, carving out frozen passageways that eventually open up to the crowd of curious onlookers.
This year, however, the snowfall had been so massive that the castles and domes of the Cascade snows hadn’t even begun to wilt.
So we chilled our beers, instead.
We stand and stare up 4,000-foot walls of sheer rock and watch as the powder of an avalanche poofs and shimmers. The sound of cracking ice hurdling down the cliffs catches everyone’s attention.
Because avalanches and cave-ins occur regularly when the ice caves begin to form, hikers are forbidden from hiking on the snow fields. Just last year, a young girl was killed when the ice shifted and collapsed, and tragedies happen regularly.
Carefully, we played in the snow, enjoyed a couple of beers and made our way back down the mountain.
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