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Alta Mountain and all the views you can take
posted by John : July 16, 2015

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Alta Mountain in an evening. Sure, why not?

Alta is a spectacular destination in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Each time I've been there it's been magical. The first trip was an early morning sprint through wildfire smoke blown in from east of the mountains. It was brief, but the sun breaking through the smoke lit up the valley with a mystical quality. The second was part of a three day trip with the boy. It was his hardest trip ever and we had dinner on the summit as the sun set.

I knew what to expect of both the trip and the summit. I started early because it's a longer trip than most TNAB evening hikes. The hike up to Lake Lillian and up the Gully of Doom was a straightforward and familiar climb. The trail seems to be degrading from use making it a little harder. Above the lake we traversed the meadows and descended to the Rampart Lakes. These are the most beautiful lakes of any TNAB trip, but we didn't have time to stop. From the lakes it's a steady, long climb up the ridge past all the false summits to the true summit at the end of the world.

Well, it seems like the end of the world. Alta Mountain stands high above the Gold Creek valley and feels simultaneously completely isolated and too connected by cell signals from Snoqualmie Pass 3,000 feet below.

The view back the way we came held many of my favorites in a single view. The Rampart Lakes lay below Rampart Ridge, both of which are dwarfed by the majesty of Mt. Rainier on the horizon. The evening light and hazy skies gave the views an otherworldly appearance.

At times like these it's hard to tear my eyes away from the big views, but it's worth doing. Looking north revealed more of the lakes that give the wilderness its name, mountains and ridges literally turning purple as the sun set, and untold adventures waiting for us.

Treen had the right idea. She was an equal-opportunity appreciator that looked over every edge and in all directions. Bear, another TNAB dog, did the same, drinking in the views like a trendy photo subject on Instagram.

My favorite flowers are the ones that aren't too showy, preferring a low-profile approach to beauty. For some reason, subtle mountains don't get the same respect. It's probably because little mountains are everywhere. Heck, in some places a "mountain" isn't even a mountain. (I'm sure some would say many of Washington's mountains aren't really mountains.)

I'm pretty sure I'll still lust after the big peaks, but I'll pay more attention to what's around them and the quiet beauty there.

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